Laura James has written the ultimate book about Autism ; Odd Girl Out should be on your ‘must read’ list.

It’s about an Autistic woman, Laura, in a neuro-typical world; she looks back at earlier parts of her life, and how she reacts and gets on with her diagnosis later on in life. As an autistic female, this book felt very ‘human’ to me; it spoke to me, almost as if Laura was inside my head. Forget the diagnosis, and medical terms; here is someone who ‘gets it’, and is probably undergoing what you feel.

I was lucky enough to speak to Laura about Odd Girl Out via email; she is also a journalist, which was another thing that interested me.

First of all, how did you come to write your book, Odd Girl Out? 

When I got my autism diagnosis, one of my first thoughts was ‘will I write about this?’. About three months later I wrote a piece for the Daily Telegraph and the response was so huge, writing further on the subject in the form of a book seemed like a natural next step.

Why did you think writing about your diagnosis, which came later in life, should be the centre of the book? 

I used it to underpin the book, so it’s where I start, but I also dart back in time and look at my childhood, my teenage years, young motherhood etc. It felt like a good jumping off point as it was so fresh in my mind and writing was allowing me to process all the emotion around being diagnosed.

How has the reaction been to the book?

The reaction has been amazing. It’s not often that I’m surprised, but I have been surprised by the sheer number of people interested in my story. I got thousands of messages in the month around publication and most days I still get a message or two on social media from someone who has come across the book.

What do you think about early intervention to diagnose people on spectrum?

I think everyone deserves to know who they are and to have the very best opportunities in life. If that can be done by spotting autism early, then I am all for it. What happens afterwards, however, is important, as is that ongoing support, nurturing and caring is put in place. I don’t like interventions that major on teaching children how to behave in a neurotypical way, as they can only do damage in the long term. Support that encourages children to be their best and most authentic selves is what we should be striving for.

What did you think on finally being diagnosed? 

Overwhelmingly, I felt relief and vindication. My autism diagnosis came a few months after my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome was diagnosed and suddenly everything in my life made sense. I wasn’t a hypochondriac or unlucky – there were concrete reasons as to why my body behaved the way it did. The autism diagnosis was so vindicating as it allowed me to know why I find some things much harder than others do.

“The reaction has been amazing. It’s not often that I’m surprised, but I have been surprised by the sheer number of people interested in my story.”
-Laura James on the reaction to Odd Girl Out.

How did you start out as a journalist?

I was working for a publishing company and an amazing editor called Gill allowed me to interview Jilly Cooper, who was my absolutely favourite writer and one of my intense interests.

In terms of being autistic, how do you think people on spectrum could be an asset to journalism? 

For me, the ability to hyperfocus is a huge asset at deadline time, as is the way I can get to grips with complex information very quickly. Having intense interests helps a lot too. Finally, I can look at all sides of an argument in a non-emotional way and I think that really makes for balance.

For people who are on spectrum, who aspire to get into journalism, what would be your advice? 

If it’s someone who likes to be around people, then maybe contacting their local paper and asking if they can do some work experience or intern for a bit. I am not necessarily a huge fan of journalism degrees as I think you learn much more in the working environment. Most of the really great journalists I know have done an NCTJ course or apprenticeship and I can’t recommend them highly enough. I was lucky that I learned on the job and my husband, who at the time of our meeting was a magazine editor but who spent many years working in news, taught me everything over a number of years.

“Overwhelmingly, I felt relief and vindication. My autism diagnosis came a few months after my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome was diagnosed and suddenly everything in my life made sense.”
-Laura James on what she felt after her Autism diagnosis.

Random: If you were on Desert Island discs, what would be the book you’d take to the Island with you, and why? 

Oh gosh, only one? That feels terribly hard. I think if I had to pick, I would probably choose Rivals by Jilly Cooper. It’s real comfort reading to me and the characters feel like people I have known for years. They are beautifully drawn and feel very real, plus it’s funny, has lots of stuff on W.B. Yeats (my favourite poet) and the book is quite long so would take me a while to get through.


Thank you to Laura for answering my questions; you can follow her on Twitter.  If you’d like to read an extract of Odd Girl Out, read it here. And you can buy the book on Amazon. 

My first introduction to Tina Brown came when Googling, surfing the web on a break; Orion were about to release The Vanity Fair Diaries. (Bear in mind this was near the end of last year.) It appealed to me instantly; the personal diaries of an editor, glossy figures, and the challenges of turning around a failing brand? Check.


I think it should be noted that this book is a thick volume; at over a decade, these diaries have been edited before being printed. It also makes me wonder; what has been left out?

Content and plot.

The introduction instantly sets the scene, with the first few entries elaborating further; Brown is barely thirty when arriving in New York as a consultant for Vanity Fair. The sense of frustration is also palpable from the beginning, in the sense of actually getting the editorship. Then: just how to save a magazine? 

Journalistically, the content is also interesting. There’s a lot about the editorship, the daily choices, moving in what seems to be a man’s world.As one publication put it in their headline, it was a supreme balancing act.  However, I’m not sure it would necessarily appeal to a wider audience; in this respect, the book is very ‘niche’.

In terms of style, I think Brown has a novelists pen coupled with a journalistic sensibility; she makes people instantly memorable.

I also like how the book has a wider sense of the time; there’s a sense of being on the edge, technology speeding things up, going at a quicker pace.

A note on the characters.

I think this memoir was timely in one sense, given today’s politics. For instance, Boris Johnson appears in the book, albeit briefly. (With my interest in politics, I was smiling at this particular entry.) There’s also Donald Trump-the domineering, overbearing character who appears at various times in the book. It’s slightly eerie in a way.

Should you read it?

If you remember the eighties, this is a book for you. (I don’t-being born well after-so at times I was left wondering “Who is x, y, z?”) If you also enjoy magazines, then this is also the book for you-it recalls what could be coined as a ‘golden age’ for journalism. I enjoyed it, although I had to plod through a little bit; I would have loved to have worked for Brown at this time.


Buy The Vanity Fair Diaries on Amazon. 

The Reckoning landed on my door matt after a mix up; however, as with virtually every crime novel, I was intrigued by this tome. It’s not every day that a book arrives, after all! Please note, this review contains spoilers.

The book as a whole:

Instantly, I was captivated by the language and the method of storytelling; I have a tendency to read about plots in either the UK or America. However, this takes place in Iceland, a departure from what I tend to read. (It’s a cross between The Snowman and The Child.

At first, I was staying up late to read this book; it reminded me of The Shadow Of The Wind, due to the break-neck pace, genre blends, etc.

But: I was disappointed with this book. And by the end, I felt inexplicably angry, as it was almost as if the characters had suddenly become real. Too real in fact.

Characterisation and plot:

The plot seems too eerily now, in mirroring what has been in the news recently; a time capsule is dug up, and in it is a note that says x amount of people are going to die. At the same time, a school in America (twinning with this project) also dig up their time capsule. Yet, as a detective and his sidekick, a child physiologist, try to “crack the case”, the bodies rack up.

As to the ending? Well, I could not help but feel more than a bit disturbed. The killings were in revenge for the killing of a little girl, Vaka, in collaboration with the son of the alleged killer. But… this brings me on to characters.

Who dreams up a scene where a man dressed as Santa tries to abduct two young children? There was also one character that had me raging; when kidnapped, he has to have his hands cut off, to save his children from being abused. Yet, when asked to name one of his children, he does! And he pities himself, not the child afterwards!

What to improve:

There could have been a lot less description, and more cutting to the chase. I also did not like the fact that the reader can see when someone is going to be kidnapped, and yet it leaves the Detective clueless. “Wake up, he’s about to be killed!” is what I wanted to shout-yet couldn’t, as it is fiction.

In conclusion:

On finishing this book, I felt such a sense of betrayal; there is also a twist at the end which I did not see coming. However, I think that it would be suited to someone more at GCSE level; I would have also liked a book without the scenes I mentioned under Characterisation And Plot.

Click here to buy the book.


Disclaimer: this book was sent to me via a member of the publicity team at Hodder & Stroughton. However, this post contains my honest opinion, and is not advertising; I have also not received any fee for review. You can read more about this in my disclaimer.

As a whimsical post, I thought I would create a “Filofax Wishlist”. (Because the ring-binder I have currently is a little bit ratty.) I’ve started to use my Filofax again, but it’s imperfect; therefore, I thought I’d sketch out what I’d like in a new one.


So…. I love the look of the Fuchsia Original (size personal). The colour is professional, with just a pop of colour to add to my bag.

As all Filofaxes, it comes with various refills and inserts already inside; however I created a list of inserts that I would also like to add to it. So: in terms of division, I would divide the Filofax into six categories. (And this lists the inserts categorised under them.)

Diary

So: the diary would need to be a week to two pages, otherwise the space would be far too small for me to write in. (I have GIANT handwriting, and a lot of deadlines, assignments, etc.) I would also have to make the diary pretty, complete with Washi tape, stickers..

Information

This would be travel-based; I seem to spend a lot of my time on a train! (I can’t drive.) So: I would have blue notepaper in this section, a page per journey, plus a tube map. It would stop me getting very lost!)

NCTJ 

I’m still on my NCTJ course; I finish in July. However, it still needs its own section, as this pretty much dominates my life. I am also a Journalism Diversity Fund recipient; I try to keep track of feedback, my finances, etc. (These inserts are working wonders currently!) I would also add a month-by-month calendar, to keep track of lectures, exams, etc.

Journalism/Blog

This section would contain a variety of different coloured notepaper; it would mainly be lists. Ideas for stories, ideas for blog posts, a media calendar, collaboration ideas, contact details for newspapers..

Finance

I think I need to start looking after my finances a bit more; halfway through last year, they ended up being a little bit abused. So: I would set a goal of how much to save, a budget for the month, and fill out a finance insert-a page per month.

Other

Life is not something that is concrete, or something that obeys planning; no matter how much I would like to, I cannot control everything. So, this section would simply be ‘other’-left for when something new is needed, to help me respond in the best way possible.

What would be in your dream Filofax?

Lydia xo

Twitter / Instagram / About the blog 


Not sure what to put in your Filofax? Gala Darling has you sorted. And Filofax’s can be used in academia as well. 

Hello!

So: you can probably see that this blog looks very different. It’s still the same blog-kind of-but with some fundamental differences. You see..

It needed to change. The blog needed to change in a very big way.

After nearly six years of being a Blogger, this website needed a change. And I don’t mean in terms of branding, the appearance, etc; to be honest, it began to bore me. (I was tired of posting about mawkish subjects on here.)

For that reason, I decided to change the appearance in downloading a new Pipdig theme. (When redesigning this blog, I even created a Pinterest blog!) Alongside this, I decided to go self hosted, in the hope that I can blog for business. 

Content.

The content on her will be slightly adapted. Yes, I’ll still be blogging in order to document my Autism diagnosis. (Because, really, that is what it has made it all worthwhile, over the years.) There will still be journalism updates for the duration that I am on the NCTJ course; I’ll still be doing what I do now.

I’ll be introducing new content in addition to what I am doing now; there will be more book reviews, beauty opinion pieces, etc. (That’s what my Instagram polling efforts directed me to do, anyway.)

Writing for a living (well, freelancing.)

Building on from blogging for business: in July, I will have finished my NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists qualification.) Cue me thinking: “I’M GOING INTO THE BIG WIDE WORLD, WHAT DO I DO?!” After all, that’s my education finished; it’s a slightly terrifying prospect.

So, yes, I’ll be going freelance for a while. (Until I decide how to progress, what the next move is, etc.)

I admire freelance journalists. (Maybe that should be journalists in general?) There are people like Jenna Farmer who write and blog for a living; I couldn’t help but think “why can’t that be me?” Pippa at Pippa Says is also another example of this.

You can find examples of my work under the ‘Portfolio’ tab. I’ll also make sure to upload my CV on here as well.

And to celebrate, there’s a giveaway happening on Twitter..

Lydia x