Barbara Fisher is a journalist and writer based in West London. She writes a weekly column for her local paper, Get West London. We had a good discussion about writing at the Winchester Writer’s Festival.
Hello Barbara, thanks for your time. Where are you from?
I was born in Birmingham and grew up there. I trained to be a teacher in the Midlands, married a ‘southerner’ and have lived in West London ever since. Journalism was my second career.
Why do you write?
It’s something I’ve always enjoyed, from creating stories at primary school to writing for school and college magazines, then A-level English. In 2012 I completed an MA in Creative and Professional Writing at Brunel University. Writing can be about expressing yourself or communicating with other people… or both.
Do you have a specific writing style?
My column style is usually relaxed and chatty but can be hard hitting – last week I criticised
Ian Botham for not visiting his father during the last six months of his life.
What books have influenced you the most?
Many and various. Influences include Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwen, Sue Townsend Alan Bennett and Anita Shreve. One of my earliest favourite books was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (before I saw the film) – a wonderful writer. I loved his beautifully drawn main characters and their quests to find brains, courage and a heart appealed to me as a child. His baddies were great too. The ending made me cry when Dorothy said goodbye to her friends and it helped me, as a child, to understand the difficulties of partings from people we love. Recent books to inspire me with their style rather than content have been darker. They include Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Room by Emma Donoghue and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – all great plots.
Books that have been huge influences for their social insight include Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell), To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, Facial Justice by LP Hartley and The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
What are you reading right now?
Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes
What’s your current project about?
I am writing a book called Do You Feel Safe? about the jobs I’ve covered and the people I’ve met during 20 years as a journalist. Tomorrow I’m going to write a piece about a music track that means something to me (Where did Our Love Go? by The Supremes), for The Guardian Family section which invites contributors.
I write a weekly column for our local paper in West London (deadline Thursday). It’s only 400 words, so it’s a good, regular discipline that keeps me on my toes.
What’s the hardest part of writing?
Deadlines! But after having been a slave to them for two decades I’d be lost without them.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Use plain English. Don’t write to impress with flowery words and phrases. Write as if you’re speaking to someone. Make sure you have a good critic to go over your work before you send it anywhere. Mine is my husband. He’s a pedant and immediately spots any errors. He’ll also tell me if he thinks something doesn’t work. I refer to him in my column as ‘Mr F’.
Thanks for your time Barbara and good luck with your writing. If you’d to read more of Barbara’s work check it out here: http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/all-about/bm@il%20barbara%20fisher