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…
‘Laura Rothwell, marketing-person, business owner, work-in-progress.’
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…)
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni is always enlightening no matter how many times you go back to it. It’s about how humans behave as a team, what they need to succeed and how to satisfy all those requirements. It’s super interesting to read each time you’re in a new team – whether it’s a new job or a project group – because it always throws up something you can work on.
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
I’m not good with favourites, I will always bend the rules and give you a list!
But I did enjoy The National Lottery: Fisherman campaign (2018) by Adam&Eve/DDB. Simply because of how the TV ad played out and the twist, I didn’t see it coming and found it super emotional.
“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
Write what you know, put yourself out there and get people you trust to read your writing.
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
The advice I would give to my younger self is “don’t let anyone make you feel you have to compromise your principles.”
However, I think you have to learn your lessons, I probably wouldn’t have listened to any advice when I started out. I probably wouldn’t listen to it now, tbh.
Everything you experience teaches you the lessons you wouldn’t have been willing to learn at the beginning.
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
I love a podcast but not while I work because I can’t listen to conversation and focus at the same time. Just ask anyone who has ever tried to talk to me while I’m writing an email.
So, silence or music.
Music could be anything from chilled electronic vibes to grime, indie, reggaetón and UK Garage.
Right now, I’m listening to Lolo Zouaï on repeat.
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
I’m more of a non-fiction reader, so I’m going to have to have a good old think about this…
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka has stayed with me since the first time I read it. I go back to it regularly. I find it fascinating each time. Gregor wakes up one day to find he is a beetle. His life continues, except he is a beetle. Imagine what would happen in your life if you suddenly became a beetle. Well, that’s what happens to Gregor. It’s essentially a story about isolation, discrimination and inadequacy.
I’ve read some Val McDermid and CJ Sansom which I found reasonably enjoyable.
I honestly have nothing else to add here.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
About ten years ago, I wrote a ‘think-piece’ about Bob Dylan and his artistic influences. I’m not necessarily sure it was a masterpiece, but it was the first time I was paid to write for a publication, so it felt like a big deal at the time.
Also, many years ago, I wrote the copy for a strategic campaign for a big national brand – which they are still using now. Every time I see it, I peacock a little, but then I think, “really is about time you revisited that.”
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
I bought a LED SAD lamp for my house because we’re spending so much time inside. At Crystallised everyone in the office has one on their desk, so I’m definitely missing it. It improves my concentration and focus.
Who was your teenage crush?
Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
No! Stop making me pick favourites. There are too many!
One that springs to mind is 30p tacos from a backstreet food cart in Mexico City, sitting on the curbside in the late afternoon sun, with a bunch of locals and a tin of beer, trying to pretend that the salsa wasn’t about to blow my head off. I perfected the salsa ratio pretty swiftly.
A meal is way more than the food I think, it’s where you are, who you’re with, how you’re feeling. I could talk about this all day, perhaps you need to start a food blog, The Diner’s Table?
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?
Well, I’ve not had any alcohol since March, I’ve had a sober lockdown. So, at the moment, I’m enjoying various AF drinks, like Cucumber, Mint & Lime from Steep Sodas.
Pre-Corona I loved a cold glass of Sancerre, drank with close friends, ideally on a warm summer evening.
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?
Hmmm. Well, this is a difficult because during Covid-19, I’ve been thinking a lot about travel, the purpose of it, the impact travel has on the environment and how much of an imposition it is (or isn’t) on the places we visit.
I’ve always spent a lot of time in Spain, I speak Spanish and I feel most at home when I’m in southern Spain.
If this came with a magic wand that removed the environmental impact of travelling, I would probably go to Mexico and explore the life of a woman called María Arias Bernal, or María Pistolas as she became known. She was a Mexican revolutionary, and in the early 1900s, she helped found a school to educate women so they could improve their economic circumstances without relying on a man.
What’s in your pockets?
My bank card and Kirby grips.
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
Keyboard and screen always. I love the idea of a beautiful notebook filled with delicately scribed musings and thoughts, but alas. I once went into a meeting with a pad and pen because the battery in my Mac had died, and the Chair of the meeting asked me what was wrong.
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 use Flipboard to aggregate all the other things / publications I’m interested in. I’m very paper averse in general!
Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?
Tea. Top 3 teas you ask? Okay then.
- Assam, solidly brewed and be generous with the milk
- Yorkshire Tea, Malt – it tastes like tea and biscuits!
- English Breakfast
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
I like a mug that holds a lot of tea. A lot.
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
Well, I read Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and I loved George – who I identified with enormously. I think I was quite a tomboy growing up. But then obvs I learned about Enid Blyton’s racism and have virtually erased all memory of/affinity with her.
I also read and enjoyed Roald Dahl, but he was an anti-Semite, wasn’t he?
So, fuck all that basically. Maybe that’s why I stopped reading fiction?!
Your favourite word?
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
I love walking around a bookshop. One of my favourite things to do is to take pictures of the front covers of books. I’ve been doing it for years. They don’t even have to be books I particularly want to buy, it’s just the design of the covers that attract me. Museum bookshops are a great hunting ground for captivating front covers.
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
Disclosure & Sam Smith, Latch because it’s how I felt about my partner when we first met and how I still feel now.
You lift my heart up
When the rest of me is down
You, you enchant me, even when you’re not around
If there are boundaries, I will try to knock them down
I’m latching on babe
Now I know what I have found
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
No, except that I have to do it as soon as I ‘feel’ it. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is or where I am, if I let the vibe ‘go’ it’s not gonna happen. So, I do often crack open the laptop at 3am.
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
During lockdown we’ve been running a research project to understand how audiences are connecting with culture, so I’m in the process of writing up the last four months (yes, it’s been four months) to present at an event on 4 August. Come along, just sign up here.
We’re working on some virtual cinema events across the UK; some research projects for arts and culture organisations planning their reopening and we’re at the very beginning of an audience development project for an arts organisation in Slovenia.
I also feel like I’ve got a blog post brewing; I’ve been thinking about profit – and the pressure to be a profit-making business. How necessary is that? Why isn’t balancing the books enough? Why isn’t employing people, paying them properly, providing a service and doing good work enough? The concept of ‘enough’ is interesting to me.
Can you describe the last photograph you took?
It was a photograph of Lancelot (my Pomeranian and best friend) during our lockdown.
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
Done is better than perfect.
Don’t expect your writing to come out fully formed, just get thoughts and structure down, then read, refine, think, read, refine. Let it mull.
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
A screenplay about my childhood called Gang of Two.
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
The first draft of anything is shit.
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
I refused to watch Mad Men because everyone kept telling me I should and that’s the kind of grown-up I am.
When I eventually watched series 1 over Christmas in 2019, I was just relentlessly furious about all the machismo and the sexism. My partner kept saying that if I was gonna watch it I was going have to get used to being mad (ironically), so I stopped watching it.
Elisabeth Moss is obviously brilliant in all things though, so let’s go with her.
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
There simply cannot just be one film, Katherine. That’s like asking someone to pick their favourite child.
Films I would recommend that I’ve seen in the last couple of years:
The Farewell, Lulu Wang – thoughtful, funny, beautiful comedy/drama about a family who host a fake wedding so they can see their grandma one more time before she dies – she doesn’t know she is going to die.
Buffaloed, Tanya Wexler – a brilliant, bold, energetic female-led film about a loveable scam artist desperate to pull herself out of poverty.
Greener Grass, Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe – the weirdest, most surreal, sarcastic, visually delightful film about women navigating suburban ‘soccer mom’ madness. A young boy turns into a dog. Ideal.
Pin Cushion, Deborah Haywood – a film occupying at least two states at all times, a whimsical, surreal trip into the mind of a teenage girl navigating a new school and an unconventional family life and at the same time a sad and moving take on bullying and depression. You will laugh and cry and laugh.
Us, Jordan Peele – Jordan Peele is a game-changing filmmaker and I implore you to watch everything he directs, produces or recommends. This psychological horror / political commentary is truly terrifying.
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
Divided, Why We’re Living in an Age of Walls, by Tim Marshall
Lift As You Climb, by Viv Groskop
Brit(ish), by Afua Hirsch
Now Try Something Weirder, by Michael Johnson
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
I learn so much from so many people. The people I learn the most from I think are the people I don’t necessarily click with or get on with that well. Watching how someone completely different to you does things or approaches challenges is an education.
If I had to pick one person, it would be the first marketer I ever encountered. A formidable woman called Helen, who was Director of Marketing at the company where I bagged my first marketing job in 2001. She was an absolute boss; it was that whole “if you can’t see it you can’t be it” thing. I saw her and I learnt from her. Not just marketing but about being a professional, about being a woman in business and general workplace conduct. I knew after working with her for 6 months that marketing was the only thing I was going to do. She was very gracious with her time and patience!
Who is your favourite artist?
Bridget Riley. I love the geometric precision of her work there isn’t a single piece of hers I don’t covet.
She was actually, completely coincidentally an inspiration to Sail Creative who did the rebrand for Crystallised in 2019. When they included her work in a mood board apropos of nothing, I knew they had seen deep into my soul.
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?
It depends what I’m doing. If I need to think, to write a marketing strategy or a pitch, for example, I need to be in alone, in a bright, well-lit room (like a succulent) and with a productive soundtrack, like Bonobo or Jon Hopkins.
But I also really like being in the Crystallised office with the whole team. Our new office is at the Northern Design Centre, which we had precisely 3 weeks in before lockdown. We’ve moved in with design agency Sail Creative, and I love the space, the atmosphere and I’m excited to get back there and start making it ours.
We’re not in the office of course at the moment, so here’s a picture of where I’m working right now – with my colleagues Morrigan and Guinevere.
And finally, where can this caffeine-fuelled audience find you?
Twitter, Insta, LinkedIn or Facebook @crystalliseduk