The Farmer’s Market

Last weekend we visited our local Growing Communities Farmer’s Market up the road from our new home in Hackney. I was dying to share the photos because they are perfectly autumnal and great to share as October draws to a close (just check out the orange of these squashes!).

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Additionally, now we’re nearing the ramp-up to Christmas, I’m looking forward to heading back to the Market to look for a few gifts, as well as other autumnal and wintry treats as the evenings draw in such as hand-raised meat pies, amazing cheeses and fresh herbs. This year we’re planning to put together some food and wine hampers for our parents and having this amazing homemade produce on our doorstep is going to be brilliant not only for giving some one-off gifts but also for supporting our local growers and makers and their best efforts to get amazing, quality ingredients and products right in our neighbourhood so to speak. The market is dainty, with only ten or so stalls, but there is loads on offer in terms of meat, bread and of course fruit and veg.

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I was mainly blown away by the fresh fruit and veggies on offer, the variety, the freshness and not to mention the size – the cabbage leaves were huge! Importantly for this time of year, there were pumpkins and squashes galore, reflecting what is currently in season and proving us with the correct means for decorating for Halloween!

As for this Halloween weekend, it was a quiet one for us in terms of anything remotely spooky. We went to see No Man’s Land on the West End last night (featuring the greats Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan) preceded by a lovely pour around the four-storey Foyles on Charing Cross Road and a cheeky pre-theatre gelato. It was lovely wandering around as the dark drew in around us despite the chill in the air, until we found cosy pub to duck into for a quick drink as we waited for the theatre doors to open. Not a traditional Halloween, but a lovely autumnal evening out!

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The London Book Fair

This week, I visited the London Book Fair in the formidable venue of Olympia, Earl’s Court, in West London.

It was a crazy day filled with a lot of walking, looking, listening and amazing at all the commotion, knowledge, innovation and inspiration on show. It was quite an overwhelming experience for a newbie like me, but it was interesting and revealing to be there and just take it all in.

I do want to note that, whilst my student ticket was free, there’s not an awful lot for a publishing scholar to achieve at the LBF. The Book Fair is a place for business, mostly international (it was lovely to witness long-lost colleagues meeting again after months or years because of living and working overseas from one another), and to strike out and forge new relationships, publisher-to-publisher. For this reason, students or junior publishing professionals who might end up going for a precursory look around, are left out of the loop.

Saying that, you still do get plenty out of witnessing the Book Fair, especially if it’s for the first time and, if you’re proactive, it’s even better. For instance, feeling a little useless, I snapped a view pictures and made a virtual bee-line for social media, Facebooking, Instagramming, Tweeting and hashtagging merrily for half an hour or so. I did feel that this was a worthwhile pursuit, gaining me lots of visibility on Instagram and Twitter in particular and helping me to feel involved and like I was making an impact as a fly-on-the-wall. I found, however, that my battery nearly completely drained by the end of the day and, as far as I could tell, there were no phone charging facilities at the venue. It is worth thinking about investing in a portable charging device to bring along with you, or always packing your normal mains charger and plugging into a National Rail train on the way to and from the Fair (if you’re lucky enough to travel on one with plug sockets!).

We were lucky too: our tutor organised two meetings for us (one with two very lovely ladies from publishing recruitment agency Inspired Selection and one with Nielsen Book Data, the guys to have the tech to create the Top 10 book charts for the Guardian etc.) and we could also attend any of the free conferences and talks that were going on throughout the day (something that is open to everyone in the Fair). It was incredibly valuable to look into what the Nielsen database looks like and to have a little preamble into the sales figures and the effect The Girl on the Train, for instance, has had on the market, both in the UK and abroad. And it was very helpful to speak with Inspired Selection, ask questions about salaries and send them our CVs (go check them out here!).

However, my highlights were the panels I managed to attend (What Next for the Academic Book? and The Comic Electric: How is Digital Transforming the Comics Medium and Market?) and especially the talk and reading carried out by author of the day Jeanette Winterson from her new book (a rewriting of A Winter’s Tale), A Gap in Time. She was an excellent speaker and perfectly confirmed what is at the centre of the London Book Fair, or just books in general: writing and reading, which are, according to Winterson, the ‘most democratic thing[s] we can do’.

Indeed, creativity was in abundance at the Book Fair despite its “businessy” atmosphere, it had a similar vibe you get when you walk in a very lovely Waterstones (the one in Plymouth is brilliant, I shall miss it greatly when we move) – a vibe of passion and a kind of comfiness, like you’ve come to exactly the right place. Having lovely, lovely books dotted around on every stand was a confusing experience, though: I just wanted to touch and flick through and read them all but it felt almost inappropriate to do so, like it was something only a consumer would do. It already has been hard to balance my feelings as a consumer of books with my desire to be an industry professional, but I know that it is, at its heart, always a good thing to be a reader and a publisher.

After the talks were done for the day, the Society of Young Publishers hosted a mini drinks event for young people studying or just starting out in publishing. We went along, collided with some students from the MA courses at Lancaster and UCL and had a little chat before having to rush to catch the train to take me away from the city once more.

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Should You Join the SYP?

The Society of Young Publishers (SYP), founded in 1949, is one of the biggest resources for those who are just entering into or are up-and-coming in the publishing industry. The SYP features in the long list of subscriptions you can take out that will boost your publishing knowledge and networking potential, including The BooksellerThe Society for Editors and Proofreaders and The Publisher’s Association, but arguably is one of the best out there for aspiring publishers who are often just starting out in their career. But, is the SYP for you? I’ve compiled my top pros and cons for you to decide for yourselves – yet I think if you can get the most from the pros and can work through the cons, it is one of the best publishing organisations to sign up for.

Perks
  1. Networking – This is a huge buzz word in the world of publishing, and the SYP can help you fill your boots with networking events and conferences galore. The SYP organises regular evenings, in London in particular, that are laid back and designed to help you network organicallywith other young industry professionals, make lasting connections, and (hopefully) increase your employability.
  2. Free quarterly magazine – Known as Inprint and full-to-bursting with information and insider knowledge, this print magazine is mailed to you every quarter. Not only is it exciting to receive a little physical gift on your doormat every now and again, but the information within its pages is extremely useful, inspiring and well-balanced, making sure that aspiring publishers everywhere are aware of the whole debate and current issues.
  3. The jobs board – Possibly one of the biggest perks of joining the SYP is the exclusive jobs board. It features a plethora of internships and maternity cover work as well as full-time jobs in locations across the UK (but mainly in a few concentrated areas) and occasionally abroad. There are some big opportunities here not to be missed.
  4. Getting involved – Joining a society relevant to publishing can look good on your CV. Not only does it show a keenness for networking if you do attend the meetings and events, but a subscription to the SYP may place you at the forefront of what’s happening in publishing right now.
Drawbacks
  1. Paid subscription – Joining the SYP comes at a price, which can be a downside if you do not have a steady income. However, the subscription is possibly the cheapest out of all the societies available that can enhance your publishing portfolio. It’s just £30 per year, or £25 for students, which I think is very reasonable. It it dependent on how much you think you are getting for your money, how often you utilise the job board and if you are able to attend as many events as you would like. Which leads me on to my next point …
  2. Limited locations – The SYP focuses around four main areas of the UK: London, Oxford, Scotland and various locations in the North & Midlands. For those of you living far from any of those places, such as the far South West attending events regularly might not be possible. If you’re well placed and pretty flexible, however, it’s a no-brainer.

There is a wealth of information out there all about the SYP that you can read, and I especially recommend these articles on The Bookseller and Book Machine.

5 Tips To Avoid Hibernation This Winter

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This month I’ve been featured on brand-spanking new lifestyle website The Olive Fox with my top tips to avoid going into hibernation mode this winter. Find my article here!

I’m very excited about being but a small part of this venture founded by blogging duo Beth and Suzy, who source some great content ranging from culture and fashion to wellbeing and inspiration. They are always on the look out for talented contributors – just click here to see how you can get involved.

5 Blogs, Vlogs & Websites For Real Life

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Life can sometimes be a bit of an up-hill struggle (note tiny mountain, above) and it can be easy to become overwhelmed. Whilst a default option for many of us may be to bury our heads in the sand and do nothing, preserving a sense of calm over our lives, this can lead to a distinct lack of adventure, risk or challenge. Wondering, planning and eventually stepping out into whatever “real life” actually is (be it a career, starting a new venture, perfecting your culinary skills, moving away from home to a new city and so on) can be scary, but how do we get rid of that fear and finally take the plunge?

Talking to our friends and family can be a great help as they can offer us boundless positive energy and advice – but it can be more difficult to find practical, implementable steps to achieving our goals. This is where the good old internet comes in! There are some great websites and blogs I love that can offer resources for almost every kind of skill you may need to get yourself out of the wilderness and your “real life” on track.

1. The What Now Blog

The What Now Blog is inspiring yet down-to-earth all at once. Creator and owner, Louise, started the blog with the idea to get to the bottom of the elusive work/life balance and helps us navigate the choppy seas of following our passions and having a career that we love. She focuses on work, lifestyle, creativity and entrepreneurship and echoes a sentiment that is particularly relevant to a lot of people struggling to find their way – we’ve come this far, but what now? This blog is easy to read and inspiring, and also features ideas on the best places to live, where to travel to and how to relax on our days off to help us be at our best from day-to-day.

2. Erika Napoletano’s ReadheadWriting Blog

Erika’s website is straight-talking, to-the-point and no-messin’. Her RedheadWriting Blog segment combats self-doubt and instead instils within us confidence and defiance to stand up for ourselves and what is important to us – from our relationships to our self-worth – all the while being a total badass. Mostly, she helps us tackle that little voice inside our heads telling us we aren’t good enough and reminds us that we are in control over more than we think.

3. How To Adult

This nearly two-year-old vlog series features all the things the world never tells us about being an adult. From money dilemmas and study tips to lifestyle advice, How To Adult is a great resource for students and professional twenty-somethings everywhere. I really like the bitesize quality to each episode (they all tend to come in under seven minutes) and their accessibility and humour. Some of the things covered you will undoubtedly already know but, if you are feeling in need of a bit of guidance, these videos can really pick you up and brush you off when you need it most.

4. Jessica Says

Jessica’s blog speak of all things fitness and reaching your goals, whatever they may be. Her experience in digital marketing makes her advice pretty nifty for achieving any business targets you may have (including blogging as she’s pretty darn good at that too!) and how to be a productive and happy solopreneur. She shows us how to create a “fierce and fabulous life” for ourselves through facing up to our procrastinations and taking responsibility for where we want our paths to go. Best of all, her plans are broken down into handy steps, making any big transition seem manageable.

5. A Dash of Ginger

Whoever you are and whatever your skills in the kitchen, having a bank of recipes to hand can go a long way and I cannot recommend any website enough than A Dash of Ginger. With simple, easy-to-follow outlines of many delicious favourites (included pulled pork, healthy cauliflower cheese, homemade naan bread and even desserts!), there’s something there for everyone, whatever your dietary requirements or tastes.

Counter 2015 | KARST, Plymouth

Last weekend saw the 2015 return of the fantastic Counter Artist’s Book Fair, bigger than ever and with some really interesting new additions, including the standout Ladies of the Press* (who printed their very own magazine on site!).

Held this year at KARST Art Studio, the fair looked to have been a huge success, with a steady stream of visitors young and old all throughout the day. Counter showcases the work of local artists, printers and publishers from all across the South West and I absolutely love seeing the quality of the work each time I go. For me, there is something magical about mainstream, mass produced books, comics, journals and postcards – so you can imagine how excited I was to look at some indie products made by the incredibly creative people and small businesses in my area. I revel in running my fingers over a postcard design made on a letterpress and feel the indentation of each letter, knowing that each is made by hand.

This past year, I’ve become extremely interested in bridging the gap between art and commerce, creativity and entrepreneurship. Counter showcases the heaps of talent talent and amazing, unique products in this area as well as artists stepping out and representing themselves in the community – and even networking and making contacts. In turn, Plymouth becomes educated in terms of the indie press movement in the South West and some pretty spectacular products to choose from and take home with us to cherish. You can’t beat it.

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Cornwall in October | Whitsand Bay Beach

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I am absolutely mad about Cornwall and on a recent trip over to Whitsand Beach I fell in love with it just a little bit more.

Compared to my recent London escapades, or even compared to Plymouth, Torpoint (the area that encompasses Whitsand Beach amongst many others) is like stepping into another world in another time entirely. It’s easy to forget just how beautiful England can be – or is – nor how free you can feel, how much it feels like getting lost. Simply looking out onto the endless sea was an exhilarating experience because it was a rare one, one that even though we live on the coast, we do not see every day. This coastline felt unique and filled with memories.

The beach itself is beautiful. It’s large and vast, littered with rock pools and faces out onto the setting sun. To get down, you do have to traverse a steep cliff path but it is so worth it (just keep saying that to yourself on the way back up!) and, despite a lack of carpark, there were plenty of spaces 200 meters or so from the beach’s entrance. We arrived just as the tide was going out (around 2pm) which was pretty perfect; it meant the sea wasn’t too close or too far out – paddling was in order! – and the sand was just damp enough for a sand sculpture competition, but still dry enough to be warm underfoot.

It’s hard to believe how lucky we were with the weather for early October – it was a perfect way to wrap up our summer.

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6 of the Best Places to Study/Work in Plymouth

My blog is all about the fusion between great work and unique experiences in my local area. I also work from home, something that sees me alternating between living in my pyjamas and eager to get out of the house whenever possible! So, when awesome vlogger Francesco D’Alessio contacted me about collaborating to talk about where our favourite out-of-office workspaces are, I jumped at the chance. Be sure to check out Francesco’s channel and keep reading to find out our six top picks and why we love to work there.


Hello! It’s Francesco here. I thought it would be nice to work with Aimee on picking a few of the best spots in Plymouth to work. I’m a productivity blogger and vlogger who shares top tips on tools and techniques to use and motivation for students across the UK. We hope you enjoy our list and we’ll be sure to see you down there!

1. Rockets and Rascals 

Francesco: I’m a really big fan of Rocket & Rascals. After maybe three or four visits, I was hooked. The atmosphere feels a little “start-up”-like and I’m a huge fan of this. With wood being the theme of this cycling-focused cafe, cyclist or not, this place is perfect for getting work done. With free WiFi, friendly staff and high quality local food available you’re in for a treat.

2. Rumpus Cosy

Aimee: Rumpus Cosy is a personal favourite of both myself and Francesco and I find it great for both work and meeting up with friends (usually to work our way down the very extensive tea menu!). The team at Rumpus are incredibly friendly and helpful and understand that sometimes we just need to leave the house to get some serious studying done. It’s vintage vibe and adjoining art gallery are usually all the inspiration I need to finish off a killer blog post (and the homemade cake helps too!).

3. The Stable

F: Discovering the new Stable restaurant was useful. Althought WiFi wasn’t available, using personal hotspot was worth it after getting such a fantastic open plan view of the harbour. This restaurant/pub blend is a hot spot for pizza and ciders, perfect for getting some blogging, emailing and graphic designing cracked out.

4. The Hoe

A: Working from home can be tough and, when I need an excuse to leave the house, I head to the Hoe. Armed with 3G and a smartphone, the waterfront can be a great place to fire off some emails, join the conversation on some Twitter trends and even come up with some ideas for your next project on good old pen and paper.

5. Boston Tea Party 

F: I’m going to be honest. I’m yet to go to the new Boston Tea Party in Plymouth. This is on my list for the following reasons. I’m currently based in Birmingham and the Boston Tea Party here offers such a great experience from customer service to traditional “super” foody feel that I had to mention it. I can’t wait to get back and make this my secondary office.

6. Drake’s Place Reservoir

A: Whilst this work space is very weather-dependent, the summer/early autumn is a great time to work here. Drake’s Reservoir is a hidden gem and a place of quiet in the middle of the city. If you’re a Plymouth University student like me, you’ll be able to pick up the university WIFI with no problems at all; I really like the fact that I am not restricted to book-based research and that I can get a lot of my internet work done too. There are tables and benches in spades as well as a neighboring coffee shop (great for meetings) and gardens for a more relaxed working environment.

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So there you have it, our 6 favourite spaces to take our work out of the office, some for only the price of a much-needed coffee to boost our productivity! Where are your top picks? Can you recommend any to us? Not from Plymouth? No worries, we’d love to hear your local out-of-office work spaces wherever you are.

Native Makers Festive Market | Coming Nov 2015

With the Most Wonderful Time of the Year fast approaching, Devon-based creative initiative Native Makers is already well on their way to organising their 2015 Christmas event!

You may remember Native Makers from their summer event in June and, this winter, Rosie, Emily and the team are back to dazzle us again with their third event. To be held on Saturday 28th November at the Devonport Guildhall, this festive fair will be running from 10am – 4pm and will be completely FREE to attend! It promises to leave us feeling warm, cosy and ready for Christmas with plenty to see, buy and do including over 30 independent artists and designers, a crafty kids area, live music and food.

“We have two hugely successful markets under our belt, the word has spread across the South West and we have received applications right up to our regional cut off point – Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. Native Makers is putting Plymouth on the creative map, and rightly so! The city has so much to offer designer/makers, we just need to see more high quality creative projects popping up, to attract the creative community,” says Rosie Drake-Knight, the event’s co-founder and textile designer.

Emily Dymond, Rosie’s partner-in-crime and professional illustrator, tells us: “The quality of workmanship, as ever, is incredible. NM3 is full to the brim with creative talent. The selection process was tricky this time around due to the volume of exceptionally talented applicants. We believe we have selected a diverse range of makers, all with something unique to offer our festive market.”

I am extremely passionate about what NM is giving to our local community, especially for young, upcoming creative professionals and independent businesses. Native Makers is boldly carving a path for the celebration of creativity and entrepreneurship within Plymouth and is creating a fantastic community of makers to boot. Can’t wait to see what you have in store for us this year: I know it’s going to be special! If you’re in Plymouth on the day, be sure to pop down for a real festive treat and to buy from the natives in your neighbourhood!

30-Day Instagram Challenge | #talesofseptember

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In September, I took part in my first collaborative photo challenge over on Instagram. #Talesofseptember was created by blogger Tori (check out her very lovely blog here) to enhance one crucial thing: community.

The challenge, to take one photo every day for 30 days guided by daily prompts, was all about creating connections, conversations and a community spirit (Tori’s three C’s!) – and also increasing our prowess with our online imagery, if that was important to us as well. Whether we were practising our Instagram skills, learning how to find inspiration in the everyday or finding new online acquaintances, the challenge was fun, creative and social.

For me, the best part was sticking to something over a number of days, seeing improvements in my posts, making connections and seeing results, i.e. some encouraging comments from some new followers (thank you!).

Ultimately, due to the challenge, Instagram gained a whole new sense of relevance for me – as did the idea of an online community identity. Being able to explore different people’s interpretations of the daily prompt was refreshing and allowed me to add my voice to the conversation by posting a contribution of my own. For me, Instagram has recently become a more exciting social platform to use and #talesofseptember allowed me to not only find new people to follow and engage with, but also allowed me to use it in a different, more open way. For instance, my posts have been more personal and are more of a commentary to accompany my blog; they now add to my writing there and enhance it with a touch more personality and informality – they are insights into my daily life.

It seems, then, that a community can inform your online experience, but this also works the other way around – that our online experiences can also forge communities and start the conversation in the first place.

#Talesofseptember was a great mini project to help introduce us to the idea of what it means to be part of an online community. So I was delighted to find out about Tori’s next full-size project, The Kindred Soul Village. For ‘community enthusiasts’, the KSV is similar to #talesofseptember in that there are daily conversation starters and weekly themes for us to get our creative mitts on and hashtag like crazy. I can’t wait to see how the project takes off!

4 Essential Publishing Articles From September

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Where has September gone!? It’s been a whirlwind of a month and one of the busiest in the realm of publishing (yes, it’s all kicking off for Christmas already, eek!). So what’s been going on? Well, ask no more: your essential online reading for this month is here.

1. News from #kidsconf15 | thebookseller.com

There was much news following The Bookseller’s Children’s Conference (or #kidsconf15 for all you Twitter peeps) on the 29th September, but I’ve chosen to share this article from their website: ‘Old Fashioned’ Publishing Skills ‘Still Relevant’. Yes, that’s right, the Children’s Conference found not only that 64% of young readers still prefer print books to eReaders, but that people who live and breathe all things print are still needed and very much necessary to the industry. It sounded like a very interesting conference indeed!

2. How An Indie Press Shook Up Publishing | mprnews.org

Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, is taking untraditional publishing to a whole new level. Not only does this indie publishing house print all their own books (on a letterpress no less!), they are also now publishing some truly different materials. The article an interesting insight into the versatility of the independent presses and how they are able to experiment with mediums, concepts and collaboration projects. And their 20th Anniversary party sounds pretty awesome (why can’t I live in the US?!) #Housequake!

3. Indie Bookstores Are Making a Comeback | publishingperspectives.com

In-keeping with indie presses comes the news that independent bookstores in the US are on their way up. The cause? Community spirit. I think this is fantastic news, and definitely something we should be paying attention to this side of the pond. Indie book shops are urged to create a unique, collaborative experience for their customers and, as a result, are thriving as places that don’t just sell books – they are oh so much more than that.

4. The Secrets of Starting a Publishing House Are Revealed | bookmachine.org

Ever wondered what it would take to start your own publishing company? The Book Machine has interviewed the founders of Red Button Press, Caroline and Karen, to get us the scoop! In the article, we get titbits from Caroline’s days in sales, what it’s like being modern businesspeople, as well as the marketing and practical skills side of it all. The interview covers all bases and is extremely helpful for anyone wanting an overview of life at a very small publishers where multitasking is everything!

Bonus Material: An Advent Calendar Of Change | bookmachine.org

I couldn’t round off September without touching on this intriguing article from The Book Machine. On 24th Sept, the BM celebrated their 5th birthday by holding a conference predicting what the next five years of publishing will hold. In the run up to the event Chris Norris, editor and development executive for the Insight Film Festival, compiled his personal predictions that I think are pretty fascinating. A must-read for anyone interested in the new elements of publishing as and when they unfurl!

A Not-So Local Adventure | Ibiza Getaway & Wedding

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Last week, we traveled to Ibiza for my oldest friend’s wedding – and we thought, you know, we’d make a week’s holiday out of it! As you do.

We arrived in the early hours of Wednesday morning, rented a car and drove to Ibiza Town, where we would stay for one night. It was pitch black so it was hard to take in what any of it looked like, so we couldn’t wait to explore the next day. We stayed in a hotel right by the beach and awoke to the bustle of traffic, people strolling down to the cafe bars for breakfast and walking their dogs down to the seafront. It was a lovely day, but due to be the cloudiest. Still, the sun was hot on our backs as we went for breakfast down on the beach and then into Ibiza Town proper.

This is the historic central of the island; it has breathtaking views across the bay, a lighthouse, a walled portion of the city (complete with amazing cathedral) and a thriving port. We spent the day there eating tapas and wandering around, before driving to San Carles, where we would be staying with the bride’s family in a pretty swanky villa (complete with pool!). The villa was perfectly placed for stunning sunsets and I think I took far too many whilst out there.

The day of the wedding arrived quickly; we’d spent the day before dressing the venue, The Hidden Bar in San Vicente (sadly due to close at the end of this month) with all the handmade decorations made by the bride’s family, the schedule was finalised, and we were all ready to go. The newlyweds had a relaxed ceremony, perfect for the rustic location, and we then proceeded to drink complimentary beer and rosé Sangria (highly recommended – so refreshing!) and gather round for tapas and the speeches. The speeches had us roaring with laughter (the Sangria probably helped a little bit) and, by the end, we were definitely in the mood for a party.

We sipped on cocktails, watched the first dance and played a really short round of crazy golf (alcohol and golf are not a good combo!) until it was suddenly midnight, and time to go home.

The three days remaining to us were spend enjoying fabulous food, wine and adventures to the beach. Ibiza is so unspoilt despite the fact that it is a popular destination and is very bustling; the coastlines not overwhelmed with hotels and high-rises. Instead, the landscape appears serene but there are still plenty of things to see and do.

On our last day, we visited Santa Eulalia a place with lots of restaurants down by the harbour side. We sat down early for cocktails and the last of the summery light was just fading over the water. My sister (who happens to be an awesome photographer) took some portraits of us by the boats before we sat down for our meal at an amazing fish restaurant called Skuma. The food was to die for. I went for the salt-baked sea bass (something I’d been meaning to try for so long now after seeing it on, perhaps, Masterchef) and was not disappointed. The servers were skilled, knowledgable and brilliant, especially when catering for such a big table and I highly recommend this place! Little on the pricey side but worth it.

Ibiza, we will be returning!

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How To Make Twitter Work for You

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I have often fallen in and out of love with Twitter as the years have gone by but, right now, I am very much in favour of this quirky, un-pin-downable platform. In recent months, a few people have said to me that they have no idea how to use their Twitter accounts.

And I totally get that.

It may be a familiar picture: you’ve picked your Twitter handle, have a high-quality banner and profile pic, have secured some followers and follow a lot of other people yourself, you post once or twice a month when you remember to and get a couple of retweets … what now? It’s tempting to think this is all Twitter can offer you, but all is not as it seems. So, this has prompted me to share my 5 foolproof ways to get more from your Twitter experience and help make it all seem worthwhile. Let’s get started!

1. Interaction is key

Twitter is a community thing: great for businesses, professionals, blogs, projects, charities, incentives, websites and anything and everything along those lines. Following what you are passionate about is a great start but don’t forget to join in the conversation if you have something to add, even if it’s just a simple “Thanks for sharing!”. It’s called ‘social media’ for a reason, so get Tweeting! Getting involved in scheduled Twitter “chats” is an especially good way of reaching a concentrated audience who share a love for a particular topic, be it fashion, careers or tech. Check out this very helpful link to find out when chats like these are hosted and how to get involved (you can even suggest a topic or become a host!).

2. The two-hashtag rule

This one was surprising to me but, now that I think about it, makes a lot of sense. There can be such a thing as too many hashtags. Statistics have proven that Tweets that contain just two hashtags generate more engagement than those with three hashtags or more. Carefully choosing the appropriate hashtag not only increases your Tweet’s meaningfulness but will also improve its readability. Tweets that use hashtags every other word are incredibly fragmented and can make getting through even 140-characters a real struggle. If you do want to use 2+ relevant hashtags, the best practice is to attach them to the end of your main statement or after any links you share. Simple!

3. Be in the know

If it’s important for you to keep abreast of a particular topic, searching for keywords and hashtags are a great way of filtering the information you see. Once in a search, you can drill down further, seeing only Tweets and images from people you follow and/or from people in your area. I find that the results are really on-point and really help me whittle down my forever-expanding Twitter feed (is is just me or do Tweets load SO fast?). Once you’re seeing Tweets that are relevant to you, you can start diving in, reading, sharing and retweeting until the cows come home. Easy peasy.

4. Collaborations and projects

I recently found out about a fabulous month-long Instagram photo challenge through Twitter. Blogger Tori started organising her collective project #talesofseptember at the end of August and I was lucky enough to catch it on my Twitter feed, which prompted me to start following her on Instagram and participate! This chance to open up my online profile to more people is rife in the realm of Twitter, but can be hard to find. Part of the beauty of Twitter is happening upon certain things by chance … Whilst this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (we all like a little stability every so often), Twitter can throw up some great gems perhaps when you least expect it.

5. Follow your favourites on other social platforms too! 

A frustrating thing about Twitter is just how difficult it can be to stay up to date with your Twitter feed. Unless they post extremely frequently, you may never see a post from your favourite vlogger or a designer who’s work you admire unless you are extremely lucky and have unknowingly timed it just right. It is possible to click onto individual Twitter profile pages to catch up, but we know not everyone has time for this: it’s always nice to have everything in one place. Instead, follow your favourites on other social networks, such as Facebook or Instagram. The frequency with which new things are posted on Insta/Facebook is vastly different to Twitter, allowing you a chance to see what matters the most to you.

So, over to you: any tips for me to add to my Twitter practice? Let me know what you think in the comments!

6 Essential Things for Your Grad Student Wishlist | A/W 2015

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Ah, the strange life of a postgraduate scholar; half-way between a professional and an amateur, where we are still learning only now more on our terms. Returning to university life to complete my Master’s has been a strange one. Jonny (who is currently a mature B(Ed) student) and I are back house sharing with a bunch of friends, spending long stretches of time in the library and are looking ahead 10 month’s time when we have to start applying for jobs. Knowing this coming year will fly by, I have to anticipate how fluidly – how seamlessly – my MA will transition into my full-time working life.

So, to mark the time of year where many students (old and new) pack up for university, I thought I’d share my current wishlist of items that will happily see my through the winter – and hopefully out the other side again!

1. Ceramic Travel Mug

I don’t know about you but I get C O L D in the winter (like, stupidly cold). A hot beverage can go a long way in the darker, colder months (especially when getting up early for work/class can seem like getting up in the middle of the night!) and this item can perfectly transition to fit in with your working life post-graduation. Having enough time in the morning to not just make but also drink your coffee/tea/alternative is a common theme amongst people trying to make it in the modern world these days, from commuters on the train to mature/grad students trying to juggle jobs, families or house responsibilities all whilst leaving the house on time. Having one of these travel mugs handy can be an absolute lifesaver if you need a bit of perking up before you can start doing any serious thinking and this playful one from John Lewis (£16) is perfect. It’s sadly out of stock online at the moment, but fingers crossed it’ll be in a store near you!

2. Filofax

I cannot survive without a planner. Sure, I have the amazing organisational calendar app Sunrise on my phone but, for me, nothing gets me feeling organised like good old fashioned pen and paper. I thrive on daily to-do lists and seeing my week all laid out for me so I can be sure to never miss a thing. For this reason, I heartily recommend a Filofax (and I especially love this forest green one for winter! £65)*. Being a grad student means you can be lucky enough to go on some excursions and have a lot of meetings or events that may not already be pre-timetabled in for you. Also, if you are working to fund your studies, it can be really useful to make sure you know exactly when you’re working and what hours you can realistically put in for studying. Planners are also helpful for deadlines, syncing up which university “week” you’re in (always very confusing!) and writing down useful information to come back to at a later date.

*There are other planners very similar to a Filofax in a lot of good stationers at the moment, so you don’t have to go brand-name if you don’t want to – but the quality and diversity of choice you get with the Filos is second to none.

 3. Watch

Organisation requires perfect timing, and a watch can become your new partner in crime. I’m currently drooling over this stunning Anthropologie watch (£80) in all my favourite autumn colours to help me stay on time this year, but even the most basic time-telling device can do the job when you’re in a pinch (or trying to stick to a more modest budget – and I’ve got to tell you, I very much doubt this watch will ever leave my wish list, don’t think I can justify it!). Depending on the situation/department/people you encounter or work with, checking your phone during a meeting may not be an option, so it’s always good to be able to discreetly (and stylishly hehe) check the time if you need to.

4. Chunky Scarf 

I tend to do a lot of walking as a student, either around campus, to and from class or to the shops at the end of my street. Living so close to the university is amazingly convenient but, as the winter months will be drawing near, I know the daily walk in will be getting colder and colder. That’s where this chunky blanket scarf (£25) will come in very handy. As a graduate student (who still looks only old enough to be an undergrad…), I’ve now far surpassed my hoodie days and it’s now time to attempt to team practicality, professionalism and a teeny bit of style when it comes to my wardrobe (which can be hard when you’re not the most fashionable of people). Scarves can enhance any outfit and I wear them in the spring/early autumn if there’s a bit of a chill in the air for extra cosiness but you just can’t beat a winter coat/scarf/hat combo for when that wind really hits from the Plymouth Sound.

5. Lap Tray

With a trip to Ikea imminent (yippie!), this colourful lap tray (£9) is at the top of my shopping list. When living in a student house, it’s likely that your bedroom becomes the place you spend most of your time. Communal areas are great for spending time in groups or having friends over, but sometimes you need a little alone time or some seclusion to finish off a piece of work. Your bed becomes a multi-fuctional space and it’s not uncommon to be found reading, eating, sleeping and working (sometimes you just don’t want to study at your desk!) on it all year round. I know this tray will serve me well, even beyond my uni days for lazy breakfasts in bed and the like, comes in a choice or two colours and looks big enough to comfortably sit my MacBook and a mouse

6. Subscription to your magazine/organisation of choice

Grad students need to be living and breathing their field at all times and I say “subscription” for a reason. Getting into the habit of frequently reading and researching news and trends can be hard to sustain and having a lovely bundle land on your doorstep or into your inbox will make the process exciting and always at the front of your mind.

If your budget allows, I would recommend subscribing to your field’s top magazine, or the one you feel would benefit you the most. If your budget doesn’t allow for a regular subscription, you can always stick to buying just one or two editions every now and again, getting an online-only subscription (which are usually a lot cheaper) or by checking out your university library for any magazines or glossy journals they may subscribe to on your behalf. My magazine of choice would be The Bookseller, which offers online and online-and-print packages that come with other yummy extras every now and again. But I would also love subscriptions to other art-based magazines such as the typography one included in my wishlist – it’s just so pretty! Alternatively, if budgets are really tight, check out any relevant blogs, find out if they send regular updates and newsletters and subscribe the hell out of them! Anything regular will help you keep your finger on the pulse of whatever industry you want to be in the middle of.

Instead of magazine subscriptions (or as well as if you’re able), you could check out any organisations relevant to your field. For aspiring publishers, the best one around is the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) and is available for anyone working within the publishing sector or studying to enter into it (like me). It’s £25 for students and £30 for non-students for a year’s subscription to job opportunities, internships, meet-ups and more, which I think is a very good price. Do a Google search and find out what is being recommended in your field.

So do you have any tips for me? Any items you can’t live without? Let me know in the comments!

An Adventure to Cardiff | First Weekend of September

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This weekend we visited lovely Cardiff for a friend’s birthday celebrations. I had never been to the city before (Jonny had never even been to Wales before!) and, when excitedly booking up our travel and accommodation, I liked what I saw. Wide pedestrianised streets, places of cultural interest and plenty of rustic/indie café-bars and restaurants to satiate my need for photos-ops!

We started the party on Friday with drinks and a few cocktails in a supercool café-bar called Artigiano (home of that fab neon sign, below!). It was happy hour (woohoo!) so we were getting 2-for-1 on any two of the same cocktail, and mixing and matching all along the bench table where we sat. The bar also has a cool Craft Beer Wall feature where you can pull your own pint from a selection of specially selected beers on tap – pretty sweet! Artigiano would have also been a good choice for a morning coffee and has a really relaxed, hipsterish vibe that turns from day to night effortlessly. This was something we definitely found out as our cocktails saw us perfectly into the evening & beyond!

The next morning, we managed to explore more of the city. The shopping district is vast, and the new St. David’s Dewi Sant shopping centre is to die for; two levels of all your favourite shops. There are also hundreds of stores scattered around outside including all the big names, such as House of Fraser, Urban Outfitters and many more. My favourite area offered something a little more independent (of course) – the Royal Arcade. Once inside, we stumbled upon the simply quaint The Plan café for tea and cake and a bit of a sit down after being on our feet all morning. The arcade is a stunning structure and each premises had such unique charm, especially this cute coffee shop, which was tiny and split over two levels with a mezzanine floor. The staff were friendly and the homemade cakes (we had caramel shortbread and carrot cake) were gorgeous – definitely beats a chain any day!

We then wandered back up the main thoroughfare to Cardiff Castle, a very impressive landmark that has been beautifully preserved. It was a strange feeling, walking from crowded streets and into the quiet sanctuary of the castle walls, as evening was slowly drawing down on us. We wandered back to the train station just in time for our train back through the big smoke, back up to the autumnal suburbs of our temporary home (my parent’s house). Not long now until we’re back in our little city by the sea where I can’t wait to get stuck into some more unique experiences!

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Indie Publishing Heaven | Gosh! Comics, Soho

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Up until last week I had no idea that Gosh! Comics even existed.

I am a huge graphic novel fan (less so comic books, but Jonny does sometimes drag me along to look at them) and am very interested in small press publications and self-published materials (see my blog post from the Counter 2014 Artists’ Book Fair for further evidence on the matter), and Gosh! definitely doesn’t disappoint. It is stacked high with books of all kinds, from an extensive children’s section (including Adventure Time, illustrated education books and Dr Seuss classics), a table of small-press comics, leaflets and newspapers/magazines, to a large basement filled ceiling to floor with our favourite superheroes from both the Marvel and DC universes and more.

Located in bustling Soho, Gosh! is a hub for those seeking major illustration inspiration. Specialist book shops such as this one are absolute havens in a world of Waterstones and eBooks. Whilst I am passionate about digital media and Waterstones does still excite me (haha), stores that can offer something that bit different are tantalisingly rare. Being able to flick through physical copies of comic books we can usually only find online – not to mention finding the home of many small press productions – was awesome. I shall definitely be going back very soon, and bringing home a souvenir next time!

After perhaps half an hour in the shop (oops! – it was Jonny’s birthday, so I guess we can be let off), we continued on our way to Convent Garden for a stop at our favourite ice cream shop, BeaNice, and further down to the Southbank Centre to finish off our day with a drink on the Queen Elizabeth Hall rooftop garden. Not a bad way to finish off the summer.

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Alt Design Summit | Q&A Challenge

This week, US-based blog & design conference cooperative Altitude Design Summit ran a Q&A session for their followers on social media as part of their #Altchat Wednesdays. For those of us stuck the other side of the pond (or indeed world), these are a great way to get in on the action even if we’re not able to attend the super shiny awesome design conferences they run throughout the year in Salt Lake City, Utah. There is also a great blog and, with little challenges such as #Altchat, there are more ways than one to get involved with design on your blog. I’ve had a go at answering their questions here – would be great to know your answers to some of these!

Q1. What makes up your signature look? 

This one was a toughie. I think my ‘look’ has only recently developed itself so there’s still a little bit of wiggle room. But let’s go for bright, fun and all about going out and trying something new. I like to keep my designs clean and simple and my photos similar if I can (still a bit of a newb when it comes to this!). I’m really loving geometric patterns, textures and shapes at the moment, not to mention fonts, and have been using a lot of these in my recent work.

Q2. Does your online brand match the aesthetic of your studio or home? Why or why not?

I wish! I’m currently living in temporary accommodation (and I write this whilst staying at my parent’s house which is currently missing a kitchen – fun and games!) which means I don’t have a lot of reign with decor. Nor do I have all of my possessions in one place (again, thanks parents for hanging on to those) so it does become tricky to style a cohesive aesthetic for my home. But I am slowly getting there. I’ve recently bought some geometrical patterned duvet sets and a huge, soft light grey blanket to match. I’m determined to bring a little bit more style into this new house, ready for when we get a more permanent place of our own.

Q3. Do you have props you can’t live without? Why are these props your favourites?

Props can enhance any type of photography for our blogs. I’ve only just started exploring this side of my work, but I already love my A2 sheets of coloured paper that work perfectly as backgrounds. I currently only have off-white, mint green and charcoal grey but am itching to get some more already. These large sheets are perfect for creating clean backdrops (because, let’s face it, we don’t all have the studios we so crave!) and allow you to easily create different looks instantly. Having a publishing-y blog means that books also feature quite a lot as props, and these are great for adding splashes of colour, especially my vintage Penguin Classics.

 Q5. What are some of your favourite places to go to to find props for you blog or social media?

For the A2 sheets, any stationers is okay but my number one go-to is art shops. These can be hard to come by for some people who may not have them locally, but are brilliant for finding large, quality paper for a professional finish. I also enjoy Ikea (perhaps a little too much!) where you can pick up plants, lanterns, ribbon and more to give your surroundings and posts a little boost. It’s also nice to use things in your posts that you already have decorating your home so there is always something you can find that you already use and love.

Q6. What can you do this week to update your props for the next season?

My plan is to visit Ikea next week which I’m sure will prove to supply me with probably too many new props(!), but I’m also hoping to get a little creative. Luckily, there are still so many props I have still to use but it’s always fun to do a bit of recycling, such as reusing old jam jars as pen pots for instance. It would be nice to get a little autumnal as the season goes on and I’ll probably be seen out collecting leaves and pine cones in the near future!

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Look out for more Altchats coming soon by following Alt Design Summit on Twitter and Instagram and by keeping an eye on their blog.

August Publishing Roundup | 5 Essential Articles

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September is here! It’s been another busy month in publishing. Whilst we may not be thinking about Christmas just yet, the world of publishing is busy getting ready for the winter market, as well as always developing new job roles and changing all the time. To let you catch your breath, I’ve complied 5 online articles that offer a snapshot of the publishing news from this month. Enjoy!

1. Skills Gaps in the Publishing Industry | bookmachine.org 

This is a two-parter: two interviews identifying what skills are currently craved in publishing. The interviews, the first with Relations Executive Seonaid MacLeod (The Publisher’s Association) and the second with Resourcing Manager Stephanie Hall (HarperCollins), should be essential reading fodder for any publishing hopeful. Insights into publishing from industry professionals are incredibly valuable, but these articles go that one step further by offering newcomers an idea of what skills to develop to meet the needs of an continually flourishing business. The ladies tackle questions like “How easy do you think it is for publishing professionals to gain new skills and change roles?”and “What do you think are the best ways to gain new expertise?”. Want the answers? Click the link!

2. Everything You Need to Know About Publishing Industry Etiquette | writersedit.com

As a publisher, it can be very important to understand the writer’s perspective. Conversely, writers need to be clued up about publishing etiquette. This article is a great meet in the middle, useful for writers looking to get published and also for publishers-in-training, many of whom are learning about client management. This article, by Hannah Macauley-Gierhart, supplies us with 7 top tips for publishing success and impeccable client/business relationships, interspersed with nuggets of advice from leading houses such as Penguin Random House. Essential reading for anyone looking to go into account management or similar.

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Image from: writersedit.com
3. Rise of the Engagement Editor | mediashift.org

It can be difficult when you first step out into the industry to get your head around the sheer number of job roles and responsibilities publishing encompasses. An article from Media Shift caught my eye this month all about a role I’d never heard of before – the engagement editor. All about coordinating a business’s digital strategies, the engagement editor is in charge of all things to do with user interfaces and community interactions. A great read if you’re just learning about the mind boggling amount of job roles on offer for publishing hopefuls and if you’re interested in the future of digital media and it’s audience.

4. How Does Networking Help? | thebookseller.com

Networking – you may already have heard people talking about how important it can be for your career. But how exactly should we go about it, and how can we actively make it work for us? Written by fellow English graduate (now the chair of the Society of Young Publishers) Anna Cunnane, this article foregrounds the importance of letting others in the industry know how well they think they can work with you. In her words, networking “will help to build a network of people that can vouch for you and tip you off when the next job is coming up, and to consistently prove yourself to be engaged and likeable by showing up to networking events” and she leaves us with some tips to help us make an impact. Awesome!

5. The State of US Illustrated Books | publishingperspectives.com
Image from: publishingperspectives.com
Image from: publishingperspectives.com

This article comes as a four-part series on the illustrated book publishing climate in the US (read them all here, here, here and here). This news is nothing groundbreaking and perhaps not useful for everyone (or in fact anyone haha!)– but I just love illustrated books (I even own the Wes Anderson filmography book, above). If this is an area that interests you too, this is a pretty comprehensive guide to what is going on right at this moment. The series, released all throughout August, touches on the digital world, e-illustration-Books, and how the consumer may have changed as well as its general current state. Lots of interesting things going on in this area, that’s for sure!

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Which article did you find most useful/interesting? And did you find anything interesting out this month that I would be stupid to miss? Let me know!

Notebook Design From The USA | Daily Dishonesty by Lauren Hom

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My sister has just come back from a trip to the USA (namely Michigan and New York) and, whilst she was over there, she bought me a wonderful gift that combines two of my favourite things: typography and stationery (how did she know?!).

This super gorgeous notebook is the work of designer and letterer Lauren Hom (who’s daily mantra is Work Hard, Snack Often, a woman after my own heart) as part of her Daily Dishonesty collection, a project that beautifully illustrates (literally) the little white lies we tell ourselves every day. This ruled notebook (just under A5 in size) is interspersed with her fantastic hand-typography and is part of an even bigger collection of productivity stationery I urge you to check out. I also love the colour of this notebook (it was if it was made for this blog!) and the foil detail on the front cover just adds extra depth to her lettering. My sister purchased this book from Barnes & Noble but you can also buy all kinds of Daily Dishonesty notebooks online!

If you love receiving type/hand-drawn inspiration via your social media, follow Lauren there – I’ve just added her to my Instagram, my daily insight of design, so I don’t miss a thing! I really enjoy getting to know the designer behind the designs, where they are from and what inspires them day-to-day, finding out about their journey and how they got to where we see them now.

Dinerama | A Shoreditch Adventure

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What a photogenic time we had in London yesterday!

I have my wonderful friend Laura to thank for that; she suggested the cool as a cucumber al fresco dining experience of Dinerama for our lunch break yesterday afternoon and I was very impressed indeed. We met at 12:30 at Liverpool Street Station and took the five minute walk up to Shoreditch station (we did this for ease, as we arrive into central London on the Central and Circle lines and Shoreditch is a right hassle to get to). I actually prefer walking short distances in London as opposed to getting the tube because then at least you get to see some of what you may miss whilst stuck underground. It was an especially summery early afternoon and the sun was actually quite hot (for England) so the stroll was very welcome indeed.

We took a detour to Old Spitalfields Market on our way up to Dinerama (located on the intersection of Shoreditch High Street and Great Eastern St.), a buzzing marketplace filled with a crazy mix of stalls, vintage burger vans and high-street food chains. As a market goes, Spitalfields is probably the best I’ve ever been to; the crafts are astoundingly good (from handmade leather jackets to woodwork) and the smells were absolutely to die for. As a bonus, it’s all under cover for those not-so-sunny days and is lovely just to wander around and soak up the atmosphere. Definitely worth a visit if you’re around that way.

We decided it was eatin’ time and headed back to our main destination of the day: Dinerama. Marketed as London’s “nomadic street food circus”, this rustic outdoor food court has upper-deck seating galore (complete with umbrellas, benches, chairs and tables) and a hearty sprinkling of different types of street food as well as two fully stocked bars. We had tacos, wings, rotisserie, duck and even more to choose from but in the end we were swayed by the fantastic aromas by the Smokestak and their rotisserie chicken. I had the lemon and thyme chicken with crispy potatos and Laura went for the brisket burger (both £8 – think I got more for my money, it was pretty much half a chicken in there!). Well, we needed something to wash it down with didn’t we? So we visited the bar and opted for some long cocktails (not cheap at £10 each, but I think it’s worth it every once in a while), a pink grapefruit for Laura and elderflower for me.

We ate downstairs (plenty of seating on long wooden benches) as it was a bit of a juggle with our hands full to navigate the stairs, and then retired upstairs to finish the rest of our cocktails at a leisurely pace on adorable little pastel blue tables and powder pink chairs. Like an internet freakazoid, I took multiple snaps of our food and drink and (in true tourist fashion) took pictures of the iconic signs you may have already seen a million times on various other blogs or Instagram, just to capture the whole vibe of the place. I think in the evenings there is a lot more choice, food-wise and, if you look on the website, you can see lots more things on offer – I guess it all depends when you go.

After finishing our cocktails and our chatting (you know us girls), we headed to the nearby box park, a shopping and eating area entirely made up of repurposed shipping containers (so hipster). It’s a pretty clever idea; as you can imagine, London rents are ruthless and projects like this can take the pressure off of hopeful shop owners, although you do get a very reduce square-footage and some of the more popular shops were pretty crowded! It has been done really nicely and there were plenty of eateries, bars and outside chill spaces upstairs, too.

We rounded off our day with a general wander, snapping some pictures as we went, and deciding ice cream was probably in order. Not knowing of any in the Shoreditch area (can anyone suggest any to us for future reference?) we hopped on the tube to Soho, our usual go-to hang out. We headed to our favourite gelateria, Snowflake. Two scoops is £4 but, I would argue, worth every penny as I don’t think I’ve had such indulgent, creamy gelato anywhere else (and I’ve been to Italy’s “best” apparently).

Where’s your favourite place to go in London on a lazy summer’s day? And where should I go next?

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5 Blogs to Help You Blog Bigger & Better

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Stupidly, I didn’t use to read a lot of blogs.

However, I’ve been watching vlogs for about three years and these have influenced my greatly in my journey through life and writing so far. I also joined Twitter and Instagram the years following that and took up blogging again last May with this little project. Slowly accustoming myself into the brave new world of blogging did take some time and I only recently (this year) started doing serious “market research” on how to be a bigger, better and brighter blogger. I’ve learned A LOT so far (not an understatement) and I wanted to share some of my favourite blogs of the moment and how they have helped me take a huge step towards being the blogger that I really want to be.

1. Cider With Rosie

This blog is always my #1 pick when I begin my reading. I absolutely adore Rosie’s blog and she has been quite an inspiration to me in the past few months leading up to now. Not only does Rosie blog, photograph and style all of her work, she has also branched out into making beautiful vlogs of the very same vibe, theme and standard. Rosie was one of the many bloggers who introduced me to the importance of styling your blog to coordinate with your personal brand and ethos. She does a lot of designing for planned shoots, in recipes and things such as the ones above, as well as improvised outfit, event and eating-out photography, which has made my mind already start whirring, eager to try some styled shoots myself.

2. The Nectar Collective

This blog is an extremely useful, step-by-step treasure trove for bloggers from all walks of life. Packed with tips from increasing your following to blog hacks, the Nectar Collective is inspirational and motivating to the max for people who take blogging seriously (or if you just want to make some cool, professional looking work for yourself or to impress future employers? I know I do). I’ve also learned a lot from the nature of what the Collective posts, especially in terms of writing what people want or need to read and creating amazing, eye catching, must-read titles. But not only do I love the content, I also love the cute and chunky design of the blog itself – it’s great to have a blog you keep wanting to go back to because it just looks so good. You need this blog in your life – and it makes sure of that.

3. Selective Potential

Tieka’s blog is a joy to read and I keep coming back to it again and again, eager to find out where she’s been and what she’s been wearing whilst doing it! Selective Potential satisfies that little part of me that loves discovering what someone else’s life is all about, especially someone who lives in another country to me (Michigan, USA in this case) or has a unique POV from my day-to-day life. Tieka, like Rosie, is a great reminder that blogs can be (are meant to be?) personal (both recently have been blogging about wedding planning, for instance) and that posts about people are especially appealing to readers. I know there must be a lot of others like me who love these little insights into what their life may actually be like and this is something I find myself doing more and more of as this blog flourished. Yippie!

4. This & That Blog

This & That is another essential blog for people looking for tricks of the trade and handy titbits and tutorials about changing your blog for the better. Owner Tash shares cool bloggy resources and gives us real-world applications for our great blogging adventures and helps us connect more to the rest of the world (both real and online) instead of remaining silent or unchanging, unable to adapt. I especially like her tutorials (so SO handy, you’ll read these thinking, how did I ever live without this blog?!) and also her brilliantly designed headers for each blog post which are simple, clean, typographically gorgeous and pretty darn cute (those little line-drawn icons – so lovely!).

5. Muted Mornings

Mimmi’s full frame photographic adventure blog is fantastic at showing off how to make the most out of your trips for the purposes of blogging. Not much styling to be found here, Muted Mornings takes advantage of the way things are when you get to them, and how to take a brilliant picture (or a lot of brilliant pictures in this case). Mimmi is a talented photographer and she uses her pictures to tell us stories of her life as a student, blogger and resident of the extremely picturesque Scotland (would you look at how beautiful the Isle of Skye looks right there?). Since owning a CSC camera, my pictures have already improved and I think of Muted Mornings every time I upload my landscape pictures to the blog.

So, there we have it, my essential blog reading of the moment. I’m always looking out for more recommendations so please let me know what you’re reading at the moment (or can you recommend your own blog to me?) – I’d love to give it a read.

Crumbs & Doilies, Carnaby Street | Review

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I’ll soon be paying another visit to the capital to see my good pal Laura, so I thought it was about time I rounded off my last visit from a few weeks ago when we hit up Carnaby St. and Kingly Court to enjoy some exceedingly good (and very photogenic) cupcakes.

I met with Laura and Jemma (we all were housemates together in University), who are both currently residing in and around London, making it the most logical place for us to meet. So, with me only being 35 minutes outside of the capital by train (something I don’t take advantage of enough really), it wasn’t long before we were all standing outside Oxford Circus tube station on an overcast day in July. We had a general catch up before heading down towards Carnaby Street in the search of a little gem Laura knew of called Crumbs & Doilies, as cake was almost certainly in order.

We first of all stepped into Kingly Court to have a little look around. For those of you who have never been before, can I just say get there as fast as you can. For those of you that have, you’ve been keeping it under your hat for far too long! ;) It is a wonderful little haven that simultaneously feels and doesn’t feel like it’s in the heart of London. Once ensconced in the warm embrace of Kingly Court, you know you are somewhere that feels a lot like London, but perhaps in a parallel universe of sorts; it is a colourful, bijoux quad filled with plants, people, food and you just want to look everywhere at once (and try everywhere, yum!). It was really busy in the main atrium area so we quickly ducked out. Our hunger for cake was deepening after all.

Around the outside of the Court, then, are other little shops and eateries, all delightfully unique and definitely tryable one day (Laura and I have our beady eyes on a few already). It was here we found C&D, a small, powder blue shop with cute typographical details that I obviously loved. It’s a small shop but it was thankfully empty when we rocked up, as there is only a little bit of seating in the window and a bench outside. If you go on a busier day, I would recommend getting some takeaway cupcakes and going for a little wander around as there is a lot to see and do near Carnaby St. in general. There wasn’t much choice cupcake-wise, but what they lacked in variety they made up for in sheer awesomeness. They had salted caramel (my pick), Eton mess and I believe cherry Bakewell and lemon + cardamon to choose from, and it looks like these flavours change day to day, week to week. Their extra touch: regular sized and MINI cupcakes to choose from, which perfectly caters to everyone’s appetite. I paired my very indulgent cupcake with a sharp cloudy lemonade, which offset its sweetness in just the right way.

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5/5 – Definitely a must-visit cake shop, up-there in deliciousness with the Hummingbird Bakery for sure

Lydiard House, Wiltshire | Open Air Cinema Experience

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I’d always wanted to go to an open air cinema in the past, but the opportunity had always passed me by (a bit like ice skating at Somerset House, or snowboarding or buying my boyfriend a blender for his birthday – don’t tell him, but I’ve managed to get the last one rectified!). So when I visited Swindon last weekend to see my good friend Charlotte, we noticed a special open air cinema event was taking place in the grounds of the stunning Lydiard House. It was a beautiful day out, so we knew it would be a great plan – additionally, Luna Cinema (event organisers) were showing Dirty Dancing, one of our favourite films.

We decided to spend the afternoon at Lydiard Park, until the arena “doors” opened at 7:00 so we could guarantee a good viewing spot. Tickets came to roughly £14 each but I don’t think this was too unreasonable for a novel experience that you would only have every once in a while. You can go VIP at Luna Cinema events, which means they supply folding chairs and goodie bags but these are first come first serve and you aren’t guaranteed to actually be sitting with the people you booked to go with if you are in a big group as the seats fill up fast.

We chose to bring blankets and a picnic, though you can get food there (we had to try a real Italian pizza, you know, just so we could find out if we were missing anything) for a sum. We were a little dismayed when we saw the amount of people with folding camp chairs (how underprepared we felt!) but there seemed to be an unspoken rule regarding letting people with only picnic blankets sit in front of those on seats. We got there for 6:45 and queued until 7pm until they started letting us go through. It is well worth planning to arrive early as it filled up very quickly towards 7:30 – 8pm (film was due to begin at 8:30), just for being safe in the knowledge that you’ll get a good view. I think next time I would still choose to sit on a blanket but we definitely bring pillows next time and possibly more layers as, once the sun disappeared, it did get a little chilly!

4/5 – Great new experience that would be good to try again another day in a different location. Food & drink was expensive but you can take it or leave it if you come prepared with your own picnic! Top tip: bring plenty of layers and definitely pillows if you’re opting for sitting on blankets.
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Where The Wild Things Are | Stockgrove Country Park

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I may be away from the seaside – but I have plenty of countryside to keep me occupied! A few weeks ago, my friend Steph asked me along to a picnic and wander in the beautiful Stockgrove Country Park, a large common north of Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. Not only does Stockgrove have acres of lustrous forest, it also has a lake and many other open spaces filled with wildflowers, perfect for photo ops galore.

We arrived and parked in the carpark just off Brickhill Road, which costs £2 to park in for as long as you like, as you pay the fee when you leave to raise the barrier. The car park opens out on a vast picnic area with a cafe for those all-important ice creams (which we were sure to have later on).

After our picnic, we headed into the trees. Steph’s friends are dog owners and we had a great time watching their bulldog cross Sally running in and out of the shrubs – and even jumping in the lake at one point! We started off around the lake and then headed up into the forest proper, where we walked through big paths carved through the trees. We even managed to find a log teepee (complete with tree-stump chair) and other wooden sculptures along the way.

Stockgrove is a great place to go on a beautiful summer’s day and especially if you are dog owners yourself as there literally is miles of woodland and open space – I was not expecting it to be as large as it was, and it was a pleasant surprise. It was easy to make believe that you were in America (there were a lot of pines early on, down by the lake) and that civilisation was hundreds of miles away. I think for the £2 parking it was well worth the experience and we couldn’t have asked for better weather!

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4 Bits Of Essential Publishing Reading for July

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Want a quick round up of Publishing as it happens? Well … you’ve come to the right place

My Internet Mornings have suddenly become rituals of research as opposed to anything more relaxed and leisurely (though I still make time for that in the evenings every now and again) – and my favourite topic to look up? Publishing of course! (with the occasional dip into literature and design)

Here are my top four articles to get a feel of what everyone’s talking about in publishing this month – and a lot of it is pretty revolutionary. Everyone got their breakfast beverage of choice? Then, without further ado, let’s get started on today’s list!

1. On Being a Woman in Publishing

Gender equality is a hot topic in publishing right now, and I found this very relevant article doing the rounds on Twitter. Written by Erin L. Cox on the Publishing Perspectives blog where she works as a Business Development Director, it is about what it was/is/can be like being a woman in the industry. What I first of all noticed when reading this article is how good publishing can be for women and, at one point, Cox dubs the industry “gender-blind” (pretty amazing!). She does go on to ask: “why aren’t more women taking on these management jobs?” but concludes that she never once saw her gender as a challenge to be overcome and, after all, “only 51%” of women in managerial roles is still a great number (we can’t complain too much with just over half can we?). Cox keeps her article light and positive, ending on how believing in your abilities can go a long way.

2. Menial Publishing Jobs are Destroying Our Future

Another article with a slight gender twist comes from thebookseller.com and regular contributor Emma Barnes. This post is great to read from start to finish and, whilst it’s tone is not a happy one, it is an article of empowerment. Barnes’ articles focuses on the menial tasks associated with junior or entry-level publishing roles and how this shouldn’t really be the a rite of passage or a job we should feel satisfied with doing day in, day out. It can be difficult not to feel ungrateful when you feel yourself disliking a job you worked really hard to get in an apparently very tough job market (so they keep telling us), but Barnes tells us that it’s okay to expect and want more from our early careers than filling in spreadsheets in what’s meant to be a creative industry. I do believe that Barnes’ mindset is essential for publishing newcomers like myself so our goals are not put on hold. Instead, we should be reaching those roles that will better effect not only ourselves and our careers, but the companies we work within too. Finally, Barnes suggests improved in-house training and making junior roles more valuable, which I think is the best idea I’ve heard all day. A must read if you’re stuck in a bit of a career rut.

3. Charlotte Agenda: an amazing online startup

I love ingenious startups, entrepreneurship and innovative, trailblazing ideas. The world behind the scenes of these new ventures is particularly interesting to me and so this article on streetfightmag.com caught my eye. An interview with publisher Ted Williams, founder of the Charlotte Agenda blog, the feature explores the challenges facing startups to stand out from the crowd and achieve sustainability. The Charlotte Agenda itself is a pretty awesome alternative blog for the local area of Charlotte, North Carolina, focusing on unique events and developments for the area. What makes CA so special is Williams’ use of branding and marketing in the publishing sphere, from telling the stories the people want to read to working together with advertisers and local businesses. If you’re interested in traffic, branding and business plans of starting your own venture, this is a great article to get your teeth into.

 4. Three Strategies to Improve Diversity in Publishing

The diversity of authors, publishers, themes and content is another topic that is being much discussed at the moment. This article, by publisher of Limehouse Books Bobby Nayyar, holds his three essential tips for increasing diversity in the publishing workplace. Nayyar’s strategies are simple yet appear quite effective and do give you hope for the future of publishing. Most importantly, he recognises that in order for the industry to move forward, some radical changes need to be made – which is all rather exciting indeed.

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Hitchin Lavender

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When Golden Hour got purple

Hitchin is well known for it’s vivid, purple fields in the summer and a lovely farm on the edge of town has created a haven for lavender lovers far and wide. Caldwell Farm, so called Hitchin Lavender, is beautiful in it’s simplicity and is a unique experience right on our doorstep. You arrive in the carpark and you notice the barn, a tearoom and giftshop. They sell lavender-infused everything – from soap to jams and chutneys (seriously) – as well as everything you need for your garden, including lavender plants, plant pots of all kinds and lanterns.

Me and Steph paid in the barn (£4.50 each) for entrance into the huge lavender field to the rear of the farm and as much lavender as we’d like to bring home with us – well, as many as we could fit within our brown paper bags. We collected our scissors at the foot of the field and stopped to take a couple of pictures. The clouds were just scattering across the sky and the sun was coming out as we arrived and our pictures were looking amazing. We hiked quite far up the row before we stopped to start picking. Bees were buzzing around us and the flowers came up to our knees as we waded through. When our bags were half-full, we continued up the hill until we reached the top, just in time for sunset.

It was coming up to half past eight but there were still so many people milling around the fields, taking pictures of each other and even a professional couple shoot was going on on top of the hill when we arrived. We spent some time at the top and then wandered back down the other side of the field, ready for cake in the teashop. Steph chose the unusual but tasty banana and chocolate chip cake and I had a classic Victoria sponge, rounding off our visit rather nicely!

 

Book #OTW | A Slight Trick of the Mind

“You are Sherlock Holmes? No, I don’t believe it.”
“That is quite alright. I scarcely believe it myself.” ~ Mitch Cullin, A Slight Trick of the Mind

This time our Book #OTW is the newest from American writer Mitch Cullin and caught my eye one day in Waterstones when I was searching for something to read on the long train journey from Plymouth to my parents’ house. I was perusing the new releases when a particular spine caught my eye. I don’t usually go for hardcover books unless they are something pretty special or have a quality about them that you cannot get from a  paperback. Taking out A Slight Trick of the Mind from the shelf, I felt that both of these criteria were met at once. The cover art, designed by Caroline Cunningham, is stunning and the structure of the front image was intriguing and unique, with a figure forming the letter ‘i‘ in the title. Opening the cover to read the blurb, I was met with a couple of things. Firstly, a shock of orange honeycomb end paper and, secondly, that this book was about the later years of the one and only Sherlock Holmes, his retirement and his bees (yes, he becomes a beekeeper).

Needless to say, I bought the book and read perhaps half of it on the journey home.

I was hooked.

The book itself has no many visual elements that I love, in addition to the cover art and the honeycomb end paper (so addicted to that pattern at the moment). Separating part I from part II, there are anatomical drawings of bees, in keeping with the minute details and scientific intrigue that Holmes expressed during his detective days. Additionally, a sheet of Japanese script makes its way into the book during Holmes’ visit to Japan in the novel – and it actually looks like it’s been folded, a nice touch. Even the type has been chosen with care and its history has been added into the final pages of the book.

For my undergrad dissertation, I’d studied Julian Barnes’ Arthur & George, a novelisation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s  life and his involvement in attempting to solve a real crime later in his career.  There were some great nuggets about Sherlock Holmes in the book and, like a lot of people, I absolutely love the Martin Freeman/Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock TV series. So The Slight Trick of the Mind appealed to me right away. I was fascinated to know how another author would portray not only Sherlock Holmes, but how Cullin would write a wizened, 93-year-old version of the great detective himself. I think what he produced was an incredible read; it’s funny, frank and heart-wrenching all at once, wavering over events of the past all the way through the narrative, including a certain case he can’t get off his mind. Throughout, Trick of the Mind has so many elements of a detective story but one that has multiple faces, tells simultaneous stories and leaves a lasting impression due to its themes of old age and memory.

Sadly, in nerdy books news, the Conan Doyle estate is attempting to make claims against Cullin because the book (and its cinematic version, Mr Holmes, released this summer) infringes on some of the copyrighted material from Sir Arthur’s Sherlock Holmes novels. Despite the fact that copyright is a serious deal, I say “sadly” because A Slight Trick of the Mind adds to an ever-expanding Sherlock Holmes canon that has been sympathetic to the original stories and amazingly adapted to other media in the past – and may even be legal under the fair usage act. Hopefully the outcome will be fair.

Book #OTW | The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

“The best graphic novel I’ve read in years” ~ Neil Gaiman

It’s here.

This is one of the newest books in my collection and I’m really excited to share it with you guys. Published this year by SelfMadeHero, the company responsible for Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim seriesScott McCloud’s The Sculptor was hotly anticipated. I love SelfMadeHero as a company; launched in 2007, they are quirky and crave independently-minded, high quality work with Sculptor definitely is.

Indeed, a chunky volume of just under 500 pages long, McCloud’s most recent offering is probably one of the quirkiest I’ve read. It is rife with fantasy elements that only the graphic novel medium can satisfy, such as physics-breaking sculpture creations and a deal with Death. I’ve always loved how films and novels can play with reality, what is really happening and what is real or not real. Sculptor is no exception, and beautifully captures imagination and memory and explores how sometimes these things can be unreliable and can keep us from experiencing life as we should be.

You can help but feel sorry for our protagonist, David. But, at the same time, you can’t help but relate to him. If you’ve ever been in a creative rut, wondering if the path you’re on is really for you, or if what you’re doing is right or wrong, you’ll be able to understand David’s plight. Throughout The Sculptor there is always a glimmer of hope and humour, especially in the relationship between David and Meg (beginning with her appearing to him as an angel, which later turns out to have been an elaborate flash-art performance on the streets of New York), but ultimately this novel gets to the very heart of what it is to struggle and what is is to give everything you’ve got to make your dream into a reality.

Cawsand & Kingsand | Cornwall Boat Trip

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Last week, my good friend over at Steamboat Friday suggested we take the ferry over to Cornwall.

We namely visited the sleepy little villages of Cawsand and Kingsand, linked by an extremely long and steep stone staircase (which I didn’t snap a picture of due to terror – way down – and exertion – way back up). As this was my first boat trip since moving to Plymouth nine months ago, I was really quite excited by this idea. It took approximately thirty minutes to carry us from the Plymouth Barbican and round the bay to Cawsand beach (stony, for anyone who’s interested) and we saw some great views of Smeaton’s Tower, mysterious Drake’s Island and some sort of strange naval facility that kind of looks like a James Bond villain’s lair. Bonus – it only costs £4 each way and is a great little jaunt on a lovely day.

Walking up the hill to steal a look at some of those magnificent vistas of the little inlet, we found the best spot up by the war memorial and I snapped a picture of Payal (must remember to give that to her). We worked our way round the bay to Kingsand when we realised we’d been there an hour(!) and decided to catch the last ferry back home at 5pm and stay for a while longer. School ended and the quiet village came to life a little bit more and kids and families swam in the sea and sunbathed. We enjoyed a cream tea outside of the local inn, looking out onto the bay and everyone enjoying the sunny weather at last.

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