Student Journalism: Just Another Story

You know how some writers shove a manuscript in the back of a drawer, convinced that it’s worthless drivel, then return to it years later and discover that it’s actually bloody brilliant and it secures them a six figure advance with a major publisher…

Well…

I’ve just had the opposite happen. I’ve spent the last ten or so years convinced that my student journalism days were golden, that I had spent my time at university effortlessly churning our several charming and original pieces of writing every week; from hilarious reviews to insightful interviews and ground-breaking news stories.

Sadly, when I recently unearthed a box full of old Student papers and peeled apart the curling, yellowing pages to read my first attempts at a writing career, it turned out that they were nearly all crap.

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Edinburgh Fringe… one week to go.

I’ve just submitted my final review for the Kids Section of Fest. There’s still over a week of the Edinburgh Fringe to go, but the working part of my festival is over. Hurrah!

It has been a very different experience to previous years doing Fest. Last time I took on a section editor role, I was still a student with few responsibilities. I went to all the festival launch parties, stayed until 3am, and flashed my press pass at anyone who looked in my direction. If there was a party I hadn’t been invited to, I had the necessary chat and chutzpah to blag my way in. I survived on a diet of cheap wine, free beer and Boots Meal Deals, and spent most of my time in the office, without any sense of whether it was day or night.

This year I haven’t been into the office at all; I’ve done all my writing and editing from home, either in the evenings or while DorkySon naps. I’ve had no invites, no parties (gatecrashed or otherwise), and I lost my press pass in the Meadows Playpark on day three. I’m still waiting to find out if I can get a babysitter, so I can go to the staff meal on Monday night.

It has been a bit odd, to see a very different side to the festival. But, in truth, it has been the best ever. There have been so many pleasant surprises and fun moments.

Number one surprise was the guys at Fest. How nice it was to have an employer who treated the fact that I have a two year old as a selling point, rather than a hindrance. “Great!” they said. “We’ve never had anyone with a kid write for the kids section before! You’ll bring so much knowledge and experience to the role. We’ll really appreciate your perspective.”

They went on to tell me that I could sort out my own review schedule, and fit my work around DorkySon’s nursery hours. “Don’t worry about showing up to the staff meetings,” they said. “We’ll just give you a call afterwards, at a time that suits, and let you know the important stuff.”

As long as I got the job done, the captains of the good ship Fest didn’t care too much how, when or where I did it. Well hello, rest of the world. It is totally possible to be a family friendly organisation, if you choose to recognise the benefits that can come from employing a mother or father.

The second surprise was that the majority of press officers and PRs had the same attitude (although if you’re asking me for a clear winner, Kelly and the Assembly Team get the DorkySon loveliest attitude award, by a mile). They were happy to arrange interviews around childcare, recommend age-appropriate shows, and take ten minutes out of their busy working days to coo over DorkySon while I got my tickets sorted out. In Edinburgh, this August at least, the age-old stereotype of press officers suffering from collective child-hating stink-eye did not ring true.

There have been plenty other moments worthy of note, but it’s late, and I have to be up to flyer for DorkyDad’s show tomorrow morning, so I’ll do further highlights tomorrow 🙂

Edinburgh Fringe: The Halfway Point

We’re halfway! Or almost. It may be only one week into the Edinburgh Fringe, but on Sunday the third issue of Fest magazine will be sent to the printers, with only two further issues to go… and by Monday afternoon DorkyDad will have done five of his solo spoken word shows, with only four more shows left in the run.

There is plenty fun left to be had, (and hopefully the sun will make an appearance at some point too), but here are some of my highlights (and a couple of lowlights) so far.

Highlight: Fest writer cuts out the middlemen

This made me laugh. We wanted to do an interview with the wonderful Neil Gaiman for the Kids section of Fest. Stevie – the writer who was assigned the job – spent several days trying to track him down – through the Book Festival Press Office, then Neil’s publishers, then his PR, then his PA…  They were all very friendly, but noncommittal because Neil was ‘travelling’. When her calls weren’t returned, she finally resorted to sending him a message on Twitter, and within an hour they’d got a time and venue set up. Seems he was in Edinburgh after all. Props to Stevie for tracking the man down, and props to Neil for responding so positively. You can read the interview here.

Lowlight: Rain

There’s really not a lot to be said about the rain, except that it is ever-present. It makes everything harder – flyering, queuing, getting DorkySon’s pram into any of the outdoor venues, finding somewhere to have lunch – and I hope it goes away soon.

Highlight: I pretend to be John Hegley, briefly

I was lucky enough to spend half an hour interviewing John Hegley, who is also in town with a show. We started chatting about social media, and I mentioned seeing that he’d joined Twitter a few days earlier, and was already up to 2500 followers. “Well yes,” he said. “But a friend set me up and I don’t really know how to use it. There’s something I want to say to all my Twitter followers today though. If I give you my password will you send it out for me?”

Umm…

So he wrote what he wanted to say in my notebook (and, amazingly, it was exactly 140 characters long….), and then he wrote down his password. And when I came home, I logged into John Hegley’s Twitter account and sent a Tweet on his behalf.

I’m still scratching my head about that one. What an amazingly trusting, lovely man. You can read the interview here.

 Lowlight: Rioting

Okay, so the riots didn’t spread this far North. You can see the full extent of the Edinburgh riots here. (You really should watch that, it’ll make you laugh…) But the city is full of Londoners at this time of year, and it wasn’t much fun for them to sit several hundred miles away, watching the news footage on TV and wondering if they were going to have homes to go back to. Nearly a week on, and most comedians have incorporated something about the rioting into their show, but it still cast a shadow over proceedings for the opening weekend.

Highlight: Fest’s Kid critics cut everyone down to size

‘How cute!’ everyone said. ‘What a nice idea’ they cried. Yes, everyone thought it was a great idea to have children – aged between 5 and 10 – reviewing children’s shows for Fest… until they started to read the submissions.

“I did get bored as it was a bit too long.”

“One of the actors sometimes forgot their lines.”

“I only give the show one star.”

Personally, I think they’re some of the best reviews I’ve ever read of the festival. Completely honest, to the point, and BS free. The kids aren’t self-conscious, they don’t dress things up with long words, and they write for themselves rather than their audience. If there’s any justice, they’ll be back again next year.

Lowlight: Celeb Spotting

I’m not doing very well with this yet. I’ve seen Mark Watson walking up some steps in George Square, and Stewart Lee pushing a pram through the rain in Marchmont. Meanwhile my friends are putting pictures of themselves with John Malkovich up on Facebook. Must do better.

Sorry for the lack of blog posts at the mo. Hopefully that gives you some idea why. Normal service will be resumed in September.

A Quiet Week (ha!)

Sorry it’s been such a quiet week on here… here are my excuses for the lack of posts.

1. We are still recovering from last weekend’s wedding in Ireland.

2. I’ve been a bit wiped out – on a combination of codeine and antibiotics – because I’ve had an infected wisdom tooth. Ouch. If anyone has had their wisdom teeth out, please share your experiences (although not the gory details…) in the comments, to help me make my mind up about whether to do the same.

3. DorkySon’s sleep is the worst it has been since he was a newborn. Hello again 3am wakeups! And 5am too! And no daytime nap anymore! Urgh. I’m hoping it’s just the light nights, and come the dark Scottish winter he’ll back to his twelve hours a night again…

4. I’ve been writing guest posts instead of posts for my own blog. Lovely Scribbling Mum is taking a well-earned break next week, and I’ll have something up on her site on Tuesday. And I’ve been paired up with Sylwia Presley‘s excellent parenting, photography and tech blog for the BritMums blog match up, so I should have something up there next week too.

5. I’ve been helping DorkyDad get ready for his PBH Free Fringe Show – Young Dawkins – What I Know About Women So Far. Writing press releases, doing online questionnaires, chasing printers, emailing friends, creating Facebook event pages… so much going on and his run doesn’t even start for another fortnight! The spoken word section of the Fringe, and especially the Free Fringe, looks really good this year. I’m hoping to have time for a post this coming week detailing some of the shows I’m most excited about seeing.

6. And on that note, my biggest excuse for the lack of posts is that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around all the children’s shows at the Fringe, in preparation for my role as Kids Editor for Fest magazine. While I’m certainly not complaining about being asked to do such a fab job, and I’m looking forward to seeing some of the shows with DorkySon, the prep work is time consuming and doesn’t really play to my natural strengths! Writing reviews – oh aye! Trying to pull together a review schedule for our six kiddy reviewers, and plan the pages for the five editions of Fest that will be published in the space of fifteen days?! Mmm, not so much! That said, the Preview edition was published this week, and looks fantastic. For a round up of the children’s shows, split into age ranges to make it easier to choose, check it out online here. And if you’re a visitor to Edinburgh and want to know the best places to eat, drink and escape the Festival crowds, check out this feature. And let that information act as my notice that it’s also likely to be pretty quiet on here over August…

7. Just to prove I’m not a total moaning Minnie, I’ll also share my highlight of the week, which was receiving an email from a friend overseas. She said that she’d just sat down and caught up with my life via this blog, and that it was almost as good as sitting down with me in person and catching up over a large glass of wine. Definitely the best blog compliment I’ve been paid so far, so thanks A!