Journalism students inspired by guest lecture from successful writer

DMU journalism alumna Rachel Toal, now a successful freelance journalist published in a host of national magazines, came back to DMU to deliver a guest lecture. Second year journalism student Thomas Carter reports.

The life of a busy freelance journalist - frequent deadlines, unpredictable finances and growing a thick skin to deal with the constant rejection -  was the theme of a fascinating  90 minute lecture by former De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) student and successful freelance writer, Rachel Toal.

Rachel Toal talk

Rachel, of Manchester, who graduated from DMU in the early 2000s, came back to her old university to talk to second and third year Journalism  students about finding good stories – and making them pay by selling them to national titles and magazines.

Rachel, who worked previously at a local paper and in PR, said she always wanted to write features – and when her children were born she decided to take the risky career leap into freelance writing. Her life – as a mother, wife and writer – sounded hectic, but fulfilling.

Her talk was honest – “You have to get used to rejection,” she said, explaining some weeks that perhaps only one story in every 12 or 15 she pitched would get commissioned – but was full of valuable real-world advice for the aspiring DMU journalists.

“It’s not always the easiest work,” said Rachel, with a knowing smile.

“Sometimes an editor will commission your piece and want it written in two hours, which is especially difficult at 4pm while trying to sort out tea for the kids.

“It’s a great career, and flexible, too. And if you love writing and reading – which I always did – it’s a rewarding job.

“When I was a student I found myself constantly reading magazines, and that’s how I used my eye for news to go from an English Literature student into journalism.”

Rachel Toal Top Sante

Her passion for writing has paid off. She explained how her work has been published in The Sun, Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Daily Mail and a host of magazines. She advised students on the best way to pitch an article, looking for stories that newspapers would want to commission – and making sure you saved enough money each year to pay the taxman!

In her working life, she has covered a vast array of subjects, producing articles on all matters of human interest issue - ranging from extravagant baby showers to her personal story of life as a vicar’s daughter.

The virtual session was organised by journalism lecturer Lee Marlow. He said: “It was great to welcome Rachel back to DMU, albeit virtually, and her advice to students -  read lots of journalism, set up your blogs, write about everything, always be on the look out for great stories – tied in perfectly with the way we teach practical journalism at DMU.”


Posted on Wednesday 17th February 2021

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