FAQs

I’m only a person, not a brand or a celebrity or a household name. But nonetheless I get the same questions allllll the time, enough that I’ve put together this FAQ to answer them without me typing the same thing ten times a week.

Question not on here? Tweet me and I might add it.

You have pet cats AND birds? How does that work? Don’t the cats eat the birds?

They do not!

I have three cats: Mawri, Moose and Maud. I’ve had Mawri since she was a kitten, so she’s been raised to know that birds are friends, not food. Moose was a rescue and a bit older, but he’s been well trained and gradually introduced to the birds, to the point that he’s now as relaxed around them as Mawri.

Maud was adopted at the age of 12, and has never shown any interest in the birds whatsoever. Nonetheless, I take extreme precautions to keep my birds safe — they are never left alone with the cats when they’re out of their cages. It’s always supervised, the cages are well out of reach of the cats, and there are water sprays everywhere in case I need to discourage the kitties from showing too much interest.

We’ve had no accidents or incidents, thanks to constant vigilance and strict training. I would not recommend anyone have cats and birds together without a lot of experience with both, and putting a lot of work in — a cat can kill a bird in seconds. Likewise, a big parrot can severely injure a cat.

The birds are allowed to fly freely all day when I’m home (which is most of the time, since I’m freelance) — they’re only in their cages if everyone is out. We’re absolutely vigilant with windows and doors and have never lost a single bird (in fact, we’ve adopted two that were found outside after escaping from other people’s homes).

The cats mostly just nap anyway.

You’re a freelance journalist! I would like to do that! How do I do that?

I got started by going to a Guardian Masterclass about freelance journalism. I’m not sure if they still run it but taking a short course is usually a good idea, just make sure the people running it know what they’re talking about before you hand over any money.

Also, if you don’t already have writing samples, start a blog and create some. Most commissioning editors won’t take a punt on you if they haven’t seen some of your writing already, so if you think you can write brilliant stuff, don’t leave it inside your brain — get it on the internet so you can prove it.

How do you have so many Twitter followers? How do I get more?

  1. I’ve been on Twitter a really long time and tweet a lot
  2. I have a good username that a lot of people find by accident
  3. I follow a lot of people (I recommend private lists to split them out into useful timelines on different topics)
  4. Like money, the more you have, the easier it is to get even more. It gets faster and faster as your following grows, because if you tweet something golden with 500 followers, it might go nowhere, but with 50,000, it’ll get noticed.
  5. Be real. Use your name and photo if you can. Tweet the good stuff as well as the bad. Don’t be a PR machine pumping out your work and your successes and nothing else — would you talk to that person at a party?