Professional writer and press manager

Control Room: Sail Away

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in an amazing project in Bristol, where the city council have started letting out empty spaces for art takeovers. Sail Away betroths the seas of Cornwall to the river of Bristol through art and poetry. Situated in the old control room that operates Redcliffe Bridge, it maps my life: when I lived in Bristol, I lived on this river; in Falmouth I have observed the sea.

With over 100 origami ships sailing the seas of the controls for Redcliffe Bridge, the space is minimally decorated; telling stories of the river.

River stories in Bristol

Poetry and art speaking of the sea

As a professional writer, the idea of the installation was to get people interested and promote reading and literacy. I decided to use some of my poetry about rivers and tales of the sea to decorate the exhibition too.

Poetry featured in the exhibition includes:

Colours

Blue is the colour of the deep sea, of high skies and of cracking ice in Antarctica; a place of bleak austerity where nothing grows and hardly anything lives. Blue overrides everything, blue is nothing, and blue fades into blue when we try to locate the horizon. Blue is the colour of the curling tendrils of smoke that dance from a thousand cigarettes, the colour of body bags and the colour of the dark veins running along the hands that hold you. Blue is the eyes that haunt me.

 

Black is oil pouring from crevices in the ocean, black is the bottom of a mine, the back of a cave and the hollow centre of an eyeball. Black is death and cancer. Black is engulfing, endless and enduring, and like its counterpart, black is at once both empty and full, nothing and ceaseless possibility.

 

Green is the colour of newness, freshness, of jungles and fruit trees and the glowing guardian of springtime. Green glistens on giddy waters and ripples through riparian banks. Green is also duplicitous; it stains rooftops of decaying copper

Voices

I was looking for new ways to talk about old things.

Is that not the job of the poet, like the magician,

as Wordsworth says;

to present ordinary situations about low and rustic life

in familiar language?

But to present them in a way that makes them extraordinary.

We start our journey in Falmouth,

taking us through its stages and ours within and without it.

You can even smell the flocks of florists displays

and see the fragments of shredded love notes

the school-girl trickled from her pockets on the journey home.

Like a modern day Gretel,

whose words clatter like pebbles on the cobbled streets

and whose gingerbread

is the sweet taste of nicotine

inhaled at the bus stop.

 

And feel the acrid blade of urine hit your throat when you walk

beside the old man who sifts the ground

to perpetrate his respiratory problems

with the used ends of anything he can;

menthols,

cigars

and Lambert and Butler.

Liquorice,

and thick papers, thin papers, tobacco from around the world.

 

Breathe the singed skin smell of the tattoo parlour .

Cough now as the tar mix hits the back of your throat and your head

rattles with the pneumatic drill in all its

irregular,

erratic and

irrational

repetition.

 

Listen to the sepulchral organ;

grinding out of tune and into the streets.

Its deadening chords in synch with the relentless

sighing chime

of time

of the bell.

 

Past the secret doorways, favoured by thieves;

each echoing times now changed.

Glimpses between houses;

like picture postcards showing snapshots

of seascapes,

sliding into the sea with its rattling flotilla

gently tugging on the water of one of the deepest natural harbours in the world.

Caustic waves

of vinegar from a thousand fish suppers

under the bunting.

And feel the tiny droplets of rain moisten your cracked and dried lips

as you see the colours lighting the sky

and in the rain and the storm;

the war ships stand grey and cumbersome

while the peace dove roosts on the rooftops

and coo-coos under

the sound of thunder.

 

This is the town where nothing happens.

 

Cornish writer installs ships in Bristol harbour

Overlooking the river, words set sail to the sea

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Professional writer and press manager

The Importance of Being Earnest (In Your Copy)

So since it’s my job to create engaging and readable copy for both myself and clients, does it not display some arrogance to assume I can write good copy and what’s more tell you about it? Maybe. But then it’s not as if I just woke up one day and decided to be a copywriter. Writing is a skill I have honed through years of hard work and practice.

And editing? Editing is a skill I still hone daily. Thankfully my MA taught me the importance of editing, right after my BA taught me to just write until the page has enough on it to motivate you to carry on. At least, that’s how I write. I know this is not the same for everyone.

Anyway, back to the topic in hand: the importance of great copy.

I’ve worked with scores of small businesses, and OK I’m maybe a bit more eagle eyed than some ‘normal’ visitors to your website, but if I see typos, misplaced apostrophes or random capitalisation, I really might go and look elsewhere for my product. It implies a lack of professionalism: not checking things through.

copywriting is an acquired skill

Well crafted copy should invite you to look deeper

For me, though, the spelling and punctuation is merely the tip of an ever approaching iceberg. I love to be entertained. We all do. So if I land on your website, of course I want to see some pictures explaining what you do, but I also need to read about it.

But I don’t just want to read like a manual. I want to hear a story. I want to care enough about the characters, feel connected enough with the vision to actually buy into the ideas of your company.

But for some reason loads of companies still think it’s ok to write boring copy.

For what it’s worth, when I’m writing copy for clients these are the factor I consider, and advise you to do the same.

Make a relevant, snappy headline.

OK, articles about writing always bleat on about this. And I have got it wrong heaps of times myself. So I am definitely qualified to tell you: choose your words carefully! Whether this is the headlines of news items or actual page sections: make it clear what the customer will read.

Be funny.

Don't be afraid to be funny in your copy

When I write for Tasting Britain, I reveal funny facts about my life

Don’t be afraid to make jokes, puns and be funny. It makes people like you and trust you and feel comfortable. Even bad jokes are OK, so long you as you acknowledge that they’re bad. So, more importantly write to potential customers the way you would talk to them.

Just be yourself.

I know this isn’t a dating advice column, and even if it was that is so tired and clichéd, but seriously: just be natural. Speak to potential clients through written words the way you would face to face. Client relationships, after all should be about longevity and trust. Who trusts someone who says ‘utilise’ instead of use just because it sounds bigger? Not me!

Don’t dumb down

That said, don’t dumb down what you’re trying to say either. If it’s appropriate, people can handle technical terms or big words; hopefully using context to help understand. There is definitely no need for pretention – it won’t make you seem any more trustworthy.

Be personal

Address the customer as ‘you’, use personal pronouns like ‘I’ and ‘we’ or even mention names. This all helps engender trust and build relationships, which is your primary goal once you have got people on your website.

For more about how to raise your online profile, please read other blog posts. To have a chat about how I can help you, please call 07729263818 or email me laura[at]palavermaven.co.uk

Avoid blog disasters: top 7 mistakes

Awoken to the terrible news of typhoon Haiyan, I set about immediately contacting my Filipina cousin to check on her family. Thankfully, they are fine. But the plight of millions of other inhabitants of Cebu and its surrounding areas caught my attention. I’m a big fan of Shelter Box – and organisation from Cornwall who provide aid to the many people evacuated from their homes when natural disasters strike.

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