I'm delighted to welcome my friend, multi-talented author Ann Evans, back onto my blog, this time to telll us about writing articles for magazines. Ann writes articles about a variety of things, here she is wearing a beekeepers outfit for an article on keeping bees!
That's incredibly brave of you, Ann, you wouldn't get me near a bee hive! Can you tell us how you got started writing articles?
Long before I started writing books, I wrote non fiction articles for magazines. Having caught the writing bug in my early twenties, I wanted to write about anything and everything. I still feel that's one of the best things about being a writer, you can always find something of interest in any situation. You're never bored. As a children's author I often go into schools and one of the things I tell the children is that writing – especially writing non fiction, 'opens doors' – it allows you to go where other people don't get the opportunity.
Over the decades I must have written and had published around 1,500 magazine and newspaper articles – and I'm still doing them along with writing books for children, YA, reluctant readers and adults. For 13 of those years I worked at the Coventry Telegraph as a feature writer, where my regular weekly slots were Homes and Gardens, Food and Drink, Pet SOS and Family Days Out. It was without a doubt a fabulous set of features that I had to write week in and week out. And as I only worked three days a week there, they were three very full days.
The very first ever article I had published as a freelance writer was in Nursery World. It was called Room For One More and was based on my own two children. When the article was published they had illustrated it with a photo. This made me realise that I could have supplied my own photo of my children rather than them using a generic photo. So a lesson was learnt. Photographs really enhance any article.
I teamed up with a friend, Rob Tysall, (Tysall's Photography) and we'd find interesting topics to write about and photograph. We'd make arrangements to go and interview the people involved, I'd write the article up and submit it to a relevant magazine. Most of the time we were, and are, successful and our teamwork has taken us to some brilliant and exciting places and doing some weird and wonderful things.
It sounds fascinating, Ann. Can you tell us about some of the articles you've written?
Rob has had the joy of standing on a Vulcan bomber's wings to get photos looking down into the cockpit. (The Vulcan wasn't flying, I hasten to add!). Then we wanted photos of inside a Russian T55 tank. As Rob is 6ft 2ins he couldn't fit down the tank's hatch, so he and his camera had to dangle upside down, down the hatch to get the shots!
Writing for Dogs Monthly magazine, we've been out with the Thames Marine Police where we watched up close the amazing sniffer dogs board a huge ship in the Thames. Rob had to cross from the police launch onto a fast moving police rig to get right up to the massive ship. I think the pictures tell the story!
Whilst writing about the work of army sniffer dogs, we spent a few days in Northern Ireland, where we were privileged to go up in an army helicopter with some dogs in training, which was incredibly exciting. The dogs took it all in their stride. Me – I came down buzzing and saying “I want to be a helicopter pilot!”
Then there have been quite a few times we're gone out with SARDA (Search and Rescue Dogs Association) in Scotland, Cumbria and Wales. Watching the dogs meticulously search an area is wonderful. Oddly enough, each time I was asked to be a 'body' for a training exercise. So I had to lie down out of sight in the undergrowth and wait for the dog to find me. Experiencing that, I could well understand how relieved a person would be who was actually lost and injured, when that dog appeared.
We also got invited to experience a 'staged' rescue in Switzerland with a Search and Rescue team, and that too was an incredible experience. We also went up to a mountain hospice and took a walk with Switzerland's national dog, the St Bernard.
While writing about dogs and how they help mankind is one of my favourite topics, I've written about chefs and celebs; toys and collectables, charities and antiques, fitness and business – you name it, I've probably written about it. Interviewing celebs can be fun, and some of them are real jokers. At the Coventry Telegraph I had to do a phone interview with Masterchef's Greg Wallace, who had me laughing from start to finish. On another occasion I had to interview Gordon Ramsay which was quite an experience. An enjoyable one though. I was glad that another female journalist was also waiting to see him. “Come on,” he said. “I'll take the both of you together!” Well, there's no answer to that!
Another time, Rob and I were meeting up with antiques expert Eric Knowles. From right across the room, Eric called out: “Ann, hello! I didn't recognise you with your clothes on!”
It completely threw me. I was racking my brains thinking if I'd met him on holiday. Although I'm sure I'd have had some clothes on! However I eventually realised he'd read my ID badge from a distance and pretended to know me. It worked! Another joker! I conducted the interview red faced.
One of the most memorable of interviews was meeting up with iconic comedian, Sir Norman Wisdom. He was 91 at the time and looked wonderful, and he could still tell us his life story. Walking across the road at Brighton for coffee he literally stopped the traffic. And he was still doing that funny 'trip' in his walk, which he'd done when receiving the OBE from Her Majesty – making her smile. During our interview, Norman burst into song. He sang two songs to Rob and I, one of them being his signature song, 'Don't Laugh at Me' which he sang in the film Trouble in Store. It was a moment I will treasure forever.
Another couple of celebs we interviewed were Dave Prowse (Darth Vader in Star Wars) and Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre). We'd arranged to meet up in a Sci Fi toy shop in Coventry where they were doing a signing, and then going off to lunch to conduct the interview. Photographer Rob and his wife, Heather were going in one car, and I was going with Darth Vader and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in another It seems that as I went off, Rob said to Heather, “I can't believe I've let Ann go off with two of the biggest mass murderers of all time!”
It was fine. All in a day's work!
Wow, you've certainly met some interesting people and done some exciting things - all in the name of getting a story. The photos are brilliant too, what a good idea to team up with a photographer. It sounds like you and Rob, have fun! Although I'm sure it's hard work too.
If you would like to find out more about Ann and Rob then click on the links below:
Please visit: www.annevansbooks.co.uk
And: www.tysallsphotography.org.uk (Rob is responsible for the professional photo on my website)
Rob and Ann together go under the name Words and Images UK. You can follow their exploits on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wordsandimagesuk/?fref=ts
Thanks for dropping by, Ann. Wishing you both lots of luck with your future articles.