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…
Jenny Catton, Copywriter
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…)
Andy Maslen’s Write Copy, Make Money. It’s filled with solid advice on running a successful copywriting business; something copywriters often struggle with.
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
The Economist ads. They manage to pack so much into just a few words; “Great minds like a think.” And “Mettle Detector.” Genius!
“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
Allow plenty of thinking time. Often the temptation is to dive in and start writing but I find when you do your research and let ideas mull over for a bit the writing becomes much easier.
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 make my own marketing a priority. Without a marketing plan you risk saying yes to everyone who comes along rather than being able to choose the clients you really want to work with.
The books I’d read first would be Roger Horberry’s Brilliant Copywriting and everything by Andy Maslen.
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
Silence. Music is too distracting.
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë). I love the sense of place (especially as I live not too far from the North York Moors).
The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood) There are so many layers to this book. It’s one I keep meaning to re-read. I love all of Margaret Atwood’s novels.
Atonement (Ian McEwan). I was disappointed with the film, (isn’t that always the case?), but the book is outstanding.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
Ghost writing a book for a client was a great achievement. It felt like such a big undertaking at first, but I really enjoyed the process.
Oh, winning a limerick writing competition at my local library, aged 10, was an early highlight too. I won a £10 book token!
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
Monopoly Junior for my five-year-old. Hopefully it’s less tedious than the original version.
Who was your teenage crush?
Chris Lowe from the Pet Shop Boys. I was obsessed by the Pet Shop Boys and won a competition in The Guardian to see them at Wembley Arena in 1991. I took my mum; it’s still the best concert I’ve ever been to.
Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
Omelette and chips with a carafe of red wine in a little café near the Palace of Versailles in 2000. We were staying in Paris and had gone to Versailles for a day trip. It rained torrentially all day so we retreated into the café and watched the world go by.
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?
I gave up alcohol a couple of years ago to help fix my insomnia. It worked, so now I just stick to soda and lime. It must be fresh lime though; lime cordial sets my teeth on edge.
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’ve always wanted to go to Costa Rica and I reckon there’d be plenty for David to show me there. Naturally, I’d write about the wildlife.
What’s in your pockets?
Nothing – I hate the feel of things in my pockets so stick it all in my bag.
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
Planning on paper. Writing on keyboard. Then a bit of both when editing.
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 prefer to dip in and out of blogs that catch my attention rather than reading a particular one regularly. I do read a lot of books about writing and business though and always have a pile I’m meaning to get through.
Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?
Black coffee before 1pm. Earl Grey tea in the afternoon.
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
My Scrabble tile mug – it’s just the right size.
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
I loved all of Roald Dahl’s books, especially the BFG and my favourite character is Sophie from the BFG.
I loved Heidi too, although I’m probably remembering the TV show rather than the book. I longed to sleep in a hayloft in the Swiss mountains (I still do!)
Your favourite word?
Weather. My mum taught me to remember the difference between ‘whether’ and ‘weather’ by imagining that the ‘ea’ in ‘weather’ is a little cloud. It always makes me smile when I write it now.
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?
Nom – as in ‘nom nom’ when talking about food. The way it looks, the way it sounds; it makes my skin crawl.
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
Both. I go online when I know exactly what I want but there’s nothing better than spending an hour browsing in a real bookstore.
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
Ooh, that’s a tricky one. I was going to choose something by Pulp or The Divine Comedy, but I’ll go for The Kinks and Waterloo Sunset:
“Dirty old river, must you keep
rolling, rolling into the night
People so busy, make me feel dizzy, taxi light shines so bright
But I don’t, need no friends
As long as I gaze on Waterloo Sunset, I am in paradise.”
I’m a Yorkshire lass but completely and utterly in love with London.
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
The one track I’ll always dance to is Come on Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners. Can anyone hear that and not start jumping around like a mad thing?
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
No rituals as such but I can’t work in a messy space, so if I’m stuck, I’ll tidy.
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
I’m currently working on product descriptions for solar powered garden lights and web copy for an equine photographer. In the pipeline is a series of articles for a health publication.
Can you describe the last photograph you took?
It was of me and two friends on a 20-mile hike a few days ago. We’re training for a 26-mile charity walk we’re attempting later in the year. I took the picture around the 12-mile point while we were still smiling. It was a gorgeous day but I’m feeling the pain now.
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
Write like you talk. Simple but true.
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
Adding ‘mealworms’ to a shopping list. They’re for the chickens, in case you were wondering.
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
“It is perfectly okay to write garbage – as long as you edit
I love this – and all the other quotes reminding us our first draft doesn’t need to be perfect.
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
Um, Peggy or maybe Don, or Roger… It’s hard to choose; they’re all so wonderfully flawed.
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
Lost in Translation. It’s a funny, touching love story that’s completely different to the usual romcoms. Ask me again tomorrow and you’ll get a different answer though; I have so many favourites.
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
I’ve recently discovered Helen Dunmore’s books. At the moment I’m reading Exposure; a spy story set in the Cold War.
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
I was a bit of a ratbag at school (although you wouldn’t believe it now) but the one lesson I paid attention in was English. My teacher, Mr Robinson really encouraged me and it’s thanks to him I became a copywriter.
Who is your favourite artist?
David Hockney. If ever you’re in West Yorkshire, pay a visit to Salt’s Mill in Saltaire where he has a permanent exhibition. The mill also has a brilliant bookshop and café. I could spend all day there.
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 like to mix things up. Usually I work in my office but if it’s a sunny day, I’ll work at the dining table with the doors to the garden open so I can hear the chickens.
I think it’s important to get out too and often head to Harrogate Library. It’s a grand Victorian building but very light and airy. It has big desks, Wi-Fi and a coffee machine – what more could you need?
And finally, where can this caffeine-fuelled audience find you?
You can find me at: www.jennycatton.com
Or on twitter: @JennyCatton