Everybody loves Edinburgh

It is the 31st August 2017, I am all packed up and ready to fly the nest that is Northern Ireland and grasp the opportunity I have been given – a Masters in Publishing, my dream since I was fifteen years old. The things I’ve learnt living independently since moving have been many, but I will spare my embarrassing stories for another time. So, let’s turn the direction to the course itself.
                Over the past three months I have gained in so much –  friends, knowledge, experience. That is what the MSc Publishing course offers here at Napier. As we sat during our induction day, we were told to look around at each other, these people were our future colleagues. This advice has not left me over the timeline of my first trimester, it has helped me build solid friendships with the people I will work alongside with for years to come, even if they happen to become competitors, we will always have that connection of learning together.
                The actual content that has been taught has, in short, blown my mind. I thought I knew what publishing was, what it entailed. I knew nothing. I have learnt more about typography than I have ever thought I would, and got excited over it. We also have had the absolute privilege of guest lecturers coming in from the industry to tell us about the world of work and how a publishing house runs daily, some industry speakers have come frome  Barrington Stoke and Floris Books. They covered a range of topics and offered the chance to practice networking, another important aspect of the publishing world. Even if you’re too shy to do it face to face, there is always Twitter! If I told you all about the content we have learnt, it could open Pandora’s box, because there is just so much to it and something in it for everyone.
                Studying in the City of Literature allows no excuse for not gaining experience. We have been thoroughly encouraged to get ‘ourselves out there’ by attending book launches, SYP (Society of Young Publishers) events and emailing those in the industry. Everything in this course is tailored to make us employable. So, what have I done with my time thus far? I have attended the Saltire Awards in Waterstones, an event hosted by the SYP where they broke down the roles in publishing and yes, there are many! Also, I have done the scary thing of approaching and talking to those in the industry and discovered just how lovely they all are. Currently, I am a part of The Big Read alongside my fellow students, where we are underway to distributing a free book to every Napier Student. Myself and another student oversee the Instagram account and are endeavouring to catch the student population’s eye! Simple things such as browsing bookstores gains you experience, because by doing this, you’re beginning to watch and recognise the market. As Avril says, research, research, research!

Of course, it’s important to enjoy and explore this beautiful city too.

 

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Spotlight: She is Fierce Magazine

Edinburgh Napier alumni, Hannah Taylor founded She is Fierce magazine as an inspirational publication for creative young girls, who were looking for an alternative to current teen magazines. Instead of focusing on boys, celebrities or trends, Hannah uses it as a platform for championing creative women who can inspire and encourage her readers. Featuring interviews with women forging amazing and innovative careers for themselves, tutorials on how to get crafty in the kitchen or with your sewing kit, and artwork and writing from multiple contributors, She is Fierce is so much more than just a magazine.

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Every issue has a resident illustrator who creates a number of images throughout, including the cover, which gives each publication a very coherent aesthetic. She also openly invites anyone to contribute their writing whether it be poetry, a short story or a non-fiction piece, giving a platform to anyone who is talented and creative and looking to get their work published somewhere. Every issue is packed full of inspirational women doing incredible things, and I know that as a teenager, I would have loved a magazine like this with women in it that I could look up to and admire.

Hannah has also managed to create a real sense of community around She is Fierce. With her open submissions and call for work, every weekly email is a lovely reminder of the work she is doing and the numerous ways to get involved. I love the fact that she is doing something different and making an amazing publication for young girls at a time when it is especially difficult to grow up and be a teen.

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Her latest venture saw She is Fierce launch their first event, The Noisy Girls Club, and as soon as I saw it online, I knew I had to get a ticket! It was an all-day event, running from 12 noon until 5pm at the incredible Whitespace, Edinburgh. It featured a number of fantastic creatives doing tons of cool stuff. From dance performances, live music and talks to craft workshops and a pop-up shop, there was plenty to do at The Noisy Girls Club and I ended up staying for the whole time. My main interest was on the craft workshops available so I mostly chilled out and got crafty, but the beauty of the event meant that whatever your area of interest, you could dip in and out of workshops or performances.

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First off, I hung out with Birch and Bloom and learned how to make a wonderful woodland wall hanging. Using herbs like lavender and rosemary, along with ivy, pine cones and some flowers, I made a lovely (and beautifully smelling) wall hanging. Then, I did some embroidery at the Wool and the Gang embroidery station. With lots of fun designs and different fabrics, it was easy to be creative and make something cute to take home with me. There was the option, for a wee bit more money, to join a weaving class with Squid Ink Co. which I signed up for. This included all the materials for weaving plus a mini loom to take home. This class was so fun and I loved the relaxation of weaving and being creative.

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Also on offer was printing with Natasha Russell, badge-making with Wild & Kind and design your own tote with Hannah herself. There were even some talks and spoken word from incredibly inspiring women, including Jenni Sparks, Kylie Reid and poetry from Aischa Daughtery. Band, L-Space treated us to some amazing songs and the dance groups performing were incredible!

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The Noisy Girls Club was such an amazing event and I had a lovely day, getting crafty, learning, chatting to fellow Noisy Girls and being inspired by so many kind and wonderful creative people. I can’t wait for the next event, so I would recommend keeping your eyes peeled on social media to hear about what Hannah and She is Fierce get up to in the future. In the meantime, check out the magazine and if you’re a writer, artist, photographer or a generally creative person, get involved!

All images courtesy of She is Fierce and event photos by Neal Gruer www.nealgruerphotography.com

 

Degrees of Publishing

When it was time to announce my plans after accepting the offer to join the Publishing MSc at Napier, the conversation always went the same way. “I’ve decided,” I’d say, “That I’m going to go for the publishing postgrad.”

“That’s great!” they’d reply enthusiastically. Then, inevitably, the pause. Then – “So, uh. What does that involve?”

It would be my turn to hesitate. “Oh, you know. Making books and stuff. Editing. Printing. That sort of thing.

They’d nod and smile and tell me it sounded great, and none of us would be any the wiser. I had read the Napier website and this Publishing Postgrad site, and I’d searched around a little.  I knew my explanation was lacking, but, despite that, I could not shift the image in my head. I’m sure every reader of this post will recognise it: the author in their study, tapping away at their keys, sending out the printed manuscript to hundreds of different publishers by post and waiting anxiously for an acceptance letter. The publisher receiving the big envelope, becoming engrossed by the story, and deciding to go ahead. The editing, taking out all the mistakes, and then, somehow, a cover appears and suddenly the book is in bookshops. A romantic, cinematic notion to be sure, and one that absolutely did not prepare me for the myriad of jobs that realistically need to be completed before – and after – a book is published.

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Image from Publishing Trendsetter.com

I have now been on the MSc Publishing course for almost ten weeks, and have been thoroughly disabused of the above notion, learning parts of the publishing process of which I had never even dreamed.

Continue reading “Degrees of Publishing”

MagFest 2017

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MagFest Programme (Photo Credit: Grace Balfour-Harle)

On 15th September 2017, a group of Edinburgh Napier publishing MSc students were lucky enough to attend MagFest at Central Hall, Edinburgh. MagFest is a Scottish Magazine Festival for professionals (and students) to hear about and appreciate the developments in Scottish Magazine publishing. Organised superbly by PPA Scotland (Professional Publishers Association Scotland), the day was full of guest speakers, workshops and culminated in an interview with self-professed magazine-enthusiast and novelist: Ian Rankin. The theme for this year was ‘heroes of the magazine industry… some of their visions for the future of magazines.’

As well as Ian Rankin, there were many other leading experts in the magazine publishing field speaking throughout the day, including Zillah Byng-Thorne, the Chief Executive of Future PLC, Ruth Mortimer, the director of the Festival of Marketing and an interview with John Brown, the founder of Brown Publishing. These industry-leaders were only too happy to explain their vision for the future of publishing, which can be summed up with the phrase: ‘Be open to the unexpected.’ (Zillah Byng-Thorne)

The organisers of MagFest stayed true to the theme of Visions of the Future, with speakers from four new magazines in Scottish publishing: Boom Saloon, Cable, Marbles and Word-O-Mat. Each of these magazines had a unique point of view, and filled a gap in the market, whether it be by democratising art, discussing taboos like mental health, giving Scotland a voice in international affairs, or by simply making tiny little books filled with beautiful content. Vice Publishing talked about a way forward using technology to maximise the brand of a magazine, and that ‘all that matters is great storytelling’ whatever the medium. The future of magazine publishing remains strong.

However, the PPA Scotland also strived to ensure that although magazine enthusiasts look to the future for inspiration, we must also understand and value the past. A talk from the magazine archivists, Mark Hymen and Tory Turk, from The Hymen Archives, the largest collection of magazines in the world, showed us how magazines ‘were your internet’ and how much of a resource they are still today which we must preserve and protect.  The Audience of the Future Panel discussed the tactility of magazines and that children, despite being known as the technology generation, appreciate the feeling of reading a traditional magazine. And Mark Neil showed us how using inspiration from the past can give a fresh take on the future at his talk Cover Versions.

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Fringe Event: Paul getting Lucie to spill all the gossip (Photo Credit: Grace Balfour-Harle)

As well as the day full of speakers, I was lucky enough to attend the Fringe Event the night before, which was an interview of Lucie Cave, the Editor of Heat Magazine conducted by Paul MacNamee, the editor of The Big Issue. As well as spilling a bit of gossip, Lucie illustrated how she used multi-level platforms to maximise the brand of Heat, and how important it is to understand what the readership wants. She also highlighted the importance of following your instinct and turning a challenging task (like an difficult interviewee) to your advantage, and to always engage with your audience.

Overall, MagFest 2017 was a very informative and exciting event for all who attended, especially for the large group of young student publishers who just can’t wait to get started in telling their own story. As Ian Rankin said in his interview: ‘Do your research, but have fun with it.’

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Ian Rankin and Barry McIlheney (Photo Credit: Grace Balfour-Harle)

Dyslexia Awareness Week

A reflection upon Dyslexia Awareness Week 2017.

Today we are currently in the last day of Dyslexia Awareness Week whose campaign this year has been #PositiveAboutDyslexia. There is still quite a lot of stigma around dyslexia and those who have it as is highlighted in the BBC Three short ‘Things Not To Say To Someone With Dyslexia’. So many of the common things that are said to people who have dyslexia are either dismissive or negative; things like telling dyslexia people that they ‘need to focus more’ and when someone mentions that they have dyslexia asking them to spell it. (Confession: I did misspell dyslexia at least three times while writing this post).

This week I was lucky enough to be involved in #DyslexiaStory campaign.  This was set up between Dekko Comics, where I am currently an intern, and Estendio a company who develop innovative support Apps for people with Dyslexia. I got to be there from the very start, being involved in the initial Skype conversation where we decided on the hashtag and how we wanted people to get involved.

The plan was to take this years #PositiveAboutDyslexia campaign and add to it a little. Allow people to poke a little fun at themselves, or share a proud moment. To share with us their own favourite #DyslexiaStory.

The responses that we got really were a mixed bag, from a man telling us about misspelling his own name on his Higher English exam to a mother proudly sharing her daughter’s success in having her poetry published. One thing that I did enjoy was that the responses were overwhelmingly positive.

As part of Dyslexia Awareness Week I went along to Edinburgh Central Library for a Dyslexia Scotland event which promoted positivity about dyslexia and involved speakers and performers who were dyslexia and sharing their stories. First up was a sixteen year old boy from Aberdeenshire who played some live music and explained that when he was in early primary school he used to hide under desks because he was unable to connect with traditional methods of learning. He now expresses himself through songwriting and playing the guitar.

This was followed by the master of ceremonies for the night, Paul Hugh McNeill who is an ambassador for Dyslexia Scotland. I knew of Paul in advance of the event through Twitter and it was amazing to see just how inspiring a speaker he was in person. He talked about his own experiences of growing up Dyslexic, in the 1980’s and how in primary school he had just been labeled as ‘bad’. It wasn’t until he was twenty-five and decided to go back to full-time education that he realised his Dyslexia wasn’t something that he should be ashamed of, but that there was help available to him.

Paul is a hard worker which has gotten him to where he is today, he talked about how his dyslexia made him work hard, and that without it he wouldn’t be where he is today. He is a fantastic role model for young children, not least because he is an advocate for him, espousing that all a dyslexic child needs is an adult on their side. A parent, a teacher, an auntie or uncle, and if that child doesn’t have any of those people on their side then they will have Paul.

The launch of the new Dyslexia Scotland Website and of the hard work from the Dyslexia Scotland Youth Ambassadors whose enthusiasm made the launch possible was also briefly touched upon.

Finally we got to hear from Margaret Rooke, the author of newly published book Dyslexia is my Superpower (Most of the Time). Margaret herself is not dyslexia, but her daughter is, which made her interested in the learning difficulty. She has interviewed dyslexic people across the country and compiled her interviews into this book which is available for purchase here.

It was quite important to me to be involved in Dyslexia Awareness Week. I think that it’s something that can so easily be overlooked, when coping strategies are in place and you are long since diagnosed. At the Dyslexia Scotland event I spoke to parents whose children had just been diagnosed and were caught the relief of knowing that there was a reason their child was struggling, and the difficult realisation that their kid is in for a hard slog. It was uplifting to be able to share the success stories of other dyslexic people in the room.

So to end this Dyslexia Awareness Week I am going to push myself to continue being #PositiveAboutDyslexia long after the campaign fades.

 

Work Placement at Luath Press

I recently completed a two-week internship for Luath Press, an independent publishing house on the Royal Mile. Committed to publishing well written books worth reading, Luath Press publishes across a variety of genres and topics. I had waited all year to secure a placement and was pleased to hear I was going to get the opportunity to spend time at Luath. I eagerly trekked through the pouring rain on my first day and arrived, breathless and drenched, ready to get to work. I’d spent the past year learning about publishing and it was time to see if my education had paid off. Continue reading “Work Placement at Luath Press”

Becoming a Publishing Postgrad: Advice for international and mature students on surviving a year abroad

I applied for this course last summer after years of considering a postgraduate degree in publishing. I specifically chose Edinburgh Napier University because I had researched the programme and spoken with previous students about the course. It had been seven years since my undergrad and I was apprehensive about returning to higher education. I had crafted a comfortable life for myself and was hesitant to disturb it. But I was restless and I had always dreamed of living abroad and getting a master’s, so I summoned my courage, quit my job, and boarded a plane.

Pursuing a postgraduate degree is an ambition in itself. But pursuing a postgraduate degree as a mature student and one who’s moved thousands of miles away from home presents its own set of challenges. It’s doable and it’s a heck of a lot of fun, but you’ll run into some roadblocks along the way. If you’re a returning student, international student, or both, here are some tips and advice for how I survived my year on this course… Continue reading “Becoming a Publishing Postgrad: Advice for international and mature students on surviving a year abroad”