Freelance Journalist Interview with Eve Ahmed
Hi Eve, tell us a bit about your focus in freelancing – what topics do you write about?
When I launched my freelance journalism career back in the day, my goal was to specialise in the newsy, current affairs arena. After all, I’d just finished a stint as a BBC World Service radio newsreader and, as a result, took myself rather seriously. Ten years later, I’ve found myself modelling ‘magic knickers’ and ‘faux dry versus blow-dry’ for the Femail section of the Daily Mail while discussing the pros and cons of puppy ownership and, subsequently, the perils of empty nest syndrome for Essentials magazine. While variety is one of the great joys of freelancing, I’m conscious of the need to counterbalance my love of glam fashion and cute animals with weightier issues, too! In the meantime, my dream job – something starry yet worthy – remains elusive.
You write "hidden stories for readers who enjoy edgy writing” – is it easier to find an outlet and audience for edgy pieces with so many different avenues (digital, blogs, etc.) available, or harder to get such work into mainstream publishing outlets, which can be too ‘safe’ for boundary-pushing?
It was easier to win feature commissions when I started out. Because of budgets being squeezed, the feedback I get from other freelance journalists is that marketing communications have become their bread and butter while the articles they place in papers and magazines are the icing on the cake. Apologies for the mix of metaphors!
That’s certainly been my experience too, which is why I also offer writing support in terms of trends, stimuli, design concepts and research. In fact, I’ve become a so-called ‘slasher’! My portfolio career encompasses freelance journalism/marketing communications/modelling/presenting/voiceover artistry. In the old days, we spoke of jacks of all trades (who had mastery of none) but I believe diversification adds spice to life – as well as paying the bills.
As writers, we’re in danger of being forced to multi-task because outlets are increasingly asking us to write for free. As the need for content grows, those who produce it are somehow meant to live on air. If quantity counts for more than quality, what future does the craft of journalism have?
My other current bugbear is how women are meant to turn invisible once they hit the age of fifty. With the notable exception of the Daily Mail – which has a roster of older female writers – the media landscape is dominated by youth. I’ve become more opinionated, confident and wiser in the ways of the world since turning fifty and I’d love to put those talents to use. So, at the risk of being terribly un-British and pushy, if any editors reading this require a new columnist, I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What usually inspires you to pick up a pen/open your laptop and write something?
I get my ideas from random sources including leaflets picked up in doctors' surgeries, postcards in newsagents’ windows, overheard snippets of conversations on trains and gossip at parties. I’d love to say I placed loads of stories from PRs, but that’d be a fib. Could it be that generalists like me in the lifestyle arena aren't particularly interesting or valuable to PRs? Or perhaps it’s that I rarely have spare time for press conferences, trips, parties and other events. However, It’s so important to get out and meet people when you’re a solo writer stuck in your attic. That’s why doing more networking is one of my New Year’s resolutions.
Do you use social media much in your work, or is it strictly for time away from 'work writing'?
When it comes to tweeting, I’m taking a break. I became obsessed with it last year, found it terribly time-consuming but enthralling, and then suddenly went off it. I found it difficult to sift through so many voices to find genuinely useful information and felt bogged down in mindless chatter. However, it’s great for keeping abreast of trends, as well as gossip, so I'm determined to get tweeting again soon.
What do you like to do in your spare time (other than working on getting back to tweeting)?
In my spare time, I read creative non-fiction. Following my recent stint as a mature student studying for an MA in Creative Writing, I’m now working on a memoir of my mother. She was a seriously pioneering woman, way ahead of her time in her politics and personal life too… rather puts me to shame, actually!
Eve can be found tweeting @zenabeve.