When I was nine, I was desperate for an A La Carte kitchen for Christmas but my parents, in their infinite wisdom, decided I was “too tall” (!?) for said present and instead got me a blue plastic typewriter. You can imagine my face on Christmas morning.
For a while the typewriter was placed on the highest shelf in my bedroom and studiously ignored in a bid to get my parents to see the error of their ways or to give me time to shrink to the appropriate height. When neither of those things happened, I begrudgingly got it down and half-heartedly bashed the keys. What started as something to occupy me on a dull Sunday afternoon turned into me thumping away day and night as my imagination let loose on paper.
From that point on (with the help of Little Women, The Waltons and Press Gang, in particular) I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, a writer. Ok, maybe a vet. Or an astronaut. No wait, definitely a writer.
After high school, I studied for a BTEC National Diploma in media which got me into university where I undertook a BA (Hons) English with media. While I loved studying and uni life, it was the work experience I did during the summer and winter breaks at my local newspaper which really opened doors for me. I was very lucky that my parents, who I had finally forgiven for not getting me the little kitchen, supported me financially to be able to spend six weeks plus in the news room.
A month after I graduated I became an editorial assistant at the Evening Star in Ipswich, where I did a little bit of everything from opening the post to writing news in brief (nibs). I learned the trade from the ground up and was given insight into many areas of this business from very patient and understanding colleagues, which is why I try and pay it forward now when I come into contact with young people on work experience.
After a year, I applied for a trainee journalist scheme and was sent on a three month course to Darlington to complete my NCTJ pre-entry journalism qualifications. Then, after I started work on the Haverhill Echo, I realised something.
I wasn’t very good.
As a result, I was given an old school education in why it’s important to get things “right first time” and while being pulled into the editor’s office and having every mistake I ever made, and there were many, pointed out was not nice at the time, I firmly believe it made me into a better journalist.
After three years, and having passed my NCE to become a senior journalist, I made the move to the Eastern Daily Press in Norwich. I described it as my dream job before I started and after 12 years, while the news room is a very different place, I stand by that. The early years were surely the glory days of regional journalism, at least for me. I was given the freedom to learn and write my heart out, I was privileged to meet people from all walks of life who let me tell their stories and I also travelled far and wide, experiencing things I probably never would have had I become a vet or even an astronaut.
After a couple of years I was given the opportunity to specialise in a subject I was passionate about under the very broad heading of the environment.
I did some of the work I am most proud of while a correspondent on a local level together with highlighting worldwide issues, including:
* Helping to raise awareness and funds for the children’s charity UNICEF following the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004.
* Writing about a Norfolk-educated bishop’s bid to aid children in drought-hit Tanzania.
* Learning about Thandanani, a children’s foundation in South Africa helping orphans and other vulnerable youngsters, particularly those affected by HIV/Aids, with support from Christian Aid.
In 2010, an opportunity came up for the company-wide role of sustainability correspondent, which was a mixture of inspiring behavioural change internally, writing about sustainability across all Archant titles and promoting the company’s green credentials. It was supposed to be a year long secondment but turned into a multi-award winning two years, during which time I was part of a three-strong team who brought Cup Man, who became the company mascot for recycling, to life. I was also able to work with Christian Aid again and visit an amazing project in rural India. The Deccan Development Society (DDS) empowers women from the poorest sections of society to take control of food production, using sustainable methods, which also brings them new found dignity in their communities.
It was always my plan to return to my first love, writing full time, and at the beginning of 2013 my secondment came to an end and I stepped into the role of news feature writer.
While this was a great job for me, my personal life was also rather exciting at that time as I fell pregnant, after two previous losses. It meant I was only back in the news room for a few months before I went off on maternity leave.
I gave birth to my daughter, Freya, in August 2013 and spent a rather traumatic few months easing into my new role as a mum, which I wrote about here. Now I get the best of both worlds by being able to work part time from home, thanks to my parents who babysit – if I hadn’t forgiven them for the typewriter incident before, I certainly would have now – and be a mum.
If you have any questions about my route into journalism or would like to hire me please get in touch.