Do what you love and do it the best you can

They say it’s the journey that matters, not where you begin.  

But then, as Mia Wallace observed in Pulp Fiction, ‘they’ tend to talk a lot. 

Some journalists studied journalism at college, but I didn’t. I read – and still do read – a lot, for fun, wrote a few plays, won a couple of awards in Wales and started wondering what was possible. 

Instead of going to university after school I was playing in a band in the UK and Europe’s squats and punk venues, meeting up with people of like mind through a network of shared fanzines and swapped records.  

 

Do it yourself 

My local paper in Bangor steadfastly refused to write about the bands that were cropping up all over the place so I went to see the editor and asked him why. He replied, simply: ‘well, it might as well be you.’ It was gig reviews and interviews and then assistant sports editor for North Wales. I’d also do bits and bobs on radio and TV for BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru and S4C. 

When the band broke up – after a particularly strange and scary tour of Holland, most of which is definitely unprintable – I did go to university. To study, er, Sound Technology in Liverpool. While at university – Internet-fuelled and needing beer money – I built up freelance writing work again. 

 

Get in amongst it 

Luckily, Liverpool had a great music scene. I started getting work for the Big Issue, Record Collector, The Fly, Mixmag and a host of other music mags in the UK. I was also co-presenting and co-producing an independent music show on BBC Radio Merseyside.  

At the same time, I was involved with an independent record label niftily named Spank Records as press officer trying to get our bands written about by music magazines. It was tough work because the music industry is incredibly competitive but we did pretty well and so did I. If you’re already talking to the editors and senior writers at these magazines then you know who to contact for your own story ideas. 

 

Revelation dawns 

And then I had a revelation on a Liverpool – Rome flight, This was: in-flight magazines are written by people. “Oh,” I thought, “I’m a person.”
Being in the right place helps as much as that kind of flexibility of approach, too. For example, the 2006 World Cup meant that several people were unavailable to take on a particular music book project so it eventually passed to me. Of course, I said yes. I kept saying yes after that and I’ve written five books to date which have been translated into a number of languages. 

It’s a different beast to day to day article writing because you’re sustaining multiple concepts and sources into a hopefully coherent whole, but someone has to write them and it might as well be me. 

 

Do what you love 

So there I was in 2009 happily going to gigs, interviewing bands and bumbling around Europe on travel and tourism jobs, when my wife got a job teaching in Cayman.  

I’ve been with Cayman Free Press for two years and written about everything from cruise ships to the legislative assembly, been filmed eating suicide wings and interviewed Sean Paul. On the tourism beat, with a bit of entertainment, there’s always something new going on and something for me to learn, particularly given the number of different titles – and videos – that we produce. 

I guess they’d say that my career happened by accident whilst I was busy doing the things I loved and making damned sure I did them the best I could. 

Sometimes they speak the truth. 

The 2006 World Cup meant that several people were unavailable to take on a particular music book project and it eventually passed to me. 

Joe Shooman
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