Diane Shortland

Freelance Writer

Q&A with Diane

So what’s going on with me right now?
Well, I've just completed an MA in Prof Writing with the University of Falmouth. I came out with a distinction for all my efforts, of which I am very proud of. It was an excellent course that I'd wholeheartedly recommend to anyone thinking about a career in writing. Whilst the Post Graduate Certificiate in Film Journalism I did prior to this (which taught me a lot about reviewing and feature writing whilst simultaneously engaging in one of my pasions in life - the movies) was quite academic based, whereas the MA was very much about developing creativity and learning the skill of actual writing. It had the added advantage of also having a professional contexts basis which gave me further insight into making a real living out of my writing. Over the modules I covered a lot of ground and now feel competent in producing tight clear writing. I also dabbled in fiction and surprised myself by thoroughly enjoying it. In this second year of study I focused on kick starting my travel and tourism experience by creating and running a website on the best places to visit in Norfolk. From this I also acquired a column in a local county magazine. In my spare time I'm writing a memoir on living with the illness ME and am researching a book proposal on independent cinemas in the UK. I’m busy and loving the challenges before me.

How did I become interested in writing?
I actually loved writing as a child and English was my favourite subject at school. I remember my English teacher Rayne Van Linden signing my leaving book with a message something along the lines of ‘I hope to see your name in a by-line one day soon’. I think that has always inspired me. I took a detour at sixth form though and became hooked in the world of psychology. Hedging my bets, I opted to do a Combined Studies degree in Psychology and English. After graduating I worked in Neurological Rehabilitation for a while as an Assistant Clinical Psychologist which I loved despite the very long hours and colossal amount of stress involved. I then became very unwell with ME and lost the best part of a decade to the illness. But during these debilitating years, I at least had chance to take stock of my life and discover what was important to me in my work and leisure time. I began writing again. I wrote about my illness: the frustrations, the hopes, the psychological observations of my behaviour of trying to cope, and fellow sufferers liked it. This spurred me on and I’m now determined to carve out a career for myself as a freelance writer.

What influences my writing?
Life. My past struggles; my happy childhood. My illness. My desire to reach others through words. My observations of the world around me. People, friends and relationships. Leisure. Nature. Sharing the world and beautiful places I discover, with others. The desire to learn new knowledge and try new things. My sense of humour and outlook on life.

What inspires me to write?
All of the above, but what actually makes me sit down and put pen to paper is, well deadlines obviously, but mania. I’m a little unhinged some would say. I get the ‘calling’. An idea comes to me from nowhere and controls my every conscious waking move, even appears in my dreams, until I can think of nothing else and have to act upon it. It might be an idea for an article, or a need to investigate a new interest, or something I simply have to experience and document in some way. What can I say? I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. If I’m going to do something, I’ll do it full steam ahead until it’s finished to the best of my ability, and everything else has to wait.

Who has inspired me to write?
I’d say the single most influential author in my life is without a doubt Bill Bryson. I love his prose. Regardless of whether he is writing about his travels, observations or even Shakespeare, his style is an effortless joy to read and always hugely entertaining. The dry wit in his writing and ease of natural speaking voice is something that greatly influences my preferred writing style and I can only aspire to create the same panache on paper that he achieves.

As for where I'd like to be in 5 years time and what I'd like to achieve?
My dream is to be living right by the coast, with my study looking out over the ocean. I want to be a successful freelance writer with many varied publications under my belt, recognised as a good writer of many genres – memoir, opinion, well being, reviews, features and travel, especially travel. I would love to have had at least one book published and commissions for others under way. Think big and achieve big! Everyone has to start somewhere, and I begin with this website, my blogs, my studies and my drive to succeed.

Thank you for reading the serious side of me!