First, my time at Essex: quite simply amazing and by far the best time of my life. I still see the friends I made there regularly, despite them being
scattered all over the country (and world in some cases). We formed an incredibly tight-knit group, which was helped by the fact that we were all part of
the LiFTS department.
When I left in 2008 I always intended to come back to Essex to do an MA. I was lucky in that I managed to get a job I enjoyed in Colchester, writing
for a jewellery magazine. I have a family background in the jewellery trade, but even if I hadn't, I'd have felt confident about getting a similar job -
Colchester is, quite unexpectedly, something of a centre for UK magazine publishing! For example Aceville Publications publishes a huge range of magazines,
and is conveniently located close to Tesco! I also did some volunteer work at other publishing houses in the area to familiarise myself with the industry -
and you always have the chance of landing a job through 'puppydog selling'!
While I was initially taken on as an Editorial Assistant at Mulberry Publications, I was moved up to become the Editor of Jewellery Focus within seven
months of starting! This also led to my role being expanded and I also took over editorial responsibility for the company's other magazines, Pet Gazette
and Funeral Service Times. Hey, no-one ever said the job was going to be classy!
The subject matter might have been a bit dead (har har...trust me, I've heard them all), but the experience was amazing and put me in really good stead
when I went looking for another job; however that wasn't until later.
I spent a year at Mulberry and then came back to Essex to study for a Master's in Creative Writing,
although I kept freelancing for the magazines until the workload got too high. I can't recommend the MA highly enough to anybody. The BA had its ups and downs -
a common complaint was that there wasn't enough creative writing and too many essays, as the course shared a lot of classes with pure literature students.
That was totally the opposite in the MA though; we wrote in every class, and never the same thing. Fables, science fiction, poetry and some very weird experimental
stuff with Oulipo (again, I recommend this course VERY highly! I didn't take it in my third year and regretted it when I found out how good it was in the MA). It was a
LOT of work but worth every keystroke. Don't be afraid of the dissertation, either; it seems like a lot of words, but it can easily be broken down into manageable chunks.
After I finished the MA I spent a long time doing temp work. I won't lie, the publishing industry isn't easy to get into, especially now. However, keep trying.
Websites like Gorkana and Elance are really excellent for aspiring journalists. It also gave me time to develop the novel I started writing for my dissertation!
It took a long time to find my current job - even though I live in Oxford, which is of course a publishing centre. However the companies around there are very
focused on publishing other peoples' work, rather than your own. What I really wanted was to be a journalist, and eventually I managed it! I'm now a technology
journalist for a trade publication, based in Surrey. Before taking the job I had no idea about the subject matter (display technology), but then I hadn't known
much about funerals or pets either! Don't ever be afraid to apply for a job you don't know much about - you'd be very surprised at how quickly you pick it up.
Now I fly all over the world and get to see the world's coolest technology before it's released to the public. Three months after I started I was sent to Las
Vegas for a week to cover the Consumer Electronics Show, CES. Two weeks after that I was in Amsterdam for ISE, and I just got back from IFA in Berlin. I'm loving
it and honestly, it's all thanks to the support I got and friends I made at Essex - it made me more outgoing, less nervous and of course, a better writer!
- Get as much experience as you can, anywhere you can.
- Don't settle! If you have to take a temporary job, go for it (writing is NOT
easy to make money from!), but don't lose sight of what you really want to do.
- For Freshers: throw yourself in the deep end. Make the most of your time at uni, because you'll kick yourself if you don't. Don't let go of your friends at home,
but remember there are lots of great people around at uni who can support you and will look out for you if you do the same for them. Also, steer clear of microwave
pizzas. It never turns out like you think. Trust me on this!