The Secret Lives of Writers – Libby Parker
Libby Parker is a teacher of English, Drama, Media Studies and life lessons, a qualified journalist who loves the arts, and a performer who dreams of an occasion to drop the mic. Libby lives in Adelaide with her husband, two gorgeous step-children and a high maintenance cat. You can find her at The Upside News.
After six years of being a secondary school teacher, I decided it was time to throw in the towel and try to achieve a lifelong goal: become a journalist. I left a permanent teaching job, where I held a position as a faculty coordinator, and I took myself off to university to study a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism.
Teaching’s great fun and I had learned huge amounts from the terrific young people I was lucky enough to work with, but I felt I had achieved all I could, and it was time to take a risk. So, I packed all my teaching resources into the garage and prepared to embark on my new adventure.
I got a casual job at The Advertiser as a telemarketer selling copies of The Australian to people who didn’t really want them, who mostly felt sorry for me because I was so terrible at sales. After I proved to my bosses that I was the worst telemarketer ever to grace the phones, I was transferred to a different department. You see, there’s a thing called ‘wrap time’ in call centres which measures the operator’s time between phone calls. Mine was 65%. That means, I was off the phone more than I was on the phone and therefore very bad for business.
Being a high school teacher who has taught in youth training centres and some of London’s finest comprehensives, the good folks at News Corp thought I’d do well in dispute management. And I did. There is a certain similarity between breaking up playground fights and telling a customer that it was, in fact, he who spelled his wife’s name wrong in the baby’s birth notice, rather than the operator.
Throughout the year it took to complete my degree, I volunteered as a news reader and breakfast radio producer at Radio Adelaide and Fresh 92.7fm, did an internship at ABC 891 and The Advertiser, and scored my own little weekly column in The ‘tiser’s ‘My Week’ lift out and wrote a couple of stories for Education Now. Those were wonderful days, but I had bills to pay, and internships are hardly lucrative so I set about looking for paid journalism work.
There’s so much of that around these days. Writers write for free, or they go into PR, which requires Communications and Marketing experience, which I don’t have (refer to paragraph three for description of my sales prowess). So I went back into my garage, pulled out my moldy teaching resources, wedged my tail firmly between my legs, and went back to school.
Now, I write for very cool street press BSide Magazine as a music journalist, and I wrote for Glam Adelaide for two years interviewing some of the coolest people I could ever have imagined writing about (Kerri-Anne, Tori Amos, RedFoo, and the hot one from Human Nature, just to name a few). For dollars though, I work full time as a senior English and Media Studies teacher at an independent school.
Last year, I started writing stories about people in the community I thought were cool; authors, actors, artists, musicians and families doing great things. I started a website called The Upside News to publish my stories. The website has now grown, and I manage that, as well as my contributions to BSide Magazine, various other writing projects, publicity clients, and a cabaret act with my husband (but that’s another story).
It’s hard, teaching full time and moonlighting (full time) as a journalist, but my heart aches when I’m not writing. I need it and I love it. I adore interviewing people, finding out what makes them who they are, and then telling their stories.
One day, I’d like to be paid full-time as a journalist, but I know I have to wait out the uncertainty in the media industry in this current climate, where people are reluctant to pay for online content, and media outlets are shedding staff. Until then, I’ll keep sharing South Aussie stories and teaching students how not to work in a call centre.
The Secret Live of Writers is a series of blog posts from writers (published or unpublished) who dish the dirt on how they juggle life and art. You can read bout the whys and wherefores here.
The Secret Lives of Writers is now available as an ebook
You can now read all 13 guests posts from Volume 1 in the one convenient ebook. It’s out now in the Amazon Kindle Store and in other stores (iBooks, Kobo, Nook etc.) too.
Full of writing inspiration and advice, if you’re a writer, or an aspiring writer, and this book doesn’t get you putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), nothing will!
You can grab your copy from the Delicious Publishing Book Store.