Ah, April. How I loved you. How I hated you.  And we finally have sunshine! (Well, as I write this. Hopefully it will last.)

Blog:

I decided to do something about this blog; I’m looking at going freelance as a journalist, as well as monetising this website. I’ll be going self-hosted.

In terms of the blog, I tried to be as productive as I could. There was a guest post series by Rebekah Gillian, concerning sensory issues when on Spectrum. I also interviewed Charlene, who founded BeeChat. Kate Jones also guest posted about journalism. 

As to my own posts: I worked with bakerdays. I also documented my court trip as part of my NCTJ qualification; I also wrote a little bit more about Leveson 2. 

I also hosted a blog chat! It was the first time in ages that I have done that… I learnt how to deal with a mass-influx of tweets though. I’d finish a tweet, and there would be forty new ones. Similarly, I have begun looking into my SEO. Nearly 800 backlinks took my breath away….

Books:

I read more books this month than any other month so far this year.

Most of all, I really enjoyed Bridget Jones’ Diary, even if it is slightly frivolous. (She is a lot funnier in the book, though, and less two dimensional. She is also a lot more fuller, even slightly feminist, I think.)

I also read Do I Make Myself Clear?, which will be reviewed here soon. I didn’t enjoy The Prince Of Mist, by Carlos Ruiz Zafron, as much as I thought I would; the twist and the ending were so sad. (But it is really well written.) And, at the moment, I am reading The Chalk Man.

Journalism:

I wrote about going on a court reporting trip, which I really enjoyed.

I’m struggling a bit with Shorthand; I have achieved 60 words a minute, but getting to a 100 words a minute is so frustratingly just out of reach. (Practice makes perfect and all that jazz.) And I will admit that I have flung a pen or two across the room in frustration.

We also started Public Affairs; I love learning about the government. (Not necessarily local; it seems bizarrely byzantine.) If anyone wants to see a geeky party trick though, I can list all presidents since Herbert Hoover, and their party…

From the internet:

And to finish, here are some of my favourite pieces from around the internet. Be warned, though, some use expletives liberally:
7 things every woman should have in their handbag / 6 ways to be proactive in quiet blogging periods / Being batshit is no excuse for being a dick / Things I have learnt as an Autistic adult / Day trip to Arundel castle / How to learn Shorthand in six weeks / How and where to pitch your writing / A guide to SEO and blogging / Finding your signature scent / How to have the perfect cosy night in / Half of my heart is in Havana /

How was your April?

Lydia xo

Hi there! My name is Kate, I’m a Blogger, and I’m back with a second guest post on Lydia’s blog. (You can read my first here.) (You can read Kate’s interview here.)

Getting a journalism job is a complex thing. The great thing is that no particular qualifications are necessary for obtaining a journalism role — although newspapers often ask for an NCTJ qualification whilst recruiting. However, journalism is a fiercely-competitive industry. Being able to land even an entry-level journalist position requires dedication, determination and a lot of hard work.

Having said that, the rewards for landing a job in media are incredible. The opportunity to put your interests to use in a career, the chance to see new places, the privilege of being able to tell people’s stories — the list goes on. If the sector is right for you, it’s something that you will get so much out of.

Dump the myths about jobs.

The first thing to do is dump the myths. Although you have to have some resilience and some thickness of skin, you don’t have to act like some hardened hack to be able to progress in journalism. A lot of people have the misconception that journalists are like some sort of ruthless type of superhuman with no heart, who will stop at nothing to get ahead and get a story and will do nothing to support and nurture industry rookies, but that really isn’t the case. I haven’t got much media experience comparatively, but the dealings I’ve had with journalism thus far have left me with the conviction that journalists are just people who love to be creative and who want to make a career out of their interest by telling others about the world.

Start early. Literally.

I was lucky that I was bitten by the journalism bug early, but the preparation for my first paid journalism role started years before I actually got it. I got my first published articles, in one of my local newspapers at the time, at the age of 15. I don’t say that to be precocious: I say that to indicate how much slog is required to be able to get a paid journalism role. Six years later, at the age of 21, I got said role — after gaining a number of different forms of journalistic work experience to add to my CV.
To be able to get to the stage where I got articles published at 15 (by getting a week’s unpaid work experience placement at the newspaper) I had to know how to write. I had been crafting this skill for quite a long time: I grew up reading fiction as a child, and at secondary school, I started reading sources of news and magazines (plus non-fiction books) a lot more. Through reading, I learnt how to write journalistically.

Reading is key.

If you want to be a journalist, you need to read, read, read. Read fiction and non-fiction books. Read magazine features. Read articles in everything from national newspapers to local newsletters. Read signs. Read websites. Read food packaging. Read TV programme synopses. Read the small print on adverts. By reading more, you learn how to write for different styles. And by reading more articles, writing them will come a lot more naturally to you — and you’ll likely improve your proofreading skills, something that really contributes to having that full journalistic package that I think makes it a lot easier to get a journalism job. For me, writing articles is like an innate process — and that has to come from having read a lot of different articles previously.

Experience.

So you’ve got the ability to write. Now you need to combine that with hard work. No matter what your long-term journalism goals may be, a great place to start is work experience at a local newspaper, as it gives you a well-rounded insight into journalism and the process of bringing out a newspaper. Email your local paper(s) asking if they offer work experience — though better still, ring them, as it shows confidence and interest. Be sure to use great spelling and grammar if you use written communication.
Building up the work experience placements is a good thing to do. It indicates your dedication to a career in journalism, and just having two weeks’ worth of experience at a publication will probably not be enough when applying for journalism roles. I did another week of work experience at another publication when I was 17, before going on to do seven weeks of unpaid work experience at a slightly larger setup in the summer after my first year of university.

Take opportunities that come your way.

This leads me nicely on to another important thing when it comes to getting a journalism role. Sometimes, a lucky break or opportunity makes all the difference when applying for a journalism role. However, fear not! I am a big believer that you can make your own luck. You can make it more likely for good things to happen to you career-wise if you seize opportunities. I was only supposed to be doing work experience at that local publication after my first university year for a single week. However, the weekend before I was due to start at the title, the editor of the publication had an accident at home, rendering him out of action at work for several weeks.
Now, I want to make it clear that of course, I don’t wish pain or suffering at all on anyone. What I have to admit, however, is that if it hadn’t been for that accident, I might be in a very different position today than the one I am in now, with my first journalism role. Though the publication was a bigger setup in that it was linked to two other titles for my county, the specific title I had applied for work experience on only had one other person working full-time on its editorial. I think this person probably saw early on that I was capable of stringing the sentences together, as I was offered the opportunity to continue doing work experience if I wished. Though unpaid, I took it, and thus ended up being there for the amount of weeks noted above.
Throughout my long work experience placement, I got published in both the other titles and got to do some work experience at one of them, and also got a networking opportunity. I also gained a much bigger insight into journalism and article-writing than I would have done if I’d only been at the publication a week. What’s more, being at the publication for the amount of time I was there meant that the editor, having returned to work during the placement and having got to know me, subsequently gave me a reference for my first paid journalism job — result! The morals of the story? Seize opportunities to prove yourself, and try and do longer work experience placements it’s viable and you don’t feel you’re being taken advantage of.
There are other fantastic opportunities out there to cut your teeth in journalism. One is entering article-writing competitions, which indicate a flair for journalistic writing if you even just get shortlisted. Trust me: doing well in them is possible. In my second year at university, I was shortlisted for The Clothes Show’s Young Journalist of the Year Award for 2015. Try going for niche competitions that may not attract such a large amount of participants — any journalism award recognition is good journalism award recognition! Don’t get knocked back by rejections, as your next competition entry might catch the judges’ eyes.
Another great opportunity to gain journalistic experience is on voluntary publications or media setups. If you go to university, get involved in the student newspaper, magazines or radio station — student journalism is quite a big thing and there are a number of opportunities available to those who do stuff with student media. It can be competitive — I was knocked back three times before I got a section editor role on my university’s paper — but any student media experience really is great for the CV and, especially in this Internet age, there’s lots of ways to make your mark in some form. If you’re not at university, volunteering on a community newsletter or radio station is another great way of gaining experience. Alternatively, perhaps you could make your own blog, newsletter, podcast or YouTube channel? These forms of media are great places to showcase what you can do journalistically as well.

Networking.

 

Networking is also a great way of making it more likely to get your foot in the journalism door. Add people in the journalism industry on LinkedIn and follow them on social media. Also, try to attend networking events if the opportunity arises, as you never know what a chance meeting might bring.
With all this experience under your belt, your chances of getting shortlisted for journalism jobs will be exponentially increased. When applying for journalism jobs, be confident — but not arrogant — and just be yourself. As I indicated previously, journalism is a place full of creative people who want to use that creativity for a living – and if you fit that bill, that coveted first journalism job will likely be yours one day.

Filofaxes. They need to be pretty, right? I went back to using mine recently; this was due to giving up on my Moleskine planner, and needing something that was a lot less bulky. However, I like to make the insides pretty; for today’s post, I thought I would show you how I do that.

You will need:

  • One Filofax.
  • Post its.
  • Paperclips.
  • Washi tape.
  • Stickers.
  • Personal paper. (Ticket stubs, photos, bookmark.)
  • Inserts and refills.
  • Dividers.
  • Envelopes.

First of: I decided to have the three sections of Diary, NCTJ, and Information, complete with dividers. These required their own inserts; an academic diary on two pages, finance inserts, and coloured notepaper.
In the front pocket, I added a few things:

There are post-its (for to do lists, reminders, etc). In the larger pocket, I also added an emergency detail card (with the medications I take, etc), and a flyer from an NUJ event. (Because, yes, journalistically I need inspiration now and again.)
The dividers also needed some new stickers, hence the cats.

For a weekly layout, I use Washi Tape; the glitter makes me smile just that little bit more. It also covers up mistakes when logging appointments, etc.
There are also stickers; the purple one shown in this picture is available to buy on the Dorkface Etsy shop. But they are particularly used for Blogging-such as reminding me when there is a blog chat, or when to schedule tweets. The other ones are by Personal Planner; they remind me of occasions such as birthdays.

The last thing I would like to show you is this envelope, and how to make a small folder to keep things in your Filofax.
Essentially; find an envelope that fits inside the covers of the Filofax. Then; punch holes in it, leaving the flap open. (So, punch the holes at the bottom of the envelope.) And you can stick anything in it! This is where I keep stickers. I also have another envelope at the front of my Filofax, for scraps of paper.


Have you seen my guest post over at Philofaxy? And if you need more inspiration, you should see this post.

So: I’ve decided to give freelancing a go.

This is something that terrifies me, just ever so slightly; in July, I would have completed my NCTJ course. (Out of education, and into the big wide world! Gah!)

The thing is; competition for jobs is fierce. And, at the time of writing, I am still not NCTJ qualified. So, what can I do? My back up plan was to be a freelancer for a little while-save money, plan for moving out to live independently, and focus on trying to get that staff job. (It’s also likely that meanwhile I’d also have a job-such as stacking shelves, etc.)
(As not to be boring, I left out the admin side of things-such as taxes.)

Pitching and writing for freelancing:

I’m going to pitch for more paid opportunities. (I’ll also be looking for more.) I have been writing for free for a long time now-ever since the age of twelve. (I’m now nineteen.) There’s websites like Medium .  I also have a habit of continually creating lists of stories in my jotter.
There’s even places like The Huffington Post. (Oh, and check the paragraph about resources-there’s some crossover.)
There’s also awards, like the Anthony Howard Award; I’ll be entering in if I have any work that’s worthwhile.

Contacts and resources: 

Sometimes I go to events; these are the perfect opportunity to network! (Hopefully I’ll have business cards soon..)
Due to the internet, there is also a wealth of resources available. So, there’s the wonderful Journo Resources; they also have a dedicated section to freelancing. (Oh, and there’s also the NUJ website; as soon as my student membership runs out, I’ll be signing on as a freelancer. They also have a freelance rates section.) I also linked to a few resources when writing about how to formulate story ideas.Rebekah also has a Pinterest board relevant to this. And Ann Friedman wrote this essay with plenty of resources. 

Developing the blog: 

I have fallen out of love with this blog, big time. (It seems so mawkish, constraining, and above all, it has lost its appeal to me.) But I think there is an opportunity for development.
Once my personal plan runs out, I would like to go self hosted; that way, I can use Plugins, download a nicer theme, make it look a bit more professional, develop my portfolio of writing.
With that, I’ll also begin to start pitching for things such as sponsored posts; I would also add affiliate links. If anyone has any advice about how to go self-hosted, I would be very grateful.

Lydia x

 

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.