We all hope, as freelance writers, to make our mark in some way. You may, at the start of your career, have a few lofty ideals, much like an actor fresh out of RADA who will only play Shakespeare, dahling.
A year later, still unemployed, he’s back in his village hall doing amdram Agatha Christie in front of six people.
When a blog or an article goes viral, it’s a freelance writer’s dream come true. It’s not Harry Potter, but it doesn’t need to be. A window opens up in which you can make hay while the sun is briefly shining through it. I wrote a few weeks back about an 85-year-old woman who works for the Grand Forks Herald who became “an internet sensation”, thanks to a restaurant review she wrote on her local, newly-opened Olive Garden restaurant:
She was feted in New York, interviewed by everyone who was anyone, and, the last I heard, was signing a book deal. Her review was pedestrian and entirely unshocking, and yet it caused no end of fuss.
Now, we have the story of 9 year-old Scottish girl, Martha Payne, whose blog NeverSeconds has seen her catapulted into the pages of the world’s most prestigious newspapers. We’re talking the print versions of The New York Times and Financial Times, to name but two.
What the fugoodness sake, what the hell is going on?
NeverSeconds is a blog about Miss Payne’s school meals. She has been taking pictures of them and then grading and critiquing them.
When her local council found out, they banned her from taking a camera into school as they said the blog had led to the school canteen staff “being accused of child abuse”. I would have thought the school might have had a camera ban in force already, but that’s beside the point.
After millions more hits to the blog, and an outcry about freedom of speech, the council was forced to reverse the ban, and so she can keep on dishing the dirt – pun intended.
The blog is so-named because none of the pupils are offered seconds. Considering how fat and unhealthy many kids are these days, I would have thought that particular policy was the antithesis of child abuse.
Anyway, it all seems like yet another fuss about bugger all.
But there’s another point that strikes me about this story, and it’s this: no way on God’s Green Earth did a 9 year-old girl write this blog. I know what the UK education system is like from my teaching days. Sorry to be cynical, but this is just too well done. I don’t mean the technical side of the blog – I would expect an adult’s input on that – I mean the spelling, grammar, sentence structure, etc. Most adult blogs I read are littered with such mistakes. Even the professional websites of world-class companies fall prey to the odd cock-up.
From what I’ve read of it, this blog looks error-free, and it’s more than a matter of employing spell-check. The sentences flow, there is proper hyphenation, apostrophes are in the right place, and full-stops are where they should be even when the last part of the sentence is in parentheses. All things many adults get wrong.
But not, I suspect, Miss Payne’s parents.
Unless this girl is a freelance-writing prodigy, then her input is limited. She obviously takes the photos and forms her 9 year-old opinion on the lunches, but the final crafting of the blog is down to a far more developed brain. You’ll see what I mean if you visit the blog. It’s an odd melding of childish assessment (“I chose an omelette over the sausages … It was really nice and tasted of cheese”) and adult execution. It’s all a bit disingenuous, if you ask me.
Next thing you know, she’ll have a book deal and be (not) authoring a recipe book.
I give up.
Here’s the New York Times link: