Thank you so much for agreeing to be a part of The Writing Desk Blog.
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…
Jo Watson – Ghostwriter, Copywriter, Grammar Geek
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…)
I’ve always found that I gain more from dipping into a range of books and sources for inspiration rather than reading one person’s research or musings cover to cover. I prefer the books that are autobiographical in style, as I enjoy reading a bit of a story as opposed to just being hit with advice, rules or case studies.
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
I had to ask my husband for help with this one, and he reminded me that I cried for the duration of 2015 as a result of the 2014 John Lewis Christmas Advert – ‘Monty the Penguin’.
“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
Without doubt, the secret is to allow your voice to shine through in your signature style. You want people to read your writing and hear your voice in their head as they do it. It’s the biggest compliment anyone could pay me when they say, “I knew from a mile off that you’d written this…”
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
How bad is it that I don’t initially think of recommending any books to read? My advice to anyone starting out would be more business focused, and if I could go back and talk to ‘start-up’ me, I’d tell myself to remember my own value. There are so many people out there waiting to take freelancers for a ride, acting like they’re doing you a favour by allowing you to do all of their work for them… oh, don’t get me started…
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
I have to have noises and distractions going on while I work – TV, background conversations, the baby going off like some demented kangaroo in her jumpy-up-and-downy-thing… I can filter it all out easily, but I can’t stand silence at all.
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
- Red Dragon (Thomas Harris)
- A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini)
- The Humans (Matt Haig)
Three completely different novels, but what all have in common is that they absolutely gripped me. I don’t believe in reading a book because somebody tells you it’s great, or because it’s the ‘in’ thing or a prize-winning work of literature… you just have to find something that hits you in the head, heart or soul, and my choices are books I will continue to read over and over again and love just as much as the first time.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
You’d think I’d choose one of the books I had the great fortune to have ghostwritten, but the best thing I’ve ever written was a tweet I put out a few years ago about Botox being 10 years old… I went on to say that in reality, it looked a lot younger! I think it got one ‘like’ and zero retweets, but I made myself laugh for about a week.
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
A tub of Sudocrem. #MumLife. Somebody had stolen my old tub at my daughter’s swimming lesson. Who steals a half-used tub of Sudocrem?!
Who was your teenage crush?
Football has always played a significant role in my life, but I’ve never been a bigger fan than when Everton signed Duncan Ferguson in the mid-nineties. It was love at first sight. I still count him as the longest relationship I’ve ever been in.
Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
I can’t bring myself to answer this one because the meal in question was a fillet steak and I am now a vegetarian! Next question!
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?
I’ve been feeling a little run down lately, perhaps because of the weather, the amount of work I have on (which I am grateful for) or because I have a five-month-old baby to care for, but I have recently rekindled my childhood love for hot Ribena to soothe me. Is that a bit sad? Is everyone else choosing a fine wine?
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?
If I’ve got David, then I’d have to say that I’d go on safari somewhere. I’m not going to be picky or claim to be geographically knowledgeable by being more specific. I’m a big animal lover though, and it really is a once in a lifetime kind of expedition, so definitely safari. I like cheetahs best.
What’s in your pockets?
No pockets in this outfit – I’m in my pyjamas! It’s a real perk of being able to work from home!
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
I feel more productive and efficient at a keyboard, though I often do most of my editing with a pen having printed out whatever I’ve typed. I don’t know why, but I find it easier to spot errors and inconsistencies that way.
Do you read any blogs or magazines about writing? (And I mean read, not just subscribe to and delete/leave on your desk and recycle?)
I don’t really take in any magazines as such, as I don’t have a lot of time to enjoy at leisure, but I absolutely love following fellow writers – such as your wonderful self, Katherine – on social media. Their posts inspire me, inform me, and often make me laugh (in a good way).
Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?
Tea – milk and one sugar. But, the milk HAS to go in first. This tends to be why people don’t like me.
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
My Dunder Mifflin Inc Paper Company mug, as my nod to The Office: An American Workplace, which is one of my all-time favourite shows. I think I’m one of the few Brits who prefers the US version of the programme, but I really do think it’s the best one.
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
I absolutely adored a book I had called Doris and the Mice from Mars. I’ve never found anyone else who has even heard of it, never mind read it, but honestly it’s real. My mum gave it away in a charity bag (I’ve never forgiven her) and I’ve spent a fair amount of my adulthood trying to track down a copy of it. I couldn’t tell you a great deal about it, but I loved it.
In terms of my favourite character, I had all the Garfield annuals, and I still love that cat to this day.
Your favourite word?
Unprintable. That’s not the word, by the way.
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?
The same one I think everyone chooses – ‘moist’. Ick.
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
Generally, just lost in life, I think… I love bookstores but I’m a nightmare for getting caught up with online browsing. You start at hit songs of the 80s and end up at pigs riding motorbikes. Damn you, YouTube.
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
‘May your love never end, and if you need a friend, there’s a seat here alongside me’. (‘Roads Untraveled’, by Linkin Park).
There’s just something incredibly bittersweet about it considering Chester Bennington’s death some years later.
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
The list is endless as I love to get up and have a dance, but what I will tell you is what I WON’T get up and dance to, and that’s ‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA. I will leave the dancefloor and, most likely, the building.
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
I don’t think I have any rituals as such, but if I need to write, then I need to do it straight away. If it’s 3.17am and I wake up with an idea… the laptop is going on.
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
I’m treating myself to a rare day off today, seeing as being able to dictate my own schedule was why I went into business for myself in the first place. I’ve been looking forward to getting stuck into your Writing Desk feature, Katherine, so this is my project for the day!
Can you describe the last photograph you took?
I’m just looking through my phone as a type, and unsurprisingly, I find that the last million photos I took were of my baby daughter, Lily. The last photo was of her at her ‘PuddleDucks’ swimming lesson with her dad. There are 11 versions of the same photo, as I attempted to snap her playing with (or at least feigning interest in) a small selection of rubber ducks!
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
I never tell my husband he’s right – usually because he’s not – but he is the only person I trust with any kind of review of my writing or advice towards it. He’ll be brutally honest with me if my writing’s not up to scratch, and I need that. Sometimes I get so caught up with the piece being beautifully written, that I overlook its purpose. The question he has on occasion needed to ask me is “why?” It’s such an important question to address, because, without a purpose, you’re just rambling.
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
I’m attending the wedding of two dear friends this weekend, and they have asked me to compose a piece to read at the ceremony. It’s a huge honour and I loved writing it. I just hope they love hearing it!
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
“Write for you, edit for your audience.” A good friend said that to me. I don’t know if it’s an actual quote or anything but it’s a good one to go by and I like it.
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
Is this a reference to the TV show, Mad Men? If so, I’ve never seen it!
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
‘Blades of Glory’. Outlandish characters and a perfect blend of sharp and slapstick humour. I love a film where you can recite stupid quotes – in or out of context – over and over again with your mates. I will always choose comedy writing over classical scripts. There isn’t an Oscar-winner anywhere near my DVD collection! “You’re welcome, Stockholm.”
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
‘Talk Like Ted’ by Carmine Gallo, which I bought to read as something to do whilst I was in labour a few months ago. I have NO idea why I thought I’d be in any fit state to read a book at that time! I really want to read it though, as one of my aims in life is to write and present a TED Talk. I also have a copy of Jo Nesbo’s ‘The Bat’, which my best friend bought for me at Christmas. She wants us to start a book club because we both saw the film adaptation of ‘The Snowman’ with Michael Fassbender a few months ago, and we were gripped, though I think that was more with Michael’s flawed gorgeousness than Jo’s exceptional writing!
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
I have no mentor as such these days, so I’ll answer this in the most literal sense and say my primary school teacher, Mrs Barnes. I loved her for a million reasons, but one of the best things she ever did for me was to let me play the piano at school each day because we didn’t have one at home. One day I will get back into that again. One day.
Who is your favourite artist?
I don’t know if this person fits strictly into the bracket of ‘artist’ but I’ll choose the architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. When I was a primary school teacher, I always used to get my kids drawing, painting, sculpting and constructing in his style. I love the Mackintosh rose as a theme, and it featured a lot both at my wedding a few years ago as well as in my home today (including some of the work my school kids produced!)
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?
As a freelancer, you have to love working from your sofa. As the photo attached will show, however…. It’s not always that straightforward.
And finally, where can this caffeine-fuelled audience find you?
Please visit my website at www.agoodwriteup.com , or feel free to add me on LinkedIn – Jo Watson (CMgr MCMI)