ACW

ACW

Monday, 26 October 2015

Strings, bows and hats



The ‘about me’ section on my website and Amazon author page declares: Formerly a journalist, Fiona Veitch Smith has written books, theatre plays and screenplays. She is best known though for her novels and children's picturebooks. Her 'Young David Picturebook' series (SPCK, illustrated by Amy Barnes Warmington) are based on the Biblical character of King David when he was a young boy. 'The Jazz Files'(Lion Fiction) is the first novel in her mystery series, Poppy Denby Investigates, and is set in the 1920s. Her standalone novel, 'The Peace Garden'(Crafty Publishing), is a romantic thriller set in England and South Africa. She lives with her husband, daughter and two dogs in Newcastle upon Tyne where she lectures in media and scriptwriting at the local universities. She has a passion for cheesecake, Pilates and playing the clarinet - preferably not at the same time!

Now the reason I have re-printed this is to show you that there are many strings to my bow – but that’s only half of it! It doesn’t mention my devotional writing for CWR nor my ghostwriting of adult memoirs and children’s picturebooks; nor my editing, sub-editing, editorial consultancy, workshop leading or copywriting … in my fifteen years as a freelance writer I have pretty much done every kind of writing you can think of - and most of the time I've been paid for it.

People ask if I planned to write across so many genre and media and my answer is: no, I’d have been mad to do so. But that’s just the way it happened. When I left my full-time job as journalist 15 years ago I had the goal of making a living as a freelance writer. I did not aim to be an author. But all these years later that’s what I’ve become simply by the process of elimination. And you know what? I like this hat. I think I’ll continue wearing it. And I think God knew I’d like it too. But at the beginning I didn’t know what kind of writer I wanted to be, simply that I wanted to write (and get paid for it). What I didn't realise is that I'd have to do an awful lot of writing, across and awful lot of media, to cobble together even the semblance of a living.

Me playing a suffragette for a book trailer.
There are pros to having so many strings to one’s bow. For instance, I’ve recently written, directed and acted in a book trailer for The Jazz Files. I’ve also written feature articles to promote it. In addition I’ve recently written advertising copy for my Young David Books for SPCK. These are all things I can readily turn my hand to – and the publishers like it because they don’t have to pay me extra!

But there is also a downside. When journalists are doing research before interviewing me they aren’t sure what kind of writer I am. I once went on a radio show to promote a theatre play (for adults) that was being produced. But when I got to the studio, the DJ thought I was a children’s book writer and spent all his time asking about that! I had to try to redirect the interview on the hoof. It didn’t go well.

It’s also exhausting wearing so many hats. I need to cut down. I want to cut down. And that’s what I’m asking God to help me do now. I hope that in a few years I will be known primarily as an author who has ‘dabbled’ in a few other things. But I also thank God for the many paths He has led me on. He had a plan in all of it; of that I’m sure.

So my advise to new writers would be: just follow God and don’t be scared to try new kinds of writing. You never know where it might lead.


7 comments:

  1. Thank you Fiona - that was really interesting and encouraging to read. It's great to read about your different hats, but I also know that God doesn't want you to be exhausted, so I am sure your prayer will be listened to & will say a prayer too.. In the meantime - the rest of us can think a bit more outside the box - I'd love to know more about screenwriting, for example!

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    1. Anne, as an exercise you might want to start adapting your own work. The Art of Adaptation by Linda Seger is a good primer. In terms of how to actually write a screenplay, Ray Frensham's Screenwriting is a good starter text.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your writing journey Fiona. I knew you did some of the above but not all! Such good advice about following God's leading in our writing even if we're not sure where He's taking us. Thanks for the challenge and encouragement.

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  3. Great post - this writing lark is a real adventure and often we do end up writing things we never envisaged we would. But that's part of the fun of creativity :)

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  4. This is definitely relevant for me, as I never know what to put on biographies/websites/CVs, and the things that are in any conventional sense 'published' are the tip of the writing iceberg for me given that I've been writing my own performance materials for the last eight years. It is good to be versatile, but publicity-wise it would be a heck of a lot easier to have a single style or voice. At least it makes the question "So, what sort of thing do you write?" an excellent conversation starter!

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  5. So true Amy. I tend to have different biographies for different areas. The problem though comes with the internet when people google your name and all sorts of things come up without you having the opportunity to filter / contextualise / explain.

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