Hello, I’m Pip!

by Wayne Yeo Wei Zhong, Victoria Junior College

Pip Harry is a veteran of the writing and journalism industry, with over twenty years of experience as a writer in both Singapore, and her home country of Australia.

She has diverse experiences with many genres of writing, from starting out working for gossip magazines, to publishing a growing series of young adult novels. Our enlightening discussion with her covered many aspects of her career, from book authorship, to magazine journalism and freelance writing.

Having done both magazines and fiction writing, we asked her about the differences between the two forms, and which she would prefer. Magazines were her primary source of income, having paid the bills during her formative years as a writer. The time spent during the job has also taught her how to structure her writing, with very tight deadlines and word limits. “Books are an entirely different meta,” she quipped, “They move at a snail’s pace compared to magazines.” It can take years to get a book written and done, juxtaposed against the relentless, weekly churn of magazine writing.

We were told that to write a book, one has to be prepared to wait and be patient—“You have to be prepared to go over and over things until you cannot stand to read it one more time.” Pip has also found the book industry to be much more nurturing towards an author, book publishers often consult the writer about minutiae of what is going to happen with their work, whereas magazines took more liberties with editing and modifying her writing before it appears in print.

“Both Australia and Singapore are interested in good stories, fundamentally, and good writing,” she gave her comments on what she thought  about the writing scene in Australia and Singapore. She found it more difficult to enter the industry in Singapore, and found herself having to sideline into other areas of work—such as subbing and proofing—which are things she wouldn’t have done in Australia.

When asked if she preferred writing freelance, or working as a writer or correspondent for a newspaper, Pip unequivocally stood with being a freelancer, as it allows for more travel and opportunities from being her own boss. To our surprise, she has benefitted greatly from working with people as a freelancer. In the absence of fixed coworkers, other freelance writing friends have filled the void, and are a valuable resource when writing together and bouncing ideas off one another.

“Where do you see freelance writing going in this part of the world?” someone asked from the audience. Pip advised that longform journalism is still exceedingly relevant, especially given the tense political climate. The challenge for writers today, is to explore new media such as podcasting, and to come up with engaging content that people will read in spite of dwindling attention spans.

“Feel the fear and do it anyways,” she ended her panel discussion with sagely advice for aspiring freelance writers. Even though it feels like a pendulum swing between ‘feast and famine’ at times, the flexibility and adaptability of the job is something she would never trade for anything else.