Interview: Laura Greaves, Freelance Writer

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I came across the lovely Laura Greaves just a few months ago, when I read her interview with Sarah Ayoub on Sarah's wonderful writer's blog Wordsmith Lane. Laura's inspiring talent and generous nature shined through her words, which prompted me to reach out to her via email; I will be forever grateful to the kind encouragement she gave me in return. Laura is an accomplished writer, editor and journalist, with over 10 years of experience and multiple awards under her belt. She is currently working as a sought-after freelance writer for such publications as Woman's Day, Good Health and Studio Brides; as well as completing studies in screenwriting and posting on her delightful new blog, which you can find at her website, Laura Greaves. Laura's answers to my interview questions were so comprehensive that there is not much more to say - so enjoy! 

Please describe your career trajectory.
I had my first journalism job while I was still at high school in Adelaide: I was a student reporter for News Limited's short-lived South Australian youth newspaper, Y. After finishing high school a year early, I skipped uni and instead landed a three-year journalism cadetship with Adelaide's The Advertiser newspaper. It was such a fantastic grounding in journalism - I covered everything from car crashes and murder trials to sports and business news. I became the paper's first ever dedicated Youth Affairs Reporter and in 2001 was named Australian Young Journalist of the Year for my coverage of young people and youth issues. I also worked as Fashion Editor at the same time! In 2002 I moved to London and worked for Conde Nast magazines, not as a writer but on the production side of things. To be honest, I was awful at it - but it did provide a valuable insight into the 'business end' of putting out a magazine. After that I moved to a major suburban London newspaper as Entertainment Editor, which was a blast - I interviewed some big names, including Jack Nicholson, Reese Witherspoon and Halle Berry... but the real highlight for me was interviewing Matt and Luke Goss from the 80s boy band Bros (my first true loves!) Then I moved to another London paper to launch their entertainment supplement, and also did a load of freelancing for UK magazines and national newspapers including the Daily Mirror. I moved to Sydney in 2007 and briefly worked as a book publicist, then became Deputy Editor of ACP's Slimming & Health magazine. I became Editor a year later, but sadly the magazine closed not long after. That's when I made the leap into full-time freelancing, which I absolutely love.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Without wanting to sound all hoity-toity, writing has always felt like a vocation rather than a career choice for me. I honestly can't recall a time when I wasn't writing and never actually decided to 'become' a writer - it was always just a given. I still have my grade two report card, where my teacher wrote that she thought I'd be suited to a career in journalism (perhaps because I'm so nosy?!). I think that was the first time I understood that it was possible to write stories for a living and from that moment I was set on being a journo. I do remember, in my teens, briefly flirting with the idea of becoming an occupational therapist (!) and my dad telling me not to be so silly - that I was a writer and that's all there was to it! (Thanks dad!)

What is your writing routine?
For whatever reason, I write best in the afternoons so I use the mornings for 'admin' stuff - going running, walking the dog, errands, emails etc - and then chain myself to my desk from about 1pm to 7pm. (Of course, this changes when I have a lot of deadlines!) I also do the odd bit of in-house sub-editing work, so occasionally I may find myself commuting like the rest of the world! At the moment I'm in the process of restructuring the way I work. I'm also studying screenwriting part time and found that juggling my film school workload with my 'proper' work left me feeling a bit creatively adrift. So I'm now trying to condense my freelance work into three days per week so that I can have two days to work on screenplays, novels, paintings... whatever takes my fancy, really! I feel that when you do a creative thing for a living, it can actually suck a lot of the creativity out of it - so it's important to make time to let your imagination loose!

What do you read?
I don't seem to have a lot of time to read proper books these days (unless I'm on holiday!), but I adore biographies of interesting and inspiring people and I've recently been rediscovering some of the all-time classic novels. My absolute favourite books are Anne of Green Gables and Jane Eyre; I read them over and over and discover something new every time. I'm also a total magazine junkie: I love WHO, Real Living and Shop Til You Drop (I'd love my mag list to include some more high-brow titles, but it's just not going to happen!) There's also several blogs I check out daily, including Erica Bartle's Girl With a Satchel and Sarah Ayoub's Wordsmith Lane. Another favourite is my genius interior designer friend Ange's Wicker & Stitch (http://wickerandstitch.blogspot.com) and a whole host of vintage clothing blogs. And of course I have my own blog at www.lauragreaves.com!

Which writer do you most admire and why?
Wow. Great question! I honestly don't think I could choose just one. There are so many fab freelancers in Australia, I wouldn't even know where to begin! In terms of novelists, I think the UK writer Dorothy Koomson (www.dorothykoomson.co.uk) is fantastic - she's a working journalist but somehow finds time to write very readable, incredibly moving stories about love, friendship etc... all those important things. But I would have to say my all-time writing hero is Tina Fey. She's a brilliantly sharp and funny writer and is able to turn her hand to seemingly anything. I kind of want to be her!

What inspires you?
Goodness, where to begin?! In no particular order... sunny days, great TV (every time I watch Mad Men or Love My Way, I'm literally breathless with how amazing the writing is!), my dog, terrible 80s music, stories of triumph against the odds, my go-getting friends, travel, sleep, my lovely husband, running, my frighteningly clever eight-year-old god-daughter, people who live their dreams, New York City.

What do you love about being a writer?
I love that it allows me to meet people whose paths I may otherwise never cross. Recently, for example, I interviewed a Melbourne-based mother of four who is living with depression and serious illness and has to deal with a hell of a lot just to get out of bed every morning. She was so positive and matter-of-fact and inspiring that after our chat I felt like I could do anything. There's no way I would have had the opportunity to meet her had I not been writing a feature on living with mental illness. I love that! And what I particularly love about being a freelance writer and working from home is that it gives me the ability to stop and smell the roses occasionally!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
It may sound obvious but WRITE! So many would-be writers think about writing and talk about writing and set themselves arbitrary deadlines - eg 'I will write a chapter of my novel every month for a year' - but don't actually get down to the business of putting pen to paper. I speak from experience, because I am an all-star procrastinator! But I guarantee that once you sit down and start scribbling - even if you're just writing about what you did yesterday - the words will start to flow and you'll wonder why you ever put it off. There's a writing quote that I love: 'Q: How do I get published? A: Write a great book'. The same can be said of freelance journalism - you'll never see your name in print if you don't just sit down and do it. I think blogging is a great way to start - it gets you in the habit of writing something every day. Force yourself if you have to, but make sure you get those words on that page!

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