by | The Writing Desk

Great writing must hit you right between eyes, punch you in the guts, turn your emotions on your head!


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…

Trace Swindale (Swin-dale not Swindle!)

I’m from Super Divine Web Design in Darlington. Working with bold and sparky small business owners who want to stand out from the crowd with their website and e-marketing.

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 tried to read a business book once. I really did. I hated it! Felt very Billy Bullshitter and artificial. However, there are three interesting candidates currently skulking around my future reading list… whether I will read them or not is another story!

What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign? 

Ooo blimey, that’s a good question. We used to have such an iconic UK advertising presence years ago. Funny, clever, visual and memorable. Everything seems very vanilla now.

My favourite? Leonard Rossiter & Joan Collins in the Cinzano ads. Comic timing perfection.

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

Authenticity. Great writing must hit you right between eyes, punch you in the guts, turn your emotions on your head and kick your arse on the way out the door.

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

Advice: set clear boundaries, decide your working hours and stick to them. Book personal time in your calendar. Learn to judge which clients are going to be an absolute nightmare – if your antenna “pings” – listen to it. 

Books I shoulda coulda woulda read?!! Hmmm. See question 1. 

This looks good: Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? Dr Julie Smith – think it would have helped me out in quite a few situations.

Silence? Radio? Or music while you work? 

Music maestro, please! It’s Radio 2 on a morning with Zoe Ball & Sir Kenneth of Bruce – must stop for a coffee at 10.30am and play Popmaster music quiz. Then at noon, Jeremy Vine is FIRMLY switched off, and I will either pop Mary Anne Hobbs on at BBC6Music or I crank up a favourite playlist on TIDAL (like Spotify but they pay artists way more).

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

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens – the first “classic” novel I ever read. Found the language hard going as I was only a kid, but the story stayed with me forever. I need to read this again!

The Call of the Wild, Jack London – this has it all: the beautiful yet brutal wilderness, spirit of enterprise, true friendship, treachery, harsh learning experiences, heartbreak, and happiness.

Papillon, Henri Charrière – allegedly, a lot of this book isn’t true! But I don’t care, it’s just SO good. What a storyteller. You become totally immersed in their life on Devil’s Island, the escape, adventures post-escape. Such descriptive language that you can smell it.

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

*brings out teeny tiny trumpet to blow* My blog/newsletters aren’t too shabby – when I actually get my finger out and write one. Ahem. I’m usually too busy setting up someone else’s newsletter and blog to do mine. I hope my content can rock someone else’s world to be honest. I’m not bothered about rocking mine.

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

In my supermarket bag today was: dog food (always!), Richmond meat-free sossidges, a bottle of wine (for my one night of the week gargle on a Sunday!), Tiger bloomer loaf, tins of soup, beans, milk, and a bar of deepest darkest chocolate with hazelnuts!

Who was your teenage crush? 

Easy peasy this one – Simon le Bon from Duran Duran. I had two HUGE posters in my bedroom. My little Ma hated them: she said the eyes followed her around the room while she was hoovering!

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

Every day for two glorious weeks in one of the many beach shacks in Candolim, Goa. Had an Indian food revelation while on holiday over there – it doesn’t taste like anything we have in UK restaurants. Goan food is jam-packed full of flavour with a beautiful well balanced chilli heat that doesn’t feel like your eyes, nose and mouth have been shredded by napalm! Forget two weeks in an all-inclusive cookie-cutter resort in Gran Canaria – visit India. It’s breathtaking. Heartbreaking too – be warned.

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

“Oooo did someone say bevaragi….” “Nooo they chuffin didn’t!” 
*pages Security*

Ok, ok. Blimey. Keep your hair on. A large wine for me please. My favourites are Sancerre, Gruener Veltliner from Austria or Pinot Gris from Alsace – if I’m feeling a bit flush. Otherwise, it’s a super dry French plonk. Whatever is on offer at the time! Tonight’s Quaff of the Week is a Bordeaux, reasonably priced at £6. As soon as I’ve finished writing this article, I’m leaping *like a gazelle* into the kitchen to pour a glass.

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 OK *pops Alan Whicker eyes in* – first cab off the rank would be Croatia: the scenery looks spectacular and it’s somewhere that seems to be gaining in popularity but still not mega touristy. Then it would be a whistle-stop tour of the rest of Europe. Although, maybe not Luxembourg (my burning question here campers is “Does ANYTHING interesting actually happen in Luxembourg?!”)

What would I write about? Food & drink (natch), culture, some intrepid but not crazy dangerous things to do maybe? I’d like to track down some of the UK digital nomads living and working across Europe to see how they are dealing with the current EU Brexit restrictions. As you may have figured out, I’m not planning on staying in the UK for my golden years!

What’s in your pockets? 

Biodegradable dog poo bags! Dog treats. Hair bands. Chewing gum.

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

Keyboard and screen. 

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?) 

Not at the moment, but I’d be open to suggestions. My subscriptions veer towards marketing, business, WordPress, and content creation.

Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison? 

Ringtons Gold blend tea in the morning. Then coffee for the rest of the day, interspersed with plenty of water *virtuous eyes* ;-D

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

Used to have my own “Super Divine Web Design” branded mug, but I smashed it. As I tend to do with a lot of mugs, cups, glasses and plates! Clumsy Clara IS my middle name. At the mo, I’m using a Habitat green dimpled Swedish-style malarkey that was in the sale. I like it because it’s squat and wide, rather than the usual mug shape. And it was cheap.

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

Shadow The Sheepdog series by Enid Blyton. The hard cover books were handed down to me by my little Ma, together with her Famous Five and Secret Seven collections. 

Your favourite word? 


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

Ohhh god, it’s GUSSET. Ugh. Even hated typing that word! A career in hosiery or underwear was never for me.

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

Browsing online. I used to be an avid bookstore aisle wafter, but since moving to a teeny tiny flat, hoarding gazillions of books isn’t an option sadly. Kindle is my new friend *sob* ☹

Favourite song lyric of all time? And why? 

It’s from “She’s Leaving Home” by The Beatles. Heartbreaking and beautiful, together with that mysterious storyline… 

Wednesday morning at five o’clock 
As the day begins 
Silently closing her bedroom door 
Leaving the note that she hoped would say more… 

Oooo that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. 

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

Frankie Goes To Hollywood with “Relax”.

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

Nope. Nada. Not a whiff of whimsy. I would have liked to have been all windswept and interesting with my choice of pencil or notebook, but alas, there’s nothing to see here. Move along!

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

A shed load of website updates for an Interiors company, and some last round website edits for an IT consultant. His website should be launched soon. Have a long-standing client that needs social media content creation, so that’s always on my To Do List. Plus the usual MailerLite newsletters and email campaigns.

Can you describe the last photograph you took? 

Stanley Stafford of course. Draped on my sofa like “Lamb On Chuffin Salad”. This composition was taken after an extra-long bimble around our favourite spot: a disused golf course. He was laid flat out, on his back, paws in the air, snoring his chops off. A sight to truly behold! 😀

What piece of advice really changed you as a writer? 

From Jim Conolly, marketing expert. Transformed my website and email campaign writing projects: “Keep it short. Keep it relevant. Solve their problem”.

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

Helped a friend out with a job application – tarted up their CV and cover letter. They don’t have a computer and are real technophobes.

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

“Reading is like breathing in, and writing is like breathing out.” Pam Allyn.

Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman? 

I have never watched it. 

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

The Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile – can’t decide. Both adapted from Stephen King books. Both exceptional stories. Honourable mention to Steel Magnolias too – fantastic storytelling and characters.

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

The 2nd Richard Osman “The Man Who Died Twice” and “Grown Ups” by Marian Keyes – I don’t often buy physical books, but Richard and Marian are authors that I adore.

Who was or is your greatest teacher? 

An old friend who I sadly lost touch with. She made me look at life in a different way, challenge situations, and challenge myself. Wherever she is now, I would imagine she is having an enormously fun time, and no doubt be helping others. Truly a person that lit up a room and a beautiful soul.

Who is your favorite artist? 

Gustav Klimt.

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? 

At my desk has been the norm for the past couple of years, but I really enjoy the occasional co-working day at Business Central in Darlington. 

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

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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