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Period Story Podcast, Episode 76, Annie Ridout: There’s Value In Vulnerability

Welcome to season 8 of Period Story podcast!

My guest on today’s episode is Annie Ridout, author, journalist, ghostwriter, poet and life coach. 

In this episode, Annie shares: 

  • Her sober curious journey and how she’s able to find a balance 
  • Her writing career, Substack and the diverse ways she’s able to earn an income
  • Her fascinating new ghostwriting career
  • Her new podcast, Home, which explores the idea of whether home is where we were raised, or where we are now and the part this plays in our identity
  • How she has open conversations with her children about periods 
  • And of course, the story of her first period

Annie says there’s value in vulnerability and it’s important to be really honest about how you’re feeling, even if the conversation you’re starting is difficult for other people to hear. She says you don’t have to pretend that you’re feeling fine when you’re not for fear that you’ll destabilise other people. 

Thank you, Annie! 

Get in touch with Annie:

Instagram

Website

Substack

Home Podcast


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SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Le’Nise Brothers:           Hi, Annie. I’m so thrilled to have you on the show today. I am such a fan of your writing and I’m really excited to talk to you about it, your career. But first, let’s start by going into the story of your first period.

Annie Ridout:                Hello. Thank you for having me. Do you know I’ve never been asked this before, and so I’ve been reflecting back and I found it quite scary starting my period. So my mom is and was very organized and she had put together this little bag of sanitary bits. I don’t remember at this point. I think I was 12 maybe. I don’t remember learning about periods at school. I’m sure that we did. Perhaps we had some PSE lessons, but I wasn’t wanting to hear it. So my mom put together this bag of sanitary stuff. And then I remember coming home from school one day going to the toilet and seeing blood in my knickers and completely panicking. I did quickly realize what was going on, but I didn’t know what to do. So I took my clothes off and I put on a dressing gown, and then I must’ve called my mom and started, she must’ve shown me how to use the sanitary towels or whatever I would’ve used first, but I remember feeling really panicked. It didn’t feel exciting, it didn’t feel calm. I felt like I don’t want this.

Le’Nise Brothers:           So you felt panicked, but did you know when you saw it, did you know what it was?

Annie Ridout:                Yeah, I think I saw it and thought and panicked. I saw blood panicked and then instantly was like, oh, this is that thing that this is a period. This is what they talk about.

Le’Nise Brothers:           Okay. And then you found your mom and then what did she say?

Annie Ridout:                She, she maybe looked slightly not surprised. What would the word be? I guess she was kind of following my energy, so I was panicked. So she was, oh, well yeah, this is your period. But I think her mum hadn’t spoken about any of this stuff with her. They were Roman Catholic. Her mum had given her this book on sex being a sin when she was younger and this was how she was raised and there was lots of Roman Catholic shame with everything to do with women, body, sex. And so my mom was very different and she was a hippie in the swinging sixties, seventies, and my parents were much more open with us. But still, there’s that generational, I guess what your moem teaches you if your mum’s around to teach you is then you sort of absorb it and then use some of that as you go on to teach your daughter maybe. So it wasn’t totally relaxed, it wasn’t a celebration. There was some panic.

Le’Nise Brothers:           Okay.

Annie Ridout:                Yeah.

Le’Nise Brothers:           And that kind of panicked feeling that you had, did that continue across your period experience as you kind of had a few more periods maybe as you went through your teenage years?

Annie Ridout:                So I can’t remember then how regularly they, I just don’t remember all. I remember the next stage that’s in my mind was when my friend said, have you used a tampon? Tampons are great. And so she told me how to use a tampon and then I thought this girl was really cool. So I was like, if she’s doing, I’m going to do that too. And so I got into using tampons and then it wasn’t until after I had children that I was like, I hate tampons. I don’t want to be shoving something up me, thanks, every month. And I’ve never used tampons now, but I’m sure we’ll come onto that. So that was the next stage was my peers. So it had happened to me. I’d called on my mom, she’d said, yeah, that’s right. That’s what’s happened. We didn’t talk about it again at all as far as I can remember. And then I turned to my friends and then probably I started to feel more comfortable and to accept it once my friends were talking about it with me and we were all in it together.

Le’Nise Brothers:           So not really having any further conversations with your mum and then relying on your friends and your friends relying on you, and having that kind of conversations that I could relate to cos I was a teenage girl, so I kind of relate to that. Were there things that you learned about your period, your menstrual cycle and all of that then that you look back and you think, God, that wasn’t quite right, or you think, wow, that was spot on.

Annie Ridout:                I don’t think I had any idea why we have periods. I think I was given the stuff to deal with it, the physical, the sanitary towels, tampons, whatever. But I didn’t know why I was having periods. And then when I eventually started having sex, I still didn’t know that there was this window of ovulation. It was all, it’s crazy to think about now how disconnected I was from my body and my cycle. But no one was telling me, we didn’t talk about it as much back then.

Le’Nise Brothers:           And what I find a lot is that once I’ve seen this a lot is that women, they start thinking about their fertility when they’re trying to have children or maybe they’re thinking about coming off the pill or they start kind of exploring that space a little bit more. That’s when they start thinking, okay, actually I need to learn a little bit more about this. Certainly for me, me and my husband, we decided that we were going to try for a baby. I was like, oh, okay, I need to know more about ovulation. It just didn’t really, I didn’t think about it. What was it like for you?

Annie Ridout:                Yeah, the same. And then because I think I thought I didn’t really stay on the pill. I did it a couple of times, but I never stayed on for long, so I didn’t have that kind of coming off the pill thing. But I thought as soon as I started having sex, I thought that having sex once you became pregnant, I didn’t know that there was this small window. So I took the morning after the pill a few times, definitely. And then when I met my husband and when we decided to have children, I think, I can’t exactly remember, but I think probably I still thought, still didn’t even know about this ovulation window until I didn’t get pregnant. And then I started to look into it. Maybe I’d sort of heard about ovulation. I don’t remember much of what I learned in school. I learned it.

                                    I did my exams, I did quite well, and then it just left, the information left my mind. So maybe I did learn in science, in biology, some of this stuff. I don’t remember it though. But then when I did start to learn about ovulation, when I was going to try and have a baby, I found it quite amazing looking at the changes in my body and seeing what comes out of you when you are ovulating and the different textures and thinking, oh, I have noticed this before, but I never knew it had anything to do with my cycle. And I was quite fascinated by that and excited because I was desperate to have a baby. So when ovulation came round and my body started changing, I was really excited that there was a chance I might become pregnant. It did take a while, but yeah, ovulation became exciting.

Le’Nise Brothers:           When you think about your experience of your period and your menstrual cycle now, how would you describe it?

Annie Ridout:                One of the reasons that I didn’t talk about my periods much when I was younger is because they were fairly uneventful. So I didn’t have any pain, I didn’t have cramps, nothing like that. As far as I can remember. I don’t know if I was that moody or anything like that. So it was just the monthly bleed that I dealt with and I could do that. As I started having children, my period became a lot more painful, and that’s when I started to think, what is this is pain. I don’t want to have this pain every month. I dunno why they became more painful, but they did. And so a week before I’ll feel tearful and I’ll have stomach cramps. It does slightly depend on my lifestyle around the time in the lead up to my period. So if I am eating really healthily, doing lots of exercise, not drinking too much alcohol, that definitely makes a difference. But yeah, my periods have definitely got harder as I’ve got older and particularly since having children and now I’m not having any more children. So I just think it’s a bit unfair that I have to have them.I don’t want an early menopause necessarily, but I feel like it just feels a bit unfair that my body’s still preparing to make these babies, but I’m done.

Le’Nise Brothers.:          And when you think about your children and then how you learned about your period and that kind of brief conversation that you had with your mom, what would you do differently? How would you have that or would you do it differently?

Annie Ridout:                So I’ve got a girl, my eldest is a girl. Then I’ve got two boys. My eldest has started asking questions. I think they do more in school now. So she’s nine and she’s started saying, is it painful when you have a period when you bleed? And we talk about that really openly. We are very open with each other. And I’ve got her a little bag of reusable sanitary towels and the kind of things I use, for her. And it’s all nicely nice patterns and colors. It feels like a fun pack. And there’s the one I bought, I can’t remember the name of the brand now. It’s got a little diary that you can write how you’re feeling and things. So she loves all that sort of stuff, but she’s a bit embarrassed about this bag that’s hidden in her cupboard for when she needs it, which might be a few years yet. So we are very open. 

And then with my boys, they see when I’m on my period, always in and out of the toilet and I don’t hide the blood, I don’t hide my sanitary towels, I use toweling pads and they see it and they say there’s blood. And then I say, yeah, I’m on my period. And I talk really openly. So they have an understanding of periods and women’s bodies and cycles that probably a lot of 4 and 6-year-old boys don’t have.

                                    And I’m glad of it because one day if they get into a relationship with a woman, I want them to understand and not even that as they get older and their sister starts her period and girls around them, their peers start their periods, I want them to understand what that means.

Le’Nise Brothers:           Yeah, I think it’s so important. I have a 10-year-old son and he hears me talking about this all the time, and he’s seen my book and all of that. But it was funny yesterday. So there’s a brand that I did some work with and they have a campaign around delineating the vagina and the vulva. And they sent me a shirt and it just said vulva on the front. And I just threw it on and I said to him, oh, do you know the difference between a vagina and a vulva? And he said, I don’t need to know that I’m a boy. And I said, I laughed. And I said, well, you need to know the difference because you’ll have a girlfriend and all of that. You might have daughters. And it’s important to know the names of the different body parts. So it’s funny thinking about these things and how you say four, your four and your 6-year-old probably know a bit more. But I think that’s really important just to, of course, in an age appropriate way, be really honest with them about these experiences so that it removes some of the shame out of these conversations.

Annie Ridout:                And so they still see blood and say ugh, blood, which is a normal response because blood is often is when you’ve hurt yourself. So for them to be able to see it and for me to explain that I’m not in pain and this is what most women’s bodies do, it does feel important, but it’s very much the shame piece that I’m trying to change for sure.

Le’Nise Brothers:           And so in the little kit that you made for your daughter, you mentioned that you put a toweling pad and that’s what you use. So can you talk a little bit about the switch that you made from tampons to pads?

Annie Ridout:                Yeah, so after having children and I had quite long complicated births, forceps, lots of damage to my body, positive experiences, but just felt lots of intervention. I didn’t want to use tampons. I didn’t want be putting anything up inside myself that I didn’t need to. And I probably had used pads, like maternity pads after I had the babies I suppose. So maybe that reminded me that pads exist. And so then I, I probably started using sanitary towels and then I started hearing about these reusable ones, they’re so plasticky, which obviously is bad for the environment, but also for your body. I’ve got quite sensitive skin. I get eczema and psoriasis, not around my vaginal area, but I guess I just, and they’re sweaty, the plasticky, SSI, towels, it just kind of sweaty and smelly. So I thought I used the touting ones and just ordered a bunch from Amazon probably.

                                    And then I just ordered loads more. They’re really comfortable. They’re toweling material. I never leak there. I put them into my knickers and they pop up underneath. And I just ordered so many that I never run out. The only time I’ll use disposable sanitary towels is if I’m traveling. So I’ve just been to London for the night. I was on my period and I don’t want to carry around bloody sanitary towels when I’m going for a job interview. So then I’ll use disposable. But if I’m going on a holiday with my family for a week, I will take with me and wash as I go. So then I thought I’ll get the same for my daughter. I suppose, tampons are quite good if you want to go swimming, but now you can get those period bikinis. I haven’t yet. I need to look into that, the period pants for swimming. But I thought I’ll just give her what I use because it feels like the most comfortable option. And then she’ll speak to her friends and make up her own mind. But I tried a moon cup and I was not into the moon cup. I found it so uncomfortable and the thought of having to tip it out and all the mess just didn’t appeal. I know a lot of women I know love them.

Le’Nise Brothers:           Yeah, I do. I love them myself. But it was actually really interesting that you say that because I just had a conversation with the CEO of a menstrual cup company and she was saying that that is actually one of the barriers that they see where it’s this kind of, it’s more tampons. There’s a step away from handling the blood, but with a cup you have to go deeper and get it and then all of that. So she talked about how that can be a barrier that they face with new users of the cup. So you’re definitely not alone in feeling like that, but it’s really good that you’ve found something that works for you.

Annie Ridout:                And I just want something easy. I feel like this is something I haven’t chosen. I was okay with the cycle up until having babies and so grateful that I could have children, but post I feel like whatever is easiest and most comfortable, that’s what I’ll go for.

Le’Nise Brothers:           And you mentioned that when you change the way you eat or eat in a more whole way and you do more exercise, you see a difference in your period. And one thing that you’ve been writing about recently that I found really interesting is speaking of lifestyle changes, is your kind of venture into, I don’t know if you would call it being sober curious or being sober. I don’t know what the label is that you’re using, but I find it really interesting to read your journey and where you’re going with that. Because I personally, I haven’t drunk in about six years and it’s really made a difference to a lot of aspects to my health and wellbeing, but it’s the social side that can be difficult even still. So I’ve lost friends because I don’t drink anymore, which it sounds so crazy to say out loud, but can you just say a little bit more about your experience, because living in the UK where there a study that came out that 35% of women binge drink at least once a week in the UK. So say a little bit more about your experience.

Annie Ridout:                Yeah, I’m definitely not sober. I’m sober curious. I go through stages of not drinking and I can’t remember when the first time I started. So I was raised, my parents drink, they don’t have a problem with drinking, but it’s very much part of our social life as a family. We’d have friends round, my parents would drink a few bottles of wine on a Sunday afternoon with a roast, not just the two of them with a group of adults. And so as we got older, we started drinking and I just never questioned it at all. And I was shy and that probably made me drink more as a teenager because suddenly I’d have, I used to drink pints of beer with the boys and suddenly I’d be really confident. And that felt good and that’s dangerous because then you feel worse after you’ve drunk and then you keep drinking and then you think the only way to have fun is to drink. And I used to party a lot. I used to hit it really hard for some years. I did a lot of raving and festivals and drinking and debauchery and everything else that comes with that scene.

                                    And then I guess I stopped drinking when I became pregnant three times. I drank a little bit when I was breastfeeding, but not much. Often I was doing some co-sleeping with my children. And so I was aware of not being drunk ever. And then probably, definitely in the pandemic when we first went into lockdown, like lots of people, we are all at home. We had a bit of Prosecco and then it started happening more often and I’d never drunk every day. I’d drink at the weekends, I’d go to the pub, meet friends, have a drink, I’d never drunk on my own, didn’t drink much at home and definitely didn’t drink every day. And then suddenly in the pandemic I, so I eased off, no, I stopped for three months and I didn’t drink anything and it was kind of amazing and I felt so energised and healthy and wholesome, but I also wasn’t socializing because we were in and out of lockdowns.

                                    So it was easy. There were no parties. I was starting to see people, but there were no parties. And a lot of my old friends actually aren’t bothered about alcohol. So my older closer friends would never drop off if I stopped drinking. Not that bothered anyway. But I did have a newer friend who I’d known a couple of years who I was really close to. And I remember she asked to go for a walk with me in one of the lockdowns and she said, let’s get really pissed on cocktails. And I said, I’d love to go for a walk with you. I’m not drinking, but let’s still go. And she canceled it and she didn’t want to go for a walk. And I was so disappointed. I was so up for meeting her and anytime I wasn’t drinking, that affected our friendship. There was another woman as well who I was pretty close with who liked to drink. If I ever wasn’t drinking, I was out for that period and only back when I was drinking. And I have lost contact with both of those people since I left London, which is kind of not surprising.

                                    But then I did start drinking again. I only stayed sober for three months, but I have periods where I feel I’ve been drinking too often or maybe I had a weekend, a friend came to stay and we drank a couple of bottles of wine and I don’t drink a couple of bottles of wine with one other person very often at all. And it was way too much for me. And after that, I had a month off, didn’t drink any alcohol, so I kind of come in and out of it. And I think I like to know that when it’s not serving me and when it’s not fun drinking alcohol, I can stop and I will. And I know how good it feels to stop. I’m not quite ready to completely close the lid on drinking socially because I sometimes find it really fun.

                                    And I do enjoy it. And I like the taste of a really good glass of wine. So I might give up completely one day, but at the moment I’m just enjoying it, enjoying drinking when I fancy it and enjoying having a slight rebellion because in so many ways my life is dictated by my children and being a mother and trying to work and there’s so much that I’m trying to control all the time. And that’s one thing that I’m it, it helps me to let my hair down and just feel a bit wild for a couple of hours and then I’m back to it, back to being mum.

Le’Nise Brothers:         Yeah, I really relate to that idea of letting your hair down. And I do miss that side of it, but for me it was I had to stop drinking for other reasons. It was just, I love the tastes of red wine in particular so much, and it was just felt like I was going down this pathway where I was just a bad mother. I just didn’t like the person I was becoming and hung over all the time. And then for me, that triggered a lot of anxiety, like hang anxiety, that was me. And it was just, I could just see the road and I said to myself, okay, I did three months off. Then New Year’s Eve came around, we had some friends visiting and we had some drinks with them and it was really fun, but I could feel those feelings starting to creep back in.

And I thought, you know what? I’m going to knock this on the head, see how long I can go. And it became a challenge with myself. I’m quite a competitive person, so I was competing with myself and I do miss it sometimes I have to say. But for me, I just know that it just, with red wine in particular, I just can’t have one. And so just being able to see that, acknowledge that about myself and say, well, you know what? There are other ways to let your hair down, not in the way that you used to. I was quite a partier as well, festivals, clubbing, all of that. But there’s a different path. But I love hearing other people’s stories as well because it’s really important to be able to have a conversation about alcohol and not just, it’s so normalised in the UK and that’s something that I found. I’m Canadian, so I’ve lived here for 20 years, but I found it so surprising when I moved over here, how it’s just ever present in celebrations, everything. So yeah, just thank you for sharing your story.

Annie Ridout:                Yeah, no, I find it interesting. I’m definitely noticing a shift. I had a friend who came over recently and she said, I’ve got this bottle of a sparkling red wine. Are you drinking? And I said, I’m actually not. I had that moment of thinking, shall I just drink? Because is it rude if she’s brought this round? But I wasn’t drinking at that time and I’d made a commitment to myself to not drink for a month or something. I said, I’m actually not. And she said, actually, I don’t want to drink either. Great. And we had an evening and we had dinner and had such a nice time and I didn’t miss alcohol at all, and she was totally up for it. 

And I think it feels really important for me to have friends who are open-minded. I’ve got a bunch of friends who don’t drink at all completely, teetotal, and I love meeting with them. I know I don’t even have to think about whether we’re going to drink or not. We are. I won’t drink around if I’m one-on-one, I won’t drink with someone who’s not drinking. So I think that the conversations opening up and a lot more people are sober curious. A lot of people feel relieved if they don’t have to drink, in my circle. And yeah, I think I agree with you. It’s good to be hearing how people are feeling on it and not just accepting it as the only way to socialise.

Le’Nise Brothers:           Yeah, definitely. I want to talk a little bit about your writing because you have such an interesting career. You kind of have all of these different paths where you’re a journalist, you’ve written books, you’re a poet, you’ve created courses, you have a podcast, which we’ll talk about later on. And you’re also a ghost writer, which is so cool. And I want to talk a little bit about that shortly. Can you talk a little bit about your path and going in all of these, and I don’t mean this in a disparaging way because the same, but all of these different directions, it kind of belies the conventional wisdom that we need to choose one thing and stick with it. But that’s not what you’re doing and you seem to be quite successful at what you’re doing. So can you talk a little bit more about that?

Annie Ridout:                Sure. So I think I would’ve chosen one thing and stuck with it if it had worked. I think, I dunno, I may be someone, maybe those of us who have these careers with lots of different ways that we work. Maybe actually that’s because that suits our personality rather than because the income’s not coming from where we want it to. But I trained as a journalist, I did a master’s in journalism, started to get into journalism, and then I was never earning enough money as a freelance journalist, so I became a copywriter and I was working full-time as a copywriter until I had my first baby. Then I lost my job. And so then I was at home with a baby. I wanted to write, I had saved a bit of money for my maternity leave, but I wanted to keep working and needed to get back into work at some point.

                                    And so I did start doing more freelance journalism. And if that had really taken off and I was getting commissions all the time and earning a good living from it, that would be what, I would still be doing that now. But I got the odd commission and then I was trying to do other bits of work. I ended up doing bits of PR for people, which I kind of enjoyed because I knew how to help them write a pitch and to get press coverage, it was very easy for me as a journalist. And I’d done some work as an editor, so I knew exactly how to do it, but it wasn’t my soul calling to work in PR. And so I was doing bits of journalism and then I launched, I always was into blogging. I always had a blog, kind of like an online diary that I’d write.

                                    And then it always surprised me that anyone cared about what I was writing about, but there was always a bit of traffic. And then I launched a more, launched a platform called the Early Hour, which was for parents who were up early. And I was publishing an article every morning, and this was my way of publishing myself because I was pitching these ideas out and sometimes I’d get a commission, but sometimes an idea would never happen. And it’s really frustrating when you’re full of energy for an idea and then you’re pitching out to these editors and no one wants it because it’s not their area of interest. They don’t think the timing’s right, they don’t read your email for whatever reason. So I thought if I create my own platform, I can publish myself and other people whenever I want. And the platform grew really quickly and there was loads of traffic. There was hundreds of thousands of people visiting that website, but I never properly monetised it because the internet wasn’t set up to monetise a content platform then as it is now with platforms like Substack, which is amazing.

                                    But off the back of creating my own website and articles, I did start getting more commissions from The Guardian, and they would approach me and say, can you write this piece on early mornings? Can you write this piece on parenting? Red Magazine asked me to write about sex after having babies. And so it was really nice that the journalism was taking off more after launching my own platform that then raised my profile, I suppose, so that people were seeing me, editors were seeing me more, but it was still quite bitty then. But I was having children. Once I’d had my second baby, I got talking to an editor at Fourth Estate Publishing, and it’s a bit of a long story, which I won’t go into, but basically I ended up getting a book deal to write The Freelance Mum. I’d pitched another book and that one didn’t happen, but we got on really well and decided to do a book teaching women how to freelance after they had children.

                                    And I never thought I’d go into nonfiction. I always hoped I’d become a novelist, but it was amazing to get a book deal with this incredible publisher, and I loved working with Michelle, my editor. And so this book came out. And then the thing people wanted more help on was the chapter about how to get press coverage for your business. So then I designed it an online course and then an unexpectedly, it was just lots of unexpected things happened. Suddenly that course took off, loads of people signed up. I suddenly was earning what felt to me like loads of money because as a freelancer, it’s just often so bitty for quite a while. And when you eventually find your thing, whether it’s your retainer client or just the thing that works, that’s the thing that worked for me financially. And then that became the business.

                                    And then I was running an online course business and my husband quit his job and he was running it with me. And then I was writing a second book alongside it called Shy. But I was feeling like I’m running this business financially I’m exactly in my dream space financially, but it’s pulling me away from writing because you can’t be a full-time writer and be a full-time kind of business owner, entrepreneur. It’s one, I think it’s one or the other, or you can do bits of writing. But I was feeling like my heart is in writing journalism, nonfiction books. I got really into it and it lit nonfiction. Book writing is very close to journalism in the structure and the type of writing and then online courses and doing a lot of marketing felt like it was just in a different space. And then we were in the pandemic and it all got too much and I burned out.

                                    And so I backed off from the online courses and the people who had been buying them and enjoying them also backed off because they’d had enough, because everyone went so wild. Lots of us went wild for online courses in the pandemic, and we needed a bit of a break. There was some online course fatigue, so they stepped back. I stepped back and then I got my third book deal to write, Raise Your SQ, and I’d left London. So I wrote that book in Somerset. And then I launched a Substack eventually. 

                                    So now I feel like I’m writing nonfiction books. My fourth one is being pitched out at the moment, and then I’ve got my Substack, which has become my kind of bread and butter. So I’m getting a monthly income from writing two to three articles a week that I share with the community I’ve built on Substack, which is growing nicely. And then I ghost wrote my first book in July and I’ve just, yesterday went for an interview for the next one, which I haven’t heard back yet. So we’ll see. It’s quite weird being interviewed. I’m so used to just working from home alone and being fully in control of everything. And when I’m pitching to be commissioned as a journalist or a nonfiction author, there’s not an interview process. It’s just, my words go out and they decide if they want them or not. Whereas this is me stepping forward as a person and seeing if they want to work with me. It feels, but it’s fun. I’m enjoying it.

Le’Nise Brothers:           So can you say a little bit more about ghostwriting, because I think a lot more people became familiar with the idea of ghostwriting after the publication of Prince Harry’s book and his ghost writer JR Moehringer is really interesting, really interesting guy. His autobiography, the Tender Bar, I dunno if you’ve read it, fascinating, fascinating book, but he talks about how with ghostwriting, you have to constantly remind yourself that it’s not your book. So when you’re writing for someone else, how do you do that in a way that maintains the subject’s voice without your own creeping in?

Annie Ridout:                Well, I think because I’m a journalist first, I’m very used to being in the interviewer’s seat. And when I interview someone, I’m then capturing their words and their story and relaying it in an article. And it’s the same with ghostwriting. It’s very much the person’s words. So someone who has someone ghost to write their book is someone generally who’s got really good ideas, really good story, a profile, but I think prefers speaking to writing. And so they speak it out and then I as the writer will record their words and then edit them into a story.

                                    I’m very happy in the interviewer seat and I’m very happy to be behind the scenes. And because the first book that I ghostwrote, it’s so much her story, it’s like a memoir. It’s not my place to own those words. I feel no ownership at all. And all I wanted to do was make sure that she felt comfortable with the way the story was written, which she is. So yeah, it feels really satisfying. And also, it’s really interesting being a ghostwriter because you interview the person, however in person or on Zoom or whatever, and then you create this book, you write it 50,000 words or whatever. The next one, if I get the next book, it’s 70,000 words. That’s a bigger one. And then you present it to them and then it’s over to them to be the face of it and do the marketing, or they have their team do the marketing, but they’re involved in promoting it on their Instagram feeds and things like that. But I don’t have any of that side of it, which is very exciting. It’s lovely having your face and name on a book and people celebrating that with you and reading your book and hearing the feedback. But there’s also something so nice about doing the writing, delivering and then just hiding and not having any attention for it. I like that. I’m quite comfortable in the shadows, I think.

Le’Nise Brothers:           And then you talked about your Substack, which is also really interesting, and it’s a hugely growing space. It seems like loads of people I know are getting on Substack, and once they get on it, they say, wow, you need to get on it. It’s amazing. And what you wrote is because you wrote an article about it, you wrote on your newsletter on your Substack, and you said that it offers a slower, more sustainable approach. Can you talk more about, for someone who’s listening, who’s a writer and looking to monetise their writing, can you talk more about what you are getting out of Substack financially, obviously without giving the details, but also the other sides of it that you find beneficial?

Annie Ridout:                Yeah, so I guess because I’d been creating online courses, which was they were often text-based, sometimes with audio. So I would write a course and teach someone a new skill through this course. But with Substack and, I’m now bringing my online courses into Substack and giving people access. Because what’s amazing about Substack is it’s a completely free platform to use. You don’t pay for any hosting with a website. You have to pay yearly hosting and domain name. You have to pay to have your mailing list hosted on MailChimp or wherever you have it Klaviyo. And whereas with Substack, it’s completely free until you put a paywall in. And then if people start paying Substack, take 10%. So it’s set up so perfectly for the creator to only make money if they earn money rather than constantly paying out, which is amongst these freelance Mums, of which I’m one, and there are so many who I’m connected with through my book. We are all kind of trying to find ways to earn money around our kids. And you don’t want to be paying out if you don’t know that there’ll be a return and you never do know. 

So Substack is set up perfectly for people who don’t have loads of money to invest at the outset or any money to invest. What you do invest is your time and your ideas. So is, so based on the writing, you create a post on Substack and you publish it and it goes out to an email list. If you already have an email list, you can import it into Substack, or if you don’t, you can start to grow a mailing list there. And it sort of works like a social media platform. So if people start reading your articles on Substack, so you write an article, it will be mailed out to anyone on your email list, and then it will also exist on the Substack platform on your little corner of Substack.

                                    So mine is just under my name, Annie Ridout. And as people start to visit and comment, the algorithm picks up on that, and then Substack sends more people your way. So you have this kind of extra help and you can write these articles for free and not add a paywall and just grow a community of people. So if you have a book coming out and you want to grow a community of people interested in subject of your book, you could be writing a weekly article on the subject of your book and getting a bunch of people who are interested in them. When your book is published, you put a link and invite them to buy it, but I put in a paywall because I am treating it like journalism work where, or again, all those articles that I might have been pitching out and some get commissioned, others I never hear back.

                                    Now I get to write those articles every single week. I write something in the first person, like a personal essay, and then I, sometimes they’re free to read, but often I put a paywall in just as it gets to the juicy bit or just as it gets to the coaching exercise at the end, then people pay, can pay seven pounds a month and they get access to that particular piece of writing. But also all of my archives, including the online courses that I’m putting together and sort of coaching exercises. So it’s become an online platform with everything that I’m able to offer. So my ideas through my writing and personal stories, which people seem to be really into, I think we really like a first person story that’s not preachy and it’s not telling you what to do. It’s saying I’m struggling with, for instance, this transition I’ve made from London to Somerset. This is what’s going on for me. And then I get a bunch of people who want to read it because they’ve also moved or want to move and they’re trying to work out. So they’ll relate my words to themself and hopefully find some solace in them or some ideas. But yeah, I love that Substack is the people who are reading Substack articles seem to love personal essays. It’s such a pleasure to just write your own personal stories.

Le’Nise Brothers:           Yeah, I love your newsletter. Whenever I get it, I read it. And there’s things that you’ve written that because your writing style is very, I guess the best word that I can think of right now is very pragmatic. It’s just no frills And that appeals to me. It’s very, I love that and I really enjoy reading your work. And speaking of new work, you also have a podcast called Home. Can you talk about Home, why home and what the podcast looks to explore?

Annie Ridout:                Yeah. So I moved from London, where I am from and where all my family live to Somerset, where my husband’s family are from. We decided to move. We wanted to have a different experience. I had a big panic just before we left because I was leaving behind my parents as they get older, my siblings, loads of nephews and old friends and work, because a lot of my work though, I work almost entirely online. If I ever do have meetings or interviews, they’re all in London. So I had this big panic, but we decided to go ahead. My husband was very keen to make the move, and we had committed to buying a house, this big derelict house that he was going to renovate, that he has renovated. And so we made this move and it is a big deal moving with three kids. It’s hard to build a new community, which you need to do so that you feel safe in this new place.

                                    We didn’t have any family really nearby. And then I was homeschooling them while we made this move, but one of them wanted to go to school, so we ended up kind of getting them all into school and nursery and building this new life. But I still, though I have loved this new life and have made the most incredible friends this, we have managed to build this new community. Our life is very idyllic here in many ways, but I’m still a Londoner. I still miss London. I wonder if that’s where I’d like to raise my children. So I have lived this life that I love. And then I also want to be at the same time living this other life, this alternate reality in London, which obviously I can’t do. So we just have to decide if we are staying or if we’ll move back at some point.

                                    So the idea with the podcast, I wanted to interview other people because I’m fascinated in other people’s stories of where they were born and raised, where they’re living now, why they’re there, how they’re feeling, who they miss, what’s going well for them. So I thought if I interview a woman each week about her story of home, I’ll come to understand my own feelings more. And so that’s what I did. I set up a podcast on Substack. Again, it’s free to host and it’s really basic. I interview the women on Zoom. I do one interview a week, and then I edit it on Garage Band and have a little jingle at the beginning and the end. But it’s just a really deep honest conversation each week with someone who is also open to exploring what home means to them and how it feels. It’s all, I interview only women who aren’t living where they were born and raised, because I’m interested in this idea of can you create home elsewhere? Do you always feel drawn back to the place where your parents or carers raised you? Is that where your roots lie? Will you forever feel a bit displaced or a bit homesick if you are not there? This is what I am trying to answer through these interviews.

Le’Nise Brothers:           I really love that. And actually that really resonates with me because as I said earlier, I am Canadian, but I’ve lived in the UK for 20 years and I’m a British citizen now. But my husband, he always says, well, why don’t you call yourself British? And I said, well, I don’t really feel like I would be accepted as if I said I’m British because of the way I sound. But when I talk about home, when I say that I either mean where I am physically in my house in London or Canada where I spent over half of my life. So the concept of home is so, so interesting, especially for people who you’ve been away from your kind of place where you’ve grown up for a really long time, where I go back to Canada and obviously the world has moved on, Canadians have moved on and they’ll be talking about things and I have no idea what they’re talking about. So that’s interesting too.

Annie Ridout:                And do you ever consider moving back to Canada?

Le’Nise Brothers:           I would love to, but I have a life here. My son, he’s in school, and it would just be very complicated to move back. But I love the idea of going back because we could have a really good life there, but we have a great life here and I feel really grateful for that. But yeah, the idea, concept of home and what that means, just really, I think that’s fascinating. And you’ve had one of my faves on the show, Karen Arthur. Oh yeah, yeah, she’s great.

Annie Ridout:                Yeah, I watched her make this move to the seaside. I thought she was actually a Londoner, and she did live in London for a long time, though she wasn’t born there. I discovered when I her, but for me to see a Londoner leave London and her daughters are both still in London and go and live in Hastings, I was really interested and excited by her making this move. But it’s interesting, when I interviewed different people and I interviewed one person like Karen who’s so pleased, she’s made this move and it’s really working out for her, then I’ll interview someone else and they’ll say, no, I’m going to move back. And depending on what they say, it has a real effect on my mood and how I feel about my own life. So if they’re really positive, I’m like, yeah, I can do this. And then if they say, oh, I’m going to go back, like Clover Stroud, I interviewed her and she’s in the States and she’s said, well, we’ll definitely go back in three years. And then I feel almost jealous that she’s so sure she’s moving back and she knows she’s having this adventure, but she knows she’ll go home. So it’s interesting how it affects you in your body, your mind, soul.

Le’Nise Brothers:           And so that’s available on your Substack. And so for listeners who want to get in touch with your work, how can they find you? Where can they find your Substack?

Annie Ridout:                So my Substack is annieridout.substack.com, and then I’m on Instagram at Annie Ridout. And that’s it really. And my books are on my website is annie ridout.com, and that’s got a section for my books if they’re interested in that.

Le’Nise Brothers:           Great. If there is one thing that you would love to leave listeners with today, what would that be?

Annie Ridout:                Oh, that’s a good question. I think what’s coming up a lot for me at the moment is the need to be really honest about how you’re feeling to talk and be open. And even if what the conversation you’re starting is difficult for other people to hear. If you are feeling uncomfortable in your situation as I do sometimes in my home situation, you can be honest about that. You don’t have to pretend that you’re feeling fine when you are not for fear that you will destabilise other people. I think there’s always such value in vulnerability, and I think it’s really important to not suppress your real feelings.

Le’Nise Brothers:           I love that. I think that’s really important too. Thank you so much, Annie.

Annie Ridout:                Thank you. It’s been so lovely talking to you.

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