Lorraine desk


by | The Writing Desk

QUOTE ABOUT THE PROCESS OF WRITING?  “Stay the hell away from this. It’s bloody hard.” Me after CopyCon 2019


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… 

Lorraine Williams, the proofreader behind Lighthouse Proofreading in Newquay. 

Her professional dalliances are with B2B copywriters and creative agencies. She gets a kick from beautifully designed and brightly coloured content. And she really hopes that’s a smudge of Kinder Bueno on her jeans. 

Lorraine professional headhot

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…) 

It’s Tara Mohr’s Playing Big. It’s one of those books that once you’ve read it you want to get a copy for your friends. So I did! I’ve even written in it and I don’t normally scrawl in my books. It covers the things we do that keep us ‘small’ so we can take a new approach that empowers us in our careers and lives. 

What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign? 

Blank. I’ve gone blank and can’t think of any advertising now you’ve asked! 

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

When it doesn’t feel like you’re ‘reading’. You’re there, vividly immersed in it all. Or you feel as though someone’s talking directly to you. 

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

The advice? You’ll have to market yourself. You’ll have to be visible. You’ll have to be the one being visible and marketing yourself. And to get used to that, I’d guzzle all of The Middle Finger Project’s content. Ash Ambirge is the copywriter behind it ballsy and bold and intimidatingly confident and all about being an awesome female entrepreneur. She knows the things you don’t know you need to know about running a freelance business and wants to share it all with you. 

So the book…? It’s actually a resource: Unf*ckwithable Words. It’s a hefty collection of email templates for dealing with awkward and tricky client situations: scope creep, declining a project, dealing with conflicting feedback and even how to respond to a refund request for a digital product when the sneaky bugger’s only just bought it. I hadn’t thought about those things when I first started. (That last one made me realise I’d need a Purchase Policy for my proofreading guides.) There are so many fantastic books out there about going freelance and building a biz, but this covers the unexpected issues that crop up once you’ve got going that aren’t often talked about. I used it just last week! 

Silence? Radio? Or music while you work? 

I need silence. If there’s bustle outside then I have my noise-cancelling headphones on and play brown noise. It sounds dank but it’s similar to white noise just with more bass. It’s less crackly and jagged. To me it’s a lovely deep, slightly thunderous rumble. I find it muffles some of the background noise that the headphones don’t and makes it easier for me to focus. It’s fantastic for when I can’t avoid the spin of the washing machine. 

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

Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters. It inspired the film The Handmaiden but that’s all you’ll get me to share… 

Citadel, by Kate Mosse. The characters, the setting, the era. There was something about this book and I devoured it. I fully snot-cried on the beach in front of sunbathers. I couldn’t hold it in and didn’t care. I think about it often. (The ending of the book, not the sobbing.) 

Mean Girls Club, by Ryan Heshka. I love the striking hot-pink aesthetic of this graphic novel more than the story itself. But it’s still fun to take a raucous ride into something vampy and violent, glamorous and grotesque, all with a pulp-fiction punch to the patriarchy. 

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

This is where I feel as though I’ve sneaked in through the auditorium exit (why was I lurking by the bins?!) and plonked myself on the chair next to you because you’d laid out a plate of chocolate Digestives and Hobnobs next to the mic. 

I’m a proofreader for marketing content. I’m not one of those wordy folks that edits and writes copy too. I do one thing and that thing is all about the detail. I find writing and editing really hard and not at all fun. I love the technical aspects instead and have a damn fine eye for detail – both in copy and design. It’s why I love to proofread PDFs. But I do write because it turns out that when you have a business you have to market your business. Bugger. 

So, the best thing I’ve ever written? My website copy. It’s taken me three (maybe even four?) overhauls to create what’s there now and I’m really chuffed with it. I’d love to give some delightfully insightful reasons why, but it’s simply that I created something from nothing, it reflects me, feels genuine and (hopefully…) shares the important info people need/want to know. From a copywriting perspective it could be beautifully garishly packaged wordguff. But I think I captured what it’s like to work with me and my approach. 

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

A pack of refillable pens. I’m down to my last two free conference pens and a pencil I can’t sharpen. I wanted a more sustainable scribbler, so I’ve just snapped up some Parker Jotters. They’re blue ink not so dazzled with that but I’ve stocked up on black refills. 

Who was your teenage crush? 

It’s strange thinking that far back as things have flipped 180 since the Edward Furlong Terminator 2 days. So I’m throwing in my crush now: Sue Perkins. Then there’s Kate McKinnon but I think I want to be her more than be with her. Plus, she’s going to play me in the movie of my life so best not to make things weird. 

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

Nope no idea what it was. But I’m pretty certain it would’ve been very big, very spicy or very free. 

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

Oooh a cider for me. Room temperature. Sipped on a lazy afternoon down the beach or lounging in a beer garden. With a bowl of wasabi peas. And for the more snazzier of occasions, Babycham. 

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? 

Wherever the Northern Lights are dancing. There’d be no writing just watching. 

What’s in your pockets? 

A hanky. I’m all about the nana handkerchief (nankerchief?). I bought this one in a charity shop, so it’s nice and soft from all the years of someone else wiping their drippy nose on it. It’s important for me to be eco where I can, so I prefer things to be recycled, washable and refillable over disposable: fabric baby wipes instead of loo roll (wees only!), soap instead of shower gel, menstrual cup and washable pads, toothpaste tablets and now refillable pens. 

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

It falls out of my mind much more easily when it’s pen on paper but I get frustrated because I can’t craft it into shape by jiggling the order around. So I tend to scribble out a minddollop of an idea then type it up to expand. Although, my handwriting is rather atrocious when I’m going as fast as I’m thinking, so I usually hammer it all out on the laptop. 

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 have a habit of signing up for free stuff then either being not so enamoured by the content or feel like I’m being sold to. I’m a quick unsubscriber. The only person whose emails I’ve been consistently reading for the last few years are the ones from The Middle Finger Project. I can learn so much from one email! 

Tea or coffee? What’s your poison? 

Coffee coffee coffeeeeee! At home it’s straight from the moka pot, black. When I’m out, it’s a flat white. I’ve no patience for faffing about frothing milk at home. Yet I can sit and stare at text on a screen for houuuuurs?!  

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

I did. Well, no, I do. It’s just no longer a caffeine receptacle. A friend broke it and I did a rather fantastic* job of supergluing it back on. There’s a small piece missing so it’s a plant pot now. It’s a white Sainsbury’s one without a handle. It has an orange rim (yep, I’m giggling) and a teal dotty dash pattern. 

*Genuinely fantastic job. There’s no sarcasm there. The last time I used it I glued three fingers together and my thumb to the tube. I couldn’t call anyone for help because my hands were so sticky that I couldn’t pick up my phone. I lost no skin doing this one! Superglue really is rather super. 

Lorraine desk plants

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

Mine was a series of books, the Usborne Puzzle Adventures. I remember getting Danger at Demon’s Cove one Christmas and curling up on the sofa with one of those small Argos pens to answer the questions. They’re not a ‘choose your own adventure’ story. They’re illustrated with a puzzle on each page that takes the story forwards. Each book has a different plot and characters, and they have wonderfully word-played names like Diamond De’Ath and Iona Fortune. I learnt the word ‘amulet’ from The Vanishing Village. If you have kids who are around 10 years old and into puzzles, take a look. I think they’re wonderful! I gave my whole set scribbles, workings out, wrong answers and all to my friend’s daughter and loved reading them with her. 

Your favourite word? 

Pamplemousse. To pronounce, rather than to use. 

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

Fuckbuddy. I’m gipping as I type that. 

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

I love a bookshop (the smell!), especially independent ones like The Falmouth Bookseller. Most of the links I’ve included here are to independent or well-known bookshops rather than the big A. I tend to buy fiction from charity shops (love a surprise find) and business/self-development second hand from eBay. 

Favourite song lyric of all time? And why? 

I’ve been struggling with this one and it’s been bothering me why. Now it’s clicked! I’m taken more by the music itself and how that makes me feel than what’s being said. I want fun, bright, energetic! 

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

Anything pure-pop Kylie from the post-Neighbours days through to her camp loveboat jaunt in the early noughties. (Kylie of the Minogue sisters fame, not that other one.) 

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

Not so much a ritual… When I’m proofreading a Word doc, I need to have the CTRL+F navigation panel open on the left of the screen. When I’m marking up and adding comments, they show in a panel down the right of the screen. This way, the page sits neatly in the middle of the screen. I like centered and symmetrical! 

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

I’ve been proofreading a PDF trends report for a global manufacturing firm. I proofed the Word copy last week and this has just come back from the designer, so I’ve been proofing the artwork version. They book me for the before and after to catch any issues that’ve been introduced during layout. You need the copy and design to be equally accurate and smooth. Later this week, I’ve got a few interviews to transcribe. They’re being used to write B2B case studies, which will then come my way to proof. 

Can you describe the last photograph you took? 

Icicles dangling from the moss on the cliffs at Towan beach just down the road from me. It was bitter cold that day! 

What piece of advice really changed you as a writer? 

It’s proofreading advice I’ve given myself: 

Only amend what’s necessary and only what you’d be happy with being amended in your own writing. 

I was thinking about this just the other day. Someone got in touch after a recommendation because they liked how I’d approached their colleague’s project. They’d had a mix of experiences with proofreaders who’d ‘improved’ (gah!) the text and it’d left both sides feeling more than a tad miffed. 

I’d be so upset if someone had done that to my writing! That’s not what proofreaders do. At least, not unless it’s been discussed beforehand, but that’s getting more into proofediting/copyediting. 

I never want anyone to feel that way from my work. If I’ve done a good job, no one will know I was there. 

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

A list of things I need to get ready for the launderette in the morning. 

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

“Stay the hell away from this. It’s bloody hard.” Me after CopyCon 2019. Aww the day we met! 

Lorraine and Katherine selfie

Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman? 

I’ve not watched it. But I am re-watching Xena Warrior Princess. She’s smart, strong, and has turned her life around and works towards the greater good. Her relationship with Gabrielle is wonderful to watch – plus there’s the subtext and self-referential knowing winks to it. They’re a true female power couple. 

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

A League of Their Own with Geena Davis and Tom Hanks. It’s based on the women who joined the women’s professional baseball league in America during the Second World War. I loved it as a kid and still bawl my eyes out now. 

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

My friends laugh at me for my taste in leisure reads. I’m all about a history mystery. 

The books tend to be variants of… 

Title: secret / lost / forgotten / garden / hidden 

Cover image: weathered door / antiquated key / statue / sundial / overgrown garden / barefooted woman wearing something unnecessarily flimsy with her back to you. 

They’re those where something happened in the faraway past, something happens in the nowadays now and the mystery unravels as the stories collide. They’re easy-reading escapist fun. And there’s always a happy ending. Always. 

I take them back to the charity shop once I’m done, but sometimes I’ll be browsing the shelves and drawn to one but have no idea if I’ve read it or not because they sound so similar. It might have been my old copy. This has given me a great idea! My mum, aunty and nana used to swap books, so they wrote their initials inside the cover so they knew who’d already read them. I need to do that! I’m glad we had this chat. 

So this one is A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore. 

There’s also The Mindful Universe by Mark Westmoquette and Tom Albrighton’s The Freelance Introvert in the pile too. I’ve not opened Tom’s yet but I’m excited to see what he says! 

Who was or is your greatest teacher? 

Professionally as a freelance proofreader, it’s Ash from The Middle Finger Project. Generally, though? I’ve no clue. So many people have helped me. And I’ve done a pretty good job myself too. 

Who is your favourite artist? 

Malika Favre: bold, minimal, bright, strong, suggestive, empowering, geometric. And I adore negative space. 

Where do you like to work bestis 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 can only work from home at my desk. My work is accuracy and detail, so I need focus, silence and space to avoid distractions. I didn’t know this until after I’d moved in and set up my desk, but I have a view of Trevose Head Lighthouse in the distance. It really is Lighthouse Proofreading. 

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

Lurking by my fridge or 

Ping me an email: lorraine@lighthouseproofreading.co.uk 

Head over to my website: www.lighthouseproofreading.co.uk 

Follow my blatherings on LinkedIn: Lorraine Williams, Proofreader 

Have a smashing day!  

(I licked it. It was a chocolately hazelnut delight – phew!) 

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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