Meet a member: Sarah Farley

– Interview by Sophie Gordon

This month, seasoned 26er Sarah shares her project highlights, what she’s working on at the moment, and why she reckons there’s always a story if you know how to look.

Tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from and what do you do?

I was born in Sydney, Australia and grew up in Hull, UK. After I left school, I did various things from retail, banking and telecoms to managing a chain of UK campsites before running a scuba diving business in the Caribbean. Good communication is the foundation of all successful businesses, and I realised that writing was the part of my work I loved most. So I moved back to the UK, did a Professional Writing MA at Falmouth University, and found my calling as a brand writer, which is what I’ve been doing for the last 13 years.

Where did your love of words come from?

My family. We’re all big readers and made good use of the library when I was a kid. When I was 12 my mum gave me my first thesaurus. The spine is cracked, the edges of the pages have turned to the colour of tea, but my mum’s handwritten advice on the first page still holds true: “Here is a wealth of words. Use them wisely and try not to waste them.”

What made you join 26? And how long have you been a member?

I’ve been involved since 2009 when Tom Scott, my tutor at Falmouth University, told me it’d be a great way to meet other writers. He was right!

Have you been involved in any 26 projects?

I’ve edited fabulous writers on projects like Throwaway Lines, collaborated with artists and designers on 26 Words and 26 Designs, and during my three-year stint on the management board I helped organise events like Wordstock.

One of the most rewarding projects was when I paired my role at 26 with my mentorship role at the Ministry of Stories as part of 26 Treasures of Childhood. I helped run a series of workshops with children who were paired with objects and asked to write sestudes about them. Their work was displayed alongside that of grown-up 26ers at the Young V&A’s Modern British Childhood exhibition in 2013.

At the moment I’m working on two projects for the Bloomsbury Festival. One’s a creative collaboration with my artist friend, M.E. Ster-Molner for 26 Inspirations. The other is a sestude for 26 Orphans, in partnership with the Foundling Museum.

What’s your ideal scenario for writing? (A coffee shop? Quiet retreat? With or without music? What do you do to get yourself in the right frame of mind?)

Excellent question! If you’d asked me ten years ago, I’d have said I need to be somewhere quiet. And while I still prefer to write in silence, these days I can easily do it in the middle of a buzzing creative studio, at home to a backdrop of sirens (Shoreditch is loud), sitting next to a client in their office, or outdoors in the park. You have to be able to get the job done no matter the distractions – and that takes practice, experience and patience. But the thing I do the most is walk. I think better when I move.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m helping a travel brand figure out their new tagline, and helping a charity find their voice and tell their story.

I’ve also started a fortnightly newsletter called The Writer’s Walk, which is all about the places where walking and writing meet. In each edition, I share an approach to walking and how it can inspire your writing. Everyone is welcome to walk – and write – with me as I explore it.

Could you tell us about a piece of writing you’re particularly proud of?

The most recent was the poem and essay I wrote for 26 Habitats – a collaboration with The Wildlife Trusts. I was asked to write about saltmarsh, a habitat I knew nothing about. But after meeting the team at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve I began to discover the fascinating stories hidden in the unassuming places between the land and the sea. I also got the chance to read my piece during an event at the nature reserve and at the 26 Archives event at Falmouth University. They were both special experiences as I rarely read my work or give talks.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Everywhere. Stories and ideas don’t appear out of nowhere – you have to go and find them. It’s an active experience. I feel a bit sad when I hear people say that they don’t find a brief inspiring. It just means you need to look a little deeper or turn it around and look from a different angle. There’s always a story if you know how to look.

– Interview by Sophie Gordon

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