Bravery, storytelling and taking action: When Kate Mosse met Diageo's Syl Saller

Bravery, storytelling and taking action: When Kate Mosse met Diageo's Syl Saller

Diageo chief marketing officer Syl Saller engaged her friend Labyrinth author Kate Mosse in an inspiring and revealing conversation last week, hosted by the Marketing Society of which Saller is president. Held at London's Bloomsbury House, Mosse, who is also the creator of the Women's Prize for Fiction, left many in the room wanting to make a positive change in their lives and, in some cases, even pen their first novel.

Five takeouts from the conversation

Start small

Being brave doesn’t have to be a big gesture.

"There are little braveries and big braveries," Mosse said. ‘Everything about bravery and storytelling is about being a little bit more than you thought you could be."

Asked by Glow founder Emma Harris how to find the time to fit writing a book around real life, Mosse advised her to build up the time spent writing rather than feeling it requires a two-hour block. "Five minutes a day is better than nothing," she said.

Recognise real bravery

"I don’t think about being frightened," said Mosse, saying it seems "indulgent" as she knows writers around the world who face freedom of expression clampdowns.

Likewise, Saller told of how her colleagues in Turkey worked in difficult conditions due to being drinks marketers and found themselves, in some cases, shunned by their neighbours. "It puts everything into perspective," she added.

Don’t just moan, do something no matter how tough

Mosse started the Women’s Prize for Fiction in the early 80s, when the prevailing attitude at the time was "if women were any good they wouldn’t need a special prize".

She recalled how at its launch, she was asked by a male journalist from the The Sun whether she was a "lesbian". "No, are you," she shot back at him. This was the start of an "extraordinary" six months where she was "in the eye of the storm" and called at home by reporters.

She now proudly describes as the prize as the "biggest celebration of women’s creativity in the world".

Know when to quit

While there may be situations where you can change a culture from within, some bosses and business may simply say "fuck off" if you try to, said Mosse.

And sometimes that might just be the best thing to do, she admitted, who said she turned down a big job in publishing before making it as an author. "We are all happiest at work when we are closest to our real selves.

"Be brave enough to not stick to the structure if you don’t think the structure is something you can contribute to," she said.

And don’t over-analyse

Mosse warned: "Too much self-absorption is not healthy and makes people less active."

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