Thank you so much for agreeing to be a part of The Writing Desk Blog.
Now, 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…
Anna Lodwick, a copywriter, content marketer and all-purpose wordsmith. She’s worked on a very eclectic range of projects, from copy for a web developer to an online class about Jane Austen. She loves working with businesses and causes with a strong belief in their own story. She’s also blind and partly made of titanium which she swears isn’t nearly as interesting as it sounds.
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…)
Tom Albrighton’s The Freelance Introvert is the one I flip through most often. I whip it out when I need a bit of reassurance that the jittery feeling at the thought of a meeting or phone call doesn’t mean I’m a coward (or that I should give up this freelance malarkey).
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
Oh, tricky one (mainly because all the ads I’ve ever seen flocked out of my head the second I read it…). I guess I’ll say the one that has stuck in my head most recently and that’s ‘The Epic Journey’, a 2019 Lloyds Bank TV ad that they repurposed for the pandemic in 2020. It shows a horse and her foal on a long trek to rejoin their heard. It was just a perfect storm of compelling story, happy ending and the idea of everyone being on this difficult journey together. (Why yes, I do have a heart as soft as marshmallow, why do you ask?)
“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
Always write what you would want to read. If you’re writing a book or another passion project, then it gives you the freedom to write about what you love (and that is a massive help). If you’re writing copy, I interpret it more as putting yourself in the audience’s shoes and creating content you would want to read if you were them.
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
I’d definitely tell myself to stop sitting around and waiting for stuff to happen. Serendipity is a wonderful thing but rarely pays the bills! And I’d probably tell myself to read absolutely everything I could get my hands on.
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
I’m quite partial to ambience videos. They’re detailed soundscapes themed around particular locations or scenarios – some have music, some don’t. There are videos for just about anywhere you can think of: cities, villages, gardens, swamps. If you’re a geek like me, you can write copy in The Shire or at Hogwarts.
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
Lirael by Garth Nix: I love anything written by him, but this book just captures the heartbreak of not belonging so powerfully that it’s always a huge catharsis to watch the characters grow into themselves. (Plus, there’s a dangerous library full of magic…)
Hotel Pastis by Peter Mayle: My family have been taking yearly holidays to France ever since I was born so I’m a sucker for any books set there. This one is full of warmth, wit and lush descriptions of food. It was also written by a copywriter!
In the Heart of the Valley of Love by Cynthia Kadohata: This is a strange, beautiful and very human story set in a futuristic version of the US. A lot of the reviews on Goodreads criticize it because nothing much happens but that’s exactly why I love it. It’s a perfect demonstration of how we’d all likely just muddle through an apocalyptic/dystopic future as best we could.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
Copy-wise, it’s probably some work I did for a Web Development and Design Agency last year. It was fascinating from a tone of voice point of view. The real challenge though was that they needed the copy to physically fit an ultra-specific slot on the page. So, I ended up writing short summaries of their services that were 6 lines long with each line being no more than 25 characters. It was a bit like writing a haiku or sonnet!
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
Some gorgeous satin chord for a craft project I’m working on. Because work, 2 novels, 2 volunteering commitments and an ever increasing to-read pile apparently weren’t enough to keep me busy.
Who was your teenage crush?
Oof I actually don’t remember. David Tennant as the 10th Doctor, perhaps? I certainly found him rather dashing.
Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
Impossible. I am a massive, massive foody and I’ve eaten so many wonderful things! A great meal I had a couple of years ago though (courtesy of Hambleton Hall) was crab and apple salad, rabbit 3 ways (ravioli, Ballentine and brazed loin) and lemon mousse in a white chocolate shell. I’m sure I’m butchering their beautiful (and accurate) descriptions but rest assured, it was delicious.
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?
White wine. Something fruity like a viognier (which always tastes like green apple to me, though the writer of the tasting notes would probably be horrified to hear that!). I’m also partial to a cocktail and not just because they have fabulous names and origin stories, though it helps.
Boozy tangent: Sipsmith Distillery released a recipe book called ‘Sip’ a while ago full of fascinating tidbits about gin and cocktail history. (It’s also a luxurious looking book – we’re talking copper edged pages here – so I would definitely advise getting a copy…)
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?
I love the Nordic countries because of their cultures and scenery so probably a grand tour around all of them. Plus, I’m a total wimp when it comes to venomous, carnivorous and all-around bity things. So, while I’d love to go to Africa, Australia or India, I think Sir David would get sick of my nervous squeaking by day 3 if we did.
What’s in your pockets?
A face mask (blue with daisies), a little stretchy stress toy, a dog whistle and a handful of sparkly red plastic gems. Context for that last one is that it was being used as table confetti at an event a few years ago and I am a total magpie. It’s wonderful to run my fingers through when I need to think though!
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
Keyboard and screen (well, keyboard and screen reader). Basically, everything I write is composed with the help of a robot voice (a cuddlier sounding dalek). I’ve not actually tried writing copy in Braille before… I really should someday.
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?)
I love reading the blogs and newsletters of other freelancers (Sally M Fox’s is a particular favourite right now). Other than that, I always have a good flip through of The Bookseller Magazine every week to exercise my authorly yearnings.
Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?
Ooh, both! Although I have to have a filter coffee in the morning to function so probably coffee if I absolutely had to pick. I drink it strong with just a splash of milk.
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
Someone sent me a mug last year with a picture of a squirrel and the caption ‘squirrel whisperer’. Some friends and I have been having a debate about the correct pronunciation of squirrel for years (the USA contingent insist it rhymes with ‘twirl’). Anyone who would like to weigh in is welcome to…
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
For the book, Find the White Horse by Dick King Smith. My parents must have gotten sick to death of it!
Character wise, it’s Nancy Drew, teen detective. She was just so glamourous and sophisticated. Although, looking back, her talent for getting captured by bad guys every week probably isn’t something to aspire to…
Your favourite word?
Acrylonitrile (it’s the A in the plastic known as ABS). I learned it in a Design and Technology lesson in school and have absolutely loved the feel of it on my tongue ever since.
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?)
Inspirational. Nothing against it as a word but unfortunately years of navigating the world as a disabled person has caused me to twitch every time I encounter it.
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
In actuality: online. In my soul: the book shop. I need books in accessible format (so that means kindle or audio, alas) but the book shop will always be my spiritual home. I love the hushed magic and the sense of excitement you get when you know you’re in a place with people who share your love of something. Plus, that new page smell!
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
“So come on, let’s be young, let’s be crass enough to care,
Let’s refuse to live and learn, let’s make all our mistakes again.
And then darling, just for one day, we can fight and we can win
And if only for a little while, we could insist on the impossible.”
This is from Frank Turner’s Love Ire and Song. It sums up the wild joy of abandoning realism and pragmatism just for a second to fight for what you believe in, even if you know it probably isn’t going to work.
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
Walk the Moon! You’ve probably heard Shut Up and Dance but they have lots of other fun tracks, many with a rich, 80s synth sound. My favorite is Aquaman (weird name, wonderful song).
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
Hmmm. I suppose it’s more of an editing ritual. I like to reread my work in a format where I can’t edit it right away (like copy pasting it into an email and sending it to myself). There’s just something about having it ‘set in stone’ that makes the awkward phrasing leap out at me. I suppose it’s trying to harness the idea that you only notice typos and stuff that needs improving once something’s already been published.
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
I’m working on some articles for my own blog right now while waiting for details to come through from a new client. I’m also helping a fellow freelancer with her website so I’m thoroughly enjoying flexing my tone of voice muscles on that.
Can you describe the last photograph you took?
Ouch, yes. I was trying to take a picture of a view across a valley without being able to see the view or the valley. There are amazing blind photographers out there but I am not one of them.
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
“Well, someone has to do it.” – This was from a teacher in a careers workshop who’d just listened to me stammering that I really wanted to be a writer but I knew full well it wasn’t a practical dream because not everyone can be successful and there were so many other people out there who wanted to be writers and…
So, it wasn’t writing advice at all. But it was (in a way) the advice that gave me permission to be a writer.
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
An emotionally charged argument. Thankfully a fictitious one! I’m currently juggling two novels (one first draft and one second draft) and coming to the realization that I cannot plot to save my life.
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy and that hard.” – Neil Gaiman
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
I’ve never watched the show. Always meant to get to it and always been distracted by shiny things before I could.
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
I considered trying to find a high-brow alternative but it’s Over the Hedge, an animation about woodland critters. It’s a film my family have watched time and again, but I honestly couldn’t tell you why it stands head and shoulders above all the similar animated films from that era for us. It’s just joyous.
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
The City We Became by N. K. Jemison, The Birds that do not Sing by Steve Gay (a friend from the Writing MA at Warwick and well worth a read!) and Scoff: A History of Food and Class in Britain by Pen Vogler.
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
Another tricky question as I’ve had so many I’d love to mention. For pure impact though, I’d have to say Caroline Hodgson, my English teacher in years 10 and 11. She helped me see English as more than just a subject and she never let me get away with anything that wasn’t my best.
Who is your favorite artist?
I went to see Monet’s Water Lilies in Paris when I was little and have had a soft spot for him since. It was my first encounter with art that you didn’t need to be able to see perfectly to enjoy (in fact, he painted them when he had cataracts). They’re displayed in oval shaped rooms and I just remember wandering around and around, lapping up the colours and shapes.
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?
I’ve monopolized our dining room table with laptop, extensive scented candle collection and various other curiosities. Luckily, we don’t need it for dining right now! The room is west facing and has a door and two windows that look out onto the garden. I love to sit here, enjoying the evening sunshine.