leonieorton

Hello :)

This is me in a nutshell...

I'm a freelance writer and editor. I specialise in writing and editing for business and academia, with design and web development on the side. 

My focus and key skill is in converting thoughts into words. And in making sure they communicate effectively with the right people.

My mission is to help those who are doing good in the world to get their message out to the people who need it.

And here are my vital statistics to suit the average web attention span:  Bachelor of Commerce (Monash), worked in marketing for a variety of industries including tech, publishing, and finance. Have run my own show for the last 10. Experience in the markets of Asia Pacific, UK & Europe. 

In addition to this blog (which you can subscribe to here) you can find my writing published by: Rebelle Society, Elephant Journal, Path of Love, OzRoamer, SEAQ and Leavin' The Big Smoke.


The Whole Shebang 

Now, if like me you enjoy a good story and a deep and meaningful conversation then this version is for you. I can't guarantee depth or meaning, but I can guarantee a story...

First up let me say that the site you are looking at now is new. I ripped my old site to shreds. I seem to do it about once every three years or so. I go through mini career crises and wonder if I even want to be doing this anymore. Well, I realised I do. Just different. Less salesy and formulaic than my old site and marketing was and more, well, I want to say 'real' but I can't stand a cliche so let's just say more 'me'.

Maybe you're familiar with the word 'sutra' as in either 'kama sutra' or 'yoga sutra'... It's thought of as a thread or string of pearls (not in the kama sutra way) that holds together a collection of  aphorisms. I like to think of my many crisis points or times of re-evaluation as aphorisms, and together they make my own sutra that grows in length every day.

Here's an abridged version of that sutra... 
 

Did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? For a while I wanted to be an inventor, but then I decided everything was invented. Then I wanted to be a botanist, but I sucked at chemistry. By my final years of high school the practicality bug bit me and I decided I wanted to be an accountant. Given that my least favourite part of running a business is bookkeeping it's appropriate to ask 'WTF'? 

It's due to a slight division of personalities. I'm not saying I have split personality disorder. I'm just not all... something. Instead I'm caught somewhere in the middle of practical and creative. Depending on the day this can be a blessing or a curse.

Although I'd like to think of myself as a flamboyant, bohemian, creative light; I am also practical, pragmatic, sometimes lacking in spontaneity and a little too 'fixed' for my own good. So what does one do with these opposing forces? Clearly accounting wasn't going to suit my boho self, but the pragmatist decided there was no point doing an arts degree (despite blitzing English and winning awards) if I wasn't intending to use it for teaching... So I ended up doing a commerce degree, minoring in literary theory.   

After way too much partying and a few fails, I finally hitched up my long stripy socks, pulled my finger out and graduated with a piece of paper, lots of fun times and plenty of life experience. But still not much closer to finding my calling.

Yes that's me with the long hair and the caption.

Yes that's me with the long hair and the caption.

So what was a pragmatic-creative hybrid to do with a commerce degree? Attend the graduate interviews with the big companies like every other hopeful? Nope, instead my creative side took over and I snubbed all those options in favour of volunteering at Express Media - a youth media arts centre in Fitzroy, Melbourne and had the time of my life: writing, editing, attending fringe festivals and other cool gigs, wearing a press badge; reviewing the obscure, organising literary festivals and rubbing shoulders with some pretty amazingly clever people.

Eventually  pragmatic me took the reigns again... I wasn't getting paid anything and I felt the pull to 'get serious about my career'. So sadly I left Express Media and went to work for an employment agency. What the F was I thinking??? That was the day my pragmatic side was just plain dumb. 

I'd gone from a vibrant, creative environment, where sure, I wasn't earning money but was surrounded by buckets full of opportunities for experience, networking and future prospects; to a dull, uninspiring, hierarchical corporate environment.

My illustrious career at the employment agency went on to see me write an ‘advice’ letter, on company letterhead to a woman with no qualifications, or intention of acquiring any, a grudge against the world and a desire to become a psychologist. Let's just say the letter contained plenty of advice but not much diplomacy. Even I look back and cringe at my fiery, opinionated younger self.

It made me feel better, but unfortunately a copy of my (very well written) letter landed on the desk of my manager, his boss, and the industry ombudsmen. Which very nearly resulted in the Company's government contract being pulled. Oops... Clearly my words can be powerful!

I was very nearly fired, but fortunately a lovely, camp guy, who looked a lot like Richie Cunningham from Happy Days was employed as my manager. We hit it off and he fought to keep me. Which was really nice of him, but shortly after that my creative side yelled ENOUGH and I resigned to begin a career in marketing. 

I worked for a listed tech company during the boom of the late nineties - SecureNet (back when business and product names using CapitalLettersWithoutSpaces was de rigueur). That was a pretty fun job... I once again got to use my writing skills - this time for good (though I did run out of ways to say "Australia's leading internet security company").

I finally began to feel that I'd hit upon a vocation that suited my split personality... But I was young and the world was waiting... So honestly the best part of that job was writing my letter of resignation, cashing in my employee shares at the market high right before the industry crash; and heading off to South America. 

Image source: traveller.com.au

Image source: traveller.com.au

After three months exploring Latin America, speaking Spanglish and eating too many churros I moved to the UK. I wish I could call it intrepid and adventurous, but given that London is apparently the biggest electorate of voters outside Australia, I can't quite claim that title.

I did however manage to avoid living in a large, seedy share house with a horde of other Aussies in Earls Court, spending my weekends getting drunk at The Walkabout. Instead, I lived in a small, only a little bit seedy, share house with English friends and drank cheap french wine, chatted a lot, and laughed a lot. Happy times. 

After a brief spell of temping for Cazenove Capital Management in central London - full of old money and plummy accents, I landed a wonderful job as a Regional Marketing Communications Specialist (how's that for a snazzy job title), with Silverplatter Information - a company who were pioneers in producing commercial reference databases on CD-ROMs (remember those?!). I had the most awesome boss who I became very good friends with, fun colleagues and exciting work. We handled the marketing communications for the UK, Europe and the Middle East markets. Pretty fun for a young Aussie girl. 

I considered being sponsored by the company and staying on in the UK. But alas they were bought out by an American rival company - Ovid, and contractors were the first to go. 

So, then it was time for a change of scenery. A friend offered up his barge boat, moored in a little place called Saltford, between Bristol and Bath.  The boat had a lounge area, a pot belly stove, a galley kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. It was springtime when I was there so the world was covered in jonquils and daffodils. 

Barge boat - Saltford (Bristol) Source: Getty Images / Graham Bell

Barge boat - Saltford (Bristol) Source: Getty Images / Graham Bell

In Bristol I worked in the marketing department for Allied Domecq - a company that marketed top beer and wine labels... Beefeater, Courvoisier, Makers Mark etc.

Australians have a reputation for being hard workers in England. I don't know about that, I for one am not above the easy road... I think it's more a case of too many employees for the amount of work that needs doing. My job was the marketing communications associated with sponsoring the european Formula One circuit. Work done, there was still plenty of time for me to 'research' (i.e surf the net). To the point that I became a quasi travel agent. I knew which airlines were having sales, which had the cheapest fares and special deals, and if a friend was interested in a particular destination I quickly became an expert.

It was thanks to all this spare time that my next chapter revealed itself - working as a gardener (read: mower of lawn) at a large, stately manor house on the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland. The property was owned by a wealthy English family who lived in the lush, affluent Cotswolds.

And so my time living on a barge boat ended, and my boyfriend (who had been living in London) and I moved to Scotland.

Given the generational grudge between Scotland and England, I got the feeling it was almost an embarrassment for them as they rarely visited. The only visits seemed to be to occasionally hunt wild deer. I use the term 'hunt' and 'wild' loosely because in their employ was a 'Deer Stalker' whose job it was to feed the deer to keep them in the general vicinity. Then when it was 'hunting' time, they'd get dressed up in their tweed and the Deer Stalker would line up the shot so they could pull the trigger. Bang.

The house and grounds were pretty incredible. I still pinch myself. It was a two storey monster with about 15 bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a butler's kitchen and a drying room in the basement. The study was lined wall to wall with books, a cozy fireplace and a cushion that someone had lovingly embroidered with the words "it's hard to be humble when you're from Eton".

Then there was the billiards room with a regulation-size table, and the formal lounge housing a grand piano and photos of the family partying with the royals.

My favourite room in the house was the kitchen. It had a huge table in the middle, an Aga that was warm 24 hours a day, and a window over the kitchen sink that looked out over manicured gardens and a pine forest that stretched down to Loch Ness. On the opposite bank the ruins of Urquhart Castle were visible.

Urquhart Castle. Source: historicenvironment.scot

Urquhart Castle. Source: historicenvironment.scot

Our job was essentially to mow grass. There was a ride-on for the lawn in the hedge-enclosed formal garden (set apart from the house), a hand mower with a roller to create that perfect lined turf look, and strimmers (whipper snippers) for edges and vast expanses of bluebells that had finished their lilac blooming and withered en masse. We became experts, perhaps it became a bit of an obsession, because when we finished up, we'd drive past stretches of cut grass and guess whether it had been slashed, mowed (with a ride-on or push and on what number) or strimmed.

On weekends we'd throw some food and bedding into the back of a VW postie van and explore Scotland. Sleeping on the side of a country road, bathing in crystal clear, freezing lochs and eating, as I recall, a lot of carrots. 

Eventually, with my visa fast coming to an end, it was time to return to London and maximise our earning potential in preparation for more travel...

We spent seven months backpacking through Africa and South East Asia, hyphenated by a chilly Copenhagen Christmas. 
 

Safaris in Kenya. Gorilla trekking in Uganda. Kilimanjaro summit and white Zanzibar beaches in Tanzania. Mangoes, games of bao and constant offers of 'chamba' in Malawi. A marathon 30 hour bus ride to Zimbabwe; a near death experience as that same bus rolled down a hill somewhere between Mozambique and Harare; a feeling of gratitude for life and sadness for the woman who lost hers; beautiful people living under a corrupt, oppressive government and ironically half-price movie tickets in the already perversely deflated Zimbabwe Dollar. Sneaky backpacker 'walk-in' rates for luxury camping in the Okavango Delta, Leopards at sunset and quivering chameleons in Botswana. Hitchhiking, stunning deserts, warthogs and delicious apple strudel in Namibia. Beaches, vineyards, mountain ranges and violence in South Africa. 

Africa. Source: shoortravel.com

Africa. Source: shoortravel.com

In Copenhagen we ate raw herring for Christmas dinner and had our photos taken sitting on the lap of Hans Christian Andersen's bronze doppleganger.

From chilly Denmark, Bankok's heat and humidity hit us like a ton of pad thai. We spent the next four months meandering through Indochina. Beach bumming it in Thailand; exploring the history of Cambodia from the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat to the chilling Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge; swimming in turquoise waterholes in Laos, and spending days sitting on the slow boat up the Mekong to the top end of Thailand; drinking tea and eating greasy, yummy, spicy roti prata in Malaysia; finishing our journey in sleek and modern Singapore.

In the end can you believe I grew bored with travelling? 

It almost feels like blasphemy to say so, but unstructured days that became weeks and months began to feel futile and I started to crave routine, a flushing toilet, coat hangers and a permanent address. 

Returning to Australia after three years felt good. Normality returned quickly. Within a month we'd set up home in a rented one bedroom flat in Melbourne and returned to full-time employment. I started a job as a marketing manager in Melbourne's CBD and enjoyed for a while being back in an office, dressing up in a suit and playing the corporate game. What the directors lacked in integrity, the position made up for in latitude. My job description covered everything from writing and customer relations to web, events and graphic design.

After a couple of years the corporate novelty finally wore off and I resigned to set up my own marketing consultancy.

For the past 10 years I've been working for myself and on myself, thinking about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.

Yoga became a big part of my life. What started as a once a week class for stretching  (here's a funny video on that) became a life path that now informs many of my thoughts, actions and intentions.

Rajasthan, India

Rajasthan, India

I stopped eating meat and started needing my work to matter. Not in a narcissistic way; in a do some good in the world before I die and decompose kind of a way.

I don't know where it came from, but I happen to be pretty good at stringing a sentence together and that can be helpful. One of my favourite quotes is by George Bernhard Shaw... 

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

And ain't that the truth. Think about your conversations with your intimate partner for example. Ai yai yai. 

And that's where this journey has taken me. My creative side sculpts thoughts into words, and my pragmatic side adds structure and context which adds up to connection and communication. 

If you are in business or academia and contributing to making the world a better place please get in touch. I'd love to help you to make a bigger difference through words that connect. 

For more information on what I do, check out my SERVICES page

P.S. My most brilliant creations and wildest adventures are my two sons...

Indi & Che 

Indi & Che