Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Suzanne Ruthven - Country Writer's Craft

Book Review: The Country Writer's Craft: Writing for Country, Regional and Rural Publications by Suzanne Ruthven Compass Books Paperback 153 pages £9.99 Author's website: http://suzanneruthvenatignotuspress.blogspot.co.uk/

If like me, you have had an inclination to write for country publications, after reading Suzanne Ruthven's 'A Country Writer's Craft', it's likely you will be more motivated and equipped to do so.

The author provides inventive ideas and tools for getting to grips with all the varied publications, from glossy county lifestyle magazines through to smallholding and farming publications and all between. There are valuable insights into the mind of editors and what they are looking for and tips on how to market research their readership. Also included are professional writing exercises at the end of each chapter.

The chapters have been broken down into the twelve months of the year with monthly related countryside themes. It's important to bear in mind that country, rural and regional publications are seasonally based. This awareness should be balanced with a focus on originality. For example, writing about the month of March is not simply about the arrival of lambs and spring flowers. If you come up with an idea, think again, - and again, as the chances are many other people will have thought of a similar idea.

Examples of articles already published are provided, spanning from the nostalgia of countryside memories, bringing in the hay, the welcoming focal point of the country kitchen table, to muddy lanes in the winter months. We are advised to 'bridge' these topics with current events and themes to make them marketable. Humour, science, conservation, traditional country recipes, home-based businesses and country-lore are a few of the many slants suggested to interweave into topics to make them more original.

Notably, the author is not afraid to make clear that all aspects of rural life - working the land and making a living from it -  will not be palatable for all publications. Some publications will not feature hunting, shooting and fishing for example, whereas others will.

From this book I take away practical thoughts on exactly which type of publications I can write for and those I won't venture into. Farming technology I will leave to the experts! However, writing about small rural businesses offering homemade produce, or interviewing those who have lived and worked in the countryside, I now feel more prepared to explore.

I appreciated the author's straight-talking tone throughout. The countryside needs to be shown not simply as idyllic but also as a working place for many people and a place to be respected. She has inspired me with examples of rich, creative content within published articles. Also, tools and guidelines to produce good quality pieces, and always to see both sides of a story as a professional writer.

All in all, a well-balanced, informative and creatively stimulating book for a discerning writer keen to write about rural life (whether they are new to it or not). This book comes from an experienced author who clearly knows about country living in all of its varied aspects. This book will stay on my book shelf as a strong reference point for country-related writing. Claudine Deasy

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