The biggest reason of all why you should write for the Croydon Citizen


By - Friday 25th May, 2018

How a community news magazine can change your life


Photo author’s own.

These are inspiring times on the Croydon Citizen, with new production editor Cassie Whittell and long-time contributor Jonny Rose setting out all the reasons why this news magazine is a wonderful thing, both for the communities of Croydon and for the individuals who write for it. Cassie wants to welcome even more new contributors to the team and to make it easier than ever to sign up and write.

As a contributor since I first heard of the Citizen two weeks after it was founded by James Naylor, Tom Black and Rob Mayo in November 2012, and a member of its editorial team since February 2014, I couldn’t agree more. But I go even further. Cassie and Jonny have set out what the Citizen could do for you if you write for it. I can tell you what it’s actually done for one writer – me.

It all began back in… oh but, hold on. “If I was a student returning from university looking to gain some experience for my CV, or looking to build a portfolio of work… I’d write for the Croydon Citizen“, Jonny says. Doesn’t he really mean if I was young? 

Hmmm.

I’m the wrinkly elephant in a room filled with Croydon’s young creatives

Sometimes I’ll admit that it can feel that way. Whilst a high-end anti-ageing foundation is worth every penny that you spend on it, amongst Croydon’s bright-eyed, smooth-skinned young creatives, ‘you should have done this by now’ is the wrinkly elephant in the room – and I am often another. Anyway, aren’t those words true? If you have talent and ambition, surely youth is the time when you do something about it.

It is. But I didn’t. Why?

It’s hard for me to talk about. It still feels as though it was my fault – even though I know that it wasn’t. My difficult childhood built a high wall around me and it took me half of my life to break it down. Nothing, in the end – not the writing prizes that I won when I was at school, not my university with creative opportunities there for the taking – can help you if you’re hurt and frightened and unable to believe in yourself.

But that was then, and this is now. Best of all, the future has not yet been written. Whether or not it’s too late is for you alone to decide, and wisdom does count for something. Youth’s limitless resources of energy and time – like visible biceps and the power to bounce back from a hangover – go unnoticed by those who possess them. It takes an oldie to understand how vital it is to seize each day.

When I first called myself a writer, I felt as though a thunderbolt would strike me down

When James founded the Citizen, I’d already torn up a rather sad, tired life script that never really worked. Every bet was off. I loved the idea of a paper by the people of Croydon. I volunteered to write about anything at all, and was assigned Tom Black as my editor. Tom was great: he didn’t just say “oh, that’s fine” when I sent in my articles. Instead, when I asked, he suggested ways that I could make them better.

“I want to read your work”, says Cassie, “because I love reading other people’s words. I won’t laugh, I won’t criticise. I want to hear your voice, and I want others to hear it, too”. The whole team feels the same way. If you like the idea but feel hesitant, stop worrying and . We’d love to talk to you.

Not A Proper Child.
Image by Mirror Books, used with permission.

By 2015, I wasn’t just writing for the Citizen. I’d been inspired – I blogged, entered short story competitions and joined in at literary festivals. I even sent my work to literary agents and publishers. I changed my social media profile to ‘I am a writer’. I felt as though a thunderbolt would strike me down for daring to do it.

But I knew that my hopeful emails weren’t getting opened. I was ending up on the publishers’ slush heaps. Then a little bit of Croydon magic happened.

In the summer of 2015, a celebrity artist and writer came to give a talk in the town. I decided to interview him for the Citizen. We chatted. Afterwards I sent him a link to the piece that I wrote. A day or so later, he rang me. He asked to read some more of my work. He recommended me to a well-known literary agency. There were days of sleepless, sickening hope. Then the agency signed me. My first book will be published by Mirror Books on 6th September 2018. My second will follow in 2019.

Sometimes what you need is a chance, and the Citizen was mine. It mended my ambition and belief that were broken long ago, and then it led me straight into the path of the person who could help me.

And Jonny really means it when he talks about portfolios of work and building your CV. My role as a Citizen writer and editor also landed me a proper paid job. Now I write and edit for a living. Cassie means it too when she says that “you’ll love writing and want to do it all the time. It gets you like that, it really does”. I had that feeling once, but then I lost it. The Citizen helped me to find it again. It’s the joy of being alive.

This could be your chance too. Everything starts somewhere. We’d love to .

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Writer and editor. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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  • Tom Lickley

    Whilst I share different views to you on much of your articles Liz, they are always of interest and I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment above and the linked articles. I began writing for the Citizen approaching the end of a Master’s degree, and during stints working on the editorial team and the move to print my focus was on the Croydon real estate scene. I can’t emphasise enough how important it’s been being able to point to a portfolio of work on the Citizen, and in a good part thanks to this fine publication I now advise major real estate funds, listed companies and developers on their domestic and international communications; other writers of my era work in journalism now too. Sign up, you will not regret it!

    • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

      Please start writing again for The Citizen if you have the time again, Tom – your pieces on property/urbanism were ace! :)

  • Anne Giles

    I was hopeless at writing at school because my mother expected us to be dumb. My first husband always said that I wouldn’t get anywhere. Once I was free, I trained to teach and wrote a lot. Then blogs for the Advertiser, then the Croydon Guardian, then my own and then the Citizen. Great article, Liz!