1) Have you always been a writer/known that you wanted to write? Has there ever been a time when you thought you might give up on words?
I have always enjoyed writing and working words because I realized from an early age that words, particularly those placed in public platforms, can be a powerful way to bring volume to your voice. When I was 17 years old I wrote an opinion piece protesting a decision about a radio station. I mailed it to The Toronto Star, and it was later published.
The experience of seeing it in black and white in the Opinion section of the daily paper gave me a boost of confidence that I think has influenced me to this day. I believed then and believe now that I could not only express my thoughts to do a wide audience, but I could also help tell other people’s stories, too. I continued to interview family members, friends, entertainers and anyone who was willing to share as a way to ensure their words were recorded, documented and put away for writing projects. That then led to a career at CBC Radio and other news outlets where I could funnel my passion for storytelling on radio and television, and allow stories to be seen and heard by national audiences.
When you’ve had a career where words have been such a priority, I don’t think you can ever really give up on them. Although the format may be different – I do less radio pieces now and more communications pieces have increased – the passion for making it clear, getting it right and informing in interesting ways is still there. Once words hook into you, the hold is secure – hard to let go.
2) What’s the most difficult part about freelancing? How do you keep yourself motivated?
While permanent roles are a preference, and would have been the standard option for the generation before me, we know that today’s job market doesn’t make it a reality for many of us. So I roll with the punches and do what I can to make good with what I go for, whether it’s a mix of long term contracts with benefits, or others where I’m asked to consult or offer media workshops for a fee. The challenge is in managing your day-to-day life around these ebbs and flows. It can feel like feast or famine at times and you wonder if it’s possible to manage all that’s asked of you. But I stay motivated by remembering that even if it *feels* like a famine, it often isn’t and a feast will follow and flow soon.
3) Is there a dream project you’d like to take on? What does that look like?
Anyone who knows me know that music is one of many passions of mine. If there was an opportunity to write or work with a national/international music/culture awards show like The Grammys or the Junos, Canada’s 150th Anniversary or The Kennedy Centre Honours, that would be dreamy to me.
When a new opportunity is presented I’m more apt and open to exploring it than dismissing it outright.
4) Freelancing requires that you wear many hats – it’s not quite enough to be “just” a writer or good with words. What other skills have you honed over the years – and is there something you’d like to brush up on for your own personal and professional development?
With many of my career opportunities but particularly through my work in the public sector – as Communications and Community Outreach Consultant with the Toronto District School Board, as Media Relations Manager for the University of Windsor and in the same role with the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am / Parapan Am Games – I have honed skills in strategic communications which has come in very handy through the years.
It is actually critical to have strategy when it comes to communications because with so much social media noise, it’s important to find ways to cut through the clutter to get your message across. For my own professional development, in coming years I plan to learn more about desktop and online publishing since many written materials need to be presented in pretty packages and I would like to learn more about techniques to get that done. As writers, we need to always have an open attitude to learning if we want to be competitive and relevant in today’s job market.
5) Has there ever been a project or assignment that you’ve passed on and regretted it? How did you move on from that?
In the earlier years of my career, a popular musician who knew of my work in media and communications asked me to consider being his agent. His hope was to focus on his art while I would be entrusted with managing the business aspects of his career. At that time, I wasn’t as convinced this was a good move because 1) It was a new idea and career direction I hadn’t ever considered 2) I felt I had more to do in my broadcasting career and I didn’t want to sacrifice that but bigger than that: 3) I wasn’t able then to see the open doors that opportunity that would have afforded me.
That was many years ago and I think at this point, now, when a new opportunity is presented I’m more apt and open to exploring it than dismissing it outright. I take the time to hear it, think on it, sleep on it, weigh against what my capacity and interests are, and then go from there. Openness is the way forward now!