Charlene McElhinney is my pen pal; for a little while now, we’ve been planning a blog collaboration, following on from our Christmas guest post exchange. Over the course of her letters, I gradually came to know more about her; she’s a Blogger, Poet, Student, and Lifestyle Editor for Strathclyde Telegraph. How does she do it? So, I emailed her questions to find out.
Hello Charlene, thank you for agreeing to this interview. First of all, how did you come to be involved with blogging?
I was blogging for about 6 months before I discovered that there was a whole community out there; I actually started blogging as a way of taking my journal online. I’d always kept a diary, and after suffering with mental health issues for some time and seeing a counsellor, we decided I should start a blog. I put the feelers out there and I fell in love. I found my safe haven.
Growing up, where you interested in writing?
Always. At primary school, I had 3 of my poems published. I would go on to win Star Writer more than the average kid. I’d write songs, plays, stories. I spent a lot of my time at home writing stories. And of course there was my journal, where I shared my life in writing. I was always passionate about writing.
It’s been just over a year since you published your first book; congratulations! What made you decide to publish it?
I was working on a poetry anthology for my graded unit at college (I was studying professional writing skills in the creative industries). My lecturer and I had aimed for a total of 5 poems – I ended up writing 80+. I decided I was going to share these with the world. I wanted to share my story about my mental health journey and reach out to others. I’d always been curious about the self-publishing process and so I just went for it. I bit the bullet. I put my words out there in to the world in the form of a book.
Why did you go for poetry?
The reason I went for poetry was because it was what I had chosen to do for my graded unit at college; it was something I was always passionate about at primary school and fell away from in my teenage years. I wanted to try it. Nobody else in my class was really doing it and I thought I’d go for it. I’m so glad I did.
Who influences you as a poet?
Sylvia Plath. But also Rupi Kaur, who I feel is a very modernized poet, who is having a hugely positive influence on poetry in this day and age.
You’re also a lifestyle editor for your University newspaper; how did you get started on this?
I was ‘head-hunted’ by the editor-in-chief who had discovered my blog via twitter (using the hashtags that my university encourage us to use) and she was really eager to have me on board. I took a day or two think about it and then I accepted the offer and went for a brief ‘interview’ with her. It’s very seldom a first year student becomes an editor so I’m extremely proud of myself for taking this on.
What does your job entail?
I’m the lifestyle editor, my main role is to come up with ideas and pitch these to the contributors of our paper. I also write at least one story myself every month. Once I’ve pitched my ideas people approach me conveying their interest in writing about my ideas and I’ll select who I want to write them. I set them deadlines, they send me their stories, I proof read and edit. I also help out with the social media aspect of the paper. I attend socials. I go to meetings with The Strathclyde Telegraph team and we discuss going forward with the paper and future editors. It’s very time consuming but I love it. It’s great experience.
What are you currently working on for the paper?
We have a meeting coming up this week, actually, discussing the upcoming edition. One of the editors suggested having a ‘theme’ every month which has been working well thus far. Last month it was about exams and ‘crunch time’. This month we are thinking ‘summer’. I’ve got a few ideas but I haven’t pitched them yet!
For aspiring poets and journalists, what would be your advice?
Poets – write from the heart. Don’t think in to it too much. Let it come naturally. Share your work. Read, read, read. And have fun with your writing.
Random: if you had to dye your hair, would you go for bright read or glitter pink?
I’d love glitter pink hair actually!
Thank you to Charlene for answering my questions. To read more of her writing, be sure to visit her blog. And Melancholy Mind is available to buy now.