Feature Writing

SBS feature on Antarctica

Screenshot of SBS news piece on sexism in Antarctica by Ruth Dawkins

I was really pleased to have my first piece published with SBS a couple of weeks ago. I’d written a couple of pieces for their lifestyle section – SBS Life – a while back, but never for the news section.

Timed to coincide with International Women’s Day, it was a reported piece about the gendered barriers to conducting Antarctic fieldwork, pegged on a study that was led by researchers at the University of Tasmania.

Even though the word count grew significantly from the initial commission – from 1000 words to 1600 – there was still a huge amount that I was disappointed to leave out. It was fascinating and very inspiring speaking to a number of women who work in Antarctic research – some in humanities and social sciences, others in biology and climate science – and I hope I can do a follow up piece further down the line.

If you’d like to read it, it’s here: SBS News – Even in Antarctica, women are experiencing sexism.

Copywriting, Feature Writing, freelance life

Should you ever write for free?

Caption 'Should you ever write for free' above dollar bill

The question of whether a professional writer – or an aspiring professional writer – should ever write for free is one that comes up regularly in online groups and discussion forums, and it always provokes healthy debate.

One camp says no, never, absolutely not. A writer should never write for free: we should value our time and expertise; by completing work without payment we’re undercutting other writers; and besides, no-one can pay the rent with ‘exposure’.

The opposing camp would say that writers – especially those who are new to the business – need to build their experience and portfolio and writing for free is often a good way to do that.

Ever keen to find a compromise, I find myself sitting somewhat awkwardly between the two camps. Continue reading “Should you ever write for free?”

Feature Writing, freelance life

From brainstorm to byline: the story of a story

washington-post-logo-white

Last Friday, I secured what is undoubtedly my biggest byline to date: The Washington Post. I had an essay published in their Soloish column about being catapulted unexpectedly into the role of Agony Aunt for couples all over the world.

You can read the essay here.

Along with the New York Times, WaPo is probably the ultimate publication for most op-ed and essay writers. It is a well-respected, prestigious newspaper with a huge readership and fantastic editors.

The acceptance email from the Soloish editor Lisa Bonos – which I read on my phone as I was making my son’s school lunch – prompted me to do an actual happy dance around the kitchen.

Was there whooping?

There may have been whooping. Continue reading “From brainstorm to byline: the story of a story”

Copywriting, Feature Writing, freelance life

Freelance Life: One Year On

Ruth Dawkins blog post: Freelance Life One Year On

It’s a year exactly since I launched this website and this phase of my writing career.

Although freelancing has its challenges, barely a day goes past when I don’t take a moment to consider what a privilege it is being paid to put words on a page. I may not be an award-winning novelist or playwright, but 15-year-old me is still pinching herself and feeling very lucky indeed.

The last few months have been my busiest yet. Continue reading “Freelance Life: One Year On”

Copywriting, Feature Writing, freelance life

Mothers Always Write

Mothers Always Write front page image

A very quick blog update from me to share a piece that I’ve had published this week.

Mothers Always Write is one of my favourite sites to visit for beautiful poetry and non-fiction about parenting. I did an essay writing bootcamp with them a few years back which was hugely valuable in terms of the resources they provided for background reading and the one-on-one feedback on a piece of work from one of their editors. It was very reasonably priced too – I’d highly recommend it if they run another in future.

Continue reading “Mothers Always Write”

Copywriting, Feature Writing

6 Tips for Editing Your Own Writing

Ruth Dawkins: 6 Tips for Editing Your Own Writing

One of the biggest differences I’ve found as I’ve started to expand my writing life to include copywriting as well as features is that as a copywriter you need to be your own editor.

Obviously if you want to make a living from writing you always need to submit your most polished work. Regardless of whether you’re sending it to an editor that you have a longstanding relationship with or a brand new corporate client, you don’t want it to come back covered in red pen.

But while an editor will have a lot of experience helping writers shape their work, copywriting clients often don’t – they’re hiring you to get the words right – so you need to develop the ability to cast an editor’s keen eye over your own work.

There are a few tricks and tips that I use to help with this, and I’m sharing them with you below. Continue reading “6 Tips for Editing Your Own Writing”

Copywriting, Feature Writing, Reading

12 Great Books about Writing

Ruth Dawkins Copywriter Recommends 12 Best Books about writing

If you’ve read previous posts on this blog, or if you follow me online, you’ll know that my two favourite things in the world are reading and writing. So, what do you get when you combine those two interests?

Books about writing!

I thought I’d compile a list of my favourite books about writing so if you’re ever looking for inspiration, or advice on how to hone your craft, you’ll have some options to choose from. Continue reading “12 Great Books about Writing”

Feature Writing

September 2017 Writing News

 

Sunbeams in Hobart Tasmania

This September marked four years since our arrival in Tasmania.

I wrote a post for my DorkyMum blog about some of my thoughts and feelings about that celebration, which also falls around the time of our tenth wedding anniversary. Along with the lighter days and warmer spring weather, there have been lots of reasons to celebrate!

Work-wise September was one of those months that felt very busy with lots of little tasks. I wrote a good few posts for my own website, including recommendations for the best places to read personal essays, a list of useful resources for Australian writers and a lighthearted piece about my obsession with reading. Continue reading “September 2017 Writing News”

Feature Writing

20 Places to Read Great Personal Essays

Ruth Dawkins 20 Places to Read Great Personal Essays

There has been a lot of discussion in writing circles recently about the fate of the personal essay. I say recently, but in fact this is a debate that has been going on for a long time. Virgina Woolf, always ahead of her time, was grumbling about personal essays as long ago as 1905.

Anyway, back in May, Jia Tolentino wrote a piece in the New Yorker arguing that The Personal-Essay Boom is Over (and then, ironically enough, sold a collection of her personal essays to Random House). It spawned many thoughtful and interesting responses, including this feminist defence of the form by New School Professor Susan Shapiro, this wonderful piece about parenting essays by Lauren Apfel at Motherwell, and this piece by Kath Kenny in The Conversation.

If you’ve grown up online, as I have, you will likely have read hundreds, if not thousands of personal essays. It’s true that many of them – the poorly written, exploitative clickbait articles that were the focus of Laura Bennet’s excellent Slate piece back in 2015 – should never have been published.

But it’s also true that a well written personal essay can be a truly beautiful thing. I have a folder on my desktop of saved pieces that I return to again and again: astonishing, illuminating essays about what it means to find your home, to be a mother, to love and laugh and live. Continue reading “20 Places to Read Great Personal Essays”