The Writing Desk | Catherine Every
Thank you so much for agreeing to be a part of this quirky and esoteric feature I’ve started here and welcome to The Writing Desk. We’ll be talking to writers, copywriters, poets, designers, marketers, photographers and all sorts of creative folk.
Now, imagine I’m about to introduce you to an auditorium, filled with the smiling faces of folks fuelled by caffeine and an eagerness to learn. What would I say?
“Hello everyone, I’d like to introduce…
Catherine Every, freelance copywriter.
Here’s the part where we’d sit down and try and look comfortable next to the microphones. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin…
Can you name the business book that’s always on your desk? (I’m talking about the one that’s covered in pencil marks, coffee stains and has turned down corners…)
Andy Maslen’s Write To Sell. And I’m looking forward to reading Rhetorica by Scott Keyser, which arrived on Saturday.
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
It’s such a cliché, but those Innocent adverts were really good, weren’t they?
“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
In the same way as the best way to learn a new language is to immerse yourself in it, I believe the best way to learn to write well and to develop your skills is to immerse yourself in words and read anything you can get your hands on.
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
For someone who writes marketing materials and who started her career in marketing, I’m remarkably poor at marketing my own business. I’d tell myself that the most important thing to do is make sure I’ve got a marketing plan in place – and make sure I carry it out.
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
When I’m writing, silence. If I’m doing admin or loading content into a website, then Radcliffe and Maconie on 6 Music.
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters – an exuberant, glorious, life-affirming romp (literally, in places).
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – doesn’t every quiet, mousy girl dream of her inner marvellousness being spotted by a tall, dark, handsome misogynist? (See also: Jane Eyre.)
Any Jeeves & Wooster – the language just makes me swoon.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
There are two things I’m particularly proud of.
The first is a website I wrote years ago – www.exstent.com – and which I still look after today. It’s about a medical device that wraps around the aorta of people with a condition called Marfan syndrome, who are at risk of their aorta rupturing. The device supports their aorta and prevents this. It was invented by a man with the syndrome and he was also the first person to have the device fitted.
The second was a document that outlined Velindre NHS Trust’s strategy for the future of cancer services in South East Wales.
In both cases what I’m particularly proud of is that it was work that mattered – using my abilities to be a force for good things in the world.
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
Two pints of semi-skimmed milk yesterday so we had enough milk in the house to make custard for the rhubarb crumble for Sunday lunch.
Who was your teenage crush?
Morten Harket of A-Ha. Or Nigel Havers.
Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
On holiday in Sri Lanka a few years ago we arrived in Galle very late at night after a beautiful but much longer than anticipated drive through the country. By the time we arrived the kitchen in our guest house was long shut, but our host’s wife opened it up again so she could prepare us a meal. We sat drinking beer on the upstairs terrace, listening to the sound of her preparing the meal and even grating the coconut. It was the most delicious meal I have ever eaten.
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?
If I were to give you a private jet, David Attenborough as a tour guide and a month off work – all expenses paid – where would you go and what or who would you write about – and why?
I’m intrigued by Russia and China. Partly because of their culture and partly simply because of the size of them. I’d like to explore the culture and experience the scale of the countries. Not sure I’d write much about them, though, just to be on the safe side. If I was going to write about a place, it would probably be New York.
What’s in your pockets?
Somewhat surprisingly, nothing at the moment. You can usually find a tissue or several in there.
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
Keyboard and screen for drafting and writing. Pen and notebook for making and taking notes.
Do you read any blogs or magazines about writing? (And I mean read, not just subscribe to and delete/leave on desk and recycle?)
Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?
Water or peppermint tea.
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
I was mildly insulted by the pen-keyring-and-insulated-mug set Volkswagen thought was an appropriate gesture of apology for lying to me about my car’s emissions but actually the mug’s quite good because I’m apt to forget about the peppermint tea until it’s too cold.
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton (in my defence, it was the 70s – she was acceptable then). But I wanted to be Heidi – I wanted to live in the mountains and eat toasted cheese and drink goats’ milk.
Your favourite word?
Psychotic. I love the ‘ch’ sound in the middle.
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?
I hate being referred to as a lady. Or worse, be in a group of women and be referred to as ‘ladies’ as in “What can I get you ladies to drink?”
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
Most often to be found browsing online. But it’s so much more enjoyable in the aisles of a bookstore.
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
“She looked me over and I guess she thought I was all right. All right in a limited sort of a way for an off night.” from I Know What I Know by Paul Simon. It just makes me laugh every time.
And some of the Arctic Monkeys’ lyrics are breathtakingly brilliant.
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
Deee-Lite’s Groove is in the Heart in public. Beyonce’s Crazy in Love in private.
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
I have my own template with my favourite font / spacings / headings set up and I find it really hard to write anything unless I’m using this template.
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
Today is Monday, which is Business Development Time. That means I’m doing marketing in various forms. It’s taken me five years to realise I have to set aside this time or else it doesn’t get done. And it’s taken me two to realise that having Business Development Time on Friday afternoon is a recipe for stopping work for the weekend at Friday lunchtime.
Can you describe the last photograph you took?
I took a photograph of our Sunday lunch yesterday. We had a joint of roast mutton from my friend Alice’s sheep and I took a photo to send to her.
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
I feel like my career really stepped up a level when my mentor suggested that if I wanted to be taken more seriously I had to act like I should be taken more seriously. He was absolutely right.
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
A shopping list.
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?” A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh.
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
Fay Weldon. Go to work on an egg is genius.
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
Dangerous Liaisons. I could pretend it’s my favourite for all sorts of pseudo-intellectual reasons, but it’s mainly because of the frocks.
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. I really want my own daemon now.
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
I had a history teacher at school – Mr Lockett. He was one of those teachers who brought their subject alive.
Who is your favourite artist?
Where do you like to work best – is it at a desk, in an office or in a coffee shop? And would you send us a picture of where the magic happens?
At my desk in my office (aka the spare room). My desk is an adjustable artist’s table. My partner came home with it one day after I’d been complaining about backache from sitting at my old desk. I was partly moved to tears by the sweetness and thoughtfulness of the gesture (he’s that kind of man) and partly frustrated I couldn’t put it down as a capital expenditure…
And finally, where can this caffeine-fuelled audience find you?