There has been a lot going on recently, so just easing back into the writing business with Bonnie the ‘dog blogger’ taking a back seat again. Not her favourite spot!
A few weeks ago I got a request to do an interview with a journalism student as part of a final university degree assignment. It’s not easy choosing where to focus when your job spans several decades working across print, television production, and more recently, novel writing.
Then the more tricky question. What is your career highlight?
Awards are the thing that many people measure success by, and of course receiving a Royal Television Society Award from television peers was fantastic. So too was making the shortlist for the best UK Medical Journalism Awards for an ITV ‘Tonight’ programme on the difficult subject of early onset puberty in children.
But hand on heart, the real highlight has to be a campaign some years ago to get a change in the law on Unfitness to Plead, with a TV documentary involving a number of legal and mental health professionals. These included solicitor Paul Bacon who became a good friend, and eventually we set up an independent TV production business.
The documentary was based on the sad case of a young woman who ‘confessed’ to murdering her grand father. As she was mentally unfit to stand trial – she had a learning disability – she was packed off to a long stay secure unit indefinitely. Eventually, the real killer, (another family member), stood trial but her case showed up shortcomings in the law where people were found incapable of giving evidence.
When making the programme we found other examples of people with learning disabilities being sent away to long stay institutions for much more trivial offences, effectively being sentenced to indefinite incarceration without trial. Not long after the programme aired, the law was changed to give better protection to people who had been found unfit to plead.
Sitting in parliament and listening to the debates which led to a law change, shows just what a privilege it is to work in a profession which can be a force for reform. Of course there is bad journalism – there are rotten apples in every profession – but day in and out, there are campaigning journalists who take on great causes, allowing marginalised people to be heard who would otherwise be left without a voice.
So here’s to campaigning, investigative reporting and its impact for good.
Now for a strange coincidence.
When attending the Dublin Writers Conference last year, I was paired with another author whose own life experience mirrored a central part of the plot in my three part novella series. We were pretty much randomly selected, so the odds of that happening were long.
More recently, after being invited to give a talk to a local women’s group, I came across yet another jaw dropping coincidence.
The main character in my novella series is a middle aged woman called Debbie McKay. The name was concocted as a mix of a schoolfriend’s first name and another friend’s second name. (Though the spelling is slightly different).
After the talk, I was approached by a neighbour, and asked if I’d named my key character after someone with the same name ‘who used to live in your house’.
Seeing my bemused expression, she explained that the first owners of our house were the McKay family and their daughter was called – wait for it – Debbie.
Looking back through the paperwork she was right – a Mr and Mrs McKay were the first couple to own our property – but, this is the strangest bit, I’d begun to write the story well before I even knew that. Apparently, the namesake daughter is now living elsewhere and I’ll certainly try to make contact.
Isn’t that bizarre? Quite spooky but thrilling.
On the subject of books, there have been occasional comments on writer forums about the level of support (or lack of it) given to authors by friends and family. Some say they get a lot of great support, while others complain – and goodness knows why – that those close to them seem to resent or even harbour envy at what they’ve achieved.
While it’s cheering to get good reviews and feedback, the answer is simple really. Don’t expect or require validation from others, whoever they are. Anyone who has the discipline, commitment and ability to produce one or several books has already achieved what most people never will and should pat themselves on the back for that. If I could have a pound or dollar for everyone who has said ‘I’d love to write a book but…’ (insert excuse) I’d be a wealthy woman.
So to all my writer friends out there, congratulations for walking the walk, getting on with it, and achieving those writing goals.
Now over to Bonnie dog, stuck at the tail end of the blog…
Short and sweet from me this time, as (sniff) most of the blog space has been gobbled up.
Well, it looks like I’ll soon be heading into a radio studio with the rents, to talk about my ‘Pets As Therapy’ dog work. I’ve been told I’ve got to be on my best behaviour and not to put a paw wrong.
As if I would? (Tee hee).
Then I’ll be off to the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity dog show, strutting my stuff and hopefully making off with a rosette or two.
After that we’ve got visitors coming at the end of June, so no doubt the rents will be tidying up, shoving all my stuff out of the way so I can’t find a thing, and – yikes – giving me a bath. (I put up with the bath but it’s not my favourite thing). Still, it’s good to see some new faces and we’ll be taking them out and about which I love – especially if there’s a decent walk and a pub involved.
There’s more TV filming going on in Cornwall, so I expect rent Maggie will be writing about it and that I’ll get a visit to the set. Last time that happened, I was spoiled rotten with treats and pats – one of the film crew even described little ol’ me as a ‘real distraction’.
Not a bad compliment, eh?
Promise to post a few photos when it happens and meantime, here’s one to be getting on with…me trying to blend in nicely with the stair carpet’