Freelance Focus Interview with Deborah Dooley

This week FeaturesExec caught up with Devon-based freelance journalist Deborah Dooley. She’s an all-rounder, whose work has appeared in women’s monthlies and weeklies.

Here she tells us about press trips, how her career has rubbed off on her son and about bin diving!

What do you write about?
Over the years I’ve written a huge variety of pieces from real life stories, feature articles, features for interiors magazines, first person ‘thinky’ pieces and a lot of health and alternative health features. I’ve also covered parenting subjects and I’ve written on careers and money. I suppose I’m a bit of an all rounder really.

Where are we likely to see your work?
Mostly in weekly and monthly women’s magazines and the features sections of the daily papers. But you might pick up the odd airline magazine and see my byline.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
That would depend on your point of view. I did a feature for the Daily Express fairly recently on the practice of ‘bin diving’ (rescuing perfectly good food from a supermarket skip), and it was mentioned on the Today programme on radio 4 – which was pretty memorable! But personally I think my best piece of work was an article I wrote some years ago for Times 2, about my children. It was memorable mostly because it was written straight from the heart.

What interview or feature would you most like to do?
I can’t really think of one single one – there’s a lot of writing I’d like to do. The trouble is convincing editors that they’d like me to do it! But my dream is to be able to finish my half written novel. Unfortunately, I never seem to have the time and/or energy.

Where do you source ideas for articles?
I have ‘thinking hours’ – where I sit and formulate feature ideas and make notes. But of course I do get some great ideas from PRs. And I eavesdrop in our local pub – you’d be amazed what people talk about over a pint.

How can PRs be useful to you?
With ideas, knowledge and interviewees.

How do you like them to get in touch?
Email or phone – I don’t mind. But if it’s by phone, its nice if they ask me if it’s a good time, because sometimes it’s really not.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
I live in Devon, so getting to any kind of function is a bit of hike. But every time I do manage to get to one, I always think I really must go to more…it’s good to network a bit, and they’re usually such fun. And I love press trips – I’ve been on some fantastic ones. Well organised, great company, excellent food and wine – and I learned a lot too!

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Impossible to answer this one as all PRs are different. My favourites are those who are polite, thoughtful, efficient and scrupulously honest about what they can and can’t offer.

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
Funny you should ask that – I’ve recently launched a retreat business from my home in Devon. Details are on my website It’s going pretty well – and I’ve met some lovely people. I’m hoping that it will eventually allow me to reduce the amount of journalism I do – and finish my novel…

If we gave you £1000 how would you spend it?
I’d buy my eldest son a top of the range laptop. His old one has finally died a death and as a budding journalist, he really needs one. Plus he’s one of my favourite people in the whole world and he deserves the best!

What books are on your bedside table magazines in your bag or blogs on your screen?
I’ve just finished a Jodie Picoult novel, called 19 minutes, which has a splendid twist at the end. And this month’s Good Housekeeping is in my bag. I love GH, because it’s sort of sensible without being boring. I don’t read blogs.
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