First Person Copy Clinic

I submitted the following first draft of my 1st person piece:

‘Crazy Steve’ thought he’d never walk again but now he surfs every day

Steve Outram

At 63, you might not expect to be surfing let alone two to three times a day. That is exactly what North Devon surfer, Steve Outram, does even though just a few years ago he thought he might never walk again.

“Surfing is my passion, my driving force. It’s been in my life for as long as I can remember. It’s what I live for and can’t live without. To wake up every morning and to be inspired by the ocean. I’m 63 years old and I’m still surfing.

I learnt to surf when I was nine on holiday with my parents in Cornwall and I just loved being in the sea, the thrill of riding a wave. I was immediately hooked. Fifty years later, every day, I am still searching for the perfect wave. Whether it be here, in Saunton, North Devon, or in warmer climes, I still get that same feeling of excitement when I surf today.

Four years ago, my life took a dramatic turn when I suffered a prolapsed disc in my lower back. I couldn’t understand why this had happened to me. I was fit and healthy and I hadn’t done anything unusual to cause it.  Apparently, it’s a small bulge in the disc and can happen to anyone. It effected my right leg and I couldn’t walk. I was in so much pain I thought I’d never walk again.

I was fortunate though and had surgery to remove the disc bulge. It was successful, but it took me two years to get over that. Two years without surfing was like a life sentence to me. I could barely walk let alone stand on a surfboard. What ’s more, the painkillers made me groggy and irritable.

Surfing is not just a sport, it is a lifestyle. My whole life has become subconsciously shaped around surfing.  My mood is influenced by surfing. The only way to recover from this was to keep my passion alive. I decided to start by making my own boards. This meant that I could make exactly what I wanted, the right length and thickness. I had my own personalised board made to measure.

Making that first board gave me the drive and determination to get back out there. I can’t describe the thrill of catching my first wave on the board I had designed and built.

My foot is still partially paralysed, but my injury has made me appreciate life. Now I’ll surf sometimes two or three times a day, even during the winter months when I wear a 5mm wetsuit. I start going out in April without a wetsuit when the sea is quite cold, between 8-10 °c.  I like the freedom you get when not wearing one, I like to feel the water.

I have collected some funny nicknames from fellow surfers and friends over the years. “The Court Jester”, “Wildman Steve” but in Saunton I am known as ‘Crazy Steve’. I guess that comes from the fact that I am still so passionate about surfing at the age of 63 and that I prefer to surf without a wetsuit.

Surfing’s addictive, it just makes you feel good, it gets rid of all the tension. You paddle out and you forget everything because you’re so centred on what you are doing. You can see the sets of waves breaking towards you and your heart starts racing. The adrenaline beginning to pump through your body. I get out of the water feeling like “yes, I’m still doing something!”

People think that when you’re over fifty you haven’t got a life anymore, that’s not true. When you’re younger you just think I will do something later and put it off and put it off. As you get older you think ‘right I’m going to go and do that.’

I would say that surfing is for anyone because as a beginner you can go out in small waves and use a bigger board. It’s not that expensive and it makes you feel good. Surfing definitely keeps you young. Life’s sweet don’t waste a minute!”

Through the feedback from the group discussion the article needs some attention. The story needs to focus more on the circumstances and consequenses of Steve’s accident. The reader needs to know what happened and how exactly this effected Steve. There could be some anecdotes or recollections of scary moments. I tend to focus on Steve’s passion for surfing which is not really the essence of the story.

The article would also benefit from a stronger ending. Although these were his words it sounds a bit lame/ clichéd. I will contact Steve again and try not to get carried away with his surfing enthusiasm focusing more on the details around the accident.



George Orwell Edit

The task was to read and edit George Orwell’s 13 page essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ down to 600 words. Having read the essay several times and highlighted the most important points I condensed it to produce the following piece:

George Orwell “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

The English language is in a bad way. Our society is in decline and our language inevitably suffers. The decline of a language has political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of an individual writer. Modern English, especially written English, is full   of bad habits which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble.

The problems lie in the staleness of imagery and the lack of precision. The four main reasons for this being:

Dying metaphors. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically “dead” (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being   an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness.

Operators or verbal false limbs. These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, a verb becomes a phrase.

Pretentious diction. Words are used to dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements

Meaningless words. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

  1. Could I put it more shortly?
  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

I think the following rules will cover most cases:

  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in   the style now fashionable.

The great enemy of plain language is insincerity. In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics.” All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and  not  for  concealing or preventing thought. The present political chaos is connected with the  decay of language. Political language  is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits .


The edited version I produced does not make much sense as I used the same wording instead of rephrasing the essay into a modern understandable critique. I had highlighted the  important points he is making that are essential to writers but omitted the political comparisons and Orwell’s evaluation of the use of ‘foreign words’.  The essay needs to be rewritten as a more coherent, flowing piece which contains the important points but reads well.

I hadn’t really understood why we were doing this task and took it as a comprehension exercise. The group disusssion that followed made me realise that this was an editing/copywriting task. I now realise that it was an invaluable lesson for future editorial work. The finished example we went through illustrated perfectly what I should have produced.


Year 2- Feature Writing

What is a feature?

A feature is a longer piece of writing than a news story. It is everything that is not a news article. Features come in many different types and are widely used in magazines, newspapers and online.

A feature will often cover an issue in greater depth than a news story would do; or it might look at an ongoing story from a different angle.

News Story v Feature

Infographic explaining differences between news stories and features

An infographic explaining differences between news stories and features

A feature is also thematic, it needs to be shaped around a central theme. It needs to be interesting and finely focused. A feature will have an element of topicality, a Peg which is relevant and up to date e.g. the birth /death of someone famous, book/film launch etc.

Features are not meant to deliver the news first hand. Their function is to humanise, to add colour, to educate, to entertain, to illuminate. They often recap major news previously reported.

Features often:

  • profile people who make the news
  • explain events that move or shape the news
  • analyse what is happening in the world, nation or community
  • teach an audience how to do something
  • suggest better ways to live
  • examine trends
  • entertain

Types of feature

Personality profiles– bring an audience closer to a person in or out of the news. Anyone who’s interesting and newsworthy. Behind-the scenes look, warts and all.

News feature a feature article that focuses on a topic of interest in the news. Tend to focus on the people in the stories. e.g. heart disease in the news would focus on facts and stats whereas in a feature maybe come from individual perspective, their struggles etc.

Spot feature focus on breaking news events. Sidebar to main news focusing on certain aspects of the event.

Human interest stories– shows a subject’s oddity or practical, emotional or entertainment value.

Trend stories– examines people, things or organisations that are having an impact on society. What’s new, fresh and exciting. Light, quick, easy to read, capturing the spirit of whatever new trend is being discussed.

In-depth or Live-In– through extensive research and interviews provide a detailed account of a particular place and associated people…e.g. homeless shelters, camps, hospitals, prisons etc.

Backgrounder/analysis piece adds meaning to current issues in the news by explaining them further. Bring an audience up to date explaining how a country, organisation, person happens to be where it is now.



Evaluation of news story

To find a newsworthy story in a small town like Hornsea is not always easy but the simplest way to go about it is by talking to people. I used to work at the local Tesco which is a great place to find out about what’s happening. There was an advert posted there about the proposed beach clean-ups so I decided to look into it. An ex-colleague directed me to the Facebook page and told me about Tesco’s participation in the project.

The story may not be breaking news headlines but it coincided well with Mark Zuckerberg’s latest announcements of a new mission for Facebook. I think that it highlights the need for positive community support and action. It is a story of local relevance which touches on a global issue.

The story would be published by an East Coast newspaper such as the ‘Bridlington Free Press’ but could also be part of a story on similar events throughout the UK or as an example of the importance of Facebook communities.


Evaluation of council story

In order to find material for my council story I visited the Hornsea Town Council web page. As well as providing information on local events and attractions it is an invaluable source to discover future plans and proposals.

The redevelopment of the seafront in Hornsea has been a long, on-going, contentious issue so when I saw that this was on the agenda for the April council meeting I was eager to attend. The meeting was somewhat tedious but I got chance to speak to Hornsea Councillor, Barbara Jefferson, about the proposed plans for South Promenade.

I did further research on-line to enable me to write the article. It would be suited for a publication such as the ‘Hull Daily Mail’ or any of the East Coast newspaper publications. Although it is particularly relevant to the residents of Hornsea the story includes reference to a nationwide government incentive which could appeal to a wider audience.

£3.77 million funding secured for Hornsea seafront regeneration.

Artist_s impression of redevelopment plans for Hornsea South Promenade
Artist’s impression of the redevelopment plans for Hornsea South Parade

The Department for Communities and Local Governments (DCLG)  has  awarded £3.77 million of Coast Communities funding towards plans for the regeneration of Hornsea South Promenade.

The money will fund a large part of a £4.6 million project to rejuvenate Hornsea South Promenade, incorporating the expansion of the leisure boat compound, upgrades to car parking and a new all year round café, retail space and visitor hub.

The proposals include improving the available facilities currently used by Hornsea Inshore Rescue, the Hornsea Sea Angling Club and local fisherman. As well as securing the future of the fishing industry in Hornsea the plans make provision for leisure facilities. There will be a safer environment for users and visitors and additional berths for leisure craft will be provided.

Councillor Jane Evison, of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “This is excellent news for the town of Hornsea and demonstrates the council’s commitment to regenerating our coastal communities for the benefit of both residents and visitors.”

She added: “When complete, this scheme will strengthen Hornsea’s reputation as a must-visit tourist destination.”

The plans, which received permission in 2016, were developed alongside the Hornsea Area Regeneration Partnership and the existing users of the site. They were funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and are being finalised.

Earlier this year Hornsea joined a national network of Coastal Community Teams. This is part of a government incentive to revive England’s seaside towns. Over 100 local teams have been set up to help coordinate regeneration projects.

The town received £10,000 to develop funding plans for infrastructure investments and to pilot new events.

The CCT will draw on a broad range of expertise to help develop the plan to improve the offer of Hornsea’s seafront by incorporating sport, play and artistic activities along the promenade and green spaces.

Hornsea joins Withernsea, Goole and Bridlington, who have CCTs.

Councillor Barbara Jefferson, chairman of the Hornsea Area Regeneration Partnership (HARP), said: “The CCT will help develop and deliver key parts of the town’s regeneration efforts and the HARP Board looks forward to working with its volunteers, local businesses and council representatives.

“Hornsea is one of the Holderness Coast’s most vibrant towns and is a great place for residents to live in and for visitors to come and see. The CCT will help deliver on the priorities of local people as well as develop the tourism offer.”


Community clean-up campaign to rid Hornsea beach of litter.

H Beach litter pick up

People in Hornsea are being invited to take part in a mass community clean-up of the town’s beaches this summer.

The popular beach spot is a favourite for tourists and residents, particularly in the summer months. But with the increase in visitor numbers there is also an increase in the quantity of litter being left strewn on the beach.

A group of residents are planning to tackle the issue head-on, with organised cleans-ups to take place on Sunday July 16th and Wednesday July 25th.

Mum of two Clare Harris, who planned the events, said, “I came to live in Hornsea five years ago and one of the first things that struck me was that the beach and sea-front were really clean. I’d like to keep it that way, it is everybody’s responsibility.”

Clare has organised the events on Facebook. She has set up a community page which coincides well with Zuckerberg’s recent unveiling of Facebook’s updated purpose: The importance of connecting people through “meaningful communities online which can also translate to the physical world”.

Clare summed this up: “Hopefully there can be a nice social side to these events as well because we are bringing the community together. I see a lot of people moaning online about the litter, so rather than just moaning I think we should do something positive about it.” Clare hopes the idea will catch on and become a regular activity.

Her incentive has had an extremely positive response, with many pledging to take part in the events. Since putting the word out about the clean-up she has been offered support from Tesco who will donate bottled water, bin bags and gloves. The town council will help by providing litter pickers and equipment. They have also assured the disposal of the collected rubbish.

Members of the Hornsea Inshore Rescue team have promised to join the litter clearing group. Chairman, Sue Hickson-Moray said, ” We think this is a great idea and we look forward to getting involved. It will help to make Hornsea nicer for those who live here. Maybe it will make the people who drop litter  feel guilty with all of these good people getting together to clear it up.”

Recent surveys have shown that there are almost 160 plastic bottles for every mile of UK shoreline and that tackling littering is serious business but that doesn’t mean that beach clean-ups can’t be fun.


Debris left from a BBQ on Hornsea beach and plastic washed up on the shore.