Interview with Marie T Smith
Writer, photographer and the face behind She Wordsmiths
Who are you?
I was born in Manchester in the north-west of England in the 1960s. I come from a family of five, including two brother siblings. There was always music playing. The radio went on at 7 am and stayed on until the TV took over. Is it any wonder there is always a song playing in my head?
I moved to Scotland with my husband over ten years ago. Our home is on the edge of the Cairngorm National Park, a pretty place at any time of the year. Although sitting at 1000 feet above sea level can make for some interesting winters. As for the winds — every day is a washing day provided you have clothes pegs strong enough.
I trained in civil engineering and worked in the wastewater industry until I was around 40 years old. My favourite line always was ‘I work in sewers.’
Now my days are entirely turned over to running three businesses. Writing, furniture upcycling and now a new project, photography. But more about that later.
In our free time, Mister Smith and I make our home with our three labrador retrievers and Maggie, our cat. I am sure she has a little wildcat in her DNA.
Does any of this make me who I am? I am not sure. But I do think all the things we experience in life contribute to our make up for sure.
Why write on Medium?
Okay, there is a bit of a back story to this.
Last year I was working hard on my furniture upcycling business. I said I wouldn’t let any self-made business consume me yet, one year on, it already had. I was working flat out on client commissions. I know it’s a good complaint to have, but I was tired. My joints were sore and I had been dealing with some physical and mental health challenges too. I was kind of falling out of love with painting furniture, you know?
I had run an event and wedding business for almost 13 years before that. When I finally sold up I planned to write. Where had that gone? I had done maybe two pieces of paid work and then nothing.
Or rather nothing until the summer of 2019. Returning from a photography trip to Botswana, I had 7000 images and a LOT of words I wanted — no I needed — to write! I pitched my first article to Wild Planet Photo Magazine and had it snapped up within 24 hours.
That got me thinking. Why had I not pursued my writing?
I contemplated this for a while. My blog was doing fine, but I was mainly speaking to my buddies in an echo chamber. It was like a secret room where nobody else ever came. Don’t get me wrong, those buddies were key to me believing I could write. I wouldn’t be here on this platform now if they hadn’t encouraged me to do more.
Finding Medium was a chance, and a timely, discovery. A friend of a friend and business contact David Hope started to post some of his writing on the platform. We had a chat. He told me about the model so I thought ‘why not, let’s give it a go.’
I wasn’t looking to earn huge amounts. I remember getting giddy when my first 81 cents appeared on a piece. After all, I had been writing for nothing on my blog.
But the greatest thing is the connections I have made here. And genuine friendships. People who want to support others in their endeavours. For sure I think my writing has improved through them. Not least it’s a place you can experiment with different genres too. And that’s great as it doesn’t mess up your website with something out of place in all other respects. Then it just looks like you went off-piste and fell over the edge.
What are your writing interests?
All sorts! I write about all kinds of things.
I don’t have a niche. But I do write for different purposes.
On Medium, I enjoy writing in travel, food, this happened to me, self too — sometimes spattered with humor and satire — most have earned me a top writer at one time or another. Of course, top writer status doesn’t stick around for long unless you keep reproducing in the same topic. But that’s just not me.
My brain is like a pinball machine, the thought ricocheting off every genre before plopping into a hole. Set it going again and it will drop into another subject entirely.
Outside of Medium, I have been published in travel and photography publications. Online and in print. That’s a nice feeling. I still think my images are not going to be award winners — but they do seem to capture the imagination of editors when placed alongside the right storyline.
As for why I write, I guess the underlying feeling is one of accomplishment. Whether it is someone responding to a story here because it made them laugh — or cry. Or a magazine who sees what you have to say as bringing value to its readership. Knowing you are reaching people somewhere, somehow.
Writing is also cathartic. Whether it’s the personal stories I bleed out onto paper from time to time. Or the rant which turns into humor, then makes me laugh at myself. I always feel better for letting those emotions out. Perhaps that tells me something about where I should focus my words. If I don’t feel it, then what is its purpose.
What do you hope to accomplish by writing?
Good question. I am not sure. Is that bad?
I don’t think I have a book inside me. Right now I am copy typing one for my Mum. She has sat on it for thirty years and finally decided to try and get it published, with the help of her techno-savvy daughter. Who knows, it might give me the itch. Then again I might never want to do it ever again.
I do want to leave something of me ‘out there’ though. I just haven’t decided how. Publications and platforms come and go. A website only lasts as long as we keep paying for it to be there. So maybe my legacy will have to be in book form.
Right now I am happy pouring my thoughts out onto a screen. I welcome suggestions though. My wonky childbearing plumbing put paid to children. So how do I send something of myself into the future?
Answers on a postcard.
Can you share a highlight of your life?
In 2016 I embarked on a challenge to walk one million boot steps ending in a 100km trek in the Sahara. I was raising funds for a local Women’s Aid charity plus WaterAid in memory of a good friend who took his own life.
It was an incredible year. It opened my eyes to some things I never understood about myself. My tendency towards people pleasing made me more susceptible to mental health challenges, especially in training. Still, it was an amazing experience. There is no doubt it was tough, mentally and physically. I emerged a much stronger person I think and with a whole heap of special memories, I will carry with me forever.
I wrote a series about it (linked in Do You Write Anywhere Else?). Even now it brings me to tears revisiting it. I created a photo book including extracts for the group I trekked with. They say they still get emotional reading it.
I raised over £4000 for the causes but the legacy it gave to me? That was priceless’
Share a few of your article links with us?
I have to start with my first. This one was written originally on my blog. I had started a session of taking therapy and my inability to have children was something that came out very early. I came home and wrote this. It felt almost like my final acceptance and in some ways a farewell to the child that was never born.
My next was a total surprise to me. I had dabbled a little with humor but without gaining much traction. A writer’s prompt from Susan Brearley Editor in Chief at Muddyum to compile a story beginning ‘Why Can’t We Just…’. It was my first attempt at taking a subject and writing a funny piece around it. To this day it is one of my best performers of all. And my second curation! Woo hoo.
And finally, because I guess we can all relate to feeling like an imposter sometimes. This one is now among my evergreen articles too. It just keeps finding new readers.
The Impostor Behind The Lens
From feeling a fraud to getting published in two top travel and photography magazines
Do you write anywhere else?
You can find my writing on three websites. She Wordsmiths is my main writing blog these days. But I also wrote about the whole One Million Boot Steps (including the blisters and lost toenails) plus a shared space to chart a volunteering experience teaching children in Africa.
Any big plans for 2020?
I want to do more external publication writing. I am working with my hubby building our photography business. A website is on the cards (yummy, more content). I think getting published on this subject and on travel will be valuable, if not essential, to building rapport with our customers.
I have also been asked to be a brand ambassador for a concept which I am super excited about. It’s still in the development phase right now. All I can say is watch this space…
Can you recommend other Medium authors?
I knew you would ask me to do this (she laughs). I will be like one of those Oscar winners who go on and on and one for fear of missing someone out.
It is impossible to focus specifically on one niche, I read so many. I guess there are a few I think other readers might like too.
Kristi Keller is a writer who loves travels and adventure. I aspired to be able to recount adventures as she does. I am now proud to write for her publication Writers On The Run. I promise more travel stories are coming, provided the ‘lurgy’ doesn’t stop me getting to the tigers.
What can I say about Lee Serpa Azevado? The pun meister! He has me in stitches with his clever ability to take any subject and fill it with double entendre. It’s wordplay heaven.
As some will know I have revealed some very personal stories on Medium. James Knight is the only man I know who can take menstruation, menopause and other sensitive topics and find well-placed humor in them! Other topics are available of course.
Remington Write is one of my more recent discoveries. There is no single reason why RW is on my list except they can tell personal stories in a way that holds your attention. It’s like there is a kind of energy there which makes you want to be in the room with her, listening as she tells the tale.
I cannot lie, poetry is not my thing. That’s not saying I never read it. I have even been known to try and write it — tongue in cheek. But Jack Burt’s art is a very different beast. As far as observations go, they are spot on. And subtle too. The best satire is, I guess. I often read several times as I see something different every time I do and go ‘oh yeh! I see what you did there.’ Oh, and they do all their own imagery too!
Mark Kelly has interacted on my musings for almost as long as I can remember. I think what I like about Mark is he reflects on so many topics, with a measured view. Variety is good. And his Grab A Slice publication makes it super easy to go and find something to read depending on your mood. That (and he) inspired me to do the same with a publication of my own. It feels like a well-ordered book store now.
Kim Duke is my go-to when it comes to food. She is a writer for One Table One World. I salivate over some of her recipes. They are often the simplest of ideas. Yummy! Not just a recipe sharer of course — but frankly anything foodie works for me.
And finally Michelle Monet. Now she is one fascinating person! A songwriter and with an interesting tale or twenty to tell about the showbiz industry. Her words seem to fly across the screen. I almost imagine her writing as if her fingers are bashing out notes on a piano.
I hope you enjoy reading some of my suggestions and if I missed anyone, please know it’s not personal.
©Marie T Smith writes for way too many Medium publications. She has already been credited as a top writer in Humor, Food, Travel, Cooking, This Happened To Me and Satire along the way — although the fairies always steal them back. She is also a published writer in Travel Magazines and a keen photographer of wildlife. She Wordsmiths.. is where it all began. She now owns a mini She Wordsmiths.. publication right here on Medium.