The story behind the pencil

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by Helen Dugdale

Nov 2015

Writing for Big Issue in the North
A night out in Manchester with mates

I thought I'd share some of the adventures that I've been on to get me to the table I'm sat at now with this cup of tea.

Where it all began? 

I’ve always written and always wanted to write. I wrote my first book when I was 7, called “The Princess and the Tarts”, which set the ball rolling. I wrote for the local newspaper in high school, then the student newspaper and soon became obsessed with adding to my portfolio.

My first job out of uni was as a copywriter for the Manchester radio station, Key 103. At the weekend I freelanced in the newsroom writing news stories and doing interviews. I loved this job, but had my heart set on doing a postgrad in Broadcast Journalism. Which I did. It was a great course, but it was heavily targeted at people who wanted to be serious BBC newsreaders. Which never fitted my career direction or my Manchester accent! At the end of the course, I was voted most likely to become a ‘Blue Peter presenter’, an accolade that I was delighted to take away with me. I'm still working on getting my Blue Peter badge!

A Canadian romance

I worked in Canada for a while as PR Consultant for the lovely folk at Curve Communications.  I lived in Vancouver and I truly fell in love with the Canadian way of life; outdoors, relaxed and slower than the UK.  After a spot travelling, I landed back in the UK and I knew it was time to set-up my own business and so Scribble was born in 2005.

10 years on and Scribble has weathered the storm of two children being born and starting school. It has given me the opportunity to write my first non-fiction book, Bridal Moments in 2009. More recently, I wrote a children’s book for a local charity and a cookery book for Soreen, and I'm now working on a children's book.

My greatest influences?


Very early on it was Barbie and her amazing Home and Office. These pieces of pretty plastic gave me the taste of what it would be like as a "real career woman". I played with them against the backdrop of the big hair and swingy earnings of Alexis Colby and Krystal Carrington on Dynasty.

After Barbie, came Francine Pascal the author of Sweet Valley High; I lived and breathed the series for years. Ok, so it’s not Shakespeare, and a tad cheesy, but hey, who cares? I fell in love with idea of being a writer because of her. I loved the thought of creating characters and their own worlds to live in.

Now I’m a little more grown up – I'm inspired by people who make a living from what they love and don’t settle. People who pack up their lives, try something new and who walk away from the 9-to-5.

What inspires me?

People who have a dream and go for gold to make it happen. People who create. Who have an idea of their own and make it happen…the wonder of what a little bit of imagination and a hell of a lot of sweat and hard graft can create.

What I want to be remembered for?

For raising a laugh and the odd eyebrow. I love bringing businesses and brands alive with wit and humour (I’m certainly no comedian), but I like showing the corporate world that it doesn’t have to be all about being suited and booted.

I’d love to help people be inspired to do something creative of their own and for them to find a way to reach inside and pull out their ‘bottom of their belly dreams’ and make them reality.

My favourite words of inspiration?


I'm a sucker for a good inspirational saying. My kitchen is covered in them. The advice that really resonates with me as a writer, and a business owner is: ‘Be really clear about who you want to work with and why. Be true to yourself’. I’m a massive believer in listening to your gut. If an opportunity makes you leap for joy then grab it and hold on tight. If it makes you want to run a mile, then lace up them trainers and legit. Life is far too short to be doing something you don’t really want to.

My favourite saying of all is ‘A life in flip flops is a life for me.’ It makes me realise that I can wear what I want for work, work wherever I want to work (e.g. in the office, at the dining table, in a coffee shop, in the garden) and with clients who I really have a passion and a pang to help. My flip-flops are my freedom of being unshackled from the corporate world. Which I’ve tried and didn’t like the taste of.