Writing lives

Got something to say? Are you over 40? Then a new website for women writers might be for you. Powder Room Graffiti showcases wry, well-written articles by women over 40. Workingmums finds out more.

Do magazines cater for intelligent women over 40? If you looked at the newsagents’ stands you’d think they were only interested in clothes and celebrities.
“Women’s magazines are obsessed with fashion and celebrities,” says Diane Hayman. “We might like a bit of that, but it’s not everything. A lot are written by younger women and there’s a lot of pigeonholing of older women.” She has set out to give older women a bit more choice in their reading matter.”There is a huge gap for honest, irrevent humour for this age group,” she says – and what better place to host good content for older women than on the internet? The early adopters of internet media were young, but now older women are among the fastest growing groups. “They are coming online in their droves,” says Diane.
With her business partner John Morisano, she has set up Powder Room Graffiti, a website which allows women to write entertaining and thoughtful articles about their day to day lives or indeed anything that interests them.
 
Drunk Mummy
The germ for the site came from Diane’s own writing. A former City trader who spent around four years “pregnant and breastfeeding” after having her three children in close succession, Diane started a blog called Drunk Mummy about two years ago. She wrote the blog anonymously to give herself more freedom and soon built up quite a following. She says it was inspired by feeling that she was constantly being told what to do as a parent by all the parenting “experts”. “I was blown away by the online community and how quickly you get a sense of belonging to a community,” she says. She had 100s of people following her a day and that was with no search engine optimisation or marketing. She thinks things may be harder now because blogs have become more professional. “Two years ago it was still very much the area of the amateur. Now it is more marketing focused,” she says.
She decided to give up the blog after six months when her daughter, now 11, starting looking over her shoulder while she was writing and then began to get worried every time she had a drink. “Every time I had a glass of wine, she would ask ‘are you getting drunk?’.” Her cover was blown.
She told John Morisano, who had been a close friend from way back, about her blog. He is a media entrepreneur and funds start-ups. He immediately spotted the possibilities of blogging for women aged 40 plus. “We started thinking about women’s blogs and how we could get some of the best writing – not just blogs. We wanted to get all the best writing in one place and reflect the diversity of what was on offer. There is such fantastic writing out there,” says Diane.
 
Powder Room Graffiti
The site is inviting women to contribute their writing. There are categories on the site, but these are fairly rough guidelines. Diane will edit the writing, but she will seek to preserve each writer’s voice. The editing process is more about checking for grammar and accuracy.
Powder Room Graffiti already has several regular writers, including in the US and Australia. Diane says few websites take advantage of the global nature of the internet. She wants to encourage women writers from all over the world. “We believe women in their 40s have similiar experiences and stories to share,” she says. Subjects covered so far include everything from being childless and PMS to a poignant and funny piece on when an unlovely parent dies. The biggest hits have been on articles on sex, including articles on masturbation and designer vaginas. “There’s a very broad range of articles,” says Diane. “They tend to be very honestly written and wryly humorous.”
 
City life
Diane clearly relishes her new role as editor. Before children, she spent 10 years working in the City, firstly as a management consultant for accenture and then as a trader, which she says she loved. She says she takes her hat off to anyone who works full time in the City with children, but it wasn’t for her. This was mainly because she had her children in close succession – they are now 8, 10 and 11, but also she says the perks of being a trader fade once you have children. “All the social things fade away as you simply want to get home,” she says.
She met John Morisano 18 years ago in Paris through a work colleague. He was from New York and Diane soon found herself posted there. The two kept in touch when she moved back to London. The two have complementary strengths, says Diane. “John has a very strong business sense about how the Internet works. My strength is with content,” says Diane, who continued to write after she stopped her blog. From her blogging days, though, Diane built up a network of good writers so she already has some strong partnerships. She hopes to build on this. “Some of them I never speak to,” she says, “but I know so much about them by building up a friendship online.”
At the moment as it is just starting up, contributors to Powder Room Graffiti get paid £10 for an article of 500 words, an acknowledgement that the content has value. “It won’t make you a tax exile, but it will buy you a nice bottle of wine,” says the former Drunk Mummy.



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