Rebecca Blunt: freelance journalist focus

Welsh-based Rebecca Blunt is a freelance journalist who writes for lifestyle and parenting magazines, as well as the Big Issue and camping and caravanning magazines.

FeaturesExec caught up with Rebecca recently to discuss her work, restoring an old camper van and the six wives of Henry VIII.

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
Like many freelances, everything and anything! After seven years chasing hard news as a staffer, it’s nice to now cover the kinds of issues I’d want to read about – women’s interest, lifestyle, parenting, travel and inspiring real life stories.

Where are we likely to see your work?
MSN Life & Style, Metro (Cardiff Life) and parenting magazines, mainly. I’ve also written for Glamour, My Weekly, Ladies First, the Daily Express, the Big Issue, Able and a number of camping and caravanning magazines.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
I’ve been inside No.10 and met Michael Martin, so it was very interesting to see the recent furore around his expense claims stance. And I once took a call from soap actress Jennie MacAlpine while I was in the bath (long story). But I’m most interested in everyday people doing inspirational things. Recently I interviewed Mouth and Foot Painting Artists member Keith Jansz, who is paralysed from the shoulders down, about his experiences skiing in Sweden. He was humorous and upbeat, and the paintings he produced as a result of his trip are stunning.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I’m a big fan of Sarah Waters’ novels, so would love to interview her. I fell across her work by accident about eight years ago, and love the historical detail she evokes to bring people and places to life.

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
Many of my ideas come from real life; from things my small children do or from conversations with friends. A constant stream of press releases is essential as well; to back up ideas already floating around or to spark new ones. I find daily alert sites useful and also rely on the contacts I made as a staffer, in local authorities / charities etc.

How can PRs be useful to you?
Mainly in providing case studies, often at short notice. I’m also always impressed by PRs who take time to find out who I write for, then suggest suitable feature ideas, rather than bombarding me with irrelevant info. Some don’t even realise I’m a freelance! Recently I had a request to include some info in “my” magazine… er, which one would that be, then?

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
If I have not worked with a particular PR previously, a short email is preferable. Once I have built up a good working relationship, I prefer phone calls as the best stories and angles usually come from throwaway, chatty remarks.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
On the whole, useful. Even if a story doesn’t come from it immediately, it usually does down the line. And it’s good to put faces to names and get a feel for what PRs can offer. Working in Wales can be problematic as the industry is so London-centric, but I’m happy to travel to events and meetings where possible as good PRs are essential to my work.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Please stop assuming you’re my new best friend after one email! Kisses at the end of emails and “love from…” – no thanks!

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I picture myself as a creative landscape gardener – although I don’t have particularly green fingers and I’m grumpy in the rain, so working outdoors in Wales could be a problem.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I always seem to need new equipment for work and right now I’m after a “handbag” 7” laptop. The rest would go into our camper van pot – we’re restoring a VW Devon Bay that’s one year older than me and even more worn out. My five and three year olds are newly interested in hard cash, too, so I’m sure they’d get their hands on some of it.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
I’m not sure you can learn from advice; only from your own mistakes. I made some glaring cock-ups as a trainee – but I sure didn’t make them again! That feeling of shame is far more powerful than any glib words of wisdom from others!

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I’m gripped by Tudor history and at the mo I’m reading Antonia Fraser’s Six Wives of Henry VIII, which is fascinating. I’ve just finished The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, a real-life Victorian murder mystery, which was right up my street as I love the suspense novels of Wilkie Collins and Sarah Waters. And I’m always excited to get my hands on the latest copy of Marie Claire and Glamour, although I do find it hard to “switch off” and read glossies for pleasure rather than research!
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