New position?

After my undergraduate degree, I’m sure I fell victim to the Post-grad Blues. Not only did I move far away from everything I’d grown familiar with after three years, but I found trouble in looking for work. It took me three months to go through my savings trying to not burden my parents and live as independently while I job searched,as I had in Crewe (even though I was living at home); took another month for me to gather up the courage to take the advice of some others in my position and sign up for JSA while I tried to get a publishing placement or internship or basically anything at all to do with books.

After all, since sixteen I knew whatever career I ended up in, bookseller, editor, writer, production (sometimes I even hoped illustrator), I always hoped the focus would be books… or magazines, e-books, blogs. Anything you could read. My mum always said, she wanted my brother and I to be happy with whatever we did with our lives- and when reading was my favourite pastime, the Publishing industry was the thing to aspire to.

My first publishing job search fresh from my undergraduate degree was not very successful. I rarely got an interview, and when I did- it didn’t get further than that. The stress put onto me while on JSA was ridiculous- I got the idea that they didn’t care what industry I got into, as long as I got hired and removed myself from the program ASAP. And you know, that internalised societal shame of being seen as too lazy to work or being a scrounger when in all honesty it should be recognised that looking for work is like a full time job in itself with all the various sites, newsletters, interviews and networking events you end up attending.

I got very nervous when it came to applying to positions. It even effected my MA a little bit- I was so sure no one would be interested in what I had to offer, and was sure to get no replies to the emails- let alone land an interview or get the placement that I needed (and wanted) for one of my modules. But I did, and my confidence grew. I had people reassuring me that I did have something to bring to the table and educating me on the topics where it was necessary. I left the course feeling competent.

Unlike some of my classmates, I decided I was going to focus solely on my dissertation over the summer. I didn’t want to burn out because I was so determined to leave my MA with a grade that I would feel proud of (because shame/disappointment was the initial fuel for my Post-grad blues). Now I’ve done all of that, I received my results two weeks ago and felt confident in my abilities. What I felt seemed like that “Imposter Syndrome” you hear about, although it doesn’t appear to have taken root, and for that I’m thankful.

This second foray out into the world of employment is different. I am more relaxed, and having made friends with those in a similar aspiring position- I don’t feel as unfulfilled as I thought I might looking for and taking part in non-book related work. I don’t shy away from the thought of stacking cans or waiting tables because I’ve learnt that I can’t expect to get a dream job right away.

And I do need money to buy all of the books I’m eagerly anticipating in 2017. I know I’m good for the job, any job.

Balloon Jokes

Everyone knows that really cringe joke about the family of balloons right?

There’s baby balloon, mummy balloon and daddy balloon. The parental balloons are sleeping in bed when the baby balloon decides they want to sleep next to their parents- but there is no space for them in the bed! So, they deflate daddy a little… still not enough room. They deflate mummy a little, still not enough room- and so, baby balloon deflates themselves.

The parental balloons wake up in the morning and realise what has happened the night before and daddy has to have a stern word with his child! 

“Son,” he says (in all the versions of the joke I’ve heard baby balloon is assumed to be a boy, probably because sexism and male seen as the default BUT THATS NOT THE POINT) “Not only have you let me down… You’ve let your mother down… and most importantly- you’ve let yourself down.”

It is supposed to be a ha-ha balloon parenting joke, because he disappointed them but he also deflated them! Hilarious word play. On an average day, I’m so into wordplay. On the majority of days this summer though…

Not so much. I’m no longer crying all the time- which is great. But I am sleeping a lot more, and stressing so much over things that are taking me forever to address. I can’t really tell the time, because it seems like a bit of a blur and also- time isn’t real.

And yet, I am giving myself the stern talking to that daddy balloon is giving his child. I am wondering if this behaviour is letting down my family- but most importantly myself.

When I graduated from my English and Philosophy degree with a 2:2, I felt like a failure. I know now that I wasn’t, but I’d expected a 2:1 and was told that you know, after university you won’t be considered for a job if you got anything less than a 2:1 (thats how common the degree was getting amongst applicants). After a year of, struggling to break into the field I wanted toLondon, I decided to start an MA course to improve my “employability”.

This time last year I was accepting my place at Kingston University and contacting my old lecturers for educational references. This year, I’m staring at a half-written dissertation and wondering if I did well enough to get a passing grade, and if my overall grade is worth getting a private loan for £8k.

Transitional periods are scary. Despite being 23, there’s nothing I’d like to do more than crawl into my parents bed and hide from the world in that tiny safe space. Maybe one day I’ll be able to laugh at the balloon joke again without igniting anxiety and causing me to doubt myself.

when the rules of interaction change…

One of my new years resolutions was to put myself out there. I don’t know if anyone else noticed (yeah right) but I am a bit of a shy introvert prone to second-guessing myself… a lot.

So usually my social life is a little bit of a struggle. It’s an Asocial life.

But this year, I reckon I’ve at least made a step closer to calling people “friends” and actually meaning it, not just saying the word because it sounds better than “acquaintance” or “Yeah, I met them like three times IRL and now we’re Facebook friends”

So, my biggest problem is something that you’re “supposed” to outgrow in primary school (apparently… news to me). I have trouble cultivating friendships of convenience to last, I’m great when I’m in a specific situation, I have people I consider close friends, we have inside jokes in person. Outside of that…. not so much. I have in the past followed an admittedly ridiculous set of lists that I used to follow about maintaining friendships.

Honestly, these “rules” I followed because I’ve been burned by friendships, I’ve had falling-outs that were worse than break-ups. I’ve ghosted and been the ghostee. I’ve had toxic friends, and I’ve also been the toxic friend who lashes out at everyone. I’ve kind of… drifted away and became uncertain how to approach rekindling a friendship’s potential.

But that’s not to complain, baby steps. That was how I was. Now I’m improving. Got myself a solid set of friends init.

My rules have changed. Or rather, my attitude to socialising has changed and my anxiety has decreased.

  • I’m a stickler for keeping my Facebook friend list… actually full of my friends, but  that doesn’t mean I can’t interact with them on different platforms. Twitter & Snapchat are becoming my go-to for casual friendly interactions.
  • Everyone is surprisingly chill when asking for numbers, then I’m getting added to WhatsApp or DM group chats and welcomed into [situation] squad chats.
  • It’s completely fine to bring up something I’ve seen online.  THAT ICEBREAKER THOOO. Most people like when you put them onto things that remind you of them… like duh.
  • Just because I’m friends with a certain person in one situation, doesn’t mean I have to have them integrated into my central friend system. I think that’s the thing that used to make me the most anxious- wondering how all of my friends (with their varying interests and the differing environments where our friendships grew) would interact and if their perception of me would change based on meeting each other. I’ve learned to not worry, and to be wavy about it. Not every day every situation friends must meet.

It has been really nice to see myself grow and interact with people. Even though this term I stretched myself thin, I’m slightly grateful that I was forced to socialise with so many people and so often. I’ve really gained and understanding some of the things that really help me solidify positive notions of friendship.

 

It’s a bit of alright actually, this socialising thing.

 

Stretched thin: A learning curve

It’s summer term.

Well, it would be the summer term, if I was still taking classes.

I’ve learned about my limits. I’ve learned about prioritising. I’ve learned about self care.

So, after the Easter break, I had an overloaded schedule. I was travelling and working almost every single day of the week… and I was not coping well. What exactly was taking up my time?

  • Researching and writing assignments for my MA.
  • Attending the final few days of lectures.
  • Working 3-4 days a week at my university on a charity campaign.
  • Interning 3 days a week at a company in North London.
  • Babysitting after these various classes and jobs.
  • Looking for & applying post grad jobs and internships.
  • Trying to squeeze socialising into the few hours I had to spare.

I don’t want to complain about it, because I signed up for all of this. I was stubborn. I refused to reach out for help, or prioritise properly out of pride, and to be honest I suffered for it- but damn, did I learn.

Basically… I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating right. I only had one working hand and, to be honest, I’m still working on rehydrating myself because despite all of the above, I was still trying to act like I could handle it. Like I wasn’t struggling. Like I had the time to go out with friends and attend events because to present anything other than the image perfection (even if I was failing to juggle everything) was something I could not do.

I need to be able to understand that while I can do so many things at once, doesn’t mean that I should– especially when I’m trying to perform at a high standard. Because I’m still recovering from a burn out. So I need to learn how to say “No.” Which funnily enough was one of the things we were taught on the course, clearly it has taken a while to sink in.

I need to be able to ask for help. Suffering in silence is not cool, it doesn’t make me stronger- only tired. Despite my broken hand, I was still trying to perform as though I had both hands at my disposal. And never actually able to reach those goals, which had me feeling down because I knew people who had situations that I saw as “harder” than mine continuing to do great things- and I’m terribly self-critizing. And I’ve not been able to break the habit of comparing myself to others just yet.

I need to feel comfortable unplugged. I spent almost every waking hour on the in front of a luminously bright screen, which did not help me get as much sleep as I needed. (I believe it has something to do with the blue screen?) I’ve recently downloaded a set off applications that mimic artificial light when the sun goes down- so that my brain knows the time to sleep is soon. I’ve even started to leave my laptop downstairs and my phone across the room instead of giving into temptation of accessing them when I’m frustrated by how long it’s taking for sleep to visit me.

I need to make time for myself, I need to take care of myself. It’s not normal to literally be crying over spilled milk  (in private, quietly and ashamed) because everything else has you so high strung that a small spill feels like the end of the world. In joining my council library, I’ve given myself access to thousands of books with no extra stress on my wallet, which has given me the opportunity to actually read for pleasure with no guilt, and I have never been more thankful.

And now, as my load has lightened, I honestly do not need to put myself through so much stress again in the year. Having this experience so close to the three months that I have to  work on my dissertation? I’m trying to find the silver lining. Kinda succeeding too.

 

I only wanted to see the study zone

 

Why am I like this?

What is self control (in relation to books)?

Clearly I don’t have any…

It all started last week, when I realised I had only one week left to have any reason to travel to Kingston from my house in SE London… I have a dissertation to write, and I can’t justify travelling for an hour to get to the lovely post-grad library section on campus… I can’t work at home because procrastination is the devil incarnate, (suddenly, all my chores seem more important than my education somehow…)

So I was out buying last minute cheap additions to my costume (don’t ask) and I decide to stop by the local library.

Let me tell you, I haven’t used a council library since I was 8 and my Greenwich Library card was terminated because I was a child who used to keep books forever and/or damage them so badly that my parents had to buy them from the library. Greenwich council, I am sorry, please forgive me.

I used my secondary school library a lot, I became the best of friends with the librarian. Our friendship meant that I could spend my lunches hunched over a book or watching the star wars rap flash animation instead of standing around in the cold (or pollen or heat, depending on the season). I got first pick of the new arrivals, my opinion was valued, how many other 14 year olds answered questions like :”Is this book (with a sex scene) too mature for your age?” on weekly basis? (The answer was always no, because the smut available online was way more graphic than the brief paragraphs in question)

I looked at my local library as I walk down the highstreet… it just looked sad and small, but apparently one of my university alumni recommended it as the  place to write a dissertation when summer comes around. But… it still looked sad and small, so I went to the library 5 more minutes away.

And I fell in love again.

I only went in to see their study zone, on a whim. Instead, I have signed up for a Bexley Library Card. The librarians were so nice to me, they gave me all the information I needed to know  about the Bexley Libraries and I got their sympathy and well wishes as my broken hand is always a conversation starter- even though it’s a boring story.

So now I can take out 12 books at a time for at least three weeks. For my purse and overburdened bookshelves, this is a bit of a godsend. I was even shown to the YA department… where I browsed diligently for 15 minutes before picking the top 4 books that I needed to read ASAP and take off of my TBR list:

  • The Art of Being Normal | Lisa Williamson
  • Vanishing Girls | Lauren Oliver
  • I’ll Give You The Sun | Jandy Nelson
  • Stars Never Rise | Rachel Vincent

I’ve already read them all.

I know I was trying to read a book a week this year (and I’ve been failing), but it seems like I’m catching up on lost time. It’s turned into a book every other day right now. On my return to the Library I’m going to observe the Sci-fi Fantasy section… I’ll need you to pray for me and my bag next week, I’ll probably take home the full 12 books of my allowance.

For real though, I’m so glad I stepped foot into a non-school library for the first time in however many years again. Looking forward to my TBR list shrinking further and making friends with the librarians (maybe they do placements? who knows?). Anyway, now I have a beautiful addition to my keychain.

2016-05-12 19.12.30

& then I broke my hand…

I have had such a good few months. I levelled up successfully to 23 years on Earth, started my internship, managed to get along well at my part-time fundraising job, finalised my dissertation title and topic, attended the London Book Fair, gave the last of my presentations and started to work on my last 3 essay assignments.

And then I broke my hand. (23 years of my life gone without serious injury, until Friday 15th April 2016)

My left ring finger to be exact. A spiral fracture. I actually can’t use my pinkie finger because the two are taped together, and every time I try to use my middle finger in any way- I hiss like a cat being lowered into a flea bath (it hurts like hell). Oh, and my injury is now in a plaster cast so I have a greying Zoidburg claw instead of a left hand.

Do you know how hard it is to type with literally seven fingers? I never realised how much I used leftie so much, until it was gone from me. Washing my hair by myself is no longer possible (I guilt my mum into helping me), I have to wear a strange rubber thing over the plaster so as not to get it wet and ruin my body’s attempt of healing.

Exam and deadline season have been a right mess to deal with.

Yesterday was the date of my (only, and hopefully last) exam. Normally I would be excited at the prospect of enjoying summer evenings in the park, sipping on cider in between job applications . Now?

I just can’t wait to wash and moisturise my hand when the cast comes off…

To be able to type at full speed again because I have a dissertation coming up…

To take off the nail polish on the fingers obscured by plaster and bandages.

Adulting and Auditing- Building Reader Communities

Apparently I do not sit through enough lectures on my course.

Why do I say this? Because on Wednesday I attended a panel on Building Reader Communities at Greenwich University. Unlike my regularly scheduled lectures, this event was held in the evening, and also… there was wine (a major plus).

Building Reader Communities? I thought it would be focusing on something like what the Royal Burough of Greenwich is doing to improve literacy rates in the council. But that’s what happens when you click attend to an Eventbrite event that you haven’t read the description of properly.

I was wrong. But pleasantly surprised.

In as little words as possible, this panel was hosted with people with experience in building a repertoire with consumers, heavily featuring recommended reads or acts, online fundraising campaigns and general fan interaction. I casually called it the “fandom conversation”.

The panel consisted of 4 (originally 5) people whose interaction with their communities in the physical and online world helped them in their endeavours. Our panelists were the Co-Directors of the Greenwich Book Festival, Auriol Bishop and Alex Pheby; Meike Ziervogel, novelist and founder of Peirene Press (they do translated “un-sellable” books); Alexis Kennedy, CEO of Interactive Fiction Studio Failbetter Games and Kate Russel, a tech reporter and author of Elite: Mostly Harmless, a novel based in the Elite Game World who attended via pre-recorded message.

We discussed the various ways that they have used their position in reader communities to promote their work and courses simply through interaction. Alexis Kennedy and Kate Russel both talked about crowdfunding and appealing to existing markets looking for new products- which were games based on literature, and literature based on games respectively. Meike Ziervogel was passionate about how publishers can do more for their authors in representing and creating a brand that communities are curious about, and therefore investigate.  Auriol Bishop and Alex Pheby focused on how they try and elevate new author’s voices, especially those of Greenwich Uni’s Creative Writing students during the Greenwich Book Festival.

From them, I have learned 5 basic tips about building a reading community from. Below,  in no particular order are these 5 tips for building a successfully engaged, enthusiastic community, with some quotes from the panelists as back up.


Unfortunately due to drinking wine and taking notes,these quotes cannot be properly credited, which does suck tremendously.


1. Be aware of the fact that community and audience are not the same. A community is more likely to enjoy your product if it is interactive, and audience implies passive consumption of your product.

“Audience is passive.”

2.  Be genuine and interact with your community. Don’t just peddle your wares, take note of what others are doing and give them feedback because they will be more likely to return the favour. Interaction can also lead to hiring from the community.

“Find something you love and show interest in the genuine community.”

3. Be regular and consistent. Have a regular appointment to post a blog feature, set a number of tweets that need to be produced a day. Anything that keeps you constantly active in the community can only help.

“Keep the show on the road or you might not be able to continue to do so.”

4. Be creative. Pair this with consistency, find new or perfect old ways to engage with your community and bring fresh perspectives to them. Do not wait for your genius to be discovered, trust your gut and write for the sake of writing [if you write], not to sell.

“Go and create!”

5. Hold your nerve. In what you believe and in what you like and what you know the community has been proven to like, sometimes this is where bigger corporations can fail.

“We’re good at knowing whats good.”


Greenwich Book Festival is held during the 27th and 28th of May this year (2016).
Elite: Mostly Harmless Elite:Dangerous is available for sale on Amazon, Kate is working on the second instalment of the series.
Failbetter Games have just launched Fundbetter in order to crowdsource for the production of their smaller, narrative-drivenn games.
Peirine Press have recently announced a winner for their flash fiction online competition an will be publishing breach by Olumide Popoola & Annie Holmes in August (2016).