Janet Hart from Nelson, New Zealand completed the Magazine Journalism Course at NZ Writers’ College in 2012. After 28 years of school teaching, we find out how catching the writing bug has changed her life.
1. What made you decide to start writing?
It sounded like fun! Two years ago, at a September breakfast, I read a piece in the Sunday Star Times about magazine journalism. It set off a spark because by dinner that day I’d decided to ‘do it’ and fling myself into the unknown. Unknown – because even though I’d taught English for twenty eight years, I’d only ever written school reports.
2. What has been the most rewarding aspect of your writing career thus far?
The most rewarding aspect of my writing so far has been the unexpected pleasure of playing with words and ideas and then to have them published. I could hardly contain myself with nervous excitement when my first piece about being Paris-ed out, planning for Paris, was published online on Kiwiboomers.
Since then I’ve been very grateful to the editors of Nelson Marlborough’s lifestyle magazine Wild Tomato, Canterbury’s lifestyle magazine Latitude, the webzine Kiwiboomers and the Weekend edition of the Nelson Mail newspaper for publishing my work and as well the editor of NZ historical journal Memories where a piece is in their publishing pipeline.
3. Have you had moments when you thought you’d rather give up – and what got you through them?
I haven’t had moments when I thought I’d rather give up. Yet!
Having said that, when I receive responses from editors that politely indicate my piece is“not their cup of tea”, I take a very deep breath, dust off the ego and quickly focus on my husband’s words when I told him I was about to launch into magazine journalism:“You’ll have to develop a thick skin, Janet”.
4. What would be your biggest piece of advice for other writers just starting out?
Read, read and read for pleasure – from pots of gold, down to the rubbish. Embark on one of the Writers’ College courses with an open mind, go with the flow and grab every moment and opportunity to write. My tutor Paul Smith once emailed me with, “Dawn starts?!”
5. You did a writing course with NZ Writers’ College. How did that benefit you?
If I hadn’t done the Magazine Journalism Course with the NZ Writers’ College, I’d now be out weeding the garden. Writing like this was all new to me; I had no concept of magazine journalism per se.
The course modules formed the theory and a fantastic framework. And my tutor Paul Smith guided me as I bumbled along its path. He fed me honest words of advice, ideas and attitudes to digest and pulled me back on the track when I shot off into the jungle.
Magazine journalism has opened a whole new world to explore. I love it.