Every Story Terrace client is integral to the creation of each book so, then, are their writers. In our Writer Feature posts we put a spotlight on the talented writers who use their unique skills to bring out the stories of other people’s lives in a beautiful and meaningful way. We spoke with Story Terrace writer Judy Brown about her passion for writing and why she’s chosen to use her talent to help other people find their voice.
Judy Brown writes from her home in Derbyshire, and is currently on her third project with Story Terrace. When she’s not writing or looking after the family and assorted animals, you can find her out walking in the Peak District.
Is there a specific moment you realised you wanted to pursue writing professionally? Do you have any memories of discovering your passion for writing when you were young?
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. The first time I wrote a story I was five. It was on bright pink notepaper and all about a mummy cat having kittens. I showed it to my teacher and was cross when she didn’t give it back.
A year or so later I announced to my parents that I was going to make the family fortune by writing a book. This has yet to happen. But I never stopped writing about people or events or ideas, any more than I stopped thinking about them, because writing things down is for me a way to understand them.
What types of writing projects do you look for?
Creating, rewriting or editing most types of non-fiction concerned with people, ideas, places or events. That sounds a fairly broad brief but what I like best is biography: getting to know people and understanding their outlook on life. And after 15 years with Plain Language Commission, turning dense or difficult text into clear readable English is always satisfying and worthwhile. On the other hand, I am not into any form of sales talk or advertising, and I lack the expertise to say anything meaningful about technology or social media.
What do you enjoy most about helping people tell their stories? What makes it important to you?
It’s important to me because it’s important to them.
Everyone has a story. It’s part of what makes them who they are. Sharing your own story in print and pictures is a way to reach out to other people, to say, ‘This is my past, and your past too. See things how I see things and you will understand where we both come from.’
Simply putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper can be a way to make them clear to yourself. Delineating an issue can either help you realise its value or stop it hurting so much.
Some people may be fierce thinkers or forceful talkers but find writing tedious or irksome. Some write fast and fluently but trip up over the conventions of spelling, grammar and punctuation. Some people’s ideas come out in a jumble and need putting together in a clear logical order.
As a writer and editor I can help with all that, and I like being able to do so. Helping them achieve this through Story Terrace is its own reward. I also feel it a great privilege to be allowed this insight into other people’s private lives, and to share their outlook in such depth – much greater depth than an essay or magazine article would give.
If you could choose any person in history to do a Story Terrace project with, who would it be?
Rosemary Sutcliff’s novels of Celtic and Roman Britain fed my lifetime fascination with ancient history. I met her once at her home in Sussex, a small sparky lady in a wheelchair, whose physical difficulties did nothing to hold back her fierce imagination and historical insight. I wish I could have stayed to work with her, exploring the realms where legend and history mingle and people walk out of the past onto the pages of your book. A Story Terrace project would have been only the start…
We wouldn’t underestimate the power of your story and neither should you. Get in touch with the Story Terrace team to learn about how we can help you start creating your own Story Terrace book and read more about our talented writers on the Our Writers page.