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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…
Sarah Turner of Turner Ink. I’m a 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…)
Words that Sell by Richard Bayan. It’s a book of unbelievably useful synonyms. Or is that extraordinarily handy synonyms? Or extremely beneficial synonyms?
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
I’m a sucker for an ad with a song or a good bit of music. I’m going to say my favourite ad of all time is RH Whites lemonade. But the Guinness surfer ad with the horses is a close second.
Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
A book only exists when it’s written. If it’s inside you, it’s just a thought or a dream. The secret to good writing is to start writing.
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
When the going gets tough keep going. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. And follow someone you admire. Years ago I bought Andy Maslen’s Write to Sell. And then I signed up to his newsletter and then I followed/stalked him on Twitter. Now we’re friends. I’d recommend all of Andy’s copywriting books, to be honest.
And read Stephen King’s On Writing. It will remind you why you’ve chosen to be a writer rather than working in a bank. King captures both the pain and euphoria of writing.
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
Classical music on iTunes or Spotify. But not opera. Absolutely nothing with words. Or sometimes I listen to what can only be described as New Age music. It’s the kind of tinkling water sounds they play in spas when you’re having a massage. It’s quite relaxing. Possibly too relaxing.
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
So don’t judge me. I love Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins. No really. I love a rockin’ good story and interesting characters. It was Hollywood Wives that made me go to LA.
My second book is Therese Raquin by Emile Zola. It’s epic. I took a sharp intake of breath at the beginning and didn’t breathe out until the end. It’s utterly mesmerising.
And lastly, Now we are Six. So not a novel but a book of poetry by AA Milne that my parents bought me when I was six. I learnt many of the poems off by heart. It’s where I first understood the rhythm of language. Copy should have rhythm too. There needs to be a ta-da-ta-da-ta-da about it.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
That’s an interesting question. I still haven’t written the best thing I’m ever going to write.
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
I actually bought a new Apple keyboard yesterday. So I spent much of my day with those Geniuses at the Covent Garden Apple Store. I started reminiscing with one of the guys there about how it was called The Gardening Club back in the day and how I used to go clubbing there. And he was like ‘oh my god! You’re part of history!’ Hmmm.
Who was your teenage crush?
Frank Stapleton. He was a striker at Arsenal in the late 70s. I felt sure I would marry him. He left us and joined Manchester United. I’m still gutted about it all these years later.
Describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten.
So years ago I was backpacking round Australia and arranged to meet up with a friend in Cairns. By the time we met we were both totally broke, staying in a Youth Hostel and surviving on about 5 Aussie dollars a day. We went to a grocery store in town to buy some cup-a-soups and in the store we came across one of those tables with broken packets of biscuits, bashed up tins and out of date food.
On this table of doom we spied a battered old Mars Bar. I think it had been run over by a delivery van because it was practically flat. We asked at the till how much it was, as there was no price on it, and feeling sorry for us the till lady said we could have it for 10 cents. We scoffed down half each and, let me tell you, it was the most delicious thing we’d eaten in a long time.
Just for the record, my last meal would be egg and chips, chocolate ice cream and Champagne.
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged Malt?
So Champs is my first choice. (Laurent Perrier Rosé since you ask.) But my favourite cocktail is a Pisco Sour and I got a real taste for these when I was travelling round South America. I remember being advised to drink no more than two. But on my last night in the actual town of Pisco I drank three and was carried out of the nightclub I was partying in. I fell out of bed during the night and hit my head on the bedside cabinet. Which meant I had to fly to LA the next day with a black eye. Turns out they were right: two is the limit.
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?
Some wide open space like a desert or an ocean. Having said that I’m a city girl through and through and have a slight panic attack even when I’m in Richmond Park. I like to go to sleep at night in a room illuminated by street lighting.
What’s in your pockets?
Nothing. You’ve seen the size of my bag right? It’s huge.
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
Pencil on pad for my To Do List using a Turner Ink pencil (natch).
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?)
Blogs I read include Copyblogger and Moz Blog.
No magazines about writing as such. But I do read magazines and newspapers that are well written. I subscribe to Vanity Fair and I read every section of the Sunday Times (apart from the bit on cars).
Tea or coffee?
Peppermint tea in the mornings in a Union Jack teapot (with a tea cosy!). And hot chocolate in the afternoons in my afternoon mug.
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
Yes, my afternoon mug. Sometimes a new person in the office will make me a hot chocolate in a different mug and then I have to go and find my afternoon mug and pour the hot chocolate into it. Hot chocolate tastes odd in any other mug other than my afternoon mug. Sometimes I worry that I’ve turned into Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
I loved Enid Blyton growing up and begged my parents to let me go to a boarding school like Mallory Towers. (They didn’t.) So Darrell Rivers from Malory Towers was definitely one of my favourite characters. And Nancy Drew too. She was intrepid!
I’d also have to mention Bathsheba Everdene from Far from the Madding Crowd. Feisty and independent but vulnerable at the same time.
I was an only child until I was seven and could read pretty well from the age of four. So I spent a lot of time curled up in a chair reading on my own. My mum would buy me a book on a Friday like Adventures of the Wishing-Chair or The Magic Faraway Tree and beg me to make it last all week. I’d always be finished by the Sunday. I still read quickly now.
Your favourite word?
I like Beano words like crikey, cripes, gosh, twit, titter and blimey. I also love Cockney Rhyming Slang. And swear words. And I like the word Arsenal – as that’s my team.
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?
Solution. It’s awful. And overused. Tesco describing a sandwich as a ‘lunchtime solution’ is a low point.
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
I love bookstores. Nothing beats the smell of a new book. Sometimes in my lunch break, I wander down to Waterstones, smell the books, touch the covers and walk back. Why people read on a Kindle is beyond me.
When I was in New York on my 40th my friends left me in Barnes and Noble in Union Square for an hour while they went off to Sephora. What joy.
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
Square cut or pear shaped
these rocks don’t lose their shape
diamonds are a girl’s best friend
There’s no one like Marilyn. I’m a huge fan and have a large collection of Marilyn Monroe books.
Also, Elvis Presley’s ‘If I can dream.’
And while I can think, while I can talk
While I can stand, while I can walk
While I can dream, please let my dream
Come true… right now
I’m having this played at my funeral.
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
I love dancing and absolutely need no encouragement to hit the dance floor. Any old school dance classic will get me raving. I’m going to say Dreamer by Livin’ Joy, Show me Love by Robin S or something like Alison Limerick’s Where Love Lives.
Although I absolutely love One Direction too. I went to see them in concert last year and cried when they came on stage. What can I say? It was an emotional moment.
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
Peppermint tea in my teapot, headphones on and then I’m in the zone.
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
Copy for acoustic panels and wall hangings. They’re beautifully designed like an art piece and totally practical as well. Projects like this are always interesting.
Describe the last photograph you took.
The Madame Jojo’s sign in Soho.
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
I always attribute this to Andy Maslen (and I’m sure he said it). He said ‘you’re not a copywriter; you’re someone who runs a copywriting business – and there’s a difference.’ If you want to be a well-paid and successful freelance copywriter, of course you, have to be a good writer. But you also need to be good at new business development, account management, project management, accounts and finance, and managing and motivating yourself.
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
I’m in the middle of writing a screenplay. It’s one of the things I’ve most enjoyed writing ever.
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
Peggy. Of course.
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
I have three: E.T, The Incredibles and Some Like It Hot.
I love ET. It still makes me weep when I watch it now. I went to see it at the cinema when it came out with my Mum and Dad. Remember that scene where the mum goes into the toy cupboard and ET is standing amongst the toys? My Mum whispered to me ‘how did they get it to stand so still?’ True story.
The Incredibles is one of the greatest films ever made. I have a Mrs Incredible figure on my desk. The script is beautifully crafted and the artwork is stunning.
And Some Like it Hot directed by Billy Wilder. A film that has it all: romance, comedy, thrills. Despite all her woes, Marilyn is electric in this movie.
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
Girl on a Train. I’ve just bought it.
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
My parents. The taught me there was nothing I couldn’t do if I put mind to it. And they’ve been right.
Who is your favourite artist?
I’m going to say Keith Haring, the graffiti artist. I did a History of Art, Architecture, Design and Film degree at Kingston University and my dissertation was about Haring. I was in San Francisco at the time I was writing it and there was a retrospective of his on at SFMOMA. I bought this poster and it’s been on the wall of every house I’ve lived in since.
I also love the work of American photographers Cindy Sherman and Gregory Crewdson. Their work is unsettling. My favourite painting though is Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian. And I have to also mention the Rothko room at the Tate Modern. Such an atmospheric space.
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?
Mondays to Thursday for Turner Ink, I work in a shared studio space in Putney. But on Fridays, I work on my screenplay on a laptop in a uber cool coffee shop in Streatham. They bring me fresh mint tea and gluten free brownies all day.
And finally, where can this caffeine-fuelled audience find you?
@turnerink (London copywriter who hates blah blah copy especially the words ‘solution’ and ‘strategy’. And loves starting sentences with ‘And’. And yes you can.)
Thank you SO much Sarah. You made me belly laugh at 1:46am as I uploaded this.
Next up – and just in time for www.copycabana.co.uk – we’ll talk to Vikki Ross, Blood Judge · DMA Awards 2015 Best Writing Category Judge · Proofreading and editing … DMA Awards 2015 Best Writing Category Judge from www.vikkirosswrites.com
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