About Me

My photo
I'm a 68-year-old disabled amateur writer living and working in Slough in Berkshire in the UK. I began writing in 1996 after having to retire from my career in the National Health Service due to heart disease. I've had a series of heart attacks and two heart bypass operations. Between 1996 and 2010, I contributed regularly to several UK leisure and lifestyle magazines. Many of these articles can be downloaded from the 'ARCHIVE' section of my website. I've also contributed to some television programmes. I'm a member of the 'Slough Writers Group' which is both interesting and informative. At the moment I'm preparing to start writing factual features for magazines. You can see the articles that have been published in the 'LATEST WORK' section of my website.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Wednesday's Wanderings

It's a strange day today. I've sent a couple of 'pitches' about the 'Station Jim' project to a couple of magazines.

I'm 'clocking off' now and going to take Lottie out in the garden before tidying up and watch television for the evening. I may come back and do some 'work and play' on the laptop.

Watch this space!

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Tuesday thoughts

I didn't go to my Slough Writers group last night - my leg's been playing up. I had been making good progress and had gotten as far as being able to walk around the flat, patio, and communal garden without the assistance of a walking stick But over the past few days, I've taken a backward step (forgive the pun!) of having to use said walking stick.

Later, I sorted through my latest emails. Many of them were a load of c**p, but of those that weren't, I actioned (where it was needed).

I receive over 200 emails a day. I even get them after I've clicked the 'unsubscribe' link!

I've been asked why I keep a blog? It's because it keeps me in touch with people who actually want to read my thoughts and activities. And it makes it easy for me to keep abreast of any special issues that I would like to keep those in my 'contacts' lists up to date with.

Finally, I've started to research and collecting potential sources for my 'Volunteering with your dog' feature scheduled for publication in the July 2024 edition of 'Dogs Today' magazine.

Have a good week my friends.









Monday 27 November 2023

Sunday thoughts

 I'ts been a mixture of sorting and storing various tasks today:

I've been:-

  • Catching up on all my unanswered email messages, (and deleting those that are 'spam' - Why does anyone think that I need a box set of lipsticks in various shades?)
  • Collecting and collating material for the Slough Writers latest project 'Station Jim'.
  • Contesting a parking ticket (for parking in my own reserved 'Disabled Parking' space).
  • Writing this blog before I 'log-off' and retire for the evening and start watching s**t television.

So I'll 'speak' again soon.

Goodnight


Saturday 25 November 2023

Weekends Wonderings and Wanderings.

Hi. Sorry about the day delays. I haven't posted anything since Wednesday morning.

Tuesday evening's class was interesting. We studied shape, structure, and interview skills. Since my health deteriorated, I now mainly conduct my interviews, not in a face-to-face format, but over the telephone or via email. I now find that email techniques are my favoured. Please find this example from my Tuesday evening class Copyright © CityLit 2023 & Mark Starkey.

Interviewing Techniques - Strategy:

 Do your research. Pull out anything they have said before or any

interviews they have done

 Choose your location – it is important both to set the tone and for

your writing

 A good interview is a combination of apparent spontaneity and

responsiveness, good research and searching questions

 Plan your strategy carefully. Start with the easy questions first to

get them talking about themselves. Make the interviewee feel

special - strategy, ammunition and weapons are the key to

successkeys to success.

 Listen, engage, interact and make eye contact

 Body language is useful – mirror, pace, lead

 Do not read off a list of questions but allow the interview to flow

 Tick off what has been answered on your list so that you know to

come back to questions later

 Allow for reflection – in doing so your interviewee will feel more

relaxed and engaged

 Ensure your questions illustrate your knowledge about them or

who they represent

 Leave a door open – for contact afterward in case there are further

questions

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Here's an example of a recent interview conducted by me via email: (questions in black, responses in red)

Dear (editors name),


1)    How many dog(s) do you have?

1 Dog

2)    What are their names, gender, breed and ages?

Rosco, Male, CockerPoo, 3 years 6 months

3)    Is/are your dog(s) a pedigree or crossbreed?

Cross bread (Poodle/Cocker Spaniel)

4)    How long have you owned your dog(s)?

Since he was 8 weeks old

5)    What activities do you do with your dog(s)? e.g. Walking, running, ball games, dog shows, taking your dog to work etc.

Mostly walking, no shows, he comes to work once a week as I now don’t work from home.

6)    What makes your dog happy?

Being around people and other dogs, he is very social and affectionate.

7)    What does your dog do to make you happy?

Rosco is always there, he gives us as much love and attention as we give him. He snuggles when we feel sad. He knows when we are getting stressed and sits with us all day if needed, just stroking his back, head and belly gives us some much-needed mental release as we feel instantly happier in his presence. He is always happy to see us as we are him. Walking him gives us purpose and meaning for exercise. He is a good dog, a great dog, and we love him.

Great responses, but this doesn't always work. Interviewees can either forget (follow up with a gentle reminder) or just choose not to reply. The above example was sent out to eight recipients, but only four responded, answering all/most of my questions. As mentioned earlier, interviews can also be conducted via telephone or face to face.

You can read a (rough) article 'Writing for Magazines' written by me which you can download by clicking here.

That's all for now - tomorrow I'll cover recording and transcribing your interview(s) - so you've probably had enough by now - back to my homepage.

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Tuesday's thoughts - Handy hyperlinks

I've started adding hyperlinks in the text to enable you to find further information.

Yesterday, I reviewed my research material and gathered the interview material ready for writing my article 'Does owning a dog make you happy?'.

I received a copy of a second-hand book 'Get your articles published' for £3. It's in good condition and an excellent book available from Amazon.

Last night, I went along to my writers' group. It was a manuscript evening and quite a few members read out their manuscripts, including me. I read out 'Newfs in Action' and received mainly good comments from members.

Today, I've been finishing writing and editing 'Does owning a dog make you happy?'. I've been sent some images by my interviewees. I've sent off all the material to the editor of 'Dogs Today' magazine.

This evening, I've got my online CityLit class 'Writing for Magazines'. Tonight is week four of six and I'm getting a lot out of it.

I hope you find the hyperlinks handy.

Sunday 19 November 2023

Sunday snippets

I'm continuing to research material for my Dogs Today feature 'Does your dog make you happy?' Surprisingly perhaps, there's a lot of stuff out there. I'm also waiting for more responses to my questions.

Does your dog make you happy? Tell me how your dog makes you smile or chuckle and anything else you can think of. Email me at sloughwriter@gmail.com

Saturday 18 November 2023

Studying Saturday

Today I've done quite a few different things:

  • Sent reminders to the people I'd sent 'Does your dog make you happy?' questions to - and added a couple more to the list.
  • Searched for academic papers on 'dogs/pets and happiness'. There were quite a few.
  • Sent emails to some dog food suppliers and dog-related organisations asking them for any relevant press releases. I also asked to go on their mailing lists.

I'm now going to skim-read a couple of the documents that I've downloaded and retire at 17:30.

Friday 17 November 2023

Funny Friday

It's been a bit of a funny day today. A couple of books that I'd ordered from Amazon arrived today. But I'd never have known that they'd arrived until I got an email from Amazon telling me that they'd been delivered. The courier had left them on the floor outside our flat door. 

I may have already mentioned it but I've graduated to being able to take a few slow short steps without the aid of a walking stick. I'm getting there! I'm just hoping that I won't be left with a limp.
Another thing I think that I haven't already mentioned is that on Monday I finally got to go back to attending the evening at my writing group, Slough Writers. It's the first time that I've been able to attend since early July. I really enjoyed it and it was great to be back amongst other writers. I'm indebted to Mark who kindly gave me a lift as I'm not allowed to drive for the time being.

So far today, I've been reviewing my notes for my article 'Does owning a dog make you happy?'. I've also been leafing through a couple of books about writing articles for magazines.

That's all for now. Watch this space!

Wednesday 15 November 2023

Wednesdays Wonderings

It was a good evening at my CityLit online course. Firstly, we shared our assignments from last week. Only three of us had completed our 'pitch' to editors. I got good feedback and the tutor Susan Grossman asked me if she could use mine as an example to students on other courses.
We were shown how to get the most out of 'X' (Twitter). I find it very difficult to understand. The first part of our assignment this week was to study 'X'.

Finally, we were introduced to writing a column and shown an example. The second part of our assignment was to write a couple of paragraphs of a column. I wrote and submitted mine this morning.

Here it is:

Bah! Humbug!

I seem to remember that, when I was young, that Christmas celebrations started in mid to late December. However now, it seems to me, festivities begin as soon as early November!

According to ‘The Guardian’: “Residents of Denbigh took to their community’s Facebook page, Town Talk, to largely complain, Grinch-like, that Christmas had come too early.” One angry local wrote: “Much too soon, there should be a date set across the country before any store can put Xmas items out.” Some said they could just about cope with Halloween stock being out – but not Christmas items.

‘The Telegraph’ claims that: “Christmas comes early as shoppers buy festive food and drink in October.” October indeed! Bah! Humbug!


Tuesday 14 November 2023

Tuesdays Thoughts

Today, I've sent some emails to some dog-owning friends of mine.  Please feel free to 'cut and paste' it into the body of an email and email your answers to me here at sloughwriter@gmail.com.

Here it is:-

 



I’m working on an article ‘Does your dog make you happy?’ for ‘Dogs Today’ magazine. It will be published in March 2024 to coincide with ‘International Happiness Day 2024’.

As part of my research, I’m talking to dog owners about their relationship with their dogs.

I’d be grateful if you’d take a few minutes to complete these questions and email them back to me. You don’t need to adhere strictly to the questions. For example, if you prefer, write me a story.

Also, I’d love to include a ‘happy’ photograph of you or your family with your dog(s) if possible. Please send it as a high-resolution jpg

Here goes: -

  • 1)    How many dog(s) do you have?
  • 2)    What are their names, gender, breed and ages?
  • 3)    Is/are your dog(s) a pedigree or crossbreed?
  • 4)    How long have you owned your dog(s)?
  • 5)    What activities do you do with your dog(s)? e.g. Walking, running, ball games, dog shows, taking your dog to work etc.
  • 6)    What makes your dog happy?
  • 7)    What does your dog do to make you happy?

Please tell me, in your own words, all about the things that make you smile, laugh, chuckle etc. In short, how does your dog(s) make you happy?

--------------

I've edited and partly rewritten 'Best's Friends' and submitted it to 'Asylum magazine'.

It's CityLit night tonight. I'm looking forward to it. I completed the assignment (write a 'pitch' to an editor) a few days ago.

Sunday 12 November 2023

Sunday Summary

Haven't really done very much so far today. I'm still not feeling that great. Lottie's barking her head off - telling the fireworks off. I think it's Diwali tonight, so am expecting more later.

I've been posting the following message on social media: "Hi. I may have posted this before, but here goes! I'm writing a feature 'Does owning a dog make you happy?' for 'Dogs Today Magazine'. Do you own a dog that makes you smile, laugh, or just plain happy? If so, I'd love to hear from you. Tell me where in the UK you live, and the breed, gender, and age of your dog. What does he/she do that gives you that warm feeling inside? Have you got a high-resolution photograph of your happy dog? Please get in touch by messaging me here or sending me an email at sloughwriter@gmail.com" I've added this image of a happy dog at Christmas!


I've also looked-up and copied the entry in the 2024 edition of 'Writers & Artists Yearbook' for Nazalee who wants to submit an article on Caroline Hershel to 'History Today Magazine'.

Saturday 11 November 2023

Day Off!

I'm not feeling very well today so not doing anything but reviewing my 'Happiness and Dogs' notes.

Friday 10 November 2023

Good News!

 I'm chuffed and chilled. I've just had an email from the editor of 'Dogs Today magazine' who has commissioned my article 'Is life happier with a dog?' to coincide with the International Day of Happiness – Wednesday 20th March 2024.

Do you have a dog that makes you happier? Send me an email and photo and tell me all about your relationship with your dog. sloughwriter@gmail.com

Administration Day

No 'writing' today. It's a day for attending to all the 'admin' stuff. I need to sort out my files and I also have an invoice to create. I have hundreds of pdf and doc files that need to be organized into some sort of sense. I don't really know where to start.

I've also got to find:

  • Samples of 'pitches' to editors.
  • Academic papers on 'happiness' that owning a dog can bring.

I've been listening to 'audio books' on 'Organisation for Writers' and 'Productivity for Authors'.

Yesterday I found the 'media pack' for 'Dogs Today' magazine. It's a bit dated (2017) but nevertheless useful. Previously the only 'media pack' that I'd found was for 'Attitude' magazine. We are encouraged in my class to study media packs and I've found them quite useful.

I want to send this article to 'Psychology Now' magazine, but I can't find anything on the net. I really need to study it and find out an email address for the editor and I think that the only way is going to be to buy at least one copy. But the main sticking point is that each copy costs £13.99 which at the moment I can't afford so it's going to have to wait. It's just occurred to me that it might be listed in the 2024 editions of the 'Writers & Artists Yearbook' and/or the 'Writers Handbook'. Watch this space!

My leg is worse today. It's really painful when I walk and my limp is pronounced. It occurred to me yesterday that I may be left with a limp and difficulty walking. I hope not.

Thursday 9 November 2023

Week 2 Assignment - Completed Pitch

 Is life happier with a dog?

Dogs are more than just cuddly companions. Time magazine reports that ‘Owning a Dog Is Really Good for You.’ Moreover, research shows that dogs have many positive effects on the health and quality of life of their owners. Amongst other benefits, owning a dog decreases levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lowers blood pressure.

Research from The Kennel Club shows that stroking a dog is the top choice for stress relief. Two thirds of dog owners choose to cuddle or stroke a dog as their first port of call for comfort. Half also believe walking their dog improves their mood and well-being.

This article examines the value of owning a dog on the happiness levels of the owner. It is ideally suited for publication in the March edition of ‘Dogs Today’ magazine to coincide with the International Day of Happiness – Wednesday 20th March 2024. I propose a length of around 1000 words.

Research reveals that dog owners are turning to their four-legged-friends to help with feelings of stress and sadness and shows that dogs have provided a vital source of comfort to their owners, with more than two thirds claiming that stroking or cuddling a dog would be their first port of call when feeling stressed or down.

·         People with dogs have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without. One study even found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months.

·         Playing with a dog, can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.

·         Dog owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without dogs.

The article would also include interviews with dog owners/lovers explaining their own experiences of how their own happiness is brought about by owning their dog(s).

I have written a number of articles about dogs, for ‘Dogs Today’ and ‘Mad About Dogs’ magazines. As a dog lover myself I am confident that this article would appeal to your readers.

Examples of my recent dog related articles can be found here:

·         http://www.richardhill.co.uk/teameliot.pdf

·         http://www.richardhill.co.uk/newfsinaction.pdf

I would be grateful if you would consider accepting this proposal for publication in your magazine.

Wednesday 8 November 2023

CityLit - Week 2 Assignment

CityLit - Writing for Magazines - Week 2

Week 2 - 'Classroom'

For the 'live' session this Tuesday evening (17:30 - 19:30), we shared ideas and information on the magazine(s) that each one of us would like to write for. We were divided into 'breakout' groups to discuss each other's magazine(s) in more detail.

Week 2 Assignment

This week, our assignment is to write a 'pitch' to the magazine editor of our choice. This is a pitch for our 'idea' for a feature article for this magazine(s).

My idea is about the happiness that owning a dog can bring to its owner.

I plan to write this article for two publications: 'Dogs Today' and 'Psychology Today' magazines.

Today, I've been researching academic papers and research into (the science of) happiness and owning a dog. I've also been saving some papers/documents and websites for later use.

At some point, I think I'm going to need to interview some dog owners about the happiness that their dog(s) bring to them. My proposed interviewees will be:

  • Janet and her three dogs.
  • Mark and his dog Rosco.
  • Bodie and his two 'assistance' dogs Curly and Rex.

I plan to edit my 'pitch' tomorrow.


Tuesday 7 November 2023

Liquid History

 I've gone 'international'. I've just uploaded my latest article, which will be published in the December edition of Boating New Zealand magazine. Check it out at http://www.richardhill.co.uk/ttbfbnz.pdf

Friday 3 November 2023

New studies 'Writing for Magazines. CityLit University

Last Tuesday, 31st October, I began a 6-week course with CityLit University 'Writing for Magazines'. Before it started, I was feeling both apprehensive and enthusiastic, but it turned out to be really enjoyable. The course itself runs on Google Classrooms and the online session on a Tuesday evening (17:30 - 19:30) runs on Zoom. The course is hosted by Susan Grossman. There were a total of 16 students participating.

In the first online session, we debated and discussed our personal goals and ambitions in terms of writing for magazines. Later, we were split into groups of four and encouraged to share our past experiences in terms of having had work published and relay our ambitions and aspirations which were wide and varied. Some students had seen work already published while others were yet to get into print.

Our task(s) for this week is to study examples of magazine articles and features.