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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Pamela Walker shares what inspired her to write her new book, Making A Difference.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Pamela Walker about her life and career, what inspired her to start writing, and what she hopes to accomplish with her new book, Making A Difference.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I am the Development Manager for the national charity FoodCycle, working alongside my regionally-based colleagues to support the development of Projects across England and Wales that provide free, hearty communal meals for absolutely anyone experiencing food poverty or social isolation: young families, lonely older people, rough sleepers and the vulnerably housed, people whose money just can’t conceivably stretch from one end of the week to the other….
I have spent almost 40 years within the Third Sector, as a volunteer and subsequently paid member of staff. I began as a frontline worker, directly supporting: rough sleepers, people with substance misuse issues, those with severe mental health challenges, women and children who’ve experienced domestic violence, and ex-offenders.
Moving into more development-focused roles, I’ve set up Projects for: vulnerable and isolated older people, pregnant teens, the nursery-age children of Travelers and Gypsy families, medically qualified refugees, Looked After children etc. And because project development is invariably the same process, irrespective of beneficiaries, I wanted to write this book to provide guidance for people, so that they could each achieve the promise of their own lightbulb moment within their communities.
I have an honour’s degree in Applied Social Sciences, an MSc in Forensic Psychology (accidentally), a post-graduate qualification in Research (incidentally), and a Counselling qualification.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
Over the years I’ve been aware of many individuals and groups who’ve stumbled in their well-intentioned efforts to help their community constructively and sustainably. And then during the COVID lockdowns it became apparent that this was widespread, when many well-meaning people set up ad-hoc food-related services with no reference to what was already being provided, so that there was duplication of services in some areas, a food desert in others, and scarcity of surplus food everywhere: no-one was working with anyone else. I began to realise that many people needed step-by-step guidance on developing sustainable projects and services that would complement existing provision. No books had been written that provided this practical, step-by-step guide to setting up any project benefiting any group of people – there was just lots of ‘Why you should’ writing rather than ‘How to’ guidance. So I thought I’d better write it.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Making A Difference?
Project development is a straightforward process, with a logical order of stages to work through, aligned with a specific way of communicating with people. But it could seem quite daunting to the uninitiated. I wanted to make sure that all the kind-hearted people who wanted to make a positive difference, sustainably, had the tools to do so. And the confidence too – it’s clear throughout the book that project development isn’t rocket science!
How long did it take you to complete Making A Difference from the first idea to release?
I started writing in mid-Feb 2022, and in November of that year (I think!) Ortus Press kindly said that they’d be interested in publishing it. It’ll be released into the wild at the end of June 2023.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Making A Difference?
It started off more like a bulky pamphlet! But my husband Stephen kept asking me the questions that readers would no doubt want to know the answer to – because I know the step-by-step process so well, sometimes I just assumed wrongly that ‘everyone knows that’! So eventually each chapter showed all the working out. Fortunately I’m a ‘morning person’, because as I work full-time, on weekdays I only really had a couple of hours 5-7 a.m to write – with our dog Barney keeping me company (and Pusscat hogging the heater!).
What was your research process for Making A Difference?
Some chapters needed little or nothing in the way of research, because of my 30 years’ experience of project development. For those chapters that it was necessary for though, I was meticulous in my research, to try to make it as straightforward as possible for readers, and to enable me to point them towards additional sources of support or guidance. For those topics outside my specialism – Community Fundraising and Charity Law – I consulted experts.
How did you plan the structure of Making A Difference?
It started off more like a ‘stream of consciousness’, but gradually took shape. I knew that I wanted it to be a practical ‘how to’ workbook, so it was always in the correct order of stages – that doesn’t vary!
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Making A Difference need?
My husband Stephen read several drafts of the book, and every time his comments and questions enabled me to clarify the work, making the book easier for readers to use as a development tool, and enabling me to explain or expand upon statements that had seemed obvious to me (but weren’t!). He also ensured that I didn’t go off on a tangent / pursue any particular hobby horse.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Just get started really, and plough on. Keep a pen and paper in your pocket because your mind will be working on solutions to problems while you’re doing something else. And repeatedly save your work on two thumb drives (belt and braces!) Be prepared to re-write again and again, until you think that if you see it one more time you’ll throw something.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Now that I know how enjoyable the writing process can be, I sometimes think about turning my Master’s dissertation into a book. But I’m not sure how interested people would be in an argument that people with Severe Personality Disorders should be eligible to apply for the Insanity Defense in criminal law. I’ll probably just research it for my own interest after I retire.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I’m really glad that I did it – and I’m embarrassingly and unreasonably chuffed! I’m also hugely relieved that I can start spending my free time doing other stuff now – there’s lots of DIY piling up. But it’s only worth the effort if people use it to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable or excluded people – that’s the whole point.
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