On his original typewriter, in his apartment, 88-year-old former Courier Mail journalist John Higgins, writes the much revered “A Moment, Please” newsletter.
The must-read publication, is written for all residents and staff at Seasons Waterford West community, which John has been producing for the last two years, since the passing of his wife Teresa.
We recently had a Q&A with him to find out more about his inspiration for the newsletter and tips for those looking to improve their writing skills.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the newsletter?
John: “A Moment, Please” aspires to meet with readers under auspices of kindly feelings and helpful motives. It aims at being agreeable reading by addressing subjects likely to connect with sympathies and sentiments found among older people. It anticipates a consensus approving character sketches of persons at Seasons (Our personality page), care-community news, commentary, and feature articles. There has been no turning aside from how we perceived the little paper’s mission. This was stated in October 2018 Number as being “to give joy where it can from what is found pleasant.”
Q: How did you start writing the newsletter?
John: I had at first to decline helping with the Newsletter, my personal care-giving the only thought in my mind and duty to my hand at the time. For a while after losing Teresa I still held off. A man must do something – and so it happened, I made the old “Focus” newsletter become “A Moment, Please.”
Q: What feedback have you received from other residents about the newsletter?
John: The feedback is doubtless positive; enthusiastic in quarters. I believe we are on the right track. Remarks here and there are intemperately flattering – an incentive at least to maintain a standard. All over, the feedback gives cause for confidence, certainly reason for gratitude.
Q: What has been your favourite story/ piece you’ve written for the newsletter?
John: The newsletter holds together, I think, on the choice of topics and apparently its style. If it is to win support, it will by convincing every reader of their significant and bonding with them in the human comedy – to speak plain, in sympathy. Patho is a powerful ally in searching people’s hearts and getting hold of what they like to hear; in this belief, the better story is conceived. The Shiralee tale, true and having a Seasons link, I like.
Q: What is your journalistic background?
John: I belong to the root-stock among journos, meaning I evolved from practical, not theoretical, training. Straight into the real thing as a cadet journalist, no bending over a textbook. Unlike many at the time, equipped with typewriting and shorthand writing skills, I cut my teeth on whatever coverage was required – courts, interviews, industry conferences, the political and parliament spheres, and much else. I reported, sub-edited and finally edited for local, state, national and international consumption. Chief-of-staff in between. Fell under the spell of happenings and headlines – too much, so I fear- and now, in retirement, keel well clear of its memory.
Q: What advice do you have for people looking to improve their writing skills?
John: The first essential I acknowledge is lucidity. Be sure what you intend saying and don’t vacillate, or tinker too much with it once it’s down. Much can be said for spontaneity. Don’t be concerned with ornament. Fashion your work rather in plain, honest words. Hold to a plan of construction in the composition, making the right things go into the right places. Keep your distance from crudeness, and if you have a clean mind, transfer it with impunity to the page. Take endless pains over the impression you want to leave with the reader and try hard to avoid the least ambiguity.