Stepping into my Intern shoes: Weeks 4 & 5

Last weekend, I wasn’t able to post about my internship because I went to see a local production of Hairspray (which was incredible) on the Saturday, and it was my mum’s birthday on the Sunday, so we wined and dined her! So here are weeks 4 and 5 all kind of mashed into one.

Week 4

This week, I revisited the latest press release I got to send out to all our press contacts. We hadn’t received as many responses as we’d hoped, so it was my responsibility to try and find more contacts who might be interested in generating some free interest around the book. Mainly through blog posts or media stories…etc. I also got to format a couple more recipes ahead of our latest cook book going to print, and was asked to write the blurb. It was pretty daunting, actually, because this time quite a few people had to look over the blurb to check it over and see if it sounded right, and one of those people was the Managing Director himself. One thing I will say is that I’ve gotten a lot of really useful feedback from the internship, even after only having been there for a few weeks. Everything I write is looked at and used, and I always get some form of feedback from either the PR lady who I work under, or the MD when he’s not too run off his feet. I didn’t really know how to react when I could hear them talking through my blurb – it was awkward, but also a kind of relief that they didn’t think it was completely rubbish. Mostly the first line just needed a little alteration because it was a little cliched.

As the week went on, I got to do quite a bit of creative writing, actually. I was asked to compose two short stories about music festivals, a food review for a newly-opened café in Sheffield that serves up vegan and veggie food, and I also got to write a little piece about a local pop-up foodie business that I really enjoyed. Then of course, it was proofing time again. Our latest book was ready to go off to the printer, so I spent two days getting through the hardcopy, making suggestions and picking up on grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. It might sound boring, but I get a real kick out of anything like that.

I also carried on with the little side-task the MD had given me the week before. It was an ongoing task – to research different distribution outlets nationally – but because it was the MD’s task, I kind of felt like I wanted to get it back to him ASAP to show him how quickly and efficiently I can work. I managed to find quite a few places that might consider stocking our regional cook books, which was a big relief because I was worried I wouldn’t find many. I even starred the ones I thought we should try first, and after checking about a million times for spelling mistakes, sent it to him and asked him to let me know if he wanted me to keep looking. He sounded really grateful, so I guess that’s a good start.

Towards the end of the week, the MD proofed the final copy of the cook book due to go to print, and asked if I could re-edit one of the pieces after he re-wrote it slightly. The profile did sound quite pretentious, but I hadn’t wanted to point it out in case it was just me. So I looked over it again, and then had to call up a local men’s clothes store to ask them to send over some photos for their upcoming feature in the magazine’s June issue. Again, I hate making phone calls, mostly because I hate the sound of my voice when I’m talking to customers – I have this really sickly customer service voice that I’ve cultivated from working in retail, and every time I built myself up to making the call, the office seemed to fall really silent. I just didn’t want to be stuttering and end up mucking up the phone call with all of them listening, but in the end I told myself to get a grip and just do it. Luckily I didn’t stutter or forget to tell him anything, but he mumbled a lot, so it was difficult for me to understand him. Still, it was the first phone call I’ve made in the office with everyone listening (since I tend to go in the board room), and I didn’t make an idiot of myself, so there’s that.

Week 5

The last book that went to print arrived back on Friday, so it was my job on Monday morning, to pack up some copies to send out for press purposes. It was the first time I’d seen my name in print as one of the contributors, so I did have an internal-squealy moment out in the corridor. Then it was onto round two of circulating the press release; re-emailing people to ask if they’d thought further about using our release. I got a couple of replies, but still not all that many. I spent some more time trying to add more contacts to the press database in hopes of generating more interest, so hopefully if we keep trying, we’ll get more responses.

I got to write another press release for the book that we sent off to print just last week, and I’m just waiting for one of the book’s high-profile chefs to get back to me with a quote for the release. I also started a new database to prepare for when we have to start sending out the press release, and feel that this one’s going a lot better because I’ve tried to look for multiple email addresses for each contact. That way, we’re more likely to get more responses and avoid the same thing happening as with the previous release that I sent out.

I was also asked to write a short piece about open-air cinemas in and around Sheffield, just giving basic details but writing it in a way that makes the story interesting to read since it’ll be appearing in the magazine.

On Friday, I arrived as I do every other day – early, and ready to get started. When I checked my email, I found a list of tasks from the MD, and they were pretty urgent. I had to write four profiles for stores at a local shopping centre for 11am in time for a meeting with a client, and so I got started straight away, only to be told that the shops I needed to write about had been altered to turn the spotlight on independent stores as opposed to familiar high street names. So I had even less time to get it done. Like a tool, I carried on writing, only to realise with half-an-hour to spare that I was writing about the completely wrong brands, so I swore silently, told myself I was an idiot, and quickly knocked out some new profiles. When the MD looked over and saw ONE profile in my Word document, I could have shrivelled into a ball. He ended up offering to write the last one for me, and all turned out okay. I suppose you have to learn from your mistakes, so I’ll be sure to double-check my brief in the future.

So as I finished up my last profile and emailed it off to one of the guys working on the magazine, the MD turns to me and says, ‘Come on then, let’s rock and roll. You might want to bring along a pen and some paper.’ Of course, this throws me for a minute – until I think back to the email. The message itself had been addressed to the guy on the magazine, then forwarded to me, so I’d presumed the email had been for him. Which is why the bit about the meeting with a client and me taking notes, hadn’t clicked. Next thing I know, I’m heading out of the door with the MD, five minutes up the road to where a new block of student accommodation has recently opened. We go in and I’m shaking hands with a gentleman, and then I’m taking notes and it’s all so surreal. I keep asking myself why he’d bring me along to take notes when he’s taking notes anyway, and the prematurely-optimistic part of my brain screams HE’S PUSHING YOU BECAUSE HE SEES HOW HARD-WORKING AND HOW GOOD YOU ARE AND HE’S GOING TO OFFER YOU A JOB. On the flip side, the logical part of my brain is telling me DON’T GET YOUR HOPES UP. HE PROBABLY JUST BROUGHT YOU ALONG BECAUSE IT’S THE PR LADY’S DAY OFF. IF SHE’D HAVE BEEN HERE, HE WOULD HAVE BROUGHT HER ALONG. So I just decided not to think about it at all, which really means thinking about it obsessively in a nonchalant-kind-of-way.

It’s getting harder though. The more time I spend at the office, the more I know it’s the perfect place for me. It’s the job I want, and if there’s no job offer at the end of it in July, I just know I’ll be crushed, but that’s not their fault. He did warn me at the very start that he had no full-time work to offer me just then, and he’s already recruited quite a few people, so I can’t see him taking on any more just yet. But sometimes my brain just conjures these ideal scenarios and I can’t help myself. Hope and optimism is both the best and the worst combination on occasions like these.

It also doesn’t help that I’m not happy in my job. I love going to the office so much in the mornings, and then I have to leave to go and work on a stuffy shop floor for four hours and it’s really hard. It’s not like there’s much incentive, either, since the money I do earn each month is just enough to cover my train fare and my board, leaving little else for the nice things that make work worthwhile. So I’ve been looking for other jobs – full time positions in the city that would make it more affordable for me to buy a car and be better off financially to go on holidays and on days out – to do the little things that make it bearable to go back to work on Monday morning. I’ve seen a couple of positions that I’d like to apply for, but I’m also on the fence because of this internship. It is, without doubt, the best thing to have happened to me since I Graduated, and if I got a full-time job I wouldn’t be able to continue with it. Part of me says that might be a good thing – they’ve got a good idea of what I’m capable of, of how hard I work every day I’m there, and it might make them realise how much they want to keep me. But if that isn’t the case, then I’ll have cut the internship short for desk work, and I’m not sure if that’s just a stupid move. It’s hard to know what to do in this kind of situation. I’d like my own car because it’s very rare that my train is on time, which means that I have to rush down to the office, then rush up to work while eating my lunch, then rush around the shop floor for 4 hours before rushing back down to the train station, and by that time I’m actually exhausted. It would just be nice not to spend the whole of my week rushing around like an idiot. Especially when it’s as hot as it’s been this past week.

So, lots of dilemmas. But another two really good weeks at my internship, with eight weeks left to go. Still undecided on the job front, but of course this wasn’t going to be easy, not much ever is! So stay tuned!

Stepping into my Intern shoes: Week 3

I feel like I should probably start with the good news that there were no public transport issues this week, so there’s that. I am, however, on the look out for my very first runabout, and am quickly discovering that searching for cars isn’t the easiest thing, but hopefully being able to rely on myself to get places will cut out some of the stress that comes with late trains and public delays.

This week at my internship, I got to create another profile for one of the restaurants featuring in the company’s upcoming releases, and I feel like I’ve got the flare for it now. I get what kind of tone they’re looking for, and I hope I’ve managed to capture that in the few pieces that I’ve written for them thus far. I was also asked to compile a list of tops news/trends/info from Sheffield for their magazine website. Fun, light-hearted stories that would make for an interesting read. I’m not sure why, but writing creatively still makes me nervous. I guess it’s always a little nerve-wracking when you show your work to others, so maybe that’s what it is. I wonder if it ever gets easier. But they seem to like what I’m writing anyway, so I probably should try to take encouragement from that.

On the Tuesday, I got to format some more recipes, and I wrote my very first Foreword for one of the books. That was pretty cool. I mean, a Foreword is pretty major – it’s right at the front of the book and has to do justice to the chef. I haven’t had the edits back yet, but I’m hoping they like what I’ve done with it. It was actually for the same chef that I translated some recipes for, and the same restaurant that I composed a profile for, so it’s been really nice to come full circle and be able to cover all aspects of the chef’s entries in the book.

On Wednesday, I was asked to revisit the list of news stories from Sheffield that I’d come up with on Monday, and create a few short stories for the website. Each story only had to be around 100-150 words depending on the subject matter, and I really enjoyed writing them. It was nice to use my research skills to really build a story and try my hand at a little journalism. Again, I haven’t had any feedback from them yet, but I’ll keep an eye on the website to see if they make an appearance.

The next day, I compiled a list of press contacts, focusing on finding their social media handles. This will help when it comes to advertising and promoting our books, because we’ll be able to hopefully secure some coverage on social media as well as through the more conventional route of advertising through print in local newspapers and magazines. I was also given a kind of ongoing task by the Managing Director. He asked me to look online for cook shops around the country, shops that might sell cookware and utensils and things like that – somewhere I could see our book being sold. This is to try and boost sales for each of the regional cook books, and isn’t an urgent task, so it’s sort of a task that I pick up when there isn’t anything pressing to do. The main thing is to have different distribution avenues for the company to go down. I think it’s a good sign that they’re constantly looking to progress and grow, and I’m really lucky to be a part of making that happen.

Friday was my busiest day by far. In the morning I researched more press social media accounts on Facebook, and started on the list of cook shops for the MD. As morning quickly gave way to afternoon, I got to write a review of a local cafe which has just opened, and serves up some seriously good-looking vegetarian and vegan food. I think a trend is starting to emerge here. The more creative stuff I do, the more I’m beginning to believe that that is the best part of my job. I thought it would be the other way around because I really do love all that administrative, organisational stuff, but I’ve surprised myself.

I also got to tag some of the book contributors on Google – something to do with Google searches. I think the main idea is that when the book is searched online, the contributors – all the suppliers, food producers, and restaurants will appear alongside the book. Extra exposure and accessibility for the readers, which is always good. Then finally, I got to email my own press release – the very first thing I wrote on my first day – to all the contacts I had compiled in my very first press database. Again, the closing of another circle. It felt good to see my work coming together – to see how one task feeds into another and contributes to the whole running of the department. It was pretty daunting to be dealing first-hand with the press, but also kind of secretly thrilling.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this week, and I feel like I’m beginning to find my place in the team. I feel comfortable there but I also feel challenged, which feels likes an important distinction.

Check back here next week to see what I’m getting up to as I make it through week 4 of my 13 week internship!

Stepping into my Intern shoes: Week 2

Week two was cut a little short this week, thanks to the Bank Holiday, but that wasn’t the reason my week got off to a bad start. On Wednesday, my train terminated unexpectedly at Meadowhall, literally one stop from Sheffield. All passengers had to get off and traipse over to Platform 3 for the next connecting service. I was one of the lucky ones who actually managed to get on said connected service, since it was already pretty full. It was a shambles. My train got in at 8.55am, so I was a good ten minutes late for the internship. I was so mad. And pretty out of breath.

But enough of travel disasters.

On Tuesday, I continued to add to the press database for one of the upcoming cook books, focusing on finding bloggers who might be interested in doing some free coverage. I tried to look for a variety of accounts: local bloggers for the area, food bloggers, lifestyle and travel blogs. I think I managed to get a pretty good mix, but not a lot of people list their contact information on their blogs, so the only way to get in touch is to use the contact form on their website.

I also attempted to conduct the author interview over the phone that I had to reschedule from last week. In fact, I’ve been trying to contact him all week, but no luck so far. Either he doesn’t like me, or he’s even busier than we thought.

The Managing Director also asked me to write up a little music profile/review as a kind of taster of what I can do. Basically, he wanted to get a feel for my writing style to see whether this would be my kind of thing. Within the publishing company, they have a magazine imprint which is actually how the company started. It’s a free magazine. A kind of ‘what’s hot in Sheffield’ guide, and I was pretty nervous about writing something for it. I’ve never really been into music. I can practically hear jaws dropping, but it’s true – I just tend to stick with whatever’s on the radio, or whatever’s in the Top 10. Literature’s always been more my thing. But of course, because the Managing Director had asked me to try my hand at it, I knew I couldn’t muck it up. And besides, his brief was: ‘basically, it might be a DJ who’s into dad music, and your job is to make him sound appealing’. I think it’s pretty hard to fail when you have a brief like that, so I chose a random DJ from my random Google search, and drafted a brief profile for him. I did the same for an upcoming acoustic night in Rotherham, and spent quite a bit of time hovering over it, moving commas around, thinking how terrible it sounded. I didn’t really want to send it to him because I didn’t think it was anywhere near my best work. When I finally ran out of time and couldn’t obsess over it any more, I emailed it to him and asked him to let me know what he thought. Turns out, it’s pretty much the thing he was expecting, so it couldn’t have been as awful as I’d built it up to be in my mind. I haven’t written anything more for the magazine yet, but I have a feeling that will be on next week’s agenda.

The following day, I continued working on building up the press databases for two of the cook books currently undergoing the editorial process. It felt like a long day because the PR lady wasn’t there, and because I pretty much did this all day, but I understand that sometimes you have to work on some slightly boring tasks. That’s the way with everything. But it was also nice to hear that my name is in one of their books as a contributor – well, the first of many, hopefully! And it goes off to print this week.

On Thursday, I wrote a profile for another café, which I thoroughly enjoyed again. Profiling is definitely my favourite part of the job! And then I spent the rest of the afternoon calling round clients to confirm their attendance to the launch night on Monday. I didn’t really enjoy that bit. I hate talking to people over the phone, and I felt like I stuttered a few times because I was nervous in case anyone asked me any questions I couldn’t answer. Still, I suppose it’s a part of the job I’m going to have to get used to – so practise makes perfect! It was then my responsibility to update the information on the guest list so the PR lady could see how many people would be attending.

On Friday, the final day of my second week, I was asked to edit a recipe, formatting it correctly, and making sure all the ingredients were included in the method and vice versa. Then more follow-up calls for the launch to the people who’d been unavailable the day before. It didn’t feel as bad this time around because I’d already made a bunch of phone calls the day before, so hopefully it will keep getting easier. I then got to do a small write-up for a local pub which has just launched its brand-new menu. I’m still waiting for the press team to send me through some photos and more press details for the piece before I can send it to the PR lady, but I’m happy that I got a first draft together so quickly using just the menu and the pub’s website. I’m hoping that says something about my creative capabilities.

I also got the chance to start a press piece for a local magician’s workshop. Then I was made an admin on the company’s Facebook page so I could tag the contributors of the book in a post about the book release. This was definitely the busiest day so far.

Honestly, I cannot believe how much they have already given me to do. I’ve only been there two weeks, and already I feel like I’ve done a little bit of everything. I’m grateful to be getting such an in-depth look at the kind of job I want to be doing in the near future, and it’s giving me great, solid experience to add to my CV. This week had been a little more challenging than last week, mainly due to the phone calls. I didn’t think they’d allow me to have such an active role in contacting clients, and as I said, I hate talking on the phone, but I understand that it’s an integral part of the job, so I’m going to keep powering through until it becomes easier. I’m just really enjoying being an editorial-slash-marketing-slash-PR assistant. I could seriously get used to it.

May Book Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I first discovered Will and Lou’s story from watching the 2016 blockbuster starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. I feel like this is often a source of resentment among fans of any book which has been given an adaptation on the big screen, but given that I probably wouldn’t have read the book if it hadn’t been for the film, I would say that’s a pretty narrow view of the situation.

This story has a big and unapologetic heart which works well in both mediums. Most of all, I enjoyed that it felt like a real story instead of a pretentious one, as romance novels sadly often do (though that’s in no way a detrimental thing, apparently, since I watch them all the time).

Me Before You follows the story of Louisa Clarke, an eccentric, optimistic young woman, as she struggles with unemployment, living in a pretty crowded home with her family, and a secret from her past that she’s carried for too long. When a local caring position crops up, she decides to try her hand at it, only to thrust herself into a situation she could never have foreseen. Lou’s life becomes a whirlwind of emotions, deep sadness, controversy, but most importantly, love.

First off, I like that the Will’s quadriplegia is dealt with in a no-frills kind of way. Shameless jokes, hard truths, and seriously near-the-bone jokes act as a kind of icebreaker into Will’s disability, and I think that might be a contributing factor to the book’s obvious success. Jojo doesn’t tiptoe around the issue, instead she just shoves it in our faces, saying simply: he’s a quad. There is a funny side if you allow there to be one. Deal with it. Will is so self-deprecating and sarcastic about his own situation that, after the first initial discomfort, the jokes just become sort of natural. It’s really refreshing because this is a much-needed step towards deconstructing the stigma around disability, and humour is clearly the best way to get that conversation started.

While this novel is so clearly about acceptance and love and human resilience, it’s also about the much simpler things in life that we all experience at one time or another. Louisa has grown up on a council estate, like many British people do, and with that comes the inevitable hardships of low incomes and unemployment. Me Before You reflects on the wider impacts of a recession, which is certainly relevant since we’re still seeing its effects in today’s economy.

Both Lou and her dad go through a period of unemployment in the book, and for each of them, it’s degrading – even depressing. For the young generation that Lou represents, it’s hard because of a lack of skills and experience, and for the mature generations, it’s hard because, in Lou’s dad’s case, he’s only ever had one job and he’s much older in a society that’s often looking for fresh, young minds. It’s all very ironic – Lou can’t get a job because she has little experience, and her dad can’t get a job because he’s got too much experience. It certainly emulates the vicious circle of job hunting that I’ve experienced.

More than anything, I found Treena’s love of learning to be one of the things I connected with the most.  At one point, she admits: ‘I’m really desperate to use my brain again. Doing the flowers is doing my head in. I want to learn. I want to improve myself.’ Throughout the novel, the two sisters battle with their torn loyalty to their family, themselves, and each other. They both feel that they have a certain responsibility to contribute to the family’s living costs, but there’s also a kind of understanding that one of them could – and should – go and spread their wings while the other stays home and does their bit to help the family. I found this really interesting because that’s actually really true. In England, it often works out that one sibling moves away and flourishes while the other stays home and settles for a quiet life close to the family home. I’ve never really considered it before, but Jojo highlights a pretty important aspect of life here. While it’s important to look after family and help out where you can, there shouldn’t be any kind of barrier to young people going off to better themselves in the big wide world. And there shouldn’t be this stigma that there’s only room for one of the children to grow away from the family. Treena, much like me, loves learning, and knows exactly what she needs to do with her life for it to be a fulfilling one – both for her and for Thomas. But it takes Lou a little longer to realise this, and I guess that’s another important message to take away from the book. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to figure out what you want or what you need to do with your life, just as long as you don’t give up. This story is really about the real ups and downs of family life. Two sisters falling out over who should have the bigger room and who should stay at home to help mum and dad pay the bills. Two sisters sharing sisterly moments and secrets they don’t feel they can burden their parents with. Real life.

When it comes to Will and Lou’s relationship, I think it’s an important distinction that they both challenge one another equally. The book highlights the reality that, in society, people often assume that physical disability involves mental disability, and this is one of the things that Will resents more than anything because it leads everyone around him to think they know what’s best for him. So, when Lou accepts that this, in fact, couldn’t be further from the truth, that’s when she begins to find it much easier to work with him. From that point onwards, they develop a natural respect for one another, and are able to interact on an equal footing intellectually. Will challenges her to broaden her horizons, encouraging her to read newspapers and books she would never have read before, to watch films with subtitles and start questioning what her future could hold instead of merely settling for what she already has. And in return, Lou challenges him to live again – to go out and do things. Essentially, to give life another chance. And I think it works for them both. Even if just for a short space of time. In fact, Louisa grows so much (in a metaphorical sense), that she literally outgrows her box room, and cannot stand the thought of moving back into it once she’s moved into Treena’s room because it makes her feel so claustrophobic.

Many current and incredibly relevant topics surface throughout the novel – from the threat of Lou’s dad’s redundancy, to the transformation of the library to include more technology than books. From working with Will, she begins to notice just how inaccessible our world is for wheelchair users, and how insensitive people are when it comes to disabled individuals. But she also gets to see just how much people are not alone because of technology and because of disabilities when she discovers the online community of quadriplegics. She comes across so many differing opinions about euthanasia – all of them passionate – and begins to realise the sheer scale of this debate in modern society. As her time with Will increases, and her understanding of his situation begins to grow, it becomes more about seeing past her own views of potential suicide as being wrong, and more about understanding, for Will’s sake, what his life if like and how she might be able to help improve it. I think it’s ironic that despite all the things she organises for Will to try and change his mind, in the end, the one thing that works the best, is, quite simply, her company. Despite all the other things she organised for him – the horse racing, the orchestra, the holiday – the one thing that improves his quality of life, even just for a little while, is the fact that Louisa spends time with him. I can’t help seeing that as a vital message for readers to take away from this book. Despite the fact that we might not understand someone’s disability, that it might even scare us, and that we might be afraid of offending or appearing to pity them, the one thing we can do to help is to give our time to people like Will. To listen to the individual’s voice instead of the disability.

But just as Will and his family have their own demons to battle, Louisa, too, has a secret she has to face head-on. I found it quite upsetting to read what happened to Louisa all those years before, but it did make a lot of things drop into place when the big reveal finally came. Through Lou’s character, Jojo explores the effects of rape, and the way that, in Lou’s case, it makes victims retreat into themselves, to make themselves small and insignificant. Lou stopped being extravagant and confident and started covering herself up, blaming herself for encouraging the attention of the men in the first place. She stopped believing in herself, and limited herself to the small borders of her town, not bothering to stretch her horizons and plan a future for herself. Instead, she made herself small, and importantly, only harmed herself more in the process.

I like that we get to see the situation from different perspectives throughout the book, since Jojo gives us a handful of chapters from different characters. Camilla. Steven. Nathan. Towards the end of the book, I think it was much more effective for readers to experience Lou’s grief through Treena’s eyes, since it represents the way Lou becomes closed-off (quite literally closed-off from the reader), because grief is a very private, very isolating experience. Jojo has constructed a very careful, very thoughtful narrative, and one that I really enjoyed reading.

I think Jojo deals with a lot in this novel. A lot of things that need saying and need to be discussed, but aren’t always easy to say out loud. And she threads them deeply into the narrative in a way that combines comedic value with hope and despair and grief and laughter. It’s a very difficult thing to achieve, but Jojo nails it absolutely, and gives us something to read as well as allowing us to take away a lot of very important things. An absolute must read.

 

June Book Review: The 5th Wave Trilogy by Rick Yancey

Stepping into my Intern shoes: Week 1

This week, I started my internship at a small publishing company in Sheffield. I was a little apprehensive in case I found the experience to be nothing like I’d already imagined it would be in my head. But I also had that flutter of excitement deep in my stomach when you get the feeling something could be really amazing – the first step towards more great things happening. Starting anything new always puts a little spring in my step, and this has been no different.

First, the shoes in the photo are the shoes I wore to meet the Managing Director in for coffee, three weeks ago. The shoes that gave me really bad blisters because they were new and I hadn’t broken them in yet. These are also the shoes I decided, stupidly, to wear on my first day, thinking that maybe I’d imagined them to be worse than what they actually were. Well, no. The blisters were worse than I remembered them being the first time around. So here is a photo to capture them in all their glory while I’m standing absolutely still, because I will not be wearing them again.

Day one was nice and relaxed. I met the team. I quickly became accustomed with the layout of the office. I was assigned my own little desk with a computer and a paper tray and a seriously comfy leather swivel chair. Someone made me a cup of tea. I met the lady I’d be working closely with, and she was very nice. She gave me the computer login details, and I got to work just like that. No muss, no fuss. I loved it. They didn’t make me feel like a kid who was just there to do some work experience. They didn’t shove me in a corner with some pre-arranged tasks to complete in silence. (And believe me. I’ve had that before). No, the nice lady talked me through what she wanted me to do, gave me an example as a kind of guideline to follow, and left me to work at my own speed. And it just seemed a given from the start that whatever I was doing would be used. It wasn’t just to pass the time – my work was actually going to be used. So I guess that only gave me more incentive to produce my best work.

I spent most of day one writing a press release for their next imminent release. To be honest, I was pretty nervous about it because I haven’t had much experience writing press releases. I think in all, I’ve only ever written one, but I was surprised to find that once I got the tone right, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Plus, the PR lady gave me one of hers to refer to as an example. She also sent me a spreadsheet containing all the book’s contributors so that I could email a few of them to get quotes for the press release. I have to admit, this really made me feel like an editorial assistant. I mean, day one and they’re allowing me to communicate with the people who are in the book? ?b$fj!$!? IT JUST FELT SO COOL.

After I finished the press release and emailed it back to the PR lady, she asked me to try and transcribe an author interview that she’d conducted in preparation for one of the chef’s Forewords. She was really apologetic for giving me such a tedious task, but I actually really enjoyed it. The chef is French but lives in Amsterdam, so I had to use my detective skills (and a bit of Google Translate) to transcribe his answers. It took quite a bit of time, but it felt good to be doing something that would be really useful to the team.

On day two, I met more of the team, since some of them only work a couple of days a week. They’re all refreshingly friendly and not at all condescending about me being an intern. If anything, they seem truly grateful for the extra help. I spent most of my morning finishing the transcription for the author interview and the press release, and then I got to compose a blurb for the book. The PR lady said she would send me the edits in a couple of days, and then I’d be able to see how my work measured up. This was also the first day I got to see the Managing Director again since our first meeting three weeks before. I was pretty nervous this time around, very conscious that now I actually had to start proving my ability and not doing anything overtly dumb in front of him (which is pretty difficult for me). I don’t think I embarrassed myself, though, and he was just as nice as I remembered. He asked how I was getting on and if the team were keeping me busy. He also promised to let me get stuck into some proofing toward the end of the week in preparation for the book going to print.

Day three involved transcribing a recipe from the same chef, and arranging it into the proper format using the company’s preferred house style. It was the PR lady’s day off, but she left me plenty of tasks to keep me busy, and I quite enjoyed having to manage my own time. Then I got to compose a profile which will eventually form the beginning of the chapter for the chef’s recipe. By far, this has been my favourite task of the week. I really enjoyed getting stuck in and having to do a little bit of research to find out more about his cafe. I wanted to really do the piece justice, so I trawled the internet for feedback from customers, I went back through his interview for little tit-bits to include, and I even scoured his website for photos of the cafe’s most popular dishes. The result was a very happy intern.

On day four, I received my edits from the profile and recipe piece, and was glad (and more than a little relieved) to hear that the PR lady had liked most of what I had written. She sat and talked me through the changes, but said she’d had to change very little, and had just felt it necessary to shorten the piece, more than anything, to make sure it would fit in the book. I was happy with the finished result, and moved on to begin proofing the first draft of the cook book.

Yesterday, on the final day of my first week, I started compiling a press database for the cook book, using the internet to find a list of magazines, newspapers, blogs, social media accounts, and other sources that might prove useful when it comes to advertising and promoting the book. I didn’t get very far with this, though, because the book has to go off to print soon, so I spent a good hour or more doing further proofreading. Then I was asked to conduct an interview over the phone with one of their French authors. I tried both numbers he’d supplied at least six times, secretly terrified to be calling another country and to be carrying out such an important task. When he eventually picked up, we had to reschedule because he was too busy prepping for the restaurant to open, and he really wanted to give me a lot of good material for his profile instead of rushing the interview. So we’ve arranged to try again on Tuesday around the same time. Hopefully it works out. Hopefully I don’t embarrass myself.

I think it’s fairly safe to say that my first week has been a good one. I feel like a real intern; I feel like I’ve been there forever. And it may sound silly, but it’s nice just to be using my brain again. When you fold jeans for four hours a day, your brain goes onto auto-pilot, and you kind of slip into this monotonous routine without even realising it. I love learning and challenging myself and being terrified, and this internship seems to be giving me all of that and, if possible, more. These people aren’t just giving me valuable experience, they’re pushing me out of my comfort zone without probably even realising it. No two days are the same in this kind of work, and for me that’s exactly what I need.

I’ve found exactly what I want to do, and that makes it a lot easier to go to work in the afternoons, let me tell you. So stay tuned, because I can’t wait to see what the next twelve weeks bring!

April Book Review: Demelza by Winston Graham

*There is a BBC adaptation of this series starring Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson. Seasons 1 and 2 have already aired, Season 3 is currently being filmed.

 

Winston Graham’s Demelza sees the return of the characters we grew to love in the first instalment of this series. Now married, Ross and Demelza find themselves enduring the ups and downs of married life. Amid the newness of starting a family, Ross is still fighting for the miner’s rights and attempting to keep his own mine prospering during a time of great poverty and dwindling mines. As his wife, Demelza continues to seek out her new place in society, striving to better herself rather than embarrass both her and Ross, and now their child, Julia, with her unladylike behaviour. In her efforts to secure the happiness of a close friend, she sets plans in motion which could destroy Ross’s trust in her, ruin their marriage beyond compare, and create a rift between Ross and his family at Trenwith.

This book has so much more happening in it when compared with the first novel. There are more elements of danger, and tensions run high as Demelza begins to overstep her boundaries. But the storyline surrounding the new relationship between Mark Daniel and Keren Smith is, I think, what provides the novel with a notably darker tone. There are plenty of small but effective moments of foreboding which inevitably create that feeling of anticipation, and once again Winston’s description is notably on-point. Take this chapter opening, for example:

‘It was an easterly sky, and as they reached Falmouth the sun was setting like a Chinese lantern, swollen and crimson and monstrous and decorated with ridges of curly cloud. The town was a grey smudge climbing the edge of the bay.’

Winston’s words have a way of transporting the reader directly into the heart of Cornwall and all its pastel beauty. But it isn’t just the landscapes. The description is often in the detail, for example (and – prior warning – I am about to reveal a major spoiler), during the moments following Keren’s death. The broken moonflower laying on the threshold, still damp and fresh, but soon to fade, a beautiful metaphor. The way the sun falls into the cottage, illuminating the sanded floor which is scuffed with the marks from their shoes during the struggle. The robin entering the cottage and leaving almost immediately because of the eerie quiet. A lot of nature seems to enter the domestic space at this moment, and I find that very interesting. In fact, women are often linked to nature throughout the novel, particularly to flowers and fruit. In a way, it is demeaning, but it stays true to the way women were portrayed and considered during that period in history, and it also brings an interesting dynamic to Winston’s detail. At the Warleggan party, we see Demelza’s entrance through the eyes of the gentlemen at the party. This reflects the way that women were consumed as commodities through the male gaze; something to be looked at and enjoyed, and it’s this subtle narrative decision that has such a significant impact despite its quiet delivery.

As the eponymous title suggests, this novel seems to tell the story considerably more from Demelza’s point of view, but also from the perspectives of other characters. It makes the narrative feel well-rounded and thorough, and only helps the reader to understand each character much better. Winston leaves no corner of his fictional world untouched; he delves into every facet, giving us an up-close and personal insight into the lives of the working class. I especially loved the chapter when so many members of the community came together to help build a house for Mark and his young bride. What better way to describe the sense of community and that unmistakably English trait of lending a hand to a friend in need?

Unexpectedly, both in the first instalment and in this one too, I really enjoyed discovering more about the Cornish copper mining industry. It has been quite interesting to discover just how difficult an industry it actually was. There were lots of risky investments with, often, no capital to really back the ventures, and little chance of profit at the end of it. I think this is communicated really well with the closing of Grambler in Demelza. The closure begins with the managers of the mine and Francis stopping the machines at noon. Then we move to the last of the miners staying behind to chisel away what little copper they can find before the water levels rise and make it impossible for them to keep working. Lastly, we’re left with the image of Zacky Martin sitting alone in the mine, reflecting on his many years at Grambler. The way the scene plays out, slowly trickling down from the owners to the lone working-class miner, illustrates the tragedy of the trade. It may have been devastating for the mine owners to lose business, but it was more often than not life and death for the miners, and it was their livelihood – their pride. I found this one of the most poignant moments in the book, and also one of the most human and emotionally provoking.

Winston provides a hard look at the quality of life back then. We’re taken along with Ross and Dr Enys as he visits one of the region’s prisons and describes the inmates as animals in cages, begging for food and money with no access to fresh air, medical attention, or toilet facilities. The scene ends with them having to amputate Jim’s arm because of the spread of infection, and him losing his life. Not long after his young wife, Jinny, finds out, she tries to hang herself, no doubt out of grief, but I also couldn’t help wondering if it was because she knew she would be a burden on her family once again, without a husband to support her anymore. This, for me, showed the real effects of poverty and loss, and the injustice showed to working class people throughout history. It is clear that Winston intended this book to contain a lot of hard-truths as well as enjoyable fiction, and I think that’s part of what makes the novel so appealing. Plus, there has always been something attractive and pleasing about the Robin-Hood type figure, throughout literature, and I think Ross Poldark embodies that idea. The idea of one of the higher classes displaying sympathy and compassion for those beneath him. Perhaps it’s because we’d all like to be the one to display such humanity, we just don’t know how. Literature has a funny way of allowing us to explore the versions of ourselves we’d like to be.

While some of the details of the books have been adapted and changed slightly for the TV show, I still feel like the essence of the story remains the same. This is a story about community and relationships, and the every day struggles of life in a mining community. The casting is inspired, and the performances are really what makes the show such a continued success. But as with most great TV shows and movies, the book came first.

 

May Book Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

‘It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.’ (Confucius)

Finally, finally, things seem to be looking up. I sincerely hope I’m not speaking too soon, but I’m too excited not to say anything at all.

In March, amid sending out an arsenal of CVs and covering letters, applying for as many full-time jobs as I could find, I started to get a little desperate. It was so hard to know that I was trying my best and nothing seemed to be coming from all my efforts. In fact, it was – without risk of sounding a little melodramatic – pretty soul-destroying. At least, that’s how it felt in the moment. So I Googled small publishing companies in the city where I work, and the search did yield a few possibilities, but I still didn’t get my hopes up. I knew the chances of getting a job in a small company would be fairly impossible, since, chances were, these publishers would already have fully-functioning teams, and I would have to be incredibly lucky to drop on a job advertisement for one of them. A right-time-right-place sort of situation.

But I couldn’t go on as I had been, because I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, so I trolled the websites of these small publishing companies for a while, and decided to indulge in a hail-mary. Thinking that it couldn’t do any harm, I emailed an editorial assistant of a publishing house which specialises in publishing cook books. I crafted a polite email asking for one very simple thing: advise. I have heard before that publishing staff are very friendly and are happy to share their own experiences of getting into the industry, so I decided to test that theory. I re-read the email at least five times before I sent it. I put it out of my mind. Chances were, I might not get a reply. I went to work as normal. I folded jeans for four hours. That night, I got home, and guess what was sitting in my inbox? An email from the Managing Director, explaining that his editorial assistant had forwarded him my email, and offering to give me a call.

I felt the urge to squeal. I did not squeal. I contained my excitement enough to reply immediately with my thanks. His reply promised a phone call the very next day. I waited, nervously, and he called. We had a chat and he explained that while he didn’t have any full-time work available at the moment, he could offer me an internship. I was elated. He offered to meet up over coffee the following week to hash out the details, and I hung up feeling that finally, finally, something was going right. Finally, after all of the job applications and not even getting offered an interview, someone was throwing me a lifeline.

The following Friday, I arrived outside the designated coffee shop thirty minutes early to find it closed. My new shoes were rubbing me. It was colder than I’d expected. And I was in the middle of applying plasters to my heels when I he arrived. It was a rough start, but as soon as he led me into their new office space, my excitement returned. It was stylish and cosy and was exactly the kind of place I’d imagined myself working in one day (imagine Aria Montgomery in the five-years-forward episode of Pretty Little Liars, and you’re not far off). The chat went really well. I was surprised to find I didn’t feel all that nervous, instead I just felt eager to get started. By the sound of it, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’ll be helping out with admin, but I’ll also have the chance to dabble in some of the creative stuff, too. It’ll be real hands-on experience that will look great on my CV and give me the practical skills I need for a future in publishing. For once, it was nice for a potential employer to be insistent that this was going to be as beneficial for me as it would be for them.

Several weeks later, and it’s now the day before I start my internship. I’ve just come back off holiday from a week in Bridlington, a day trip to York, and another day trip to Harewood House. I’m feeling lighter and happier. I’m already planning what I’m going to wear, and I have my bag packed ready, complete with a new pen and a fresh notepad.

Things are starting to look up.

Watch this space for more deets of the internship!

Beauty & The Beast Live Action Remake

Normally, I stick to book reviews, but last night I went to see the new live action Beauty & The Beast remake, and I had to write about it. Obviously, growing up in the 90s, Disney was life for me, as I’m sure it was for so many others, and there was always something about Belle that appealed to me. She was bookish and didn’t quite fit in, people whispered about her, and all she wanted was adventure – something she didn’t feel she could get from her little hometown.

Now, twenty-five years on from the original Disney animation’s release, the live action remake has landed, and thank goodness for it. The casting is genius. I have to admit, I was a little uncertain as to how Emma Watson would fill this musical role, but I think her performance was perfect. She’s a phenomenal actress anyway, and her singing was just as good. I love that she had a hand in tweaking Belle’s character a little in order to transform her into a more modern version of the original Disney princess. Now, instead of Maurice being the inventor of the family, Belle is the one creating washing machines and who knows what else. She’s still a bookworm, clinging to the fictional worlds that words can offer her as she goes about her daily life in her little town with its cloying whispers, and we even see her teaching a little girl to read. We also get more of the small, intimate moments between Belle and her father, which are touching and genuine. First when Maurice is singing about his losing his wife and Belle walks in and just stands there listening to him. Then the lovely moment when Belle asks her father if he believes her to be odd. A small moment of insecurity from our heroine that reminds us (particularly younger viewers), that she is after all, only human, and still feels as flawed as we all do. To me, this was an important step to making the character human as opposed to her being a princess on a pedestal – untouchable and someone young girls could aspire to be like without actually succeeding. Emma brings a very grounded quality to the character, and makes her very emotionally mature. I felt a kind of nostalgia watching her performance on the screen, because there were all the elements of the original character, with even more wonderful things mixed in.

There was a scene in particular, which wasn’t in the original film, which I found to be a delightful addition to the story. This is when Beast takes Belle to any place she wants to, by way of an enchanted book. It gave us a chance to flesh out Belle’s mother’s back story, and because it was so heart-breaking, it allowed Emma to explore the more emotional side of Belle’s storyline. I found this scene particularly touching, because not only has Belle begun to appreciate the Beast’s sensitive side at this point, but she also literally goes on a journey to discover more about her own past, with him by her side. As Emma said in a recent interview during the film’s press tour, the Beast challenges Belle intellectually, but I think, also emotionally. That’s why their connection feels so real, because they help one another along the way to discovering more about themselves, and in turn, come to learn so much more about one another.

The Beast was all-around fantastic, both visually, but also in the way that Dan Stevens portrayed him. The emphasis on the blue eyes that were undoubtedly human and so sad and filled with pain. The snippets of humour. The instances of naivety and genuine insecurity. Kindness at the most unexpected moments. Most of all, I loved that the relationship between Belle and the Beast was allowed to grow organically on the screen. I was a little worried that it would be rushed and as a result become something the audience wouldn’t believe, but it was given plenty of screen time, enough to allow the characters to explore this natural transition from friendship to compassion, and eventually love. For me, it was magical that this progression came about through their mutual appreciation for literature. And actually, reading is a prominent theme throughout the film. At key moments, we see how the act of reading can bring characters together and help them to grow, to mature emotionally, and to empathise with others in the world around them, and I think that’s an incredible message to be sending to younger generations. I thought the use of the William Sharp poem, “A Crystal Forest”, in particular, was a beautiful piece of literature to share with the audience. The language was perfection. The setting of the snowy landscape and the bright, rich contrast with the characters’ costumes – ugh. It was just a hair-raising moment. The poem was exquisite and slipped seamlessly in with the scene’s dialogue.

One of the most poignant moments in the film, is when the Beast saves Belle from the wolves, and is lying injured on the ground. Knowing this is her one moment to take her freedom and escape, Belle grabs her horse and just stands there, teetering on the edge of a decision to run and leave the Beast behind. She can physically see her way out through the forest – a glimmer of light beyond the enchanted winter engulfing the castle, yet in the end her humanity wins out, and she chooses to stay to help him back to the castle. The reason she stays is because of her compassion, but also out of a duty to nurse the Beast back to health for saving her life. There have been claims that Belle displays signs of suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, which is when a hostage begins to have feelings for their captor, but I disagree. This very moment in the film clearly disputes any such claims, because Belle chooses to stay. Not out of any emotional connection with the Beast, but because she is good person, and cannot simply leave him to die when he just risked his life for her. In the first instance, at the very beginning of the film when she has just taken her father’s place as the Beast’s prisoner, the Beast invites Belle to dine with him and she refuses, insisting that she would never dine with her captor. Surely this is enough to dispute any Stockholm claims.

The visual effects of the film were something else. Take one of the most famous sequences from the original: Be Our Guest, when Lumiere serves Belle dinner. The colours. The sparkle. The intricacies. The whole thing was a feast for the eyeballs. So much happening and so much nostalgia and so much smiling. It was a wonderful moment to relive. Then there was the yellow-ballgown-waltzing-scene that is probably the first thing people associate with the story of Beauty & The Beast. First off, the creation of the dress was wonderful, then the way the beast was looking at her as they danced in the ballroom, and their conversation afterward on the balcony which brought the whole scene back down to reality. It was all just an amalgamation of anticipation as to whether or not this scene would live up to its expectations – wonder as it did – and then such joy that it seemed somehow even better than I expected it to be.

Overall, it was important for me to be able to find things – adult things – to relate to in this new retelling of the classic Disney animation. And I found so much. I think the creators of this film managed to strike a perfect balance between the old and the new, the young and the old, nostalgia and new and innovative additions, which is why this review is pretty much just a girl gushing about a live-action remake of one of her all-time favourite Disney films. I wasn’t sure any film adaptation could live up to this story, but somehow the remake surpasses all expectations. I cannot wait to watch it again. And again. And – (*sigh). You know how this goes.

Working out the ‘how’

This is the first post I’ve written about my journey to crack the Publishing industry. I haven’t really posted anything up until now because, to be honest, I haven’t been getting very far, but that’s okay because I have a feeling it will take some time. As is often the case with life in general, I know what I want to do, I’m just struggling with the how-to-get-there part.

First of all, I considered applying for a Masters in Publishing in London. It seemed like a good idea because I love learning and I just wasn’t quite ready to let go of university yet, but reality quickly set in. I recently graduated from York St. John university, which was an amazing experience, and it seemed that the best thing to do was to get some solid work experience. So I found a job in retail and that’s what I’m doing now. My aim is to become an editorial assistant, which involves a lot of admin work, so it made sense to try and find a role as an admin assistant somewhere, but making that happen proved more difficult than I anticipated. As with most jobs, employers want you to have experience, which I suppose is understandable, but I also hoped there’d be a company out there willing to train up someone like me. It turned out there wasn’t, so I’m now onto Plan B. Continue working in retail. Save money. Apply for internships over the summer, and hope that it leads to a job offer.

More recently I started rethinking the Masters plan, but as ever, money is the main obstacle keeping me from going ahead with it. Postgraduate loans require you to find most of your own funding, and even with the new Government loan that’s recently been rolled out, I’d still need to find £7000/£8000 to cover London’s expensive living costs. I considered commuting and staying in hotels on the days that I’d need to be in uni, but that would make it difficult to hold down a job to cover my living expenses, so it’s looking like the Masters thing won’t happen, even though I really want it to.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. In the meantime, I’m trying to be as productive with my free time as possible, so that when I finally get that all-important interview, I’m prepared. In a way, I’ve kind of been doing my own Masters degree. I bought myself a nice fat notepad, and started researching as much about the industry as I could. I’m looking at trends in the market, different job roles, job vacancies, information about work experience and internships, and I’ve subscribed to The Bookseller to keep up-to-date with all the latest news from the industry. And whenever I begin to feel like it might never happen, I take heart from this quote that I found right here on Tumblr:

I am learning everyday to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me”. 

I suppose these are the days I’ll look back on eventually with irony, thinking about how dramatic it all seemed. These days will pave the way for what comes later, and then it will all seem worth it. For now, I’m just going to keep my chin up and forge ahead. After all, if everything in life was easy, what would be the point?