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Judy Sumner Interview

Judy Sumner is a freelance feature writer with a particular interest in the arts, theatre, film and food. She is based in Hertfordshire and her work has appeared in regional magazines, business periodicals and local newspapers.

I didnít start writing until I was nearly forty. In fact I only discovered that I could write at all by producing press releases and news stories for a special interest group in Manchester where I lived at the time. Somehow this just lit the spark.

I have no idea how I learned to write features but it seemed that I could, as I had quite a few published in the regional glossies over the next couple of years. In spite of this encouraging start, I was so worried about not being formally trained or belonging to a professional body that I tried to fill in the gaping holes in my experience with some on the job training. I offered my services to a tiny local newspaper and was paid by the printed line. I learnt a lot by doing whatever the paper needed, working to tight deadlines.

After moving to Hertfordshire, the features market was much tougher. I approached a local newspaper group and was able to work as a kind of in-house freelance under a very frightening sub-editor. He was a stickler for standards. From him, mostly through naked fear, I learnt about structure, sub-editing, interviewing and layout while writing for the groupís newspapers and regional business magazines.

The joy of features for me is the sheer variety. In my experience the work is divided roughly half and half between topics I come up with and those an editor suggests. Each piece has its own interest however obscure it seems at first - the challenge is to make it readable.

I think being able to write is innate, like a talent for sport or music, and canít really be taught. You have it or you donít. But, assuming a basic passion for the language and a delight in words, there are things that can be learnt by reading about writing and writers and by grabbing with both hands any opportunities for training and updating.

As editors call the shots in the magazine market Ė from a writerís point of view at least - it is important to know ... sign up to WriteWords to read more

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