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Deborah C Dooley

Journalist and owner of a writer's' retreat.

I came to journalism late, having spent my twenties combining motherhood with being a teacher of aerobics. When my third child was a year old, I began submitting ideas for features with some success, and within a year, I was working two days a week at Woman’s Own and Woman’s Realm.

In 1995, a move to North Devon made travelling to London impractical, and since then I have carved out a successful career as a freelance journalist. I have tended to specialise in health and particularly alternative health, but also write relationship features and real life stories and I have built up a wide range of contacts, especially in the world of health and medicine. I have always been especially interested in alternative health, having seen the benefits of its use within my own family.

I’ve written for all the national papers, and all the weekly and monthly women’s magazines, as well as Mother and Baby, Shape, Here’s Health, Health and Fitness, Pharmacy magazine and Pharmacy Business magazine. I was health editor for Woman’s Own magazine, on a freelance basis, from April ’97 to February ’98 and have been a regular contributor to the health and features sections of the Daily Mail, The Daily Express and The Times. I wrote a weekly alternative health column for Woman’s Weekly for four years, and alternative health information cards for a publishing company called Craft Plus, for several months. I was also responsible for the health pages for Love it! magazine, which involved sourcing and writing health stories, collating snippets of health information, and editing a regular contribution from the resident doctor. I regularly write for Femail, on the Daily Mail.

I ghosted on ‘Yogalates, total body toner’, a book by exercise expert Louise Solomon, and (like most journalists), I am currently writing a novel. I have also tutored on residential writing courses (on journalism) at The Arvon Foundation.

Most recently I have launched a writing retreat, from my house in a small Devon village, providing space and support for other writers, and I also offer one to one creative writing workshops, and online tuition. Running Retreats for you has also enabled me to indulge my love of cooking. I provide three meals a day for our writers in residence, which are always well received, plus goodly amounts of banana bread, flapjacks and other homemade treats.

Living in North Devon has enabled me – and my family, to indulge our passion for being near the sea. Often, especially when the children visit, we all go off to one of the glorious beaches nearby, for a barbecue and a swim – even in the winter. I’ve discovered that visiting writers to our retreat share our love of the coast. And also that one of the best remedies for writer’s block is to watch a sunset over the waves, while drinking a glass of good wine.

The Sound of Gerard

David Beckham is undeniably gorgeous. But for me, the second he begins to speak, that gorgeousness becomes a distant memory. Conversely, Gerard Depardieu does not, perhaps, immediately strike one as conventionally appealing. But the minute he opens his mouth - quel delight!
29/04/2014 12:37 BST

Proper Job

A few years ago, writing for a living gave way to opening a writers' retreat. An occupation that is not remotely proper, or even job-like. Irregular hours, packed with fun and interest and stuffed with nice food and wine.
10/04/2014 12:53 BST

Me and My Grandmother

Sometimes I think I may be turning into my grandmother. I remember very well how, having flagged down a taxi, she would think nothing of rejecting it if the driver neglected to jump out and open the door for her.
20/03/2014 17:45 GMT

Mrs Miss or Ms

The young policeman stared at me. 'Are you married or not?' he demanded. The irritation in his tone was catching and my own voice was a tad prickly as I told him that was none of his business.
12/02/2014 12:57 GMT

Giving and Glowing

It's pretty well universally acknowledged that constantly harping on about your own generosity is unattractive - but I don't see the harm in telling a few mates about your deed of the day.
04/10/2013 12:42 BST

Discovering Hope

Only his feet were left, abandoned by their predator, in the grass. I felt sad as I looked at them, remembering his loud and frequent voice, now hushed for ever. Gingerly I picked up the dismembered limbs, fighting nausea. How could this have happened? I wondered.
17/07/2013 12:38 BST

A Way With Words

Bland is one of those words that has its own taste. Saying it releases a mouthful of tapioca like sensation, thick on the tongue, fat with its one dull syllable. Bland is also the word used by one person to describe my last blog post. Bland, I mused, as I saw the comment, flinching a little at the obvious slur on my writing skills.
09/07/2013 10:59 BST

Heart Attack Help in A and E

'My husband's having a heart attack! Somebody help!' Words guaranteed to make anyone in the immediate vicinity either administer some kind of medical aid or grab the nearest handset to summon it. Or so you'd think. But the distressed woman's plea for help went largely unanswered.
18/06/2013 13:26 BST

A Face That Fits

I first became aware that my face doesn't fit when I was writing a weekly column for a women's magazine that At first the editorial team tolerated the rather amateurish snap that I had provided for my picture byline. Then I got a phone call. 'We need you to come up for a shoot,' said the picture editor.
28/05/2013 16:13 BST

Leaden in Devon

'Legs like lead, legs like lead,' I panted, like a sort of tortured mantra, as I pounded along the footpath, ducking under branches. The dog streaked ahead, loving the wind and the gentle rain, as light on its paws as I was heavy on mine. My legs, that is.
16/05/2013 12:25 BST

Writing Space

'I mean, it's not as if we don't have it,' she said hurriedly. 'Our savings account is very healthy.' I nodded, forgetting for a moment that she couldn't see me and then hoping that she'd sense my understanding. I felt saddened that like so many others, she felt that the love affair she was having with writing wasn't worthy of her time and money. That she didn't deserve to have this passion in her life.
08/05/2013 18:38 BST

Food for Thought

We sat in the kitchen for our writerly discussion. He held a sheaf of A4 paper, covered in typescript while I was armed with my favourite pen and my kitchen reading glasses. I slid them onto my nose, squinting around the scratches and food smudges. Two mugs of tea and a plate of just baked flapjacks sat on the table between us.
17/03/2013 12:51 GMT

Board in Devon

There can be few things more pleasant in this life than reclining on a beautiful beach, and surveying white crested waves dotted with those black shiny suited acrobats of the sea. Not dolphins. Surfers
04/02/2013 18:02 GMT

A Devilish Place

Each year around 3million people are lured to Dartmoor's 368 square miles of outstanding natural beauty, and each year, a good percentage of them get lost on it.
10/01/2013 14:08 GMT

Eating Writing

Reworking characters done sensitively and gently, brings to mind a chef plating up a beautifully presented platter of hors d'oeuvres or laying out wafer thin slices of finely sliced cold meats.
20/12/2012 12:16 GMT

The Brilliant, the Average and the Blocked

As the owner of a writer's retreat, I've encountered writers who say they have writer's block. The cure, I've discovered, is simple. We sit at the kitchen table, tea and banana bread to hand (this may be an optional part of the cure) and I ask the afflicted one what they would like to write.
06/12/2012 12:02 GMT