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Becks and the City is now reaching out to an all new audience of pimply teenagers and tech-heads!

The Becks and the City fan page will contain snarky status updates, needful news, freakish and fanciful links, the heads up on recent blog posts, and insight into what makes me tick and ticked off.

Follow at your own risk!

It's the brave new Facebook of Becks and the City. Enjoy.

The Wedding

Married my Mr Big last weekend and flew back tonight from our honeymoon along the gorgeous Great Barrier Reef.

Our wedding, a quiz...

1   The nuptials were held in a
a)   church
b)   five-star hotel
c)   fairyland castle overlooking the sea
correct answer: b

2   The ceremony included readings from
a)   The Avengers comic series
b)   Sex and the City ("Carrie's poem")
c)   The Golden Girls
correct answer: all of the above

3   Doing the chicken dance at the reception, Adam's cute little nanna yelled
a)   "Bless us!"
b)   "Bust a move!"
c)   "Bullshit!"
correct answer: c

4   Our honeymoon was "enhanced" by
a)   all our cameras and phones dying at once when trying to capture the local sites
b)   me hurling non-stop on the boat to the reef
c)   the airport shutting down while we were waiting for our flight home
correct answer: all of the above

5   Adam is
a)   a footballer
b)   a Frenchman
correct answer: c

Interview: Claire Halliday

Claire Halliday's prolific approach to writing has helped her build an enviable portfolio. She took only 15 minutes to write back to me with these incredibly informative interview answers. For more info, check out her web site and blog.

Claire Halliday is a freelance writer and author whose feature articles have appeared in a variety of national and international newspapers and magazines, including The Age, Sunday Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Women's Weekly, Independent on Sunday (UK), Notebook, Marie Claire and GQ, for over a decade. In that time, she has written features on a range of topics, including Geraldine Cox and her Cambodian orphanage, life inside a children’s mental health ward at Melbourne's Austin Hospital, the life of an HIV-positive woman, the swingers’ party scene in Melbourne and many other observations on aspects of Australian sexuality.

Claire has previously published two books, Unsung Heroes and The World At Their Feet – both collections of interviews with important Australians. Her most recent book, Do You Want Sex with That?, is a very personal account of her own attitudes to sex and also explores the place of sex throughout Australian life: from the pervasive sexualisation of advertising and its approach to children, to the more minority pursuits of swinging and porn-films, as well as the rise of the abstinence movement.

She lives in Melbourne with her husband and four children and is currently working on her new book.

1. How did you discover you wanted to be a writer?

I can't remember a moment -- I just always thought I would be. I wrote a lot in primary school and had some great teachers who really praised my compositions, which probably planted the seed of possibility.

I used to write for enjoyment in my spare time -- Lassie-esque stories in which my own dog starred. I was also a voracious reader, growing up on Enid Blyton and followed on to writers like Judy Blume in upper primary age range. The books that really made a mark on me were S E Hinton's novels when I was becoming a teenager. I loved The Outsiders (read it so many times I can't remember...), plus That Was Then, This Is Now, Tex, Rumblefish... Ah, they were great. Have re-read them as I have become an adult and still can see the charm.

I remember being inspired by her writing her first book when she was 17 or something -- and such a big hit. I wanted to do that myself at the time and could still kick myself for allowing myself to be waylaid by other distractions for too many years before returning to it and still trying to chase it (the novel, I mean).

2. In which other fields have you worked? How did you transition into becoming a freelancer?

As I said, I thought I wanted to write. I guess I didn't know where to start. I was a pretty troubled teen for no particular reason and dropped out of high school at 15 before completing year 11. At the time I remember feeling I wanted to write and hating being bogged down in a curriculum that was rigidly forcing kids to do matriculation with a math subject, a science subject, etc. I hated all that and couldn't see past what I perceived at the time as the agony of working at those subjects to power ahead in the subjects I loved (art and English) and so just left.

I wasted a couple of years working a variety of jobs -- sales assistant in a collectable record shop being the best job and working in the meat department and as a checkout chick in a supermarket.

I went back to school for a year 12-level media course that had just started and halfway through got job at Channel 9 in Adelaide as a video operator. At the time I was entertaining the idea of being a film-maker -- something I still think about at times (documentary-making). Channel 9 was a very blokey world for young woman (I was 17) and again I threw my hands in air and left.

I wasted more years on stupid men and different cities and settled in Melbourne in my early 20s. I then went on an overseas trip when I was about 25 and had one of those overseas epiphanies -- the ones where you decide you need to do what you wanted to all along - and started writing fiction for myself. I still wanted to write that novel. I came back to Melbourne and started full-time Associate Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing at local TAFE and also started part-time Grad Diploma in Screenwriting at RMIT at the same time.

Wanted to write short stories for a long time. Wanted to write scripts. Wanted to write documentaries.

3. What were your first goals as a writer? For which publications did you aim to write?

I aimed for the top (in my mind) with The Age/Sunday Age and because I was lucky, determined and incredibly hard-working and prolific... I just stuck there. Some weeks I had multiple stories in the paper. In the first few years I had so many stories on the go for them that I didn't need to target anywhere else.

That came later when I got a bit more clever and realised I had all my freelance eggs in just one basket.

4. What was your first paid (or breakthrough) article? How did it come about?

I never thought I'd do non-fiction articles (brother was journalist with ABC and it had never interested me) but, again, great teacher who saw something in me. I had been encouraged to do the non-fiction class in my second year of the course as a way to earn extra points to finish my course faster. Within a couple of months in class, he had encouraged me to submit the ideas behind some class assignments as pitches to some editors he knew. I had some discussions with the Sunday Herald Sun magazine about one piece and then took my big idea that had been done for class - a profile on a guy who cleaned up crime scenes for a living - to the quite new Sunday Life magazine with the Sunday Age. The mag was, at the time, produced in Melbourne and very different from the more girly, pappy mag it is today.

The story itself, although written about a fair bit since, hadn't been covered in Australian mags or newspapers. I got the idea one night sitting thinking abour death (as I have been known to) and Internet searching things around that topic. I found an article from the US about a woman who cleaned crime scenes, something I had never thought about, and the next day I rang Victoria Police to ask if there was a business who did that service locally. There was.

The Sunday Life editors LOVED the idea for a cover story for the mag and commissioned 3,500 words although they were really dubious about who I was and only had some class assignment plus I think one or two pieces I had published in Australian Women's Forum and a children's magazine (opposite ends, right there!!!) as examples of my stuff to see if I could write. It was all about the idea.

It was my first major commission and I got paid for it but in the end it never ran (my first kill fee!), as a senior editor felt the story was too sad and gory for people to read over their Cornflakes. I found out later, though, the story had been passed around among senior editors and other journos at The Age and I had attracted a fair bit of interest (I still feel it is possibly one of the best things I have written because I was fresh and new and so keen) . So, instantly, people who mattered knew my name and The Sunday Life people were apologetic and felt a bit bad about it all and so put up with me pitching ideas at them left, right and centre until some stuck. I started working for them really regularly (as a freelancer). Mostly my ideas, but as time went on it evolved into them giving me ideas too.

So I am unusual in that I have never studied journalism - don't know all the rules and protocols around it (libel - huh?) and came from a creative writing background. I am also unusual in that I have only ever freelanced as a writer. Never had an office writing job (bar one part-time job that came along later - 2 days per week writing for a start-up Internet women's mag called

5. What is the most enjoyable article you have written?

See above. Enjoyable may be wrong word as I was seeing the aftermath of suicide and murder, but I have not often had that absolute enthusiasm for it again. Also -- same feeling -- writing a story about a children's mental health unit at the Austin Hospital in about 2003 or so, but lots of fun things along the way too, such as hanging out with Jet at the Big Day Out. All sorts...

6. How can a beginner writer compose a winning query letter?

This is not my area of expertise, honestly. I fell into this sideways and so bypassed some of that stuff.

I think keeping it simple is key. It sounds obvious, but check for spelling, punctuation and grammar. You can't sell yourself as a writer if you spell the person's name wrong, use other bad typos, etc. Check and check it again. Introduce yourself in a sentence and briefly give them an idea of what you've done. "I am a freelance writer who has had over 1,000 articles published in a variety of magazines and newspapers, including... blah blah blah..."

Then tell them the idea you have for them now -- short and punchy and engaging. Sign off with your assertion that you would love to write for their publication (name the publication) and that you look forward to their reply.

7. What prompted you to write your first book?

Again - sideways. My first non-fiction book came about after an editor at Lothian Books contacted me through The Age because they had read some of my work and thought that it would be good for me to do a book about significant Australians talking about their lives (Unsung Heroes). I then pitched the second book (The World At Their Feet) containing interviews with successful people under age 30 a couple years later and with my third, again, sideways! Ben Ball, publisher at Penguin, approached me after reading some of my work in The Age and asked if I would write book about Australian's attitudes to sex. I came up with title -- Do You Want Sex With That?.

8. What's your best tip for beginner freelance writers?

Come up with ideas other people don't have. Get access to things other people can't get. You can re-hash other people's ideas too. Things get turned around every few years (a copy of Cosmopolitan from five years ago probably has exactly the same articles in it as the one on the stands this month). Just add a fresh slant and new intereviewees saying same thing. Read, read, READ. See which mags are doing what and come up with ideas that will suit that publication and really suit that readership. Get that right and you're halfway there. There's no sense pitching an idea about jazzing up your sex life with a threesome to Australian Women's Weekly.

Oh, also... for practise when I was doing my course I used to read the major women's mags (Cosmo, Cleo, etc) and really study their "Letter of the Week" winners. Really study them. What type of letter won that Waterman pen each month or that $400 skincare pack?

I set myself writing goals of seeing how many letters of the week I could win. Under my name and the names of various friends who let me use their names and addresses, I won just about every one I entered for about 8 months straight. I had so many Waterman pens I took them all to a pawn shop and made a few hundred dollars! (I should have kept them all but was poor at the time.) It sounds silly but it was so valuable. It showed me that if I wanted to, I could write to formula, simply by figuring out what that formula is. Could I guess what an editor would like? Yes. Every single letter I wrote was published. As I said, I think all, or most, won the prize.

It is what has enabled me to write across so many different titles. My real writing style fits The Sunday Age better, but by reading what is published in other mags (the tone used, the language used, etc), I have written for Notebook, Girlfriend, Cosmo Bride, Women's Weekly, Inside Sport (I hate sport!), The Australian, Sunday Life, Rolling Stone, Australian House and Garden, Bride, Australia Today, Sunday Herald Sun, The Advertiser, Insite (an interior design mag), Marie Claire, GQ, Australian Men's Style, Penthouse, Virgin Blue's Voyeur magazine, etc.

I'm Published!! Cosmopolitan Bride Spring 2010


Knowing my article, "8 Negotiating Tips Every Bride Needs to Know", was slated for the August Cosmopolitan Bride, I started feverishly checking the mag's web site and bugging my newsagency weeks ago. Last Monday, the web site showed the new issue. Never mind I was at work, I shot down and bought it and then bragged to the news-agents, my colleagues and strangers in the elevator about my success.

I carried the magazine around all day like a blankie, reading and re-reading the article. My words. In print. With stylish pictures and funky lettering. A breakout box. I lunched with it and narrowly stopped short of sleeping with it. But I was tempted.

What to do next? Frame it? Put the tear-sheet in some sort of portfolio setup? One thing's for sure -- I won't hush up about it for quite some time!

The Search for Carrie Crafts

Imagine handmade corsages, pink cupcakes and a collection of Carrie-like jewellery... I was searching for instructions for craft projects like these recently to make for my Sex and the City-themed hens' weekend. An extensive Internet search revealed a severe shortage, surprising considering I wouldn't be alone in my huge Carrie craft crush!

I have since found a post on Hostess {with the Mostess} blog, which has some truly delightful party themes and entertaining ideas. The post contains gorgeous free printable labels (shown in the piccy above on cupcakes and napkins). I wish I'd found these in time for my hens' celebrations, but I managed to DIY some cute creations on my own, which I'd like to bring to you in the coming weeks. I think frankie magazine's quirky craftiness has inspired me a little, so I'm going with it!

I'm hoping the projects will be useful for gift ideas, hens' nights/weekends like mine, party decorations or to spread a little SATC love in your life and home. I'm also open to suggestions, so if there's anything you'd like me to try making and then share the instructions, just let me know.

Let's Carrie on crafting together!

Playful Pastimes From "Sex and the City"

Bored with your same old spin class on Mondays and cooking class Thursday nights? Try some hot new hobbies, Sex and the City-style!

Freelance writing is the perfect excuse to trial activities you've been too lazy/self-conscious/afraid to attempt before. You can always trot out the old "I'm a writer -- it's for a story" line as a get-out-of-jail-free card if you mess up. My obsession with road-testing the latest craze means this is ideal for me, both giving me a reason to try new things and a handy source of fresh story ideas. I can think of no better source of inspiration than Sex and the City.

While Carrie and co. aren't the stay-home-and-play-Scrabble types, they have been known to explore the world beyond sex, shoes and shopping. Here's a sampling of their extra-curricular interests...

Yoga: Featured in several episodes, including the one in which Samantha has a crush on her celibate yoga teacher (Season 1, "The Drought").
Psychic Readings: Charlotte wants to know if she'll ever marry (Season 1, "Oh Come All Ye Faithful").
Drag Queen Bingo: Samantha runs into an ex-boyfriend who's now her drag queen alter-ego (Season 2, "Old Dogs, New Dicks").
Tantric Sex Classes: Charlotte convinces the other girls to attend a tantric lesson after a partner falls asleep during the deed (Season 2, "Was It Good For You?").
Horse Riding: Charlotte "gets back on the horse" (literally) after a traumatic riding accident as a child (Season 2, "Ex and the City").
Tap Dancing: Charlotte takes up classes during her divorce from Trey (Season 4, "Change of a Dress").
Flying Trapeze: Carrie trials trapeze for a story she's writing for Vogue (Season 6, "The Catch").
Karaoke: The girls sing "I Am Woman" in the "Sex and the City 2" movie.

I can't tell you the number of tantric lessons I've attended. Just kidding! But some of these I have tried before (helllooooo, horse riding, karaoke and yoga). Some I'm keen to attempt (tap dancing, psychic readings and drag queen bingo). Some scare the crap out of me (flying trapeze and tantric lessons, that'd be you).

For the ones I'd realistically consider, I feel some story ideas coming on...

Can you remember any other SATC hobbies? What would you secretly like to try?

"Cosmopolitan Bride" Query

I wrote this email to Cosmopolitan Bride in December 2009. Exactly two months later I received a reply, requesting samples of my writing. I was then asked to write the article 'on spec' (ie without a guarantee the magazine would accept it if it wasn't up to scratch). Luckily, it was accepted and I was paid $500. The article was published in the Spring edition of the magazine in August 2010 and it was eventually called "8 Negotiating Tips Every Bride Needs to Know".

Anyway, here's the original query email...

Working for Consumer Affairs, I hear countless wedding disaster stories -- vile venues, dress dry-cleaning disasters and lost engagement ring laments. Brides-to-be would acquire money- and sanity-saving tips to avoid these crappily-ever-after wedding scenarios in my article, "Bargainzilla: Negotiating Fabulous Wedding Deals".

The modern Superbride crafts 100 wedding invitations per hour, sources rare Tibetan flowers that bloom every 72 years and leaps tall buildings in a single stiletto-clad bound. Sadly, however, Superbride often doesn't read contracts carefully and negotiate a fairer deal, freebies and a cheaper price. She doesn't know suppliers will agree to these, if asked, to secure her bridal business against competitors. The article would detail real-life stories, contract pitfalls to avoid and negotiation tips I've collected through traversing law school, resolving consumer disputes and in my own bride-to-be shopping experiences.

The article, spanning 1,500 words, would be delivered within two weeks of hearing you are interested.

Kind regards,

Rebecca Doyle

Interview: Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is a freelancer, journalist, editor, facilitator and educator. Her WriteSmart blog offers superb guidance and inspiration to newbie freelancers, including Who Should Freelance Writers Pitch to First: the Chicken or the Egg? and The Perfect Pitch. Here, Pamela offers her wonderful insights on breaking into the freelancing world.

Pamela's freelance articles regularly appear in Medical Observer, Reader's Digest and Health Smart. She has also contributed to other publications including Men's Health, ABC Health and Wellbeing, Good Health and Medicine and Ninemsn Health online.

Pamela has developed expertise in covering medical-political, health and family issues, but still enjoys writing about a diverse range of topics including travel, books, lifestyle and men's and women's issues.
More than just a writer and editor, Pamela is also one of the presenters of the Feature Writing for Magazines and Newspapers course at the Sydney Writers' Centre. She is also a confident public speaker and appears at literary festivals and author events as a facilitator.

1.  How did you discover you wanted to be a writer?

When my English teacher – who had it in for me - said I couldn’t spell even though I always scored top points in spelling tests. I became a journalist just to spite her. No, seriously, believe it or not I discovered my passion one day watching the late 1980s kids show, Wombat. The show ran short documentary-style segments about all sorts of things. One afternoon I was watching a reporter and I loved the idea that this woman got paid to research really cool things and report on them. I applied to study journalism at university, but was accepted for a newspaper cadetship as soon as I finished Grade 12 and so opted for that. Learning on the job, I very quickly discovered that my passion and skill lay in print journalism.

2.  In which other fields have you worked? How did you transition into becoming a freelancer?

Well, I figure you can’t count my teenage years as a Girl Friday at the local radiology practice or as a counter girl at a shopping mall food court. And you certainly can't count the months I spent serving food at a restaurant at the top of Whistler; I was only there to ski. Other than those jobs, I have only ever worked in the media industry. I worked as a news and features journalist in newspapers and on the news wire service, AAP, for 12 years before I began freelancing in 2002. That transition was reasonably easy for me because I already had the journalism skills. Naturally, though, it took a lot of hard work in finding great stories, pitching them to editors and then building those relationships with editors to make that transition a sustainable and profitable one.

3.  What were your first goals as a writer? For which publications did you aim to write?

My first goal as a writer was to get a page one story in a newspaper, which I did many times over during my cadetship. I also wanted to be a war correspondent. Aim high I say! Thankfully, in hindsight, I never made it to war. My other goal was to report for national publications based in Sydney or Melbourne, and that I did achieve, working at the Daily Telegraph and Australian Associated Press.

4.  What was your first paid (or breakthrough) article? How did it come about?

My ‘breakthrough’ piece in 2002 was a three-page spread on the long-term side-effects of the contraceptive pill and HRT. I waded through decades of research and interviewed about eight experts. It was a lot of hard work, but very rewarding. I got this article when a friend of a friend mentioned to the husband of an editor that she knew a freelancer who could help them out! I hadn’t yet quit my job at the Daily Telegraph, so this was the story that enabled me to test the waters and start making contacts before I launched into freelancing full-time.

5.  What is the most enjoyable article you have written?

Impossible to answer, given my 20 years in the business. But my most memorable would have to be the story I wrote about a toddler who almost drowned. Three weeks later he came out of hospital, fully recovered. But, I guess the ones I love the most are those that I personally learn something from. I think almost every health aspect I have ever changed in my life has been the direct result of learning something in a story I have written.

6.  How can a beginner writer compose a winning query letter?

The key to writing a winning pitch to an editor is to be succinct, articulate and professional. You must have done enough research on the article to know that you can pull it off and to know the angle you are going to take and the people you are going to interview. Then, it is just a case of writing a very brief email explaining to the editor the main thrust of the article in a few sentences and then telling them who you will interview and where you will obtain the information.

7.  What’s your best tip for beginner freelance writers?

Be confident and professional. If you don’t feel confident, fake it. Write yourself a little script before you call editors so that you don’t suddenly waffle, mumble and mutter when they take your call. Do your research before you call them. By this I mean research the publication so you know what types of stories they run and research the beginnings of your article so that you can ooze confidence and professionalism when pitching it to them. And always, always, always meet your deadlines.


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