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Professional Development – Writing about Real Life

2 May @ 10:00 - 11:30 BST

Virtual Event Virtual Event

True life experience can provide a rich resource for writers considering the subject and content of their next book. You may have discovered a hitherto unremarked life story that would lend itself well to memoir or be considering how to incorporate situations or experiences from real life into your next work of fiction.

But what do you need to know of the legal issues that may apply to you when handling information and material relating to living people? How do you ensure you have what you need when undertaking your research with your chosen subject? How do you ensure you don’t risk infringing upon a person’s privacy rights or falling foul of defamation laws?

This session will cover the three key areas to be aware of when writing about living people: copyright, privacy and defamation. There will be a Q&A to follow the presentation. As usual, members are encouraged to contact the SoA by e-mail with any fact-specific queries.



  • Welcome, introductions and housekeeping from Theo Jones – Senior Contracts Advisor, SoA (3 mins)
  • Presentation by Theo Jones and Mathilde Zeeman – Contract Advisor, SoA (60 mins)
  • Comfort break (5 mins)
  • Q&A with audience – moderated by Johanna Clarke, SoA (20 mins)
  • Summary and closing comments (2 mins)
  • This event will be moderated by Johanna Clarke – Publishing Contracts Advisor, SoA


Who is this workshop for?

This workshop is designed to touch on the legal issues to be aware of when writing about living people. It is particularly designed for writers of memoir and other non-fiction, but also for those writing fiction who take inspiration from their real-life experiences or who wish to understand the risks of inadvertently referencing real-life characters.


What will this workshop cover?

  • Legal considerations to be aware of when writing about living people
  • Use of primary source materials such as interviews
  • A subject’s right to privacy following ECHR via the English courts
  • The defamation law of England & Wales and defences
  • Practical tips


Send us your questions in advance

If you would like to send questions in advance, email [email protected] with ‘Writing about Real Life’ in the subject header. We will prioritise questions sent in advance and answer as many as we can from the audience on the day.


SoA @ Home Fundraising Bookshop

Browse our virtual Bookshop.org store featuring books by authors and speakers taking part in the SoA @ Home Festival. When you make a purchase using our affiliate links, a percentage will go to the Authors’ Contingency Fund, providing hardship grants to authors in financial difficulty.


The Line -up

Theo Jones – Senior Publishing Contracts Advisor

Theo Jones works to support the SoA’s mission to protect the rights and further the interests of all different types of writer, through the handling of queries and vetting of contracts. He is a joint coordinator of the SoA’s Scriptwriters Group, which represents members working in film, TV, audio, stage and other dramatic media. Before joining the staff at the SoA, Theo worked in publishing in various roles across sales, marketing and licensing, latterly as a Rights Manager selling translation rights and other secondary format rights including film and TV.


Mathilde Zeeman – Publishing Contracts Advisor

Mathilde joined the SoA in 2022. She transferred from the Membership team to the Advisory team in November 2022 where she continues her work advising members with publishing issues.

Mathilde is joint coordinator of the SoA’s Poetry and Spoken Word Group.


Need to know


  • Attendees will have the option to turn on the live transcript option to watch with subtitles
  • If you require BSL interpretation for this event, please email [email protected]

Before the event

  • Once registered, you will be sent a confirmation email with the Zoom link
  • If the confirmation email doesn’t arrive in your inbox, please check your junk/spam email folder
  • Please add [email protected] to your Safe Senders list so you receive our confirmation and reminder emails

During the event

  • This online event will take place on Zoom Webinar; you will not be visible on screen but will be able ask questions via the Q&A function or interact via the chat box
  • This event will be recorded but you won’t be on screen
  • Attendees have the option to turn on the live transcript option
  • This event is 90 minutes

After the event

  • Hashtag for this event: #SoAatHome
  • You’ll be able to catch the recording on our Vimeo channel



Book your place by using the registration below.

All #SoAatHome events are free but if you can afford to, please consider donating to our Authors’ Contingency Fund and we suggest a minimum donation of £5. The fund is to help professional authors experiencing financial hardship. DONATE HERE


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Financial support for authors in need through the health crisis and beyond

Since March 2020, the Authors’ Contingency Fund has distributed over £1 million in small grants to authors facing financial hardship due to COVID-19.

With at least 57% of authors facing financial losses during the pandemic, we have helped people struggling financially due to contractual, employment and event cancellations, others who have lost income due to illness, and others prevented from working because of caring responsibilities.

As the health crisis continues, applications for grants continue to come in, and our emergency funds are running low.

So, if you are in a position to help, please donate via the link below. If you are an author facing financial hardship, please click here to see if we can help.


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20% off your first year with discount code SOAFESTIVAL20

The Society of Authors is the UK’s biggest trade union for authors – representing more than 11,300 writers, illustrators, translators and other creative practitioners.

Our standard subscription rate is just £26.25 per quarter (£18.50 for students).

As an SoA member, you’ll get:

  • Access to all our SoA @ Home Festival events for free
  • Unlimited one-to-one professional advice
  • Membership of our online and real-world professional networks
  • A range of member-only discounts, including books, insurance and travel
  • And much more.



We will send you the Zoom joining instructions by email.

Please email [email protected] if you do not receive them.

5 Going


2 May
10:00 - 11:30 BST
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Johanna Clarke