November Book Review: My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

Katie Brenner has the perfect life: a flat in London, a glamorous job, and a super-cool Instagram feed.
OK, so the truth is that she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job, and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t really hers. But one day her dreams are bound to come true, aren’t they? When her mega-successful boss Demeter gives her the sack, all Katie’s hopes are shattered. She has to move home to Somerset, where she helps her dad with his new glamping business. When opportunity strikes, should she get revenge on the woman who ruined her dreams – or try to get her job back? Does Demeter – the woman who has everything – actually have such an idyllic life herself? Maybe they have more in common than it seems. And what’s wrong with not-so-perfect, anyway?

I quite agree. Kinsella’s novel is timely and entertaining; it paints a painfully accurate depiction of a commuter’s life, and tackles the duality at the heart of all our lives now that social media has exploded onto the scene.

This novel explores what it’s like to be young and have dreams about the perfect life with the perfect job and the perfect social life, and it does all this in a very self-deprecating way. In tone, it’s very much the intimate, conversational style of a diary, confessing those cringe-worthy embarrassing moments and funny anecdotes that make this feel very much like a chic-flick. The reader follows Katie on a journey of self-discovery and the ultimate wake-up call. Amid all the comical moments and career ups and downs, we get a real look at how social media has come to affect the way we live our lives. Katie spends most of the novel being envious of Demeter and hoping she can someday be just as successful and just as fashionable, when in reality, Demeter’s façade is just as constructed as Katie’s. They both paint a picture of what they want their lives to look like to outsiders via their Instagram pages and live completely different lives in reality. I think Kinsella does a good job of breaking down that ‘fifth wall’ and tearing away all the pretence toward the end of the book, suggesting that it’s more than okay to live a ‘not-so-perfect’ life because, in reality, everyone’s doing that.

Another thing I think Kinsella does a very good job of highlighting is the reality of unemployment for young people. It speaks volumes when she writes, ‘I’ve had three jobs in my life (OK, two were internships)’. She perfectly encapsulates that time in life when you’re young and idealistic and you have so much enthusiasm and belief that everything will go your way, and then it just – doesn’t. Katie realises the real world just isn’t that easy, and gives us a glimpse into the real hopelessness that comes with unemployment. She describes the way her heart soars every time the phone rings or you get an email, and then the despair that follows yet another rejection and the fear that you’ll never find another job. And alongside all of that, when Katie finally gets a job that she actually wants with plans to climb her way up from the bottom, she has to deal with the guilt of leaving home and leaving her family behind. As the narrative develops, Kinsella builds this very strong sense of the country versus the city, and a split loyalty toward both. This is one of Katie’s biggest struggles in the book because at heart she is very much the city girl, but also feels that she’s outgrown those boundaries and needs to find her own way in the city. This pull is often seen in a lot of fiction: the temptation of the city to provide possibilities and opportunities, and I like that Kinsella explores this in a way that suggests that you can have the best of both worlds. Katie still feels a very strong sense of responsibility for being home and staying in touch with her roots, but she also welcomes the challenge of chasing a career in one of the most competitive cities in the world. She’s not afraid to make her own way and chase a life that is undoubtedly going to prove the most taxing. I admire that she pursues a life which scares and tests her, because it ultimately makes her a stronger and more resilient – and a happier – person.

I think there’s also a criticism in this novel for the way junior members of staff are so often underestimated and undervalued because of their lack of experience. In an ironic turn of events, Demeter looks at Katie’s work in detail, not recognising whose work she is really looking at, and admits that she wishes her junior staff were that talented. It turns out Katie was that talented all along, she just wasn’t given the opportunity to show them because her employers didn’t take the time to nurture her talent. And rather than having a background of jobs to recommend her in interviews, she has internships because employers were unwilling to give her work without experience. This is a very real issue that we’re still seeing in society today, and Kinsella weaves it seamlessly into her chatty narrative, drawing attention to social issues in a way that is both entertaining and impactful.

As much as I like a good romantic story, and as much as this book provides readers with everything they might want out of a chick flick, I think the story would have been strong enough without it. The romance element did add another element to the narrative, but I found it slightly cheesy and predictable in parts, and found myself wanting to read more about Katie’s career and the rapport she ends up building with Demeter. I’m a big believer in female championing, and I think we could have seen even more of that, but still an enjoyable read!

 

December Book Review: The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin

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October Book Review: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death. Every day he thinks of ways he might die, but every day he also searches for—and manages to find—something to keep him here, and alive, and awake. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her small Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s death. When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school—six stories above the ground—it’s unclear who saves whom. And when the unlikely pair teams up on a class project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, they go, as Finch says, where the road takes them: the grand, the small, the bizarre, the beautiful, the ugly, the surprising—just like life. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.’

This book has a really attractive tone; one that mocks and undermines the kind of high school stereotypes and behaviours which are now so out-of-date in twenty-first century literature. Up until recently, YA has been a fairly predictable genre, capturing what it means to be a teenager navigating that rocky road to adulthood through catty females characters, hunky boys and clear-cut cliques. I hoped this wouldn’t turn out to be another YA novel that used those same predictable and outdated tropes and, thankfully, it isn’t. Even though Amanda is the bitchy Queen-B character we’ve all come to expect from teenage narratives, Niven gives us a look behind that polished façade to reveal a young girl struggling with bulimia who picks on others to remind herself that she has a voice, and that what she says matters. It was so refreshing to read about a real character with real issues and struggles instead of the perfect cheerleader who is always on point. It’s too easy to just create a bitchy female character to create conflict, but instead Niven writes more realistic characters with real issues and troubled lives.
When Violet walks into the classroom and drops her books, we expect everyone to laugh at her – and they do – but we also get this little inner commentary from Finch, condemning predictable high school behaviour: ‘[t]his is followed by laughter because we’re in high school, which means we’re predictable and almost anything is funny, especially if it’s someone else’s public humiliation’. I love that those typical high school reactions are met with derision because, let’s face it, they’re getting old. While the opinion is vocalised through Finch’s narrative voice, I suspect Niven’s own voice is coming through a little here too.
I appreciate the sense of female solidarity that seems to only gain momentum as the narrative develops. Cliques don’t exactly dissolve, but characters with absolutely nothing in common and who don’t even really interact at school end up socialising outside of it. After Finch is gone, Violet gets together with all the girls to get them involved in the creation of Germ Magazine. This is girls supporting girls and it’s fantastic to see it reflected in literature at a time when feminism and the conversation surrounding female empowerment is on the rise. It’s certainly reflected in popular culture at the moment – take Riverdale, a relatively new TV show that is now in its second season on Netflix. Among many things, it champions female friendships and solidarity, most notably when many of the characters come together to speak out against ‘slut shaming’. That’s something I see explored in Niven’s novel, and it makes me feel hopeful that we’ll start seeing more of it cropping up in YA literature.
Mental health is the theme that is really at the heart of this novel, though. Violet, suffering from survivor’s guilt, depression, and bereavement, struggles to cope with these feelings that overwhelm her and a past that haunts her every day. Finch, neglected by his father for a new family and suffering from bipolar disorder struggles every day to find something to want to stay alive for. One of the most important things I will take away from Finch’s storyline is his hatred of labels. Despite his mental instability, he refuses to put a name to what he’s going through because he knows that will essentially become what everyone sees him for. He wishes his condition could be physical so that they can be easily explained away like the flu and I found this truly heart-breaking. Niven does a really great job here of highlighting the way society projects its fears onto the struggling individual – making them feel self-conscious because of the whole ‘you don’t look ill’ judgement a lot of non-sufferers jump to. As someone who is entirely unfamiliar with bipolar disorder, I found this novel incredibly eye-opening. Finch is such an intriguing character, and he’s most memorable for his mischievous personality because that’s the part of him that was revealed to me, as the reader, from the beginning – something which is no doubt deliberate. If Niven had told the reader from the beginning that Finch suffered from bipolar, I have a feeling that the things we associate with him as a character would be very different, and it speaks volumes about the way we associate people with their medical labels.
As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that while Finch is burning so brightly for Violet’s sake, (which is a wonderful thing in itself) he can’t keep it up forever. I hoped as Violet hoped, but the ending is tragic and expected. At first, I didn’t know what Finch’s erratic behaviour and unpredictable moods meant, but when bipolar was hinted at, I began to understand. Not only did I find this story moving, I also found it very educational. Not only did I learn more about bipolar, I also came to understand Finch’s desire to evade being labelled. It’s sad and illuminating and is most certainly a story which needed to be told. It’s a story of people broken by society and by circumstance who don’t quite know how to fix themselves. Normally, I don’t really mention the author’s acknowledgements, but Niven’s are as touching as the story itself. Provided at the back of the book is a wealth of helplines and websites, contact details for organisations that can help with mental health issues and offer advice and a kind ear. This is a cathartic piece of literature, not only for the readers, but for the author too, it turns out.
One thing Niven does really well is to capture that unforgettable feeling of falling for someone right away from merely a smile or a look. That infectious newness of a budding romance and the anticipation for every new encounter. Violet and Finch’s story is an unmistakably attractive one, which only makes the ending all the more heart-breaking. But it’s undeniable that the thing which really makes this book relevant and timely, is its focus on mental health. The discourse surrounding mental health is on the rise and literature is a key part of pushing for that conversation to be heard, and what Niven does so beautifully is to entertain and educate us about the world we live in (which is what every great author does) in a way that is memorable and unforgettable all at once.
I could read this book a million times and still fall in love with it again. I cannot recommend this book highly enough and am so glad I stumbled across it on the shelf of my local supermarket.
November Book Review: My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

September Book Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything follows the story of a young girl named Maddie who, due to complex health issues, is unable to go outside. This means her visitors are few and far between and she is entirely confined to her house. She’s seen the comings and goings of neighbours in the house next door – they move in, they move out – but when Ollie and his family move in, something is noticeably different. As first love blossoms between them, the formerly rigid walls of Maddie’s existence start to blur and she finds herself contemplating things she never imagined. A whirlwind of events sends Maddie’s world spiralling through tumultuous changes that might just change her life forever.

This book is something else. It’s one of those novels that you just know is going to leave a lasting impression. It’s a masterpiece which effortlessly combines witty humour with intriguing characters and ground-breaking plot twists to leave the reader reeling. In short, it’s the perfect read.

It speaks volumes that the first details we are given are Maddie’s medical notes. Her identity revolves around her condition and it’s the first thing we learn about her as a character. It’s shaped who she has become but I love that, as the novel progresses, she doesn’t allow her condition to define her. It takes a struggle, but a big part of the narrative is Maddie’s search to discover who she is without her illness, and that makes for a very compelling read.

Mothering is an important theme in the novel, explored through two very different female characters. Maddie’s mother (who is also Maddie’s doctor) is often cold and clinical without meaning to be, and it becomes clear why as the narrative unfolds. Then there’s Carla, the warm, caring maternal figure to whom Maddie confesses her real feelings. Maddie confesses that she feels more comfortable talking to Carla because she doesn’t want to make her mother sad. As Carla’s backstory is revealed, we discover that she fled Mexico and left her family, believing she wouldn’t survive. Having experienced such difficulties, she’s able to better understand Maddie’s need to really live instead of simply leading a safe existence that isn’t really living at all. I found these two characters really interesting. On the one hand, I pitied Maddie’s mother, particularly when the big plot twist hits at the end of the book (I won’t spoil…), but I also felt a strong sense of betrayal for Maddie. Given her predicament and the emotional strain put on her after losing her husband and son, her actions are understandable, but still incredibly damaging.

I thoroughly enjoyed following the progression of Ollie and Maddie’s relationship throughout the book, anticipating their next encounter with the turn of every page. In particular, I found Yoon’s description of their bodies intriguing. Ollie is constantly in motion while Maddie is Zen and still, thinking and observing a world that doesn’t include her. With a simple sentence, she captures this beautifully: ‘His body is his escape from the world, whereas I’m trapped in mine’. Two opposite entities, almost at odds yet inescapably drawn to the other. Ollie, who has experienced physical and emotional abuse from his father is restless and, perhaps on a physical level, always ready to dodge some advance. Maddie, contained in her home, unable to physically leave, has retreated into her body, has become a very thoughtful character, with no use for constant movement because it doesn’t get her anywhere. There are some truly beautiful ideas in the book, like the chapter on skin. Yoon explores the idea that some cells renew while some don’t; we change the upper layers of our skin every two weeks while some don’t renew at all and that’s what ages us. ‘We can have immortality or the memory of touch. But we can’t have both.’ This is why I love literature. So many ideas that are so beautiful and complex and unimaginable; some are too big to wrap your mind around and plenty remind you how wonderful the world is. Yoon ties that in to her narrative, giving the novel an existential tone which is thought-provoking and entertaining in the same breath.

Among the banter and witticism that allows Yoon to maintain a light-hearted tone throughout, there are definitive moments in the book which carry a significantly darker undertone. The unfolding abuse inflicted by Ollie’s father next door is certainly one of them. I also thought Zach (Olly’s friend) was a key addition to the narrative, a kind of wake-up call – a reality check – a way of grounding the story in relevant contemporary issues. Zach is gay and wants to be a Rockstar – two things his parents absolutely loathe – so he pretends to be someone he’s not while his parents remain ignorant (or choose to ignore) how damaging this is to their son. This isn’t just a story about a sick girl falling in love with a boy. This is a story about the dark side to life; the ugly, the marginalised, the unspoken. Zach pinpoints the issue perfectly: ‘Maybe growing up means disappointing the people we love’. The adults in this book undoubtedly fail their children, regardless of intention. Maddie’s mother causes a lot of emotional damage for her daughter, Ollie’s dad is physically abusive to his family, and Zach’s parents force him to create a version of himself that is socially acceptable. This speaks to the emotional damage often inflicted on millennials and young people by a society that is often set in its ways and unwilling to welcome change.

The short chapters make the novel very easy to get through and also give it a scrapbook-feel thanks to the little drawings and document inserts. The episodic nature of the book makes it feel like you’re paging through a collage of Maddie’s life, filled with her whims, her musings, her observations as you flicked through snippets taken directly from her diary. I found some of them as erratic as the thoughts that flit through the human mind, and that was such an interesting way to consume a piece of literature.

To conclude, Everything, Everything is the first book I have EVER completed in a single day. If that doesn’t convince you to read it, I don’t know what will.

 

October Book Review: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Life Update

If someone had told me that in the space of literally 3 weeks I could be fully employed as an Editorial Assistant and be about to rent my very own place for the first time, I would have laughed in that persons’s face.

Turns out, the idea is not actually all that ludicrous.

In all my wallowing about having a job I didn’t particularly enjoy and generally getting nowhere in life, I continued sending out CVs and cover letters. I was determined not to settle for another job just to make money, and told myself that my next job would be in publishing. At the time I didn’t really think that kind of motivational thinking would actually get me somewhere, but it turns out, it did.

Four weeks ago, I got an email from a Healthcare organisation, inviting me to complete an Editorial Assistant test. It was the first time I’d ever been asked to complete a test for a job, but then, I suppose I’ll have to start expecting more of them in publishing since it covers all the basic knowledge an Editorial Assistant needs to have. I had a week to complete the test and sent it off wondering if I’d even done it right. I had to stick to a style sheet and use the correct proofreading markups and, as it was my first test, I really didn’t have much to go on other than my common sense and my knowledge of grammar from uni.

A couple of days after submitting the test, I received another email congratulating me on completing the test and inviting me to an interview with one of the Hiring Managers. At this point, I was terrified. As more details unfolded, it turned out I was to meet with two Hiring Managers from two separate agencies who were both looking to recruit. Now, faced with the prospect of two interviewees, it began to dawn that I was outnumbered and suddenly feeling very under-qualified. It’s funny isn’t it, just how much we continue to doubt ourselves even though, in this instance, I’d received feedback that the managers had been ‘very impressed’ with my test, and they were ‘very eager to meet with me’. Still, looking at my CV, all I could see was a lot of retail experience, a couple of internships within small publishing environments, and my degree.

But anyway, I went to the interview and it all went really well. It turned out I was actually interviewing for three different agencies, so I was even more outnumbered that I’d originally expected, but I managed to keep calm and have a little banter with my interviewers. One thing I found was that they seemed to like that I didn’t take it all too seriously. I’m not saying I was cracking jokes the whole time, but when I kept linking a couple of my answers back to organisation, I tried to – tastefully – make light of the fact by saying something like: ‘You’re probably going to be tired of hearing this, but again I would say organisation’. This made the whole ordeal a lot less awkward for them and allowed me to relax a little more instead of stumbling over my words. I’d also prepped for the interview thoroughly which helped more than I can say. I knew the company’s ethos inside-out and had even scrolled through their Twitter feed to see what they were getting up to. When I brought up staff initiatives in the interview, like their staff sports day and their Bank Holiday pizza day, I could tell they really understood that I’d done my homework. Just by looking up the company on their own website, I was easily able to tackle the ‘So what do you know about the company’ question without embellishing or waffling. If in doubt, head over to Linda Raynier’s YouTube channel. I stumbled across her channel the night before my interview and it was a good job because in my interview, I was able to use her tips to answer the ‘Where do you see yourself in three years?’ question, and the dreaded ‘What do you think will be the most unappealing part of the job?’. Seriously, give her a look, you won’t be disappointed.

The same day, I drove home feeling a couple of pounds lighter and, not long after I’d been in the house, my phone rang. The lady who’d arranged the interview asked me how I thought it had gone and asked what I thought of the offices. Then she told me they wanted to offer me one of the positions! ELATED IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT AT THIS POINT.

So for the last three weeks I’ve been up to my eyeballs in paperwork and house viewings. Because the job is a ninety-minute car ride from where I live now, it means I’m going to have to move, but that was always going to be necessary no matter where I ended up. It’s been a tense week or so waiting to hear if my application had been accepted for an apartment five minutes or so from the office, but things seem to be moving more quickly now. In fact, for my first week (since I can’t pick my keys up until my second week there), I’ll be staying in a B&B, so as of this Sunday, I’ll be moving out.

I have to say, I’ve been so focused on making the career thing happen that I don’t think I ever really stopped to think about what I’d be leaving behind. If I could take my mum and my sister with me (and my two pups), I’d do so in a heartbeat. We’re so close that I’m going to miss them a lot, but I guess that’s all part and parcel of growing up. Moving out. Moving away. Becoming self-reliant. I’m looking forward to it, but it’s also the biggest thing I’ve ever done, so I have a feeling Skype is going to get a lot of use…

Until next time, stay tuned to see how I get on!

3 Must-See Films

This Beautiful Fantastic

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5/5 stars. This film is packed with wonderful weirdness, heart-warming relationships, and a quirky kind of comedy that immediately endears you to all the characters and to the story itself. A beautiful narrative with a tinge of sadness, the overall package leaving you with a smile when the credits roll in. No doubts that this is a must-watch.

 

Their Finest

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4/5 stars. War, love, frustration, betrayal, gritty determination; those are just a few things you can expect from this film. I thought it was a little slow starting, but once I got into the swing of things, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was touching and funny, a kind of emotional rollercoaster and utterly unpredictable. It filled me with pride for womankind and an appreciation for the resilience of the film industry during the war…and everything in between!

 

Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales

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5/5 stars. Hilarious. Thrilling. Jack Sparrow is one of my all-time favourite characters, so I was excited to see Johnny reprise his role as the infamous pirate. Between reunions that have been long-awaited for ten years, impressive action sequences, and terrifying villains, this was the ultimate Pirates movie experience that I’ve been craving ever since At World’s Ends came to the big screen. I would definitely recommend this film.

 

 

August Book Review: Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith by Shaun Hume

This novel follows the adventures of a young boy by the name of Ewan Pendle as he struggles to find his place in the world. As an unexpected twist turns his life on its head, Ewan begins to discover a place where he might just belong after all, with friends like Mathilde and Enid that he can count on. Between monstrous white wraiths, a possible betrayal inside the walls of his new home, and a training regime that threatens to break Ewan’s spirits, this is a heart-warming coming-of-age story with plenty of creativity to keep things interesting.

With moments that made me happily reminiscent of the Harry Potter series – the idea of a trio at the helm of a narrative woven with excitement, mystery, suspense, and a little comedy, Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith fits neatly into the kind of fiction all children love to grow up with. It’s the kind of tale to fuel imaginations which, I think we can all agree, is one of literature’s superpowers.

I enjoyed that the story started in media res, thrusting readers into the midst of the action without having to wait to be eased into this fictional world. Sometimes a narrative of this genre can take a while to unfold, but I didn’t find that here. Despite the fantasy element, there are some genuinely human themes that help to make the narrative more believable and authentic. Underneath all the fantastical details, at the centre of it all, this is a story about a foster child wondering why he isn’t good enough – why no family wants to keep him and love him as their own son. As a protagonist, Ewan has a kind of childish innocence which endeared me to him.

A lot of mature themes find their way into the narrative, and this is something which has always fascinated me about children’s fiction. Despite the young audience these stories often appeal to, adult themes are always prevalent. There’s something wonderful about that because it’s almost like a hidden meaning that you can come to discover later on when you’re older and wiser, even though you believed that you’d already extracted all the meaning from the story the first time around. I feel like this book offers that; there’s a possibility to return to the story to find that it holds new meaning every time you read it.

The idea of a world existing parallel to our own has always intrigued me and I think it makes a good premise for any story. A world that can include anything – where anything can happen and we can be anything we want to be – that’s always going to be a thrilling concept. Especially when that world is filled with creatures and swords and things altogether not of our world. That’s part of what makes this book so entertaining. There are so many good ideas that are really imaginative, like the brainic lamps at school…but I won’t say any more; you’ll have to read the book to find out what they do!

With the three main characters, I really liked that they were all outsiders but also very strong. Enid and Mathilde are both feisty characters and exactly the kind of female role models young girls need to see reflected in literature today. They’re not just in there for decoration or to pad out the narrative, Ewan really needs these girls to help him along the way, just as they need his friendship.

All in all, the book has good pacing. There’s always something happening, and the reader is given certain chapters solely dedicated to revealing snippets of a character’s back story. I liked the addition of mystery and the unanswered questions which are purposely left unresolved as a teaser for the sequel which may just follow. If we do get another instalment, I look forward to reading about Ewan’s journey to embrace his own identity and start to value himself more as a young man who may have had to stifle his yearning for affection, but now no longer has to. When you think about it, the emotional damage endured by orphans and foster children is really heart-breaking, but in amongst all that, this story is funny and quirky and filled with plenty to delight the imagination. It’s a really good balance of reality and fantasy, enough to leave you thinking about the fate of the characters while picturing the world in your head.

 

If you fancy taking a look for yourself, you can get your hands on a copy right here: http://a.co/hwnPDVX

 

September Book Review: Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

 

Stepping into my Intern shoes: Week 13

It’s taken me a while to wrap up my Internship experience and write this post because it’s been a really sad end to a really great experience. I didn’t get offered a job, but that’s just the way it goes I suppose. At the moment they don’t really have the means to add to their team, and I fully respect that. I’m a little gutted, I won’t lie, but there’s no use in crying about it.

My last week was much like any. I was busy chasing up loose ends so that when my last day arrived, I wouldn’t be leaving anything up in the air. As a way of making sure this didn’t happen, I created a comprehensive handover document for the PR lady, with a list of everything I’ve been dealing with while she’s been away. To look at, it must have been pretty overwhelming, but I felt kind of proud reading through it because it showed just how much I’d done in my time there. So even though I won’t be the newest member of their team, I’ve been able to walk away from the office knowing that I’ve made a real difference, and that’s not something money can buy.

On my last day, I was kind of sad and excited and dreading it all at the same time. The night before I made some chocolate-y treats and wrote a little message in the thank you card I bought for the team. When I arrived that morning, I cannot tell you how much of an anti-climax it all was. In actual fact, it was kind of hilarious. Of all the mornings I’ve turned up to a full office, the only people there on that last morning was me and one member of the sales team. As the morning went on, more people trickled in, and my treats went down well. I’m pretty sure one of the freelance writers kept sneaking into the kitchen to get another, which made me smile.

The first goodbye was one of the sales ladies who has been really nice throughout my internship. She’s great at her job, and she’s just one of those people who can talk to anyone, so when she just said, ‘thanks for all your hard work and, well, thanks for being you!’, I may just have had a little lump in my throat. Then the Managing Director came in and handed me a present from the PR lady. She was still on holiday, but she’d left me a gift from Hong Kong – some chocolates with a sticky note on the box. The message was simple but touching and I may or may not have had another little lump in my throat.

As 1pm drew nearer, my stomach started churning. I didn’t want to leave because I was afraid I might cry, and that was not the impression I wanted to leave them all with. Still, I couldn’t exactly sneak out without saying thanks. When the time came, the MD walked me to the door and asked what was next for me. I told him I didn’t really know, maybe I would try and find something full-time in administration since that kind of experience is essential for editorial work. Then perhaps a move down South might be in order if I really want to give this career of mine a good go. He was more than happy to provide me with a reference, and even gave me some advice about finding work through an organisation for which he’s resident on the Board of Directors. Apparently they have some handy online training courses and they even advertise jobs on their website, linked directly to the publishing industry. I told him it was just a case of knowing where to look and getting my foot in the door somehow, and thanked him for the internship and all the responsibility he’d given me. He said the PR lady had told him I was an asset and thanked me for all my hard work.

I walked out of there with tears in my eyes and actually had a little cry as I walked back towards the city centre. Not to be dramatic or anything, but I can’t tell you how hard it was to walk to work that afternoon and go and fold jeans for four hours, knowing that I was officially back to square one. If there’s anything I can’t help but take away from this whole experience, it’s that getting a job these days feel almost impossible. Everything seems to stand against you – you either have not enough experience or too much. Employers want to know why you have such a mix of employment history – retail and admin and blogging work – and how it’s relevant to the position you’re applying for, without considering that maybe we just try and get whatever work we can to earn money. Sometimes that’s as simple as it is.

I’ve found it really hard not to be disheartened about the internship coming to an end and not leading anywhere. When you put so much effort into something in your free time and it doesn’t quite pan out how you wanted it to, it’s heart-breaking. Now, a week later, I’m finding it difficult to adjust to going back to just having my retail job. It was nice to have something in the mornings to look forward to. To have something to do that I knew was actively contributing to my future. Now, I’m spending those mornings searching for jobs in admin to try and get out of retail. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned a lot, but it’s not the job for me. It’s time to put my degree to use and start enjoying working again. I’m twenty-two. I have nothing to lose at this point. As much as I’d love to just up and move to London where all the major publishing houses are, I have to be tactical and practical about this. My head is telling me to get an admin job, build up those skills for a couple of years until they become almost second-nature, and then consider the London move again when I’ve actually had the chance to save for it. It makes sense that when I finally get that Editorial Assistant role, being familiar with the admin side of things will make it so much easier to acclimatise to the newness of the job.

For now, all I can do is keep applying and hope that I find something soon. The aim is to be out of retail before Christmas, because I really don’t know if I can hack another Christmas in retail. I don’t know if that will actually happen, but feel free to keep your fingers crossed for me!

Stepping into my Intern shoes: Week 12

This, the penultimate week of my internship, has been pretty steady, as weeks go. The last couple of weeks were slightly hectic as we worked towards the deadline to get the festival programs off to the printers, and this week, they came back. I got to keep a copy, and I was really surprised and kind of humbled to see that my name preceeded the other staff members in the ‘written by’ acknowledgement section. I wrote a lot of the content because the main writer for the magazine was away from the office for a couple of weeks due to unforseen circumstances. At the time I didn’t realise I was writing most of the content because I thought I was just laying the groundwork, so to speak, but apparently not! This is a really good thing. I’m so proud. It’s really quite overwhelming to see your name in print, to see your hard work acknowledged that way. 

This week I spent most of my time chasing people from venues in several parts of the country to try and get photography booked in for the next two cookbooks. It’s been slow going, but when people are trying to run businesses, it’s always going to be tricky. Slowly but surely, my appointment spreadsheet it becoming more green than yellow and red, so I’m starting to get somewhere, and I’m really enjoying having so much responsibility. It makes me feel like they trust me to deal with their clients, and that’s such a fantastic feeling.

I’ve also been trying to turn my attention to their social media pages to get some coverage, and when I haven’t been doing that, I’ve been trying to re-jig their contacts database. It’s a little old, so it needs updating and laying out a little bit better. I think I’m making it easier to navigate, and I get a nerdy kick out of monotonous filing, so it’s a win win for them and for me! 

Truth be told, it’s really hitting home this week that I only have five days left in this office, with these people, doing this job that I’ve been wanting to do since high school. So much has started to come together and it’s gone so quickly that now I’m really not ready for it to end. I’m choosing not to think more than a day ahead to keep myself from going crazy; I’ll let you know how that’s working out next week! 

Stepping into my Intern shoes: Week 11

This week has been significantly less stressful given that everything related to the festival program is finished. Done with. No more. The deadline has passed, and all is well, which means that I’ve finally had time to go through my to-do list and get some things ticked off for the PR lady while she’s on holiday.

As of last week, I was only handling one photographer’s diary, but this week, I’ve been handling three. Yes, three. At first, it was a little overwhelming. Two of the books have the same photographer shooting them, so I was hyper-aware that I was going to have to keep double-checking that I didn’t double-book anyone. As the week developed, I decided that it might be a good idea for me to really get on top of it to make sure that didn’t happen. So I printed myself off a table, and blocked out the slots that had been booked. Now, when I come to book in more venues, I can clearly see which slots are available, and that I haven’t double-booked anyone. That made me feel a heck of a lot better about things. At the moment I’m managing to book quite a few people in, which is really good. It means we should be able to keep to the book’s schedule to get it printed on time.

In between managing three photography diaries, I’ve been writing news stories for the magazine’s website, and working on gathering social media handles for one of our regional books. Mostly just so we can tag the book’s contributors in any new posts about the book. I’ve also been chasing after press coverage for our mostly recently published book. A lot of newsrooms haven’t responded, which is always annoying, but I’m persistent. A few new contacts agreed to do some features and post about us on social media. I had to drop this task for a while given all the festival stuff, so I’ve been kind of aware that I needed to get back on top of it, because press is vital for sales. When you’re dealing with a small regional area too, though, it’s difficult to find as much press as you’d like. After all, there are only a few newsrooms and magazines, so I’m trying to find bloggers, vloggers, and even online websites that have blogs. They have actually proved the most fruitful route for me to go down. One of the things I was really happy about was that I managed to bag one of our Sales team another press interview – this time over the phone for a local newspaper.

I’m still keeping up with their Amazon orders, and I’ve even been asked to do purchase orders from retailers. It’s quite a big responsibility, and I’m still a little surprised that they’re trusting an intern with such important tasks, but I’m really loving the hands-on experience, and it’s nice to see all aspects of the job.

One thing I will say, is that I’ve been really surprised how comfortable I feel there. Like I’ve been there for years, and I actually feel like I know what I’m doing. I’ve got my routines down, and the MD knows I’m just happy to get on with the things on my list. I kind of feel like I belong at that desk, and I’m starting to feel like I’m doing an okay job stepping in for the PR lady. Maybe one of the best things this internship has afforded me has been a little more self-belief in my abilities.

This week it’s really hit me that I only have two weeks left of this internship. TWO WEEKS. I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. It’s given me so much in such a relatively short space of time, that part of me really doesn’t want to leave. The other, logical part of me knows that it can’t last forever (unless they give me a job), and that I have to move onto the next chapter of my career (whatever that may be). I’ll definitely take away everything I’ve learned. It’s been invaluable for the experience I’ve gained, seriously invaluable.