Creative Careers: Writing
Judith Rita Nanyonga pays homage to London’s creative crowd.
In this segment, she talks to writer, editor and female founder, Felicia Pennant, who has written for the likes of British Vogue alongside launching her own indie magazine, Season Zine, in 2016, fusing her love of fashion and football in an award-winning publication.
J: Let’s start with a little bit of your background. How did get to doing what you do?
F: I studied fashion history and theory at Central Saint Martins, and then did an NCTJ to formalise it. Wanting to be a journalist, I realised for certain roles it always said you needed an NCTJ. Don’t get me wrong, you can get jobs without it, but that kind of training means you learn about reporting, media law… it depends, you can choose different things, but I chose those. You get a training on the different schools that you’re going to need to write.
I do think of myself as creative, but through words, I can’t take pictures, I can’t sew. But when I’m trying to explain or describe or analyse or unpack something through words, I’m trying to find a new angle on why something is interesting.
On the flip side, as my dad always says, he who pays the Piper chooses the tune. So when you write for different publications each place has their own tone of voice, their own house style. You have to adapt to what they want, obviously trying to put your own spin on it, but you do need to fit in.
J: How would you describe Season Zine’s voice and style?
F: Well, the overriding premise is always to counter to the fact that modern football culture is male, pale and sometimes stale.
When it comes to Season, I hate using buzzwords but the goal is always to be non-exclusive. So it should be relatable. People should be able to understand we’re talking about. We always want to bring new points of view, new perspectives, and it needs to feel timely and current up to date.
J: What led to you creating Season?
F: One of the reasons was that I was really creatively unfulfilled in the job I was in at the time. It took me about a year to put together the first issue, just saving up and working around other commitments. The beauty of being an independent is that you have the freedom to try and experiment and if it fails it’s not the end of the world. I’m happy with what we’ve carved here.
J: What’s your favourite kind of piece to work on?
F: I love interviewing people. This year’s been great for that. I’ve interviewed […]. I’ve interviewed […], and Marcus Rashford.
It’s hard if you have a great chat with someone and you have to fit that into a word count. That’s something I would say if you want to write. If someone gives you a word, stick to the word count!
If I’ve given you a word count of 1,000, please do not email with 2,000 – 3,000 words. That’s not what asked for, and think about who’s going to edit it. Am I going to spend my time? Especially if someone is being paid, they need to get to wordcount, and I’ll edit that. Sometimes you have be brutal. You can’t include everything.
J: What tips do you have for aspiring writers who want to get into the field, or those who are struggling to find their way?
F: It’s hard because I definitely go through periods where I have brain fog or writer’s block, whatever you want to call it. What always helps me is reading a lot, basic as it seems. I have a rolling list of pieces to refer to, where I really like how it was written, how it was constructed. You don’t copy, but you acknowledge what is it you like about it, and ask yourself if there is a way to incorporate that element into your style.
You can write a piece about anything, and practice does give you more confidence. Also, being open to constructive criticism. It’s the only way you get better. You don’t have to take all of it on board, but it is worth listening and thinking about what you can change. If someone more experienced than you, who’s been round the block and has their stripes, says something, they’re probably saying it for a reason.
Maybe some people do say things just to be spiteful, but even those people… it’s kind of intriguing to say, ‘okay, they said this, let me test the theory myself’. Is this true? Is this not true? It might flag something that maybe you didn’t consider before. I think it’s worth being open to it, but it’s definitely easier said than done.
Also, things that are a bit creative are completely subjective. What one person likes somebody else might not like, and that’s fine. Just know what your boss likes. That’s the key opinion.
Also, reach out to people you like or admire and ask them for coffees. Read people’s interviews – like this! – these are a resource in themselves and full of hidden gems.