Sunday, 12 May 2013


As well as writing fiction, for the last 30 odd years I've also written magazine articles on all kinds of topics. Just over the last few days I've been working on a Doctor Who toys article to tie in with the programme's 50th anniversary in November and an article on the charity Dogs for the Disabled which this year celebrates 25 years of assistance dogs working with disabled people.

Sometimes when I'm talking about writing to schools or adults even, the mention of writing articles results in a bit of a glazed-eyed look as they imagine how boring it must be to write up some dry old factual stuff which can't possibly be half as much fun as writing fiction that takes you off into the fantastical world of your imagination. 
Me all set for my first flight in a helicopter.

But once I've told the class about combat flying in an army helicopter, racing down the Thames on a police boat, watching a Swiss mountain rescue team at work and interviewing the likes of chef Gordon Ramsay and iconic comedian Norman Wisdom, you can see them seriously considering whether non-fiction writing is something they might actually consider taking up.

One of the nice things about freelance writing is the fact that it's open to all, so long as you have the ability. You don't need special qualification, you can do it as a hobby, or you can try and make a bit of money from it. Age doesn't come into it either. Young or old, so long as you've learnt the craft of article writing, have the ability to immerse yourself into someone's world to learn about their passion so you can write about it – and you have some method of capturing their words and taking photos. Then what's to stop you?

Seeing the Thames Police at work - so
When you're doing a mix of fiction and non fiction writing, they compliment each other so well. While books, edits, awaiting publisher's decision etc can take months or even years, an article can be written in a day or so (I used to be quicker when I was at the Cov Telegraph!) And you can see your results within a matter of weeks sometimes.

Of course article writing still carries all the disappointments of rejections; and changing editors can often make a huge difference to your work being accepted or not. But on the whole the two genres rub along very nicely together.

Yesterday I came across my first scrapbook and the first article I ever had published. The very first thing I had published was a reader's letter to Weekend Magazine which earned me the grand sum of £1.50 and I was over the moon about it. The first proper article was in Nursery World in 1979 for which I earned £9. I'd got one toddler and one new baby at the time so felt suitably equipped to put pen to paper (or fingers to typewriter) to write about avoiding jealousy amongst siblings when a new baby comes along. 

My first ever published article 1979.
When it was published they'd illustrated it with a generic picture of a toddler and baby, and I thought, I could have sent a photo in of my two. Lesson learned! Articles do better with photos or illustrations.

How to make a wooden darts case came next, suitably illustrated, for Dart's World magazine, this linked in with my social life at the time, playing darts in a ladies darts team – couldn't hit a barn door these days!

All sorts of articles followed, coinciding with my attempts at writing stories and gradually the two fell into place, side by side, fiction and non-fiction – and the path was set.

Teaming up with a photographer friend, Rob Tysall, was the best thing ever and we'd go 50/50 on anything published. As our articles were rarely commissioned, it was pot luck whether our hard work would result in being published or not. (Actually nothing changes!) But it was (and still is) exciting to keep an eye out in WH Smiths to see if we'd got anything published each month.

From the early 90s I started writing for Dogs Monthly with Rob taking the photos – and amazingly we still do to this day. As we're both massive dog lovers, writing about dogs has resulted in getting out and about meeting some amazing dogs – generally working dogs and some amazing people.

In the hope that there's lots of other dog lovers out there, I've just sorted through a few photos of dogs we're written about over the years. A picture may paint a thousand words but behind every picture there's a story. Enjoy the doggy pics, and thanks Rob (Tysall's Photography) for taking them. 

How about you? Is non fiction and article writing part of your writing life? Or do you just love dogs?

Richard Curtis practising for Crufts.
Canine aquatherapy but he stopped to
pose for the camera!

Swiss mountain rescue
(simulated for our article)

Mary Ray's amazing dogs

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Sue Purkiss said...

I love the dog in the swimming pool! Very interesting, Ann - but how did you get started? Sorry - I'm sure that would be too long an answer for a blog comment!

Carole Anne Carr said...

Mustn't show the dog in the pool to my husband, he will become all broody, unfortunately we are too old for dogs, unable to cope, very sad.

Ann Evans said...

Sue, the dog in the pool is sooo cute! Got started writing for Dogs Monthly when my own dog Pippa was 'acting' on stage in a local drama production that needed a dog. She ended up being 'interviewed' on radio! It was just so surreal I did an article on it for the doggy mag - first of many! Thanks for asking.

Carole Anne - dogs are such wonderful company aren't they.

Stroppy Author said...

"you can try and make a bit of money from it"
Or you can make a living and a career. Don't aim too low!

Ruth Symes said...

Been away for a few days and just caught up with ABBA blogs - LOVE the dog pics - didn't know Dogs for the Disabled was only 25 somehow thought it was older. Off to the Golden Retriever Centenary event in July - looks like the hydro dog should be there too. ;)