- 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
Tuesday 28 November 2023
Monday 27 November 2023
I'ts been a mixture of sorting and storing various tasks today:
- 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.
Saturday 25 November 2023
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
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
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?
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
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?'.
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.
I hope you find the hyperlinks handy.
Sunday 19 November 2023
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 email@example.com
Saturday 18 November 2023
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
Wednesday 15 November 2023
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
Saturday 11 November 2023
Friday 10 November 2023
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. email@example.com
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
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:
I would be grateful if you would consider accepting this proposal for publication in your magazine.
Wednesday 8 November 2023
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
Friday 3 November 2023
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.