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…
Laura Silcock – copywriter and brand voice consultant
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 refer to Liz Doig’s Brand Language: Tone of Voice the Wordtree Way quite often. She speaks so much sense.
I’ve also recently rediscovered one called Words that Sell by Richard Bayan. It’s a thesaurus, essentially, but the words are grouped into useful categories for marketing copy so it’s good to flick through if you’re lacking inspiration.
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
I absolutely love the Dollar Shave Club YouTube ad.
“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
I think whatever you’re writing – novel, textbook, sales letter, blog – good writing is about writing for the reader. What’s going to capture their attention and keep them hooked? How are you going to influence what they think, feel and do? It’s one of those things that seems really obvious but it’s so easy to get sidetracked.
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
I’d tell myself to read, read and read some more – not just books about copywriting but as many different types of copy and writing as possible. I think it’s the best way to learn. The books I’d read first would be Write to Sell by Andy Maslen and Brilliant Copywriting by Roger Horberry. They’re both packed with great advice and are really well laid out and easy to refer back to.
I’d also tell myself to find a good mentor to learn from, and some peers to share the ups and downs with.
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
Absolute silence. I get very prickly if there are interruptions. Which of course there are when you share a home office with your husband and have two little people. Grrrrr.
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen because I love a strong heroine and it reminds me of my youth (because I studied it at school and uni not because I flounced about in regency frocks).
- Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty because she’s excellent at the slow reveal and I like how her characters are so real and believably flawed and complex.
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett because she took a difficult subject and got her message across loud and clear in a way that wasn’t just captivating but really entertaining.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
When I was at primary school I wrote quite a long story about the journey of a sweet wrapper. I still remember mum coming home from parents’ evening and telling me how impressed my teacher was with it. It made me realise you can evoke a reaction by writing and got me hooked. Probably not, technically, the best thing I’ve ever written though.
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
A hummus, salad, couscous and vegan kofte wrap from a very hipster café. Unfortunately, I bought it to eat at a client’s office and every time I took a bite couscous flew everywhere.
Who was your teenage crush?
I always had crushes on boys I knew rather than famous people. I’ll save any embarrassment by not naming names!
Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
The tasting menu at Hélène Darroze at The Connaught really sticks in my mind. It was a couple of months after our wedding and the night before we headed off to Paris for the weekend so it felt very decadent and romantic. The standout dish for me was a salty squid ink risotto. My husband was a bit dismayed when the blood from his pigeon pooled into his pea velouté (poured theatrically from a clear glass teapot). I can still see it now. He ended up switching to the squid ink risotto.
On the other end of the scale, few things have tasted as good as the white buttery toast the midwife brought in postpartum.
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?
Vodka and tonic. I’m not fussy about the vodka but I like a Fever Tree Light tonic.
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 think I’d like to start in Brazil then go up the east coast of America and finish off in Canada. I wouldn’t write at all. I’d give myself a break (see question 32) and take the opportunity to read lots instead.
What’s in your pockets?
A used tissue. Classy.
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
A keyboard and two screens. I feel all claustrophobic if I have to work on one screen now.
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?)
Yes, the ones I’ve been reading recently are the:
- Newsletter from Andy Maslen.
- Wordtree blog and newsletter.
- Copyhackers blog.
- Enchanting Marketing blog.
Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?
Neither. I’ve never liked them. I love hot chocolate (as long as it’s not weak and watery) or hot water with a slice of lemon.
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
Yes, I’ve got two. They were both gifts and are Emma Bridgewater heart pattern. One says ‘Best mum’ and the other says ‘Mrs’. The labels make me smile and I like that they’re nice and big. Also, I’m the only person who uses them so there’s no danger of them getting yucky tea and coffee stains.
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
Gosh, so many to choose from. If I had to narrow it down I think it would have to be the Malory Towers series (I reread it sooooo many times). My favourite character was Darrell and I used to ask mum if I could go to boarding school. Thankfully, she said no!
Your favourite word?
Silence. It’s golden.
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?
Deliver – but only when used in a corporate ‘deliver a workshop’, ‘deliver results’ kind of way. In my book, postmen and couriers deliver and everything else can be described using another verb.
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
I’d love to say lost in the aisles of a bookstore but I never have the time, so online it is.
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
‘All I want for Christmas is yoooooo-oo-oo-oo-oooooo-oo-oo baby’. I know – not cool. We’re mad for Christmas in our house and this is my favourite Christmas song so when I hear it I always feel fizzy.
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
Anyone – I’ll dance to anything. The main issue is keeping me off the dance floor.
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
I always have to write in Tahoma 10 point. If someone sends me something to edit and I don’t change it into Tahoma 10 point it doesn’t feel right. Is that weird?
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
At the mo, I’m working on or about to work on:
– Developing a brand personality and voice for a jeweller.
– Campaign messaging and a website for an international equestrian organisation.
– Some case studies for a management consultant.
– A property brochure.
– Sales info sheets for a security management company.
– Web copy for a parenting app.
I love the mix!
Can you describe the last photograph you took?
It’s a pic of my kids at Tropical World next to the meerkats. They love looking at the animals and I love how tropically warm it is. When is this winter going to end?!
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
Focus on what you’re good at. I used to think that to be considered a good writer you had to be good at writing everything from adverts to terms and conditions. Now I realise that we all have different strengths, and if we play to them we’re likely to go further and get more out of our work.
The person who that to me said I was good at tone of voice work. I’ve focused on that much more since and have worked on some lovely projects that I’ve really enjoyed and my clients have been really pleased with.
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
I added ‘Renew library books’ to Wunderlist. If it’s not on Wunderlist it doesn’t happen.
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
“You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” Jodi Picoult
I think this is so true. It’s always far easier to edit something than stare at a blank page. So if I’m stuck I always just get started and write the first thing that comes into my head. Sometimes it’s so bad it’s funny but it gets things moving.
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
I can’t choose! I loved Don. Such a moody, mysterious genius. Roger cracked me up and I liked how Joan was more than she appeared. I was never so fussed about Peggy though. I liked that she was gutsy and got on in a man’s world but something about her rankled me.
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
Ocean’s Eleven. It’s got it all – Brad and George for starters, plus glamour, comedy, friendship, suspense, twists and turns, a hint of romance. Love it.
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
I don’t have books stacked by my bed but have several lined up on Kindle and Audible. One that really struck a chord with me recently was On Form: Managing Energy Not Time is the Key to High Performance, Health and Happiness by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz.
Don’t be put off by the awful cover design – it’s really good. It’s all about making sure you take breaks and do things that you love and are important to you rather than going, going, going, going, going…until you’re gone.
I’ve just started Ayurveda Beginner’s Guide by Susan Weis-Bohlen. I’m into yoga so think it’ll be an interesting read for me.
I tend to read non-fiction and listen to fiction. A novel that I enjoyed on Audible recently was The Dangers of Truffle Hunting by Sunni Overend. It was a bit like a modern day Wuthering Heights meets Food and Travel magazine. I’m looking forward to listening to her next one, The Rules of Backyard Croquet, when it’s out later this month.
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
I’ve learned a lot from Andy Maslen over the years. Not just about writing itself but about running a copywriting business, about believing in yourself and about cracking on and following your dreams.
Who is your favourite artist?
There’s a fashion illustrator called Francesca Waddell and I love the way her illustrations feel. They’re super feminine and stylish in a sassy way.
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?
I like to be at my desk in my office at home, ideally. Although I work from mum and dad’s house on Mondays at the moment and love it there. I sit at the desk they bought me for my eleventh birthday and look out at the amazing views across the garden and fields that I never appreciated when I lived there.