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…
Lorrie Hartshorn, Manchester’s favourite B2B 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…)
There isn’t one. I’m not a fan of business books.
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
The Lloyds TSB horse is definitely up there. Gets me right in the ovaries when I’m hormonal — I sit there, ugly-crying: “SHE’S BEEN THROUGH SO MUCH.” And now they’ve introduced her kid into the equation, I’m a wreck.
“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
It’s bollocks. Not everyone has a book in them, which is why there are so many shockingly bad books out there. And not everyone is a good writer, same as not everyone is a hairdresser or a mathematician.
The secret to good writing is to be a good writer, naturally and through ongoing learning and practice.
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
Do less, charge more. Find and accept your niche, stop trying to get work by taking on any job you can get your paws on, and for fuck’s sake, up your prices.
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
Silence. I have a chatty five-year-old at home. Silence is golden.
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë: what a heroine. Super relatable, and you just root for her all the way through. It always amazes me that the novel is hundreds of years old.
Hannibal by Thomas Harris: amazing horror kitsch. Thomas Harris really threw himself into the Hannibal mythos in this one. It’s ridiculous and so entertaining.
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver: no book has ever scared me like this one. I’m still searching for something that frightens me as much as this novel did.
Let the reader note: I resent having to choose only three.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
I do a good line in saucy limericks, including one about Captain Picard.
Work-wise, a client in the rental market wanted an ad that captured the wow factor of their apartments. They’d sent over some absolutely beautiful visuals, so I stuck HOMEMYGOD across one of them in huge bold letters and sent it back. They trademarked the phrase. That felt pretty good.
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
Cat food. We adopted two beautiful, two-year-old girls from the local shelter. Man, they’re hungry.
Who was your teenage crush?
Grubby Christian Slater for the first half; villainous Gary Oldman for the second half.
Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
For my 21st, when I was living in Paris, a big group of friends planned and cooked a surprise 10-course meal to celebrate. I can’t even remember what we ate, but it was a long meal of pure happiness, washed down with plenty of wine.
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?
Fancy fruity bubbly stuff, like Kir Royale, Bellini, and Chambord/Prosecco with smashed raspberries.
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’d tell Dave to go home and chill out — the man’s 94, for God’s sake; let him have a sit-down.
Then I’d take myself off up to Alaska and travel the railroad from one end to the other. I’d love to see what stories would come from that.
What’s in your pockets?
I’m a woman — how often do we get decent, usable pockets? Come on, now.
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
Pen and ink for my daily mantra session (writing out my personal mantra ten times each morning), keyboard for work.
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?)
Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?
Can’t abide milky tea. I got a taste for green tea when I lived in China, but mostly fancy coffee. One in the morning, a decaf one at supper-time.
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
Yes. Coffee tastes wrong unless it’s from my ridged white IKEA cup.
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
Your favourite word?
Didactic. Makes me feel really clever.
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?)
Moist is up there, but I think that’s universal. Gusset is pretty terrible, and so is bra. It just sort of lollops out of your mouth, like something distasteful. Bra. BRA.
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
Online or in Oxfam Books. I hoover up secondhand novels like nobody’s business.
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
“I threw stones at the stars and the whole sky fell.” — The Stable Song, Gregory Alan Isakov.
I don’t know why but I find it really evocative. Plus it neatly sums up the human tendency towards petulance and self-sabotage. Leave the stars alone, dumbass.
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
I don’t do dance floors. I throw my shapes in private.
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
I don’t reckon so. I’m pretty systematic when it comes to work writing; creative writing is a bit different, I guess. I’ll often use a picture or a particular song to get myself in the right mood for whatever I’m working on.
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
Two gigantic rafts of case studies. Everyone’s doing housekeeping at the moment, in preparation for consumers spending once more. And that means showing off your tail feathers with an impressive case study or two.
Can you describe the last photograph you took?
A selfie, sadly enough.
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
“Wish in one hand, shit in the other, and see which gets full first.”
It’s a great cure-all. Stop wishing, start doing.
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
I have really odd, vivid dreams. I write those down sometimes, and I do my lines every morning as I mentioned before.
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
“If I waited until I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.” — Anne Taylor.
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
I have no idea — never seen the show. Plus, I’m in trade and industrial, remember? Daz from the yard is more my line than Don Draper.
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
I love Lost in Translation — it leaves such a scar. It’s joyous throughout, and almost unbearably sad.
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
The teacher I remember most fondly was my high school German teacher, who was responsible for discovering and nurturing my love of language. She wasn’t a popular teacher, but I thought she was wonderful: super clever, brilliant at explaining things, unfailingly kind, and hilarious in a really dry, quiet way. She was definitely my first crush, too.
Who is your favourite artist?
I’m really fluid, to be honest — there’s no one artist or style I’d choose over others. I love expressive, colourful rural scenes like Barry Hilton’s landscapes, but I also love a lot of precisionist stuff — Edward Hopper, Jeffrey Smart.
Todd Hido’s photographs are great, too — and Liam Devereaux’s illustrations. They capture a lot of working class images that don’t normally inspire art.
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?
Office. I switch between my desk (which is messy) and my chair, which often has a photogenic cat on it.