by | The Writing Desk

"You’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea."


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…

Gillian Jones

I’m a brand storyteller crafting bios, profiles, about pages, sales pages and emails for nonfiction business authors and speakers, wherever they are in the world. 

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…)

I’d say there’s more than one and they change over time, but for now it’s To Sell is Human | Daniel H Pink.

What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?

Almost every single Guinness one, the TV ads were always phenomenal. The surfer one from 1999 “tick follows tock, follows tick, follows tock” and the music in time with the surf….Rusty Keaulana, the surfer in the ad, was apparently a ‘switchfooter’ able to surf with either foot forward. Not that I can surf, I can’t even swim….

“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?

Having a story and writing from experience. There’s nothing like honesty – I’m not even sure if you have to be a great writer, just a good one, and write about something that’s happened to you, something you know a lot about and something you feel passionate about. 

If it’s for work, then write short sentences that are nice, clever and simple, stay away from the jargon.

If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?

I’d tell myself to stay away from content mills, stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and spend more time creating my own content and never stop, intentional wall-to-wall content is what you need to be creating and then repurposing it. It takes such a long time to gain traction before anyone sees you, you need to be doing it all the time. It’s easy to lose momentum and once you do that, it takes a very long time to get back in people’s sights. Visibility is crucial.

I’d read the greats, Eugene Schwartz (if anyone has a copy of the book he wrote, still selling at £1000, I’m right over here), Gary Halbert, Dan S Kennedy. Whatever you need to know about marketing and copywriting, it’s right there.

Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?

Vacuum noise to be precise or depending on the mood, hairdryer sounds (very exciting). White noise is my poison because music with lyrics makes me want to dance and I have been known to do that in the middle of a workday. But in the main I stick with the white noise, it keeps me grounded and focused. 

What are your top three novels of all time – and why?

I was very shy as a child and books were how I processed the world around me, I learnt so much from them. 

Where do I start?

My first would have to be Wuthering Heights I think – it was the first classic book I’d ever read, and I’ve read it several times since, so beautifully written, a classic love story, gothic, haunting and tragic. I’m visiting Howarth soon and I can’t wait to see the same landscapes Cathy looked at in the book.

The second would be anything by Isaac Asimov. Never been interested in sci-fi since curiously, but as a child I read him vociferously. His style was short words and simple sentences, and like Hemingway, he made writing seem easy, there’s a lot to learn from that as a copywriter. I think I liked the Robot series best.

Finally, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I’d grown up on Hollywood movies, so when I read the book I was amazed at how different it was. The monster Frankenstein creates in Shelley’s book is not the monster Hollywood gave us, she painted a character much more human than the doctor. 

What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?

I’m not sure I’ve reached that point yet, I’m still working towards the best thing I ever wrote, perhaps because I’m never satisfied, but if I had to choose it would be copy for a virtual reality escape room company. Great fun, and I gave it my all.

What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.

Luxury chocolates for myself on Valentine’s Day and they were delicious! I can still smell them now.

Who was your teenage crush? 

Oh God, how embarrassing, I’m not sure I should confess to that, I had so many, they changed weekly. I did have a crush on Barry Manilow once and swore I was going to marry him. Now, how embarrassing is that

Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?

Probably something very simple. I remember Iris Murdoch’s character, Charles Arrowby in The Sea, The Sea withdraws from the world and takes pleasure in simple things. He describes peeling an orange slowly and eating buttered toast. Stuff we take for granted. For me it’s the simple things I enjoy most too, and if I had to choose something it would be buttered crumpets, not a meal per se, but a small yet significant snack that fills the sides on a good day. Fills up that little space that needs filling up. I gave up dairy about a year ago. So it’s less romantic plant based stuff now, but I still get the same sense of excitement when I bite into one.

What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?

I used to drink wine but I became intolerant to it. I get very drunk quickly, I’m alarmingly sick, and a tedious bore, so gin is my poison now (less drunk, more fun, less of a bore). Used to drink it with tonic and lime, but I really enjoy it with freshly squeezed orange juice and topped off with ice.

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?

South America. Costa Rica to see the toucans and then on to the Amazon rainforest. I’d then go on to Ecuador to speak to the indigenous people, that’s what I’d write about. There’s a vested interest in Ecuador, my 8th generation grandmother came from there, there’s a rumour she may have come from an indigenous tribe, although we can’t be certain. Some of her relatives, her husband possibly (and a distant relative) helped build a children’s hospital in Quito. My mother was certainly proud of that fact, although the rest of us were bog standard Welsh people who ate roast dinners, spoke a funny language and burnt in the sun – bit of a let down really.

What’s in your pockets?

Never anything more interesting than a tissue (allergies galore), or a hair bobble to tame my ginger tresses. I have thick unruly hair and whenever it gets out of hand, usually after a windy day, a hair bobble is handy to pull it into shape and to help stop it from overwhelming my face. Cousin IT has nothing on me. I swear I could conceal 3 children in there successfully without anyone ever finding them.

Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?

It used to be very much a pen and paper, but as time has gone on, I prefer the keyboard. I also love my Rocketbook, so perhaps there is an element of both. It’s great because you can write on it, scan it to your google docs and then rub it out with a cloth. No notes lying around with potentially confidential stuff on it. Then it’s on your google drive permanently, no notebooks collecting anywhere.

My writing style is to write first, edit and ask questions later.

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?)

Apart from the ones I mentioned above, no. I like the NYC Review and occasionally the Paris Review, but that’s the only writing stuff I’d read apart from copywriting books. No blogs really.

Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?

It used to be coffee but I’ve gone off that, tea is my favourite hot tipple now. Earl Grey occasionally, and I’m starting to love loose tea, there’s something so ritualistic about making a proper pot of tea with loose leaves. It reminds me of my mother.  

Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?

I have one I swear keeps my tea hotter than the others, so I use it for that reason. It’s a new one I bought myself for Christmas with the word ‘boss’ on it.

The second is a one I had made with my cat’s face on it – YES, I KNOW, I’m that type of woman.

What was your most adored children’s book? And character?

I was talking about this the other day on Twitter! Mary Cecily Barker’s Flower Fairies. It was my mother’s book from her childhood, full of poems and colour pictures of the fairies – one for each flower and season. My favourite was the snowdrop fairy, because it was my mother’s favourite and I loved the winter, still do, with Autumn a very close second. The poems were exquisite.

Your favourite word?

Gorgeous. It can be used to describe so much, inanimate objects and the living. It’s a luxurious word, a descriptive word and it makes people smile. It’s a compliment and a state of being.

Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?)

I should say moist, and it would come a close second to ‘stench,’ I hate this word and I have no other words to describe my hate for it, other than why is it even in the dictionary? It’s old and probably not that much in circulation anymore – thank god. But really, such a one syllable, violent word that conjures up the kind of smells you wouldn’t want to have in your nasal cavities. Something you might find on a ship in the middle of the sea or in someone’s basement, or under the floorboards. *goes off to retch in a corner somewhere*

Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?

Both, I tend to find most of my books online rather than in an actual physical bookstore. So I’d be browsing bookstores online. Yup, I love books so much that I even search for them online.

Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?

Glen Campbell. Wichita Lineman

“And I need you more than want you

And I want you for all time” 

You can need and want someone at the same time.

The best way to describe falling in love with someone. Can I have another one? My second would be Fleetwood Mac, Silver Springs:

“I’ll follow you down ’til the sound of my voice will haunt you 

Give me just a chance, you’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you”

I think it was about Stevie Nicks and Lyndsey Buckingham after they broke up. Basically, it’s about the fact that she’s telling him he will never forget her. Listen to it and you’ll be moist eyed at the end of it (oh god, ‘moist’….)

Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.

Barry White (and not Barry Manilow). Reminds me of the good old days of disco. 

Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?

No, I do what most people do I guess, write, delete, write, delete, edit, edit, edit, delete, write.

What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?

I’ve just relaunched, so it feels like I’m starting all over again. I’m just creating content, optimising it, repurposing it, writing blogs for my website and generally trying to steer traffic to my website and my new packaged services. Fun, and stressful all at the same time and hoping it’ll remind me of what it’s like firsthand for the next time I’m doing it for a client. 

Can you describe the last photograph you took?

One of my cat probably, with his eyes all furtive and captivating. I’m constantly taking pictures of him and he’s getting used to it, and getting all vain and egotistical about it all. I think he’s speed dialling his agent as we speak…..

What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?

I’m hypersensitive to criticism and I’ve been known to cry over rejection or people criticizing my work. However, I knew deep down that I’d have to grow a thicker skin at some point or this wasn’t for me. I have such admiration for entertainers in general, the courage it takes to get up on a stage and have someone criticise your talent and your appearance. 

I don’t think there was any particular person that told me this, but the general consensus of opinion was to never take it personally, it was a critique of my work not a personal slight or a dig at me as a person. 

Easy to say I know, but to keep it professional you have to try and separate yourself from it so it doesn’t hurt as much. After all, you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I’m much better now than I used to be, I tend to stick to areas I know best, so I write confidently and with knowledge, and join groups of like-minded people who spur each other on in the best possible way.

What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?

Apart from my self-assessment? A blog to my medium account where I write about neurodiversity. 

What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?

“I was sure this was a very good story although I would not know truly how good until I read it over the next day.” 

Ernest Hemingway. 

Basically, write it and then leave it overnight if you can, let it percolate, then edit the following day.

Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?

I never really watched this much, but if I had to choose it’d be Betty Draper. A woman who grew and blossomed as time wore on. I’m like that, we’re all like that, we get better with age, and so does our work. 

 Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?

The Red Shoes (1948). A film based on the story by Hans Christian Anderson and so beautifully shot, the cinematography is amazing for its time. Romantic, sad and dramatic, it appealed to my childish notion of what I thought love was. I was brought up on old Hollywood movies, and this was up there as one of my very best favourites, and of course it had beautiful ballet dancers.

Which book or books is/are by your bed today?

Unattached, Essays on Singlehood, Angelica Malin

The Lighthouse Stevensons, Bella Bathurst

The Expectation Effect, How Your Mindset Can Transform Your LIfe, David Robson

The Mountain is You, Transforming Self-Sabotage into Self-Mastery, Brianna Wiest

Who was or is your greatest teacher?

Mr Roberts, my English teacher in primary school. He had a fierce reputation, but he encouraged my reading and to write more.

Who is your favoUrite artist?

John William Waterhouse, knights in shining armour and my first positive images of being a redhead. 

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?

Usually at home at my desk, too many distractions at coffee shops and my eyes are everywhere except where they should be, on my laptop. At the alcove or “cloffice.”

And finally, where can this caffeine-fuelled audience find you?

Out of interest, for anyone who cares, calon yn curo (my username for Medium)  is “my heart still beats” which is always a positive I think….

Written By Katherine

Katherine Wildman is a copywriter for creative agencies and multinational brands – and the Creative Director of Haydn Grey.

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