carol leeCarol’s working life

I’ve written since I was six or seven, so it was perhaps predictable that I’d continue.

I was a reporter by the age of 19 and was lucky that Jack Wiggins, the editor of my first paper in Cardiff, sent me on a story which has stayed with me.

The brief was to find out if relatives of the dozens of men who had died in a colliery disaster a few years earlier were being paid the compensation owed to them. He had a hunch they weren’t being – and he was right. Not one person was receiving their due.

When fellow reporter Ian Beales and myself came back with the evidence, Jack ran our piece in the paper over many days with a huge black headline – SHAME – aimed at the Coal Board. Soon after, the money began to arrive.

I was lucky again when, moving onto national papers, radio and tv, it was a pre-internet time when reporters were out of the office gathering material 1st. hand and using all our senses – including the 6th. I met hundreds of people and travelled thousands of miles in what became my journey towards writing books.

But I didn’t want to be only an author, and a phonecall one day from a writers’ organisation said that large numbers of freelances were being forced to hand over their copyrights. As someone who kept mine, would I investigate?

It didn’t take much digging to find out what was going on: a massive shift of property away from individual into corporate hands. Writers were being forced to sign away their copyrights – their intellectual property – and transfer them to big companies, under threat of not being published if they didn’t do as they were told. Their material was being sold worldwide, none of the profit going to the creators.

My sense of outrage keeps me warm some days, and I’m in good company. Making free with writers’ work isn’t new. Dickens railed against it – and the work carries on.

As does the writing. The books I read as a lonely and often isolated child were companions, messengers from the outside world. I can’t imagine a life without them.

Read about Carol’s teaching.