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. 

If you’re a Blogger, or even a trainee journalist like myself, Jenna Farmer is… well, a useful contact to have. She is also one of the nicest Bloggers that I have interacted with. She blogs at A Balanced Belly; she also blogs about Blogging at The Bloglancer. She is also a freelance journalist. (Quite frankly, I admire her, simply put.) So, over email, I asked her some questions about Blogging and the industry.

What introduced you and got you into blogging?

I actually read the ‘I Heart…’ series by Lindsay Kelk (the main character is a blogger) which inspired me to start a blog! It was pretty terrible but it gave me a buzz-I experimented on and off until I settled on A Balanced Belly and The Bloglancer.

What was the inspiration behind A Balanced Belly and The Bloglancer?

The first blog, A Balanced Belly, came out of my diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease. I was living abroad and I had just been diagnosed-I felt lost; and starting my blog helped me connect with others and feel in control. The Bloglancer arose when people kept asking me about blogging- I tried to do this on A Balanced Belly  but it kept confusing my readers (most of whom weren’t bloggers) so I created a whole new site.

C/O Jenna Farmer

How do you plan for posts?

I am not a great planner to be honest; I’m very emotions-led and my best content is planned and written on the same day-I can’t mass schedule! I actually had 2 sponsored posts to write yesterday but I ended up going out and having a terrible experience eating out as gluten-free. As soon as I was home, I started blogging- the post ended up going pretty viral; and I think that’s because I jumped on it as soon as I got home!

What do you think about Blog events?

Hmm- in terms of brand ones; they vary. I’ve had some fantastic events that go the extra mile; but I live out of London, so I get quite frustrated with events that expect the world from bloggers and don’t offer much value!
In terms of blogging ones by fellow bloggers, I’ve been to a few. I think there’s such a focus on the goodie bag and freebie grabbing; but the best ones are workshop led and teach you something!

Where do you see your blog in five years?

Still going hopefully! A Balanced Belly keeps evolving with me so I hope it’ll continue. I’d like to expand The Bloglancer to also include more stuff on freelancing in general.

What do you have planned next?

I’ve just launched my next venture which is Chronic Illness Bloggers. It’s a blogger outreach organisation which connects brands to bloggers who write about chronic illnesses like myself!

C/O Jenna Farmer

What are your tips for pitching to brands?

Be very clear about what you would like AND what you can offer. Don’t be afraid to prove you can offer value-sharing stats and example of past collaborations that have been a success!

What do you think are the best resources for bloggers to use in pitching to brands at the moment?

My own- hahaha! I’ve got a blog post and an ebook (bit of cheeky self-promo)

What do you think about blogging for business?

It’s absolutely possible but you certainly need to a) find a way for your blog to stand out and offer something different b) constantly be working on multiple different income streams.

For a day at the office, what would we find in your handbag?

I work from home most of the time, but always pack my iPad, herbal tea, plenty of snacks, a bundle of notebooks and a selfie light ring! You’d probably find ‘Little Black Book’ by Otegha Uwagba in my handbag too- amazing book!

What would be your advice for aspiring bloggers?

As someone who now looks at bloggers for sponsored posts (as part of my new venture) the first thing is definitely change to your own domain if you want to make money. I find .blogspot a sign of someone who is a hobby blogger (which is fine, but then I wouldn’t apply for sponsored posts for one).Also check your theme actually works on mobile- again I’ve been looking at lots of bloggers’ sites recently and their theme just isn’t mobile responsive and it makes it difficult to navigate! Be proactive about making connections and don’t use hashtags like #journorequest to just ask for freebies!
Thank you to Jenna Farmer for answering my questions, and being so patient with me; don’t forget to check out A Balanced Belly and The Bloglancer. And if you’d like to see more interviews, click here. 

On par with an Instagram poll, I’ll be increasing the journalism content here on the blog. For today’s post, I spoke to Cristina Criddle, a BBC broadcast journalist. Not only does she a job at an organisation I would love to work for, she is also a lifestyle and travel blogger at CriddleMeThis.com. I spoke to her about all things journalism, and among other things, Cheesecake.

C/O Cristina Criddle.

What was it that inspired you to become a journalist?

I knew I wanted to be a journalist since the age of 12. I can’t pinpoint what exactly inspired it but I realised it gave you a license to be nosy and to tell stories in a creative way. Since then, I wrote as much as I could, joined the school magazine, edited the university paper and gained as much experience as possible working at media organisations in my holidays. 

Do you have any ‘journalism heroes’?

So many! George Orwell, Christopher Hitchens, AA Gill, Stacey Dooley, Lynn Barber, Caitlin Moran, Kate Adie… I could go on
 

What was it about the industry that appealed to you, enough so that you wanted the job?

I think from the outside journalism seems really glamorous! It does have its perks, you have access to important people and places all over the world, but it is hard work and a lot of it is spent behind a desk. 
 
I suppose the biggest appeal is getting out and about, and meeting so many different people from different walks of life.

C/O: Cristina Criddle. 

Do you have any formal training? If not, do you think work experience is the way forward?

I was very lucky to get onto the Telegraph Graduate Scheme which included training with the Press Association. On that scheme, I learnt shorthand, media law and what makes a good story, as well as how to tell it.  Without that training, I probably would have done a masters in journalism.
 
Other than that, work experience is a great way to learn. You pick up so much on the job but you have to come with ideas and enthusiasm, else the editors won’t give you opportunities or remember you.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

I think it’s best to focus on doing the job you have at the moment well, rather than look for the next thing. Definitely still in journalism and hopefully still loving it!
What has been your favourite story you have been involved with?
In my print career, one of my best stories was published while I was on work experience and I tracked down an Islamic State bride. It was nominated for a press award and I learnt loads about investigative journalism. I also really enjoyed reporting on Muirfield Golf Club’s vote to allow women to be members.
 
At the BBC, I loved working on the recent general election, a Coastal Britain series for BBC Breakfast and too many important news stories to count!

How do you go about interviewing someone?

I always try to make the interviewee feel as comfortable as possible (to begin with at least). I focus on keeping my body language open, which often helps them open up, and start with some easy questions that they know the answers to. Then, once they’re at ease, you can try some tougher ones! 

 

How do you deal with nerves when interviewing someone?

Open questions are your friend here. I always try to start with ‘Can you tell me what happened in your own words…?’, which makes them ease into the interview with a long answer, giving you time to relax and focus on the interview. If you get stuck, don’t be afraid to say ‘Sorry, would you mind if I take a moment to read over my notes?’, silence gives the interviewee time to think and often they might want to fill the silence themselves.

C/O: Cristina Criddle.

 

What do you think is the best way to gather stories?

Social media is a huge resource for stories, I set up my Tweetdeck with searches and lists to help me look. I also use Freedom of Information requests but they are quite time-consuming. Another great way is the traditionalword of mouth – get out and about, speak to as many people as possible, having a finger on the pulse is crucial.

Do you have any tips for aspiring journalists?

Hopefully, I’ve covered a few! My top tip is just to be persistent – it’s hard work and you’ll get knocked back a lot on the way, but if you really want to be a journalist, keep at it.

C/O: Cristina Criddle.

Random: what do you prefer-cheesecake or Chocolate cake?

Chocolate! But cheescake is a very close second 😉
Thank you to Cristina for answering these questions; to view her blog, click here. 

I get asked a lot about the course I’m currently taking, which is training me to be a journalist. Therefore, I thought I would expand my posts about it-which you can read here-by bringing another Blogger on board.
Kate is a Blogger and journalist, who will soon be beginning to broadcast with a new radio station; she is also a brilliant writer. For today, we decided to do an interview swap-where I interview her, post it, vice versa-to find out more about journalism. She may also be guest posting in future.

What was it that made you want to be a journalist?

I spent my early childhood reading and writing – so much so, I completed a (rather poor and factually inaccurate) novel before I left primary school! During my later years at primary school and my early years at secondary school, my ambition was to be a successful author, but as I got slightly older, I started to feel that this was a bit unrealistic, and felt that journalism would be a more viable way of being able to write for a career. Positive feedback from some journalistic-style writing assignments at secondary school helped develop this interest. I did my first work experience placement on a local newspaper when I was 15 and I loved it, and that was what helped me decide that I wanted to work in the media when I was older.

C/O: Kate Jones.

How did you get the current job you have today?

Last year, while I was back at my childhood home after finishing my English degree at university (but prior to my graduation ceremony), I started looking online at media opportunities with a view to trying to get a role in this area. I had considered doing a Master’s course in journalism to give myself a better chance of getting my foot in the door for my first media job, but hadn’t applied for one because, what with the high costs of doing this kind of course, I hoped I might be able to get into the industry and train while woking (by doing the NCTJ diploma by distance learning or the like) to keep costs low. One of the opportunities I saw was a part-time job as a magazine editorial assistant near to where I live (which was an incredibly lucky thing, as I live in a pretty rural area). I applied for this role, and was very lucky to make it through both a telephone and then “in-person” interview to be offered the job. I started this role, which primarily involves working as an assistant for a number of business-to-business shipping magazines, in June 2017.
A few months later, my hours were increased, and not long after this, my first publication came out in which I was named as Assistant Editor of the title.My role involves assisting with the production of several titles that fall under a shipping-related remit. The work includes proofreading articles, uploading articles online, writing article synopses and contents pages, choosing pictures for pieces (both online and in print), keeping the company I work for’s social media accounts up-to-date and coming up with themes and ideas for future magazine issues. I also write news articles and features for the different publications I work on.

You’re also soon to start at a radio station; how did you get to doing that?

Having radio shows was something that I started doing while I was at university. In my second year, I applied for training to be a presenter on my university’s student radio station (a voluntary-run station) and I started broadcasting my own show in the third term of that academic year. I presented a number of regular and one-off shows while I was a member of the station.
After leaving university, one of the things I really missed was having a radio show. I had so many great memories from my time on air and I loved being able to play whatever music I wanted and create good content for my broadcasts. I thought about maybe going to the closest hospital radio station and seeing if I could get involved there, though it is a bit far off from where I live. Then, a few months ago, my Mum showed me an email sent to my sister, which was calling for college students to volunteer at the community radio station Corinium Radio in Gloucestershire. The station, which broadcasts online 24/7, offers listeners a variety of shows including music programmes, lifestyle-related programmes and drama. Though I am not of my sister’s age group, I knew that the station would probably be happy to accept new volunteers of all ages (given that it is completely volunteer-led), and its website proved me right. I emailed them and the station manager invited me to meet her and subsequently find out more about the station before choosing whether to get involved – and it wasn’t a difficult choice!

What do you think the appeal is of broadcasting, in comparison to print or online journalism?

I would say that it’s both the popularity of broadcast as a media form, particularly in this current climate, and the ease for audiences to receive this kind of content. Now, with YouTube clips, online videos and Snapchat and Instagram Stories – as well as the traditional broadcasting form of television – widely used both to disseminate news and as a form of popular culture, I can see why people might find having to read a detailed article more of a chore when they can switch on the television/turn on the radio/watch a vlog and absorb the content without having to expend much mental effort. Having said that, I still think that there will be a place for written journalism in the future, both in its print and online forms. We’re in a really strange era at the moment whereby methods of receiving media which would have been viewed as obsolete a few years ago are now experiencing a revival. Look at how Urban Outfitters are now selling cassette and record players! Even older-style audio medias are being regenerated – the song claims that “Video killed the radio star”, but just think about how popular podcasts have become in recent times. Thus, I’m sure that a desire to consume written media (newspapers and magazines) will come back around, both in print and online forms.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

I’m really not sure, but I know that I will still be working in the media industry in some form – and I would be delighted if I was holding higher-level positions at media companies.

Do you have any tips for fellow journalists?

When writing standard-size news articles, put the quote/quotes you will be using on the page first – it will give you a better sense of direction when it comes to creating the full piece.
Social media is a great place to hunt for stories. Follow accounts connected to the content your publication writes about – certain posts can serve as great stories/bases for stories and you might come across a story you would have missed otherwise. Find a way of making a note of story leads you find on social media so you can refer back to them. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to people for interviews – often, you’re helping them tell a story belonging to them and they’re usually very happy to help.