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Zoe Williams Interview

Posted on 17 July 2006. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to Zoe Williams, columnist and feature writer for the Guardian

Tell us all about your writing background- what youíve written, what youíre currently writing

This morning, I wrote something about David Beckham. I covered 1500 words on the first time I read that his left foot defied the laws of physics, and then a sub-editor got back to me and said, apparently, it was his right foot. I was all for just doing a findíníreplace from left to right, but that seemed too cheeky, so I had to sit on it for four hours to pretend I was thinking, and then do a findíníreplace.
In a minute, Iím gonna start a column on the pro-choice meeting thatís happening in the House of Lords in a couple of daysí time. To be honest, I donít think the right to abortion is under any threat in this country, but I do think there are some nasty minded trends occurring in popular culture (mealy-mouthed inferences that itís immoral), and Iím keen to defend the pro-choice position, even if it does make me sound incredibly dated and Eighties.

Other work besides writing; ie. Editing, dramaturgy, tutoring etc

None. I would like to write a novel, but I canít be arsed. I have embarked before on trying to turn a recipe book into a film, but that was just really hard. I realise that these ideas are, still, writing. So I refer back to my original answer, none.

How did you start writing?

People always write, donít they? Everyone grows up writing, writers are just the people who donít stop. Iíll tell you what, as well Ė everywhere you ever go to interview someone, whether itís in a Miss World contest orÖ I donít know, insert something intellectual hereÖ if you spend enough time with people, theyíll say ďI wanted to/ am intending to/ probably might think about &c &c doing some writing.Ē Everybody knows they can do it; I think a gross proportion of them are right, Iím only glad that theyíll never get round to it. Itís not like long-jump, where only a very few people can do it, and the best are obviously the best. Everybody can write, and everybodyís writing is somebody elseís cup of tea. I can only make a living out of it because other people lack the application. Or the ego. Or they are too busy.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

Who are your favourite writers/influences and why?
On this particular day, I have fallen in love with the work of Chris Bachelder, whoís this American guy writing new wave socialist comic fiction. Har Har! Thatíll put you off him. I intend to keep him entirely to myself.

How did you get your first agent/ commission/publication?

I think I was working as a secretary/ assistant at the Evening Standard, and they let me interview the actor James Frayn who, frankly, fed me a load of blarney (ďYou either grow into your dream or you grow out of themĒ ďWork like youíre not getting paid, love like youíve never been hurt, dance like thereís no-one watchingĒ) and made it impossible for me to write a halfway decent piece; it was purely because I only had 300 words to fill that they ran it at all. If Iíd never got another piece, I would have blamed that entirely on him. I would have had to grow out of my dreams, and it would have been all his fault.

What's the worst thing about writing?

Oh, you know, sometimes everything that comes out of your head is just horrible, but youíre in a rush and youíre not a perfectionist at the best of times, so you just send it in, and they come back to you 17 times with changes because they know itís shit but they canít put their finger on why, and 17 times later, itís just as bad as it was in the first place, but itís taken 17 times as long.

And the best?

This sounds awful, but I make myself laugh out loud. When I still worked in an office, the guy sitting next to me said the last person heíd worked with whoíd done that had had a nervous breakdown.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Myrtle at 17:06 on 17 July 2006  Report this post
I also make myself laugh out loud, and am not half as funny. Enjoyed this interview, thanks.


rogernmorris at 20:54 on 17 July 2006  Report this post
I'm a big fan of Zoe Williams' writing. She always makes me laugh. Great to see this interview here.

anisoara at 06:55 on 18 July 2006  Report this post
Very funny, plenty of insights. I really enjoyed this. By the way, you're not the only one you make laugh out loud!


Prospero at 12:44 on 18 July 2006  Report this post
Yo! Good stuff.

If only people could meet the three people who I met who were all aborted and who are actually incredibly loving toward and supportive of the woman who should have been their mother.

Being psychic brings you some great insights.



EmmaD at 15:36 on 18 July 2006  Report this post
Thanks for making me laugh!


Ava at 10:37 on 19 July 2006  Report this post
That was brilliant, very funny woman! She has great backbone!


hilow at 10:02 on 07 September 2023  Report this post

ChelseaLeon at 04:27 on 22 November 2023  Report this post
Zoe Williams' interview was an enlightening and engaging conversation. Her articulate insights and thoughtful responses showcased not only her expertise but also her genuine passion for the subject matter. The interview provided a refreshing perspective, leaving me inspired and informed. Kudos to Zoe for her compelling presence and the interviewer for bringing out the best in her. Thoroughly enjoyed the experience!

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