Walk in Her Shoes Challenge 2017

Walk in Her Shoes Challenge 8-14 May 2017

It was International Women’s Day on Wednesday this week. I marked it by signing up for the Walk in Her Shoes challenge. Let me explain…

Every day, in countries all over the developing world, women and girls have to walk long distances to fetch water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. This water is often dirty and infected and because they have to spend time collecting it, these children and women miss out on the chance to go to school or to work.

CARE International provide safe clean water to communities in the developing world and by taking part in the Walk in Her Shoes challenge, I’ll be raising money to help them.

Walk in Her Shoes daily challenge

Every day for a week, from 8-14 May, I’ll be walking 10,000 steps to represent the distance that women and girls have to travel each day just to fetch water for their families. That’s approximately 7km or about 5 miles and an hour’s worth of walking every day.

Unlike the women and girls I’m representing, I haven’t missed out on opportunities to go to school, get an education and a job because of the time spent collecting water every day.

Why I’m doing it

Education is very important to me. I mainly enjoyed school, where I loved learning and I still do. Having access to free eduction opened up a world of opportunities for me to develop a career, work for world-class organisations and now to set up my own business.

Women were a big part of that education. My Mum, my Nana and Grandma actively encouraged and supported me to make the very most of every opportunity that education offered.

I also had some inspirational and memorable teachers. Miss Gaffiney taught me chemistry with an old-school strict discipline, and an depth of knowledge that made science relevant to a girl who liked nothing better than to lose herself in fiction.

Miss Gaffiney also supervised one of my earliest trips abroad and fuelled a lifelong love of travelling, and learning more about the world.

How you can help

I’m asking you to sponsor me so that I can help CARE International provide clean water to communities in the developing world and give women and girls the chance of a better future.

Because it’s not really me you’re supporting, it’s those women and girls. By providing safe, clean drinking water, you help improve health and sanitation, and offer a real chance of a better future through the opportunity of education and work.

So if you can spare a few pennies or pounds, please drop it into my virtual online bucket: www.justgiving.com/walkforcare2017.


The beauty of calligraphy

Calligraphy in a wedding guest book from creative-calligraphy.com
Words are all around us. You and I see thousands of them everyday – on the products we use; in shops, on transport, on street signs, posters, and on the screens we increasingly carry around in our pockets and bags.

How much attention do you pay to them? Do they fade into the mass of background chatter? What does it take for a word, or phrase to stop and make you take notice?

The art of calligraphy

I have a natural affinity with people who share a love for and an appreciation of words, so it was delightful to get to know Angela Reed of Creative Calligraphy when we caught up over a coffee and a chat last week. We had a lot in common, so it was a long chat.

Examples of calligraphy from creative-calligraphy.comAngela makes words look beautiful, by writing them in elegant, sweeping calligraphy. She often works on commissions for weddings or special events, times when words take on special significance.

On her website, Angela tells us that Calligraphy comes from the Greek kallos (beauty) and graphe (writing) and has been used through the ages to herald and record important events.

Weddings, birthdays, celebrations of achievement – these are all times when we are likely to pay more attention to words.

Whether it’s choosing a poem or a reading for a service, or expressing our feelings in a card, there’s a heightened sense of the significance of the words we share. So these occasions offer a perfect setting for Angela’s beautiful writing craft.

Words that make you stop and stare

As a writer, words are my tools, so I do my best to use them with care and consideration. But how many of us go through life consciously thinking about the words we use and hear every day?

Calligraphy nibs and holders from creative-calligraphy.comI increasingly type on a screen or touch a keyboard, but my preference for writing is always to start with a notebook and pen, or pencil.

There’s something about making physical marks on a page that seems to connect with my brain and my heart far more deeply than tapping keys with my finger tips.

My handwriting is often fast and functional, desperately trying to keep up with my brain. But sometimes it’s nice to slow it down and linger over a word or a phrase. To enjoy the movement of ink on paper, trying to capture something as fleeting and ephemeral as a thought.

Angela gave me a lovely gift of some antique nibs and holders. I’m itching to try them out. I’ve signed up to one of her workshops, to learn how to write words that look as stunning as they sound.


Always learning

As a writer and trainer, I’m always keen on learning new things, that I can pass on to the people who come to my writing workshops or just to keep my own interests and knowledge up to date.

Here are a few things I’ve learned recently:

Simple visuals using Adobe Spark

A writer, I think, is someone who pays attention to the worldHypeStar provide training in digital and social media from their base in the North East, and are very generous in sharing some great hints and tips on their blog. That’s where I learned about Adobe Spark – a free tool to create graphics and simple video animations. Check out HypeStar’s simple guide to Adobe Spark and give it a try yourself:


This has been a great way for me to add some visual appeal to some of my Twitter and facebook posts. A professional designer can create something more creative and stand out for your business, but for a quick post, I think this is a great tool.

How to avoid deleting shared files when using Dropbox

I picked up some more tips from technical writer John Espirian, including this reminder about the rules of dropbox sharing.

I’m starting to work with a client using Dropbox at the moment, so this was a very useful and timely reminder.

Contender for word of the year

I love a good discussion about words, so I always enjoy seeing what The Writer has to say in their email newsletter. They’re making an early prediction about the word of the year in 2017. 

I also enjoyed hearing how paying attention to language helped turn customer experience from bad to good for games company EA on their podcast. You can listen to it on iTunes and on everything else.

The black hole of Calcutta was a real place

Finally, Lucy Worsley always does a great job of engaging me with stories from history. I’ve really enjoyed the series of British History’s Biggest Fibs, and this week I learned about the origin of the phrase ‘the black hole of Calcutta’. Watch it again on BBC iPlayer.

I really appreciate it when people share their interests and knowledge and add to mine. Is there anything you’d like to know more about in the realms of copywriting and business writing?


Why use a copywriter for your business?

Most of us can write. Most of us can explain our business, what we do, what we offer, what’s brilliant about it. So why would you hire a copywriter, like me, to write for your business?

Knowledge and experience

Do you need a business website, an advert, a blog post, a flyer, a report, a bid document, a video, a case-study, a speech, or some social media posts?

microphoneA copywriter knows what style of writing works best for different media.

For example, my first job was working with BBC Radio, so I understand the difference between writing things that will be spoken, and things that will be read.

I  can adapt my writing style for print from a detailed business report to a snappy postcard or flyer. I can write SEO friendly content that helps customers find your website, product or service in the vast world of the internet.

A fresh perspective

You’re the expert in your business. But sometimes it’s possible to get a little too close to be able to see things clearly.

spanner, hammer, nail and screwDo you talk the language of your customers? Are you trying to sell a drop-forged, chrome-coated,open-ended spanner, when your customer is looking for a tool to loosen off a nut?

A copywriter will ask questions, find out about you and your business and get to know your customers too.

As a writer, I can explain things clearly, and write about your business in a way that your customers understand and engage with.

Stand out from the crowd

How many other businesses do something similar to yours? How do you attract attention, and make yours the company that customers choose?

A copywriter can help generate creative ideas, and approaches as well as choosing specific words and phrases that can set you apart from the rest.

Quality focus

glasses and notebookHow often do you find yourself in the middle of something, when your phone rings, or someone asks you a question, or an email pops up to distract you?

If you ask me to write something for you, I promise you my full attention. I’ll be 100% focused on writing quality words for your business, with no spelling or grammar howlers.

I’m used to working to deadlines, and getting to know a subject quickly, so whether you need some attention grabbing words in the next month, week or even day, then there’s a good chance I can help you.

Get it done

Hiring a freelance copywriter means you can have writing when you need it, not just when you can get round to it.

Sometimes you know what you want to say, but scribbling it down or typing it out just isn’t your priority. So that blog post, brochure, or website update never sees the light of day and never drives any customers your way.

A quick conversation with a copywriter will set that right. A professional will be able to write it more quickly than you can.

Lee and Beth at The Christmas Farm are really busy growing organic fruit and vegetables and looking after the animals that provide the meat and produce for their organic box scheme. They love sharing recipes and ideas for eating seasonal and local food with their customers, but don’t always have time. I help them out by writing newsletters and adding blog posts and recipes to their website.

Trust an expert

Working with a copywriter is just like working with any other professional who can help your business. It’s a bit like working with an accountant. While you could do the sums and spreadheets yourself, isn’t it reassuring to know there’s someone who understands all the ins and outs of tax and finances; someone who can save you a lot of hassle and money?

A copywriter, like me, can do that. I understand the rules and tricks of writing. I can advise you on the best approach. And I can write for your business, leaving you to focus on the nuts and bolts, or hammers and spanners.


Who is the star of your business?

Tyneside Cinema programme featuring La La Land

I went to see La La Land at the Tyneside cinema this week. And I loved it. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a film that I felt so totally immersed in.

For just over two hours, although physically present in a comfortable cinema seat, my heart and mind were miles away, dancing in the hills above Los Angeles, watching a love story with all its stops and starts, triumphs and mis-steps unfold.  It made me beam and sigh and smile and yes, I cried a bit.

Who is the star of your movie?

Think of your business as a movie. Who is the star? You, or what you do? What makes it different from all the other movies out there? Does it have a better story? A bigger name? More awards? More dinosaurs?

Or is it more like a quirky little art-house film that not every one will have heard about, but those who love it, love it fiercely.

Why marketing is like the movie business

Walt Disney Star on the Hollywood Walk of FameLike a movie, you have to get people to notice your business, to excite interest in what you do.

Do you invest in marketing, logos, posters, billboards, social media campaigns to create a buzz?

Do you connect with influencers, experts, bloggers to spread the word about what you do?

While big stars, like Emma Stone or Ryan Gosling may be well out of your budget, getting endorsements, recommendations and referrals from your customers can be a great way to bring in more.

Reviews and recommendations

What was the first thing I did, as I emerged from two hours in the Hollywood sunshine into the contrast of a chilly winter’s day in Newcastle? I told my friends via social media how much I loved the film.

Now I’m sure La La Land is doing very nicely at the Box Office without my little endorsement. It’s certainly gathering up awards at a grand pace.

But my  post got a reaction. A bigger one than I expected actually.

Some of my friends were excited to see the film. Others had already been and were less impressed. My off-the-cuff comment started a conversation, and I know at least one person said they were going to see it because of my reaction to it.

Word of mouth. Recommendation. Being different. All things that can help your business dance its way to the walk of fame.

If you have a great business with a story to tell, and need someone to write or polish the script, then please get in touch.


Wordstruck 2017 – goals and plans

I believe you can set goals and make plans at any time, and shouldn’t wait until a specific date to set them down. But the start of the year is often a time when people and businesses take stock, and look ahead.

I’ve been doing that myself over the Christmas break, and I thought I’d share some of my goals and plans for my writing and training business with you. Writing down plans and sharing them with other people is one technique for making them stick.

1. Help more businesses tell their story

We all have a story to tell whether we whisper or yellAt Wordstruck, my purpose is to help businesses tell their story through words that attract attention and engage customers.

To help more businesses do that, I need to connect with more of them. At the moment, I’m focusing on raising awareness of who I am and what I do – building the Wordstruck brand.

That means being active as a business on social media platforms including twitter and facebook, joining networking groups, taking part in #northeasthour and attending events like the Mussel Club.

I’m also making use of my personal and professional connections through LinkedIn, contacting people who I’ve worked with in the past and letting them know about my new venture as a freelance writer.

This isn’t about chasing likes and followers, but encouraging real life engagement and conversations. By making connections, I aim to find people and businesses that I can work with, learn from and help in 2017.

2. Expand my writing training and workshops

Writing training workshop table

I love creating and delivering writing workshops. They take a lot of time, and always challenge me, but I learn so much from doing them and get great feedback from people that attend them.

When I was thinking about what to do with my business, I knew that I really wanted to continue doing training and workshops because I know people really get a lot out of them; because I’ve benefited from some amazing writing training and want to give something back.

In my career as a corporate copywriter, I had a captive audience and easy way to publicise sessions that I ran on a monthly basis. As a freelancer, I have a lot more to think about from venues to participants, content and costs. But I find that exciting.

So, rather than retreating behind my keyboard and writing all the time (which I also love doing), I intend to maintain the thrill and the skill of writing training this year.

3. Be a better writer

This is always a given. I have been writing for business for more than 10 years, but there is always something new to learn, or to be inspired by.

This year I aim to be a better writer by making writing my business. That means finding new clients to work with, getting my services and pricing right and seeking feedback that helps me develop what I offer to businesses.

Like many people in marketing, I understand a lot of the theory, but putting it into practice is where I really test my skills. Running my own business is the best way I know to connect with other people who do the same and I’ll be reflecting my personal experience on my blog, and on my business facebook page.

4 Maintain a healthy outlook

Photo of a path through some sand dunesOver the past few years I’ve kept pretty active, enjoying running, cycling, swimming and taking part in triathlons. So I have a good habit for physical health, although there are areas I could improve.

Maintaining a healthy outlook means continuing to make time for those activities as part of my day – making sure that I get up and move around and get out in the fresh air. Walking to my local shops and talking to local business people.

It also means looking after my mental wellbeing too. Accepting that it will take some time to find work and clients; that it’s okay to take a break sometimes. Learning from, but not getting too hung up on analytics about followers and impressions or engagement.

5 Keep my creative jar stocked up

I can find inspiration in almost anything. I once wrote a poem about the cardboard inner of a toilet roll.

Glass jar etched with the words 'Creative juices'I am naturally curious, interested and engaged with the world. I watch and listen to the news, music, read books, see films and theatre, visit art exhibitions, take part in singing workshops!

I generally carry a notebook with me, and use my phone to snap photos or take notes when I don’t.

It is hugely enjoyable to pick up a book I wouldn’t otherwise read; go and see a challenging film at an independent cinema (Oh Tyneside Cinema – how do I love thee!) or take myself off for the day to the Edinburgh Festival.

I’m not going to feel guilty about any of those pursuits. They are part of nurturing my creativity. And we all deserve a little artist’s treat sometime.

I’ll also be encouraging others to make use of their creative muscles, through my work with 26 Characters. Together with my creative collaborator, Sandy Wilkie, we have pitched an idea for a new writing project, which we hope will get the go-ahead very soon. Following on from the success of previous projects including 26 Steps and 26 Under A Northern Sky, I look forward to writing, reading and championing more creative output in 2017.


Writing workshops – my training formula

I run writing training and tone of voice workshops to help business people write communications that connect with their customers.

The tools of my writing workshops - coloured pens and pencils

I don’t know how it happens, but sometimes the act of putting words on a page, or these days, tapping characters onto a screen, makes people sound different. Maybe it’s the thought that this is business, that makes some companies come over all stuffy and formal. You can almost hear the pin-stripe suit and the overly tight collar (even when they’re actually wearing jeans and a T-shirt).

My aim when I run one of these workshops is to help people sound more like themselves. Or at least, more like a living, breathing human being, than a faceless corporate drone.

My training formula

When it comes to writing, or any kind of training, I apply a very simple formula: See one. Do one. Teach one. I’ve used it many times in lots of different types of training and it really works.

See one

Showing someone how to do something, or demonstrating good practice is a great starting point. In my writing training, I might do this by picking out some good, and not so good, examples of writing that I see the businesses using already.

Or I might take some memorable marketing straplines and invite people in my workshop to fill in the missing words.

It’s easy enough to demonstrate good examples, or how things should or can be done. What I help to do with ‘see one’ is to unpick why they are good examples. What works well, what doesn’t work so well, what could be better and so on.

Most people instinctively know, or understand what sounds good when it comes to communications. I can help you understand why that happens and how you can use that to your advantage in your business.

Do one

Writing training workshop table

It’s all very well seeing and being shown how to do something. But the real way to make any kind of training stick is to put it into practice.

That’s why you won’t find me standing at the front of a room giving a lecture when I do my writing training. It’s you who will be doing the work, thinking, scribbling things down, trying out new ways of writing. And I’ll try to make sure you have things to work on well after the session has ended too.

My workshops and training sessions offer a chance to get away from everyday distractions and really think about how you communicate, who your audience are and the language you use. It can be refreshing, eye-opening and illuminating.

While you’re playing games with language and testing out new things in the safe confines of a training session, my aim is always to make what you learn relevant to you and your business.

Teach one

I used to do quite a bit of practical training when I worked at the BBC, showing new reporters how to use digital editing programs, or to use a content management system to publish web pages. That’s when I discovered, that you only really know you’ve understood something when you have to share it with someone else.

Finding new ways to explain something you know well can be a challenge. I’ve learned to adapt to lots of different styles of learning, from those who learn best from seeing or hearing examples, to those who like to get hands on and move around as they take in new information.

In training other people, I’ve often found I have to explain something in a different way, or been challenged to look at something I take for granted from a new angle. It’s a big confidence boost for me to see and hear people I’ve trained passing on what they’ve learned to others.

When training gets tricky

I have had workshops when I’ve expected 12 people and only 4 turned up. I had to do some rapid re-planning for group exercises. But I have learned to adapt to almost anything (I think).

When I’ve done training sessions in large corporate environments, I sometimes got the sense that people had been told to come to my workshop, but didn’t really know why they were there.

At times like this I felt like a stand-up comedian in front of a tough crowd. But like the best stand ups, I had belief in my material and kept going, trying to engage with my audience and find a common point of interest that would get them on my side.

Common points of interest would often be ‘things that other people write that make us squirm’, or ‘my boss says I shouldn’t say…’

My favourite training sessions

The best writing training sessions are when people are really engaged and ask questions or challenge points I make.

When someone asks me ‘Why?’ or says “But we have to do it like this…” I know they are taking an interest and I have a great opportunity to make that session really relevant.

Always learning, always improving

All writers are magpies. We steal inspiration, words, phrases and ideas from anywhere and everywhere, then make them our own. I do the same with training courses. I’ve had the benefit of some excellent ones, from Dark Angels26The Writer and Scarlett Abbott, to name just a few.

As well as learning about the subject of the course, I try to take away something that I can apply to my own workshops.

Was there a good ice-breaker? How was the session structured? How was the information presented? And when I can, I’ll pick the brains of other people who do training sessions. They are always very generous.

I’ve learned how to create and run my writing training workshops by watching, listening, thinking and doing; through experience and analysis. I’m always looking for things that I can learn from, so I can improve my skills as a trainer.

What are your top tips for a great training session? How do you prefer to learn?

Need writing training in your business? Want to find out more about the workshops I offer? Please get in touch.


My books of the year 2016

I’ve had a good year for reading, although I’m not always very good about tracking what I’ve read. Between April and October I had a daily weekday commute that gave me 15-20 minutes reading time at both ends of the day, and I relished the time spent with my kindle or paperback.

I do have tsundoko (pile of books waiting to be read), but here are some of the books that made an impression on me in 2016.

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInenery

Pile of books I read in 2016 - The Wolf Wilder, On Starlit Seas, The OutrunI don’t read books just because they’ve won awards, or have become notable in some way. In fact, that’s often reason enough to keep me away from them. But I read the first couple of pages of this in a bookshop and I was hooked. Raw, bold and starkly original, the characters captured me as much as the writing.

An accidental murder sets up characters to rub up against each other, against the backdrop of a poor-at heel Ireland. The desperate frictions create palpable tensions, even as I hoped characters like Ryan, the teenage protagonist, would find a way out. Gritty, sweary and raucous, this felt like keenly observed fiction that read like non fiction, except for the dazzling sparks of beautiful language. A real surprise and my book of the year.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

I almost missed my stop reading this on the metro. Fable, fantasy and metaphor mixed in a post-Arthurian world of knights, dragons and quests. Unreliable narrators travel a dream like land, forgetting and remembering glimpses of the past, disagreeing and arguing over what was, what wasn’t and what was meant.

This reminded me a lot of the dream-like quality of Piers Plowman, or the Pearl poet. It felt very English in its style, and like the mist that covers and obscures much of the land the characters travel through, it seeped into my thoughts waking and dreaming. Beautifully written, it lingered with me long after I finished reading it.

A Short Ride in the Jungle by Antonia Bolingbroke Kent

This book was recommended to me by Paul Hughes, as a good one to read while I was travelling through Laos and Cambodia. Antonia took on the challenge of riding a Cub motorbike along as much of the notorious Ho Chi Minh trail as possible, through Laos, Cambodia and into Vietnam. The tales of her adventures, staying in decrepit hotels and tackling the mud, monsoons and mechanical failures along the way are interspersed with episodes of the area’s history and culture.

It’s a rollercoaster of a read – at times funny, frightening and enlightening. I smiled widely as I read about Antonia arriving in Don Khong in Laos on the day I’d cycled there. As well as being a great travel adventure, this is an engaging and well written read.

On Starlit Seas by Sara Sheridan

Much of my knowledge of history comes from novels, and in Sara Sheridan’s latest I gained a fascinating insight into the world of chocolate trading and travelling by sea in the 1820s.

From the depths of the Brazilian rainforest, to life onboard the Bittersweet, and then polite London society, I was immersed in the rich detail of another time.

Her main character, Maria Graham, is notable, not least because she is based on a real person, but also because she shows independence, determination and intelligence in a man’s world. The real and fictional characters blend seamlessly in this tale of smuggling and treachery. They live on the pages and transport you to another time and place.

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Touchingly lyrical, at times prickly and awkward, this tells the tale of a seemingly unlikely relationship between a girl and her former English teacher. Two lost souls drifting.

I loved this for the depiction of  Tokyo and the almost torturous slowness of their growing closeness and dependency on each other. The ending is heartbreakingly touching.

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

I’m much older than the target market for Young Adult fiction, but I like to dip into it as I think it’s often some of the best writing and story telling around.

I bought Wolf Wilder, because I’d enjoyed Katherine Rundell’s previous book Rooftoppers and because I liked the cover.

Feodora and her mother live in a cottage in the woods somewhere in Russia. They are Wolf Wilders – people who help wolves to learn to be wild again. When they come to the attention of the Russian Army, Feo has no choice but to run with the pack.

This is a fast-paced adventure, with episodes of delicate stillness, when you can almost feel the snow falling all around. With elements of fairy-tale, this deserves to become a classic.

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

I’ve only just finished reading this non-fiction account of a girl’s return to Orkney and recovery from alcohol addiction, and I almost didn’t want it to end. The subject matter sounds bleak, but the book is actually joyous and uplifting, while dealing with tough issues including mental illness and relationship breakdowns.

The scenery, wildlife, people and customs are so wild and vivid, I felt as though I was away on an adventure as I was reading it. Another beautifully written book, I enjoyed its scattering of thoughts and themes, and stopped a few times to drink in a particularly evocative phrase. I love books with a real sense of place and the islands are as much a character in this story as the writer as she examines both her outer and inner space.


What’s your business pitch?

Beccy Owen pop up choir I recently took part in a pop-up choir with the fabulous Beccy Owen. A group of around 50 of us got together upstairs in the Cumberland Arms, learned some festive songs and sang them together outside, all in one afternoon. It was brilliant – I thoroughly recommend it.

As part of the workshop, Beccy, in her wonderful, warm, welcoming and light-hearted manner introduced us to the three different parts of our voice that we use when we sing.

Head, chest and sob

There’s the ‘head voice’. That’s the high one. The one that feels like it’s coming from the space inside your skull somewhere. You can use it to hit the top notes, but it probably feels a bit uncomfortable if you have to use it for a while.

Then there’s the ‘chest voice’. This comes down the scale a bit and feels more like a comfortable place to sing from. It’s pitched like your natural speaking voice.

Finally there’s ‘sob’. Make a ‘huh’ sound, like you’re trying to expel all the air from your body quickly. You feel that low down in your belly, right? That’s the sob. It’s part of your singing voice you can use if you want to hit a low note, or add some emotion.

Those terms are useful when thinking about the tone of voice that businesses use too.

Your business voice

In business the ‘head voice’ is very high level, corporate and instructional. It represents the kinds of things people think they should say, or language that they think makes them sound like they are clever and well informed. For example: “My organisation believes in 21st Century modular projections.”

The problem with this kind of voice is that it’s not always easy to understand. And while you may need to give clear and simple instructions in business, talking in language that goes over most people’s heads can sound both arrogant and patronising. And actually, what’s most likely to happen is that customers stop listening.

Your natural pitch

As with singing, in business, your ‘chest voice’ is really where you want to be most of the time. It’s what you would naturally say, and how you would naturally say it if you were talking to someone in the same room. Unless you are one of those people who naturally talks about “Leveraging synergies to optimise the paramaterisation of our network eco-system.”

If you are one of those people, I’d argue that you actually learned that style of voice somewhere, and it didn’t start off very naturally. And I’d point you towards some very intelligent people who can communicate complicated ideas without talking like that – Brian Cox, David Attenborough and  Chris Hadfield, to name three off the top of my head.

Adding emotion

Then there’s the equivalent of the business ‘sob’ voice. That isn’t necessarily the moment when you strike up the violins and tell your story of overcoming adversity and reaching for the stars (although it could be). Just as in singing, the ‘sob’ voice is about adding a touch of emotion, a personal connection.

Don’t be fooled by the name. In singing, the sob is there in the gospel sound of ”Joy to the world” as much as it is in “My baby done left me…’. It can be cheeky, even a little bit sexy. Think Elvis Presley’s “uh-huh-huh.”

In business it’s about letting the human into your writing. Saying things that matter, not just in terms of profits, but on a personal level. Sharing insights into things that you care about.

It’s the details that make us human, and individual as people and in our businesses. And it’s those details that help our fellow humans, our customers, connect and want to do business with us.

The power of music

Music can stop me in my tracks. Like it did when I heard this busker singing on Northumberland Street this week.

The right words in the right place can do the same for your business. They can catch someone’s attention…convince them that you’re the one for them. Pitch your words right, and let them sing out.



Gift ideas for writers and readers

Are you looking for a gift for someone who is a writer, or someone who loves reading? I love both and I know I’m tricky to buy for. I will always appreciate a book, but the trouble is – which one? My shelves are already overflowing. Here are a few literary themed ideas for the reader or writer in your life:

Literary Listography: My Reading Life in Lists

The perfect gift for anyone who likes to read and remember what they’ve read. This would make a great present for the kind of people who spends hour alphabetising their bookshelves or arranging volumes by colour or size.

This attractively illustrated journal provokes avid readers to think about their reading habits by filling out lists such as favourite authors and special reading spots. I’ve added this to my wish-list.

A beautiful notebook

A beautiful notebook makes a great gift for a writerAs a writer, I always have a notebook handy. Often I have more than one on the go. But there’s something thrilling about opening up a new one and putting pen to paper, particularly if it’s beautiful and luxurious.

Personally, I love a moleskine. These are inspired by the notebooks used by artists and writers such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway, and now come in a range of colours, sizes and formats.

Yes, they are a bit more expensive than a standard reporters pad, but the paper quality ensures a smooth writing experience, even when you’re struggling to put words down on paper.

For something more striking and dramatic, Paperblanks are sure to inspire the writer in anyone. With their beautifully designed hardback covers, they are just waiting to be filled with magic words.

A fun stocking filler

Literary paper dolls book makes a great gift for a writer I spotted these Literary Paper Dolls when I was in Waterstones recently (I was using their wifi connection for work – honestly!).

Add a touch of fun to your writing desk with paper doll versions of famous authors such as Shakespeare, Poe, Austen or Woolf. With plenty of bookish trivia and lively illustrations, these will bring a smile to any writer or reader.

A writing retreat

What could be more precious than giving the writer in your life the time to write? It could be just a weekend away in a little cottage, maybe in a literary location such as the Lake District or beautiful Northumberland. But beware, they may want to disappear with a notebook and pens… without you.

If your writer could do with some encouragement and like-minded company, then I recommend these writing courses:

Dark Angels

Tagged as creative writing for business writers, these courses are actually so much more. Built around a deep understanding and value for the power of words and writing, Dark Angels offers a safe space for personal reflection and time to discover how profound your writing can be. 

With courses from 1 to 5 days in beautiful locations with experienced and sympathetic tutors, I honestly cannot recommend Dark Angels highly enough.


Covering writing as diverse as song writing, drama, and even writing for games, Arvon offers a wide range of writing courses at several different locations around the UK.

With creative exercises and a chance to get feedback and encouragement from published writers, these can be a great way to kick start or re-invigorate your writing.

A classic novel

Penguin classics make a great gift for readersI know I said I wouldn’t include books, but honestly, I don’t know a writer or reader who doesn’t appreciate a book as a gift.

If your reader, or writer is a fan of the classic 18th or 19th Century novel, Penguin Classics have some beautiful hardback editions out now.

The beauty of these is that, even if your reader or writer already has a copy, these cloth or leather bound editions will be ones they will want to cherish.

Accompany a copy with a note, or a quote from the book (but please don’t write in the book itself) for a really thoughtful gift.