Monday, 7 November 2011

Having A Diverse Career - Ruth Symes / Megan Rix

 I didn’t plan to have a diverse career. I just wanted to write – and be a writer with enough cash to go travelling when I wanted and to have the freedom to write anywhere in the world.

The turning point was probably when I was teaching children with special needs in Singapore and sold my house back in England – for the first time in my life I had enough money to be able to survive for a year or two without working. So I had that talk with myself about what would you do if you only had a year left to live – what would you feel sad about never having done if you never did it – and what I wanted to do was write.

More than 10 years later and 18 children’s books published – and countless more unpublished ones written, the latest, out last month is called ‘Witchling’ and it’s the third in a series about a girl called Bella Donna.

One adult memoir written under the pseudonym of Megan Rix – I thought I’d keep a secret but was so happy with it once it was written I must have told just about everyone about it – there’s a second in the pipeline...

... a children’s play professionally performed, radio scripts, pre-school TV writing for channel 4’s The Hoobs, being on TV as the children’s book writing coach on Richard and Judy, feature film script commissioned, two short films made and it’d still be what I wanted to do if I only had a year left. Oh and I did spend quite a lot of that time travelling the world as well – for a few years I had two summers - one in England and one in New Zealand. And house-sitting in LA and San Francisco turned out to be a perfect way to save money and get a book finished whilst on the way to becoming a RFA (Rich Famous Author).

Ok – so why’s do I truly think it’s a good idea to have a diverse career – well there’s a few reasons – not in any particular order of importance. First, cold hard cash, for me I wanted to support myself as a full time professional writer. Now maybe, you’ll get lucky and write one books that pays you squillions – which’ll be great and congratulations - you wont need to have a diverse career if you don’t want to. But I still think it’d be a good idea to have one.

 I like the variety of working with different publishers and on different types of books. I also find the contrast between writing for the media and writing books enables me to do more and better of both. I like writing for TV because TV  people always want things urgently and it’s exciting. The set for The Hoobs was this amazing alternative universe with a bus on set and amazing flowers on the roof and the puppet people were crazily lovely.

 I like trying out different styles of writing and going on courses – I’ve done children’s writing courses and also a short children’s illustrating course, adult novel course, film and TV courses, comedy writing courses – all sorts - I think it keeps you fresh to keep learning and also different writing styles feed into each other.

The honest to goodness main thing I feel is it’s your life we’re talking about and you should SO be doing whatever writing work you feel drawn to and passionate about and have fun doing and stuff the money side of it.  

PS Something that’s really good fun to do while on the way to becoming a RFA, teaches you a tiny bit about filming, and gives you lots of time to write between the odd camera bit is being an extra. I was with the Casting Collective (just put it in google) for a couple of years and got to work on films like Harry Potter, Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, Golden Compass, Stormbreaker, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to name a few. This is also helpful for when unhelpful people ask you if you’re a RFA yet - usually in a smug fashion. Even the smuggest of individuals seems to be totally overawed that you’ve been in a film and actually stood next to someone really rich and famous!

Ruth's website can be found at Megan Rix's website is


Stroppy Author said...

I'm with you on this, Ruth - lots of different types of writing to keep the wolf from the door, but it's more fun than doing anything else. Still, diversifying into acting is inspired! I'll look out for you in the few films I ever get to see - well done!

JO said...

Couldn't agree more about the divers career thing.

It wasn't so easy when I was widowed with daughters to bring up and get through uni - I needed a reliable income then. Child Protection not the easiest way to earn a living, but we made it through. (Though I did write - mostly professional articles - through all that.)

Girls gone - I gave it up to go travelling, and to write. It was time for the old dreams to come out of hibernation. Life is like playing now - I'm doing exactly what I want!

Nicola Morgan said...

Absolutely. There's also an eggs-in-one-basket thing - and if one aspect of the career is going a bit stodgy, there's always another one.

Sue Purkiss said...

Really interesting to hear about all the different things you do, and nice to have such a cheery post!

Emma Barnes said...

Inspiring piece, Ruth. I'm dipping my toe - hopefully a whole foot soon! - into children's TV scriptwriting, and I'm already finding that it is changing the way I think about my other writing, and giving me a new perspective.