Student case study - Frances G-P

After a hectic and high-flying career in the pharmaceutical industry, Frances thought that distance-learning seemed the perfect way to revive her lifelong interest in writing.

Living in a small village 20 miles outside Frankfurt, she had already dabbled in writing articles for the local expatriate community but thought the LSJ’s freelance and features writing course would provide the opportunity to hone her skills.

Frances – a busy mum and grandmother who is now 57 – trained as a nurse before moving to Germany 10 years ago with her Swedish husband to take up a job as international product manager for a pharmaceutical company. She later became sales director for Switzerland and the UK, but had always dabbled in writing.

“I am quite creative, I suppose. I wanted to write a novel and thought I would need a better command of language,” she says.

The LSJ appealed to her because of its international reputation and long history – and she spent a year working her way through the 12-part course, successfully finishing it in November 2006.

During that time, she realised her dream of becoming an author when her diet book, The Essential Balance, was published by Troubadour. She has continued to contribute health articles to a local magazine in Germany but at the end of the course felt she needed the experience of working in a real-life magazine environment.

“I wrote to Good Housekeeping because I needed hands-on experience,” she says.

An added bonus of gaining a placement in London was the opportunity to stay with her daughter in Pimlico – three stops away on the Tube.

 “Did I enjoy it? Yes, yes yes – I loved every minute,” she says. “From
the delicious goodies they cook and test in the GHK institute kitchen
to emptying the post bag every morning, they really did throw me into the deep end.”

She worked on the agony aunt requests, transcribed celebrity interviews with Kate Winslet and Marcia Cross (Bree in Desperate Housewives), and conducted an interview of her own with Holidays In The Sun presenter Amanda Lamb.

“For me, starting work at 9.30am and finishing at 5.30pm was a luxury I had never been used to. When I was in full-time employment I started at 8am and often didn't finish until sometimes 10 in the evening, so I was first in last out and used every minute.

“Because I was older, and a nurse, they tended to ask me about having babies and personal things they probably wouldn't discuss with a junior.  
“I loved the chance to go through the papers every morning looking for 'threads' or 'leads' for future stories. With a coffee from Pret's and the papers spread out on my desk, I saw that as sheer bliss.

“Magazines, new product samples and article suggestions just poured in to the features department every day. It was a great lesson in how to look for and compile feature articles.”

Health director Julie Powell proved a mine of information.

“She showed me what she looked for in a pitch and stressed the need for a good 'coverline' to get my pitch noticed. She advised me to practise writing up health articles in a very 'soft' well researched style and try to get away from the medical approach.”

Since returning to Germany, Frances has been asked to act as features editor for the local British club magazine, has written for the website and has even been commissioned to write press releases for a local company.

“My writing has become sharper and more concise, and I’m writing in the active voice,” she says. “The course material was set out well and you knew exactly what you were expected to do.”

In fact, she enjoyed the course so much she has now signed up to take another one – sub-editing and design.

“I have to say the LSJ course was one of the best things I have done in recent years,” she says. “It has brought me so much fun.”


...I received an e-mail from a publisher who is going to publish one of my stories. I must say that it was quite a strange feeling. I still can't really even believe it now.
Rikki P..

...please pass my best wishes to her and let her know that she has been an inspiration to me. ...
Lou M..

...I would like you to know that you have played a phenomenally helpful role in my quest to become a (better) writer..
Janet K..

I am thrilled, and would like to thank you for all of your encouragement and advice, which has been invaluable in getting me this far...
Jane P..