If you’re in journalism, you’ve probably picked up a lot of advice by now. (I’ll never forget when on work experience at a National, and the Editor called me into his office. He told me to do my NCTJ!) Anyway; I thought I would share some of the best advice I have received. It may not be particularly practical, but it has always been helpful to me.

Kick up. Never stamp down.

Your job, in a potentially archaic way, is to be the people who hold those in power to account. (Unless you write for a different purpose-like entertainment, etc. ) In this sense, you need to kick up; do not stamp down on people, such as private citizens.  I was listening to a podcast recently, and the editor on it had an excellent maxim: “The story is the means for the people. People are not the means for a story”, to paraphrase.

You don’t ask, you don’t get.

(I’d like to thank my grandparents for this.) If you don’t ask, you’re aren’t going to get what you want. It’s as simple as that, and I’ve applied it to most areas of my life.

I wouldn’t have got to do my NCTJ; I wouldn’t have met Queen Extravaganza; I would not have interviewed half the people without this. In short: persistence pays off. So does being upfront about what you want to do, write, who you want to interview, etc. If you have the idea, the tenacity, the need to write, say it.

Don’t make things up.

Common sense, this one. Making things up, legally, is not a very good idea; similarly, staging a story is also not good. Making things up is the job of someone who writes fiction, like Rowan Coleman; it’s best left to the professionals.

Get a ‘journo’ mate.

If you have a friend who is also in the same industry, it makes it a lot easier for you, as well as more bearable. (Sorry for the terrible use of English!) I can’t emphasise this enough, but this blog post spells it out a lot better. 

Network. Like crazy.

Networking is daunting. And when in a room where that’s required, I often have that sinking feeling, denoting anxiety. It’s hard to start up a conversation, least of all make a contact out of it. However, it is your bread and butter, so it’s probably good to know how to network. (And you can even do it on your break!)

Have fun with it.

Hard work counts. But there needs to be a balance to it; we can’t be serious all the time, can we?

Check everything twice.

You can’t check everything enough. And you need to proof read your work-check the fluency, spelling, etc.

Accuracy is key.

Accuracy is key. And this is something so important; you need to get the facts, names, dates, spellings, etc. And it’s why Shorthand is such a wonderful skill to have, as it plays into this retirement.

Be curious. Question everything.

Curiosity counts. Question everything you see; my classmate wrote this blog post about doing exactly that. However, being curious leads to stories. It also makes other journalists fun to talk to. (In my opinion, my ‘colleagues’ are some of the most fascinating people to talk to; I want to know all about their projects, stories, podcasts..)

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. 

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

 

 

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.