Hull Literature Festival - Humber Mouth 2005

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'How To Make Money' Workshop: Lee Karen Stow

1st July 2005

When I heard that the Hull Literature Festival would be running this workshop, held by highly successful freelance journalist Lee Karen Stow, I got very excited and signed up straight away. Getting paid for doing something I enjoyed, without having to possess the necessary journalistic credentials? I was eager to find out more.

So on Saturday 25 June, I found myself sitting at a table facing a group of people, wondering if they felt like I did - slightly apprehensive, and intrigued to see what we would learn. I wondered also if anyone else had the burning question that had been on my mind for a few days now - how exactly should one address Lee Karen Stow? Was she Lee, or Lee Karen? Or should I play safe and stick to Ms Stow?

Lee (so my first guess was correct) began by outlining the purpose of the workshop. Worried that it might have been misinterpreted by aspiring novelists, she visibly relaxed when she realised that nobody had bought the next 'War and Peace' with them for her perusal. We were there, she explained, to find out about freelance writing; how to go about it, how to get paid for it, and how to make a living from it.

Warm, down to earth and eminently likeable, Lee is under no illusions about her achievements, putting it down to a mixture of hard graft and self belief, and, of course, talent. From her start as a features writer on the Hull Daily Mail, over the past decade Lee has achieved her ambition of being a regular contributor to high profile publications such as The Times and Marie Claire, plus many more. She has also written several travel guides.

My fellow workshop attendees made for an interesting and varied group, ranging from the envied few who had reached the giddy heights of being published and actually PAID for it, to those who had though about it - a lot - but who had not had the confidence or know-how to begin.

Over the course of the day, Lee took care to address everyone's needs, covering knowing your market, how to make that all important pitch to your chosen publication, taking rejection in your stride and most importantly, keeping your sense of self belief strong at all times. She stressed that the ride would be a bumpy one, describing how she'd begun surviving on little more than her belief in her abilities, and displaying the rejection letters which she still receives, ranging from official letters to scrawled faxes from editors on a first-name basis. She also gave useful advice on the rights of a freelance journalist, and estimated levels of payment.

Perhaps my only criticism of the day would be that the range of interest and experience was too broad. Two workshops, one at basic and one at intermediate level, might have better sufficed. However, Lee did her best to discuss the main issues, and such was the level of enthusiasm and interest generated, that arrangements were made to meet on a monthly basis, all the better to encourage and advise each other.

I came away from the workshop feeling incredibly inspired, and confident enough that, with lots of hard work and enthusiasm, I too could eventually write and get paid for it. Watch this space...


Workshop: How To Make Money

By Miles Salter

Lee Karen Stow, a local lass from Greatfield, cut her teeth at the Hull Daily Mail before going on to work as a freelance journalist. She’s now been at it for 10 years and her work has appeared in The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Express and many, many more.

This workshop, part of the 2005 Humber Mouth Literature Festival, gave would-be writers a chance to peer into Lee’s world. The workshop was a great taste into freelance work : Lee gave a balanced outline of the pros and cons of freelance work (you never switch off, she assured us), and made it clear that in this world, initiative and ideas count for an awful lot. Lee has been on a terrific journey ; she pointed out that in her first month she earned £30, but now can earn between £1,000 and £4,000 per month. She sold one of her articles 7 times !!!

Her travel writing has taken her round much of the globe, and she told a chuckling audience at Hull Central Library that she has been sent to cover stories in Glasgow because an editor asked where Hull was, and Lee replied “it’s half way between London and Scotland”. She frequently gets trips that are partially paid for by travel companies who are only too glad to see their locations in a national newspaper or magazine. It’s clear Lee has the energy of a toddler who’s been accidentally fed 7 cans of Red Bull. By the end of the day, I was sold. What an inspiring story, and what a great woman. She has blazed a trail down which I have yet to follow. Thanks Lee !!

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