Copywriters on the rack #8: Fiona Thompson
Welcome to Copywriters on the Rack, a journey into the minds of some of the world’s finest wordologists via Painsville. Enjoy…
Who are you and what do you do to pay the bills?
Hello there – I’m Fiona Thompson and I earn a living as a copywriter. To give you an idea of my work, right now I’m writing a donor appeal and web content for the Environmental Investigation Agency, writing an impact report for a charity called #iwill, and writing blogs about dogs for Lintbells, a pet supplement company.
I’m also running online writing training workshops for a couple of clients.
What was your career path to get to where you are now?
Meandering and unplanned, like all the best career paths. After a degree in French from Goldsmiths’ College, I worked as a writer and editor in fashion and textile publishing, then diverted into a business psychology consultancy. I worked as a journalist for a while, writing features for The Guardian, The Times and Esquire, then became a copywriter.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The diversity of work and clients. I’ve written about work behind the scenes at the Paris Opera House, what to do if your dog gets stung by a bee, Pavarotti’s passion for painting, musicians and mental health, and why the forest elephants of West Africa have pink ivory (it’s down to the minerals in their waterholes). It’s endlessly fascinating.
What’s the worst?
Not being able to step into the next office and vent / problem-solve / ask advice. That’s why you need a good network of people around to create your own virtual ‘water cooler’.
How do you fill the gaps when you’re not doing the day job?
Since I was nine years old, I’ve played the harp. So if I have any free time, that’s where you’ll find me. I play with choirs and orchestras (well, I did before Covid stopped play), and can’t wait to get back to playing with the London City Orchestra.
Recently, I’ve been experimenting with the crossover between the harp and writing, and have run online ‘harp and creativity’ workshops where I play the harp and people write along to the music.
Fascinating Fiona, but I didn’t spring clean the dungeon to hear you play the harp; I want to hear you scream, so let’s go rogue:
What’s your first childhood memory?
Putting a worm in a toy pram and taking it out for a walk.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten (besides that worm)?
I’m normally a fan of offal and get very uppity when people bang on about not being able to abide heart or kidneys. But tripe soup in Naples was truly awful. Endless bits of slippery gristly nuggets of doom bobbing around in a volcano hot chilli broth. A friend bought it for me as a treat and I didn’t want to disappoint her so said that I liked it. Thank you for reminding me of that.
Pleasure. What’s your favourite smell?
Earth after rain.
If you’re feeling down in the dumps, what do you need to perk you up again?
A chat with a friend. Or a swim in the sea, if that’s within reach.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A nurse. I had one of those dress-up costumes with the upside-down watch. I think it was the watch that attracted me most. Sadly, in real life, I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to blood.
What would you like to come back as, if there’s a next time? (I’ve already ruled out ‘nurse’)
Well, obviously, you’d want to fly, wouldn’t you? So I’d be a bird. Probably an owl.
Draw me a picture of a pig break dancing (yes I know you’re a writer, but do it anyway).
Nice. What are the top three things on your bucket list?
1. Learn to play the organ, then play Widor’s Toccata extremely loudly in a church – or cathedral, if available.
2. Go back to the Balzac Museum in Paris to find out if I invented the story about him carrying ants around in the head of his walking cane. (Am guessing I did.)
3. Get a back garden. Then get a donkey and a goat to go in the back garden.
What is love?
When I laugh and the dog wags his tail.
Pick a random pic from your camera roll and tell us about it.
This is a picture of some flowers in Bordeaux on a sunny day. It reminds me of when we were allowed to travel and how amazing that was.
Is there anyone you’d like to say thank you to?
I’d like to say thank you to all the copywriters who’ve passed work on to me over the years. I love you all.
Anyone you’d like to say sorry to?
Not in public.
What’s the best film for a soggy Sunday afternoon?
Florence Foster Jenkins.
If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be and what would you do?
I’d step into the life of Alice Coltrane, the harpist and wife of John Coltrane, when she was recording Journey in Satchidananda in 1970. Such a time and such music. I’d love to know what that was like from the inside.
Let’s play word association:
Favourite comic character?
Make up your own question and tell us whatever you want to get off your chest.
Dear reader, it has to be noted that at this point, Fiona tried to duck the question. I turned the big wheelie thing at the end of my rack and she squealed something about ‘ouch, aargh, dunno, aargh, stop it’. Namby pamby Copywriters! So I was forced to make up another question on the spot. The question:
What’s it all about?
I’m going to give this quote: “Continue under all circumstances. Don’t be tossed away. Make positive effort for the good.” – Katagiri Roshi, Zen Master
Brilliant answer. Not exactly yours, but brilliant all the same.
OK, I’ve thought of a question.
I see you don’t describe yourself as an award-winning writer. Why is that?
I don’t like to boast. But I did win a press prize from the International Naturist Federation for an article I wrote on nudist camps.
Ooh crikey. Now then, where would you rather be and why?
I’d love to be in Venice right now, seeing the city quiet and tourist-free, with ducks swimming along in the clear green water of the Grand Canal.
And before I remove the shackles, tell us where we can find you online.
Cheers Fiona. You can stop squealing now.
Fancy more? Here’s Nick Parker spilling his guts.