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Writing. Yes. Good. What?

Becoming a published author has been my endgame for as long as I can remember. I have memories of writing story books from as early as the age of three (with my own illustrations. I didn’t come here to play games) and from then, through my teenage years of melodramatic diary entries – sparing no details of the minor fall outs I had with friends that somehow meant the world – right up to the present day, where I’ve blogged my way through a dark spell in my life and am currently trying to muster up the motivation to start writing for fun.

Characters. Settings. A driven plot – all the things an authory type should have at their fingertips, right?

Not exactly, as it turns out. Writing is bloody hard work.

I’ve set myself a sort-of goal of entering some writing competitions in 2019, and to do that I suppose I need to have some pieces of writing to hand.

I’d be lying if I said I had any ideas to grab by the horns and get on with. I’m hoping, if I can start writing more regularly the rest will sort of just… come? Is that how writing entire novels works? We’ll see.

Until next time,

Emma x

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What’s the word in 2017?

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As much as I love hearing and reading about other people’s New Year’s resolutions, this year I’ve felt inclined to not set myself a range of goals to achieve. Expectations, a lot of unnecessary pressure, blah blah. So I haven’t. Instead, I’m doing something a little bit different.

2017, for me, will be focused around and structured towards a single ideal: that is, I want to reclaim the life I’m so eager to live. I want to reclaim what’s mine.

As you’re probably aware, the past couple of years haven’t been the most fruitful for me in terms of my own personal development. If I had to summarise my 2015 in a single word, that word would perhaps be ‘cancer’. ‘Death’, maybe. ‘Loss‘, overall, because in the process of losing my Dad I lost my ambition, my drive and the student lifestyle I loved so much. I lost my mind a bit.

2016 wasn’t much better. It was almost a consolation that 2016 seemed to carry a curse – with iconic celebrities calling it quits on the world, global and national politics taking a bizarre and frightening turn and terrorist attacks becoming too commonplace to be truly shocking – because the year’s events made my grief and mental health nosedive feel perfectly in moderation with the rest of the world. A bit of a safety blanket, you could say. My word of 2016 was definitely ‘adjustment‘, with plenty of first birthdays and anniversaries without Dad confronting us in a moody blue haze. Each brought with it a unique challenge, a family conflict, a feeling of emptiness. 2016 was a year of ‘helplessness‘.

Therefore, I’m designating a word to 2017 before it’s even really begun, and that word is ‘reclamation‘. I’m setting out to take back what the world has stripped me of, and I’m going to give it my best shot.

As nice as the optimistic promises of ‘eat less exercise more’, ‘8 hours’ sleep a night’ or ‘drink 2 litres of water per day’ seem on the surface, they’re not going to cut it for me in 2017.

Until next time,

Emma x

21: My Year in Review

I started writing a post called ’22 Things I’ve Learned in 22 Years’ to publish in time for my birthday next Monday (the 30th May, send me all ur presents, etc.) but even I was getting bored of it before I got to 22. I made it to my 18th point before I deleted it all, because seriously? Who is going to be reading 22 of my rambles? They weren’t even *that* insightful. So I’ve got a better post for you. 10 Cool Things I Did When I Was 21 – my year in review, if you like.

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1. My Job with Totepool
Okay, funny place to start but I’m trying to be chronological here. I worked Royal Ascot mid-June and then Glorious Goodwood in July. It was a stressful job, sure, and you’d always finish a festival not quite sure your toes were still attached to your feet, but it was really fun and I’ve got some pretty cool stories from working there. Talking to the entertainment editor of the Telegraph in the 100-acre garden of the CEO of Ascot Racecourse’s lodge at his pre-races lunch? Being tipped £60 by a Swedish prince, and another £20 from an American businessman after choosing him the winning horse in a 28-horse race? Being six feet away from the Queen’s carraige and receiving a royal wave in my first day on the job? It was, all in all, a really cool experience.

2. Finishing my degree
With a 2:1 no less! I was so, so pleased. All the boozing and celebrating is a bit of a blur now but it was so much fun. Highlights include a roadtrip to Henley blasting The Weeknd, having a wine mom night with cheese, crackers and pizza and a house party full of party people, a huge sound system and other disco treats.

3. Graduating
My graduation was a great day. It was the perfect end to my uni experience – the last event my family attended as a 4-piece, the sun was shining, I wasn’t bloated so felt fab in my dress and I got to spend the day with my Philosophy department, who really made uni what it was for me.

4. Got a new job!
Not the graduate job I was expecting to walk into straight out of uni, but after two months of unemployment at home I decided to just cut my losses and take what I could find. On September 7th I began working as a barista in my local coffee shop that ISN’T a Costa or a Starbucks (hint, hint). It was p daunting after being a checkout girl for 4 years, but I’ve met some great people through work and it’s been quite rewarding getting stuck into something a bit different.

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5. Went to New York
Yes, my 21st birthday present! Anna and I went to the Big Apple for 5 days, from the 17th-22nd September 2015. It was the best trip I’ve EVER been on and we did so many unforgettable things. We stayed on Times Square and it really is like being on another planet. It’s my favourite city in the world.

6. Attended Hachette’s ‘Insight Into Publishing’ Day
On the 4th November, 2015 I was invited to spend the day at Hachette’s publishing house on the Embankment in London, where I found out about every aspect of the publishing industry, received a lovely tote bag full of books and info and attended a wine reception on their rooftop bar (I KNOW, how swish). From the 6am train I had to catch this end to the meal deal I ate on my connection home from Birmingham, it was a real adventure and I’m still honoured to have been given the opportunity.

7. Planned my Dad’s funeral
Glossing over the horrible time of it we had in his final 6 months, the 5th January 2016 – Dad’s cremation, thanksgiving of life service and wake – was actually a really lovely day for me. We packed out the church my Mum and Dad got married in with friends, family and colleagues, all together to celebrate the life of the best man ever. We listened to his favourite music and shared all our memories of him and it was a day full of love and support. (Plus, heading out to his old watering hole and getting smashed as a family afterwards was a nice way to end proceedings!)

8. Travelled to Berlin
I visited my oldest friend Victoria in January who is teaching in Berlin for her year abroad with uni. Such a spontaneous little visit but I had the best time and absolutely wish I’d gone over sooner! Berlin is such a great place. I fell in love with its character.

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9. Saw The Book Of Mormon in the West End
The Book of Mormon is a musical I’d been desperate to attend since its release, but always kind of wrote off because getting a seat in one of the shows requires selling your firstborn child and not eating for a month. Seriously, we met a bloke in New York in the queue for our Broadway tickets who told us he’d snagged two tickets for the Broadway production for $500. There’s nothing bargainous about that! So I was over the moon when my Mum decided to treat me and her to a day out in London and she agreed to see the musical with me after we found some cheap-ish seats (if you can call £78 each cheap-ish). It’s HILARIOUS and definitely the funniest show I’ve ever seen. Go if you can!

10. To Tenerife!
A spontaneous holiday abroad, you say? Booked 5 days before you leave? Such a fab decision. We were only there for a few days and had a super relaxed, topping-up-the-tans-and-burns getaway – as well as visiting the world-famous waterpark Siam Park.

So, even though I’d chalk this year up as being the lowest of the lows in terms of my mental health and overall wellbeing, I can’t deny that I’ve done some really brilliant things and had a lot of great opportunities. It’s been a year of growing up, entering the ‘real world’ (so to speak) and just generally coping, which I’m proud of myself for doing and continuing to do.

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Until next time,

Emma x

For Dad, on his birthday

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Today, the 9th May 2016, marks 53 years since my dad Mark was born in Manchester. Sadly, he’s not here to celebrate. He passed away on the 11th of December last year – 6 months to the day after being diagnosed with oral cancer (of the tongue, tonsils, pallet and throat) and given 6 months to live. He was always a perfectionist and I’m sure he’d have loved to know he got his prognosis spot on.

Dad was a very unique kind of guy. He had an incredibly eclectic music taste – he’s left behind a hefty collection of vinyl and CDs of artists I’ve never heard of. He was also into Formula 1, American sports, Stock Car racing and Doctor Who (he was briefly into Japanese and Korean horror films too but we’ll just call that a phase).

He was also very humble in his achievements and in general – he was never one to draw attention to himself or cry about his own illness (all 19 years of it) and would always lend an ear or a hand to whoever needed it, for however long. I probably wouldn’t have Maths and Science GCSEs today had it not been for years of his patience as we ploughed through my homework! He would also accept and embrace any new challenges, whether that be in redundancy, family related or his own health. I’m a very optimistic person and I’d like to think I learned that from him.

I miss him every day. On Wednesday it’ll have been five months since he died and while it’s getting easier to deal with as time goes on it’s never going to stop hurting. I miss our secret handshake and I miss him calling me ‘little Ems’. I miss his quirky Facebook statuses and his reassuring texts of good luck whenever I’m trying something new. I miss the way he used to torment the cat – she’s softened in old age and that’s not how things were supposed to go.

There’s even a cancer-shaped emptiness at home that I’d become so used that I shouldn’t miss, but they became Dad so I do. I miss the whirr of his feeding tube that pumped calories into his stomach (he sometimes syringed cups of tea down there too because he missed it so much, which I still think is genius). I miss the copious boxes and tubs of drugs that covered every surface in our house – I wish I was joking about that, but they were literally everywhere. I miss him always being around the house, whether that be watching The Big Bang Theory on the settee or hunched over his PC scouring eBay for records.

He’s at peace now, exactly where he wanted to be – he told us so enough times – but I just miss him. I miss him being here.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I’m thinking of you always.

Ems x

 

Was 2015 a good year?

In five days’ time we’ll be in 2016. Just a small reminder for anyone, like me, who forgets this every single Christmas and is then really shocked and disoriented for at least half of January.

So, 2015. If I was a YouTuber this post would be a montage of clips from throughout the year. As I’m nowhere near that savvy (and my day-to-day life isn’t *all* that exciting), we’re here instead. I’m trying to puzzle over in my head whether I’ve had a good year or not.

On the surface, sure, 2015 has granted me some fantastic opportunities and once in a lifetime experiences: I donned a mortar board and graduated university with both my parents in the audience; I got on my first long-haul flight and spent a week sightseeing New York; I’ve felt more ‘me’ this year than I ever have before, and it’s very refreshing. As well as the major events, I’ve got a lot of treasured memories from early 2015 of just enjoying myself in Reading in my final year of uni and getting dressed up with the girls from home for nights out and drinks.

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There’s also the tragic memory of giving myself food poisoning in the spring. I spent two weeks scared to leave the house for fear of what might happen (tmi, I know, but too funny not to share).

However it’s not been a complete year of highs and I’ve experienced some pretty low lows. We sadly lost my (sort-of) uncle Mike in March pretty suddenly, and I attended my first funeral which was an emotional day to say the least. Fast forward to after graduation, and luckily I was able to land a job at my local Caffe Nero making coffee for Malvern’s elite in September (I’m still there now and enjoying it) but that wasn’t before two long, agonising months at home of unemployment. Sitting around doing nothing while not having any income to treat yourself or save for the future is more than a bit disheartening. On top of that, as you all know, my Dad was in June diagnosed with oral cancer, and the past six months of my life at home have been a heartbreaking display of how cancer can barrel into your life and fuck shit up. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else while he was ill and I’m so glad we got to spend the last few months of my dad’s life as a family where it all began.

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All of these I believe have contributed to my currently slighty depressed state. I haven’t been officially diagnosed with anything as of yet, but I’m slowly learning that looking after #1 is my priority which is sort of helping – I’ve recently taken an interest in Lush bath bombs, Yankee candles and saying no to socialising when I’m not totally in the mood too. I’m drinking less, too, because drunk me is the world’s biggest Emma pity party.

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When you cobble all of that together you can see I’ve had a bit of a tough ride in 2015. I come to the end of some years thinking that they’ve been really good years, but not too much has actually happened in them. This year has stretched me as a person and I’m really appreciative of that (no matter how utterly shit it’s been at points).

Until next time,

Emma x

“Dear 25 year old me…”

Inspired by Dodie Clark’s recent video ‘Dear 25 year old me‘, I thought it’d be a fun idea to do the same sort of thing and write myself an open letter. I haven’t scripted this, so I really hope my rambling is endearing.

So. To the me of the future, November 2019…

Hi! You’re 25. I’m 25. It’s still really weird to me, that I am someday – someday soon, in the grand scheme of things – going to be someone in their mid-twenties. In my head I’m still nineteen, still a teenager but not quite fitting that mould anymore. I thought I’d start this by reminding you of who you were at the age of 21 (and a half) in November 2015.

You have your hair natural brown, and it’s mid-to-long in length but you’ve been pondering a haircut over the past few days. You’re internally debating whether or not to have a fringe cut in, but you know really that a fringe is far too much upkeep so you’ll probably just get a trim. You have your blue-rimmed glasses, a trademark of your ‘look’, and your current style can only be described as ‘having recently discovered Topshop’s Joni jeans and whatever big hoodie or chairty shop jumper is closest.’ Your left ear is a bit bunged up, but that’s a genetic thing and I hope in 2019 it’s not something that bothers you anymore, although I doubt it.

You’re a barista. You’re still a trainee, making coffee and washing up for hours on end per week. You were employee of the month for all the stores in your area in October, on only your second month of
working for the company, which is cool.

In all honesty, you’re not in too good of a place. You think you’ve got depression because you’ve forgotten what it feels like to be excited for anything. When you went to New York, you had an absolutely amazing time and made so many good, fond memories, but you didn’t feel the child-like excitement and elation you were expecting to feel in the days leading up to catching the flight. Things just pass you by in a blur, and every day – no matter what you’re doing on that day – is just another day. You’re consumed with thoughts of your dad’s cancer and other troubles at home, and because not a lot of your friends are around at home (and the difficulty you find in opening up to anyone, it seems) you’re actually quite lonely.

Things could be better.

I’m hoping that, in 2019, you’ve got things straightened out a bit. You have plans to move to Manchester with some friends. Did you pull it off? Are you still there now? Did you meet the person of your dreams and are settled with kids and cats? I know 25 is only three-and-a-half years away, but a lot can happen in three-and-a-half years. God, how weird is that! I might be a slave to commitment. I hate commitment. Imagine that.

What sort of career path have you taken? It’s always been publishing up until now in 2015, but maybe you had a change of heart. I wonder if you’ve stuck to that promise you made to yourself to immerse yourself more in the publishing world and through that actually make some contacts and go places. That’d be nice. Alternatively, if you’ve found something you like more, then I hope you’re happy. Who knows, you might have even looked into becoming a counsellor, because that’s something you’ve always been thinking about a bit.

Either way, I hope you’re doing what you want to be doing. Speaking now at 21, where practically nothing I’m doing is what I want to be doing, you need to do you and I hope you’ve found that.

What does your hair look like now? Has it recently been spontaneously chopped? Probably. I wonder how much you weigh and whether you’ve joined a gym or become someone who drinks green tea for fun. I wonder if your style has matured. I wonder if you’re someone who turns heads in the street.

(I mean, it’s a bit of a reach, but a lot can happen in three-in-a-half years, right?)

How’s Jack doing? And Mum? I assume Dad is no longer with us, so I hope things are okay there. I hope you’ve all learned to heal. Corky will be 13, nearly 14, which is old for a cat. Has she softened in old age? I really hope she’s still kicking around, although I don’t doubt she will be here for another 10 years at least, old and bitter, knowing her.

Okay, I’ve asked a lot of questions. You get the gist – I hope you’re happy, I hope things are working out for you because they bloody deserve to. You’ve got enough on your shoulders in 2015, in what has been the best and worst year of your life. Things can only get better, right? I’ve got to go and make tea now – we’re having chicken in white wine sauce with rice. I’m cooking because Mum’s asleep and I’ve just discovered that, at the age of nearly 23, Jack doesn’t know how to cook rice if it doesn’t come in a microwave packet. Madness.

(edit: we had fajitas instead. Far less hassle.)

Until next time,

Emma x

Insight Into Publishing | A Day in the Life

A few weeks ago, an email reached my inbox containing a fantastic opportunity to attend Hachette’s Insight Into Publishing day at their offices in Carmelite House, overlooking London’s Victoria Embankment. I applied on a whim over the summer and had completely forgotten about it, so after a bit of hasty shift swapping and grovelling I got the day off work, packed my rucksack and booked myself onto the 06:03 train for a measly £58 (!!).

Being someone who is not used to starting their day at 4.15am and is still quite inept when it comes to navigating the Underground, it took a while to find my way but I did eventually make it to the lobby with about ten minutes to spare.

Carmelite House, for starters, is a beautiful home for Hachette. The interior is all very sleek and modern, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lining the walkways and spacious lifts with padded walls. We were greeted with tea, coffee and tote bags full of goodies, including the new John Grisham novel Gray Mountain (which I featured in my TBR, actually, here).

The first item on our agenda was a talk called ‘The Life Of A Book’, in which we heard from the whole range of departments involved in bringing a book to life – this included Editorial, Design, Production & Planning, Marketing, Publicity and Sales. I was fascinated to learn how interlinked all these different aspects were and how there’s so much more to publishing than just the editorial side! My favourite little nugget of advice from this talk came from Yasia, the Art Design Director, who assured us her first stints working on magazines such as Plumber’s Monthly (if such a thing exists) weren’t at all glamourous but that they helped her get to where she is today. Started from the bottom now we here, as Drake would say.

I also attended two seminars in Rights & Contracts and International Sales, which were both great. To the majority of us in the room, Rights & Contracts had seemed like a very dry, ‘serious’ department to work in, but after the talk I realised the required skills for working in Rights & Contracts almost perfectly match the skills I picked up studying my Philosophy degree. Who knew?

After a lovely buffet lunch, there were a few more talks to be given from some even more ‘obscure’ departments, such as Consumer Insight and Finance. The reason I use the word obscure is that the majority of us arrived at the day ready to hear how to secure a career in editorial. Who turns up to a publishing day expecting to be riveted by a talk on balancing the books? Certainly not me, and I’m still not sure the accounts would be my gig, but the speaker Jonathan did a fantastic job of actually making numbers seem appealing.

The final few activities of the day were more interactive. The first was a work experience talk, which was great. It really helped consolidate all the advice I’ve heard for years about securing work experience in my head to the most crucial pointers. Next was a CV workshop, where the lovely HR ladies took us into little focus groups and picked apart all our CVs to give us hints on how to look the most employable we possibly could. Brilliant to hear from someone who actually checks CVs in the publishing industry! I’ve heard so many different things from different influences so it was nice to set the record straight. After this we were all invited to a networking session in the rooftop bar (I know) with a free glass of wine each. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for long as I had to make the dash on the tubes back to Euston for my train home, but I picked up some really helpful tips for getting into the industry I so badly want to be in.

All in all, you did good Hachette! An insight is what you promised and it’s certainly what I received. It’s a priceless opportunity, so for any budding publishers out  there who might be reading this I would strongly recommend following @hachettecareers on Twitter and applying to attend their next one when the time comes back around!

Until next time,

Emma x