Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

A Lifetime of Writing

I can’t remember a time when I did not write.

In what was probably the first link of a chain reaction, I undertook to create a handwritten / typed class magazine for one year in secondary school. Since not one of my classmates contributed material, I had to compile it all myself.

Then I realised I would be less out of pocket if I sold my work – and when my articles were accepted by the Times of Malta, I became their youngest-ever writer, aged fourteen.

Then I sent off a (handwritten) short story to national radio, some shorts to a cultural programme, and a humorous take on a topic for a newspaper supplement – all my work was accepted by return of post. This encouraged me no end.

Much water has passed under the bridge since then. I still write for Allied Newspapers (Malta) – a blog, a television critique column, and occasional features. I am also an editor at MuseItUp Canada. I also blog Tanja’s Teenscape, an advice column for parents of teenagers. I also freelance for print and online publications in Maltese (my birth language) and English, proof-read, translate (English to Maltese and Maltese to English) and ghost-write.

My work as a writer, critic, columnist and editor involves a combination of things – fluency in both languages, an extensive vocabulary; General Knowledge; a reasonably good memory; a sound knowledge of syntax… and practice, practice, practice.

Writing, to me, ranges from stream of consciousness, through opinion, to micro-researched articles and interviews.

Just for the record, I still do my research from books as well as online. And I still do not trust spell-check enough to rely on it.

I have worked as a Kindergarten Teacher, a Learning Assistant, and a Clerk – but all the time, I wrote. As a freelancer, I now work from home [expect of course when I am out on assignments]; I don’t have a formal office, and my time is, in a manner of speaking, my own.

I have no such thing as a typical writing day, since I have deadlines that require me to get quotes from people or do quick research or personal or telephone interviews. So I can be writing a flash fiction while waiting for a programme presenter to answer the phone, or watching something on television about which I intend to write, and transcribing something I would have written the night before (in pencil, in the dark, on unlined paper).

The majority of writers – authors, journalists, poets, bloggers – will never be popular (read famous) enough to live of the money made off our writing. Most of us consider it realistic and wise to have a paying job until the writing career takes off – or just in case it does not. That having been said, this income may also come from a source connected to writing; ghost writing or blogging for others; writing advertising copy; proofreading; compiling information for catalogues or websites; typing out thesis for university students…

Writing for the Maltese- and English-speaking markets is more than a matter of language, just as writing for the British and American markets is more than a matter of spelling and idiom. Again, writing for a newspaper is different from writing for a magazine – and even then, a lot depends upon whether a magazine is online or in print.

These nuances, of course, I picked up along the years.

When it comes to editing, there are other points to keep in mind:
coherence, logic, anachronism, flow or unity, regional or time-restricted words…to some extent, this holds even if the writer has created an alternate world.

Having been weaned on the Gollancz Yellow Jacket series, my preferred genre for editing remains YA Science Fiction.

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This entry was posted on November 25, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

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