A BOOK THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER READ

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You might think this a strange title, considering that I loved this book.

But I only tell you not to read it because I worry.

I worry that you will cry as much as I did. I worry that you will laugh as much as I did. I worry that you will lose two days of your life as I did, hiding in bed in bed for hours until you reach the very end. And I worry that you will love it as much as I did and pass on its precious secrets to someone who will turn it into an oh-so-predictably-not-as-good-as-the-book film.

I became friends with Fisher as soon as Andy introduced me to him. I thought that London provided the perfect backdrop to this story. I loved that I didn’t particularly fall for Ivy. I understood the need for Switzerland. I liked that the plot line was nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it’s so ordinary that you may have shared many of the same experiences as the couple. But that’s what makes this read such a success: you are drawn into the honesty of the characters and simplistic charm of Jones’ writing.

But who is Andy Jones you ask?

Well, he’s soon to be one of your favourite authors. The writer of one of your favourite stories. A man you fell in love with. A human who broke your heart. But you’ll have to read his words to find out why because I refuse to divulge anything here. The Two of Us, much like life, will take you by surprise. And that’s exactly the way it should be.

David Nichols and Graeme Simson are my two favourite authors. Andy Jones has now been added to this list.

I look forward to his second creation later this year. Will keep you posted.

THE JOB CENTRE – LAURA WILLIAMS

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Age: 29

Occupation: Writer/Digital Nomad

Which means: That she writes. For a living. And travels. A lot. 

Did you go to university? I went at 22 as an independent mature student, after taking four gap years to travel the world, work, and do a part-time business degree that I quit after the first year because LOL, that is SO not me! I entered the University of Derby as a Creative Writing student, later switching to Creative Writing and Media Writing so I could diversify my skill set. That’s the advantage of going to university a little bit older – you know how to get the most out of it, and aren’t afraid to ask for it!

What was your first job after graduating? I spent the year after I graduated running a children’s language school in Rome, a job that allowed me to spend my mornings working on my web presence and writing a book. That gave way to moving to London where my self-compiled digital knowledge – that I understood the online world, how digital marketing worked, social media, and that I could demonstrate the ability to create high-level content that people actually wanted to read – got me an internship in SEO, that within the month had become a full-time job. I quickly side-stepped in PR, and then left to go freelance.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? Yes – but then I forgot. Got talked out of it. They don’t encourage you to pursue many “creative” jobs at school, do they? Even at university, on my course, they discouraged us from thinking we’d make a full-time living from writing. We were expected to use creative writing as a string to our bow – one of many things we’d do as part of a “portfolio career”. Coming back to writing full time feels like coming home.

Do you have an agent? Yes, I signed to Ella Kahn of Diamond Kahn and Woods Literary Agency in April 2015, after a publishing house approached me and said they were interested in my work.

How important is it to have one? Ella has been a guiding light for me, navigating the complicated pitching and submission process in a way I can only marvel at. She does her job – liaising with editors – and I do mine: writing something worthy of their attention. Signing with her has been a huge step in my writing career, both for the tangible results she’s yielding, but also for the support. Writing is such a lonely pursuit that it’s nice to have a teammate, now.

How did you land one? I got her by writing a blog post about needing representation, that got shared on Twitter and she saw it. I talked to a bunch of agents, but Ella co-founded her own agency at 25, so I knew if she trusted herself enough to do that, I trusted her too.

How do you come up with book ideas? Everything I do is personal memoir, so it’s direct experience that informs what I write about – from my digital journalism stuff, to the blog, to the ebook I just launched about being braver in our everyday lives. My full-length manuscript is something I am currently trying to get traditionally published, but that is about my life, too.

How long does it take to write a book? My eBooks take about three weeks to compile, and my full-length book years and years. Writing 90,000 words for that one has been the journey of a lifetime, but now I know how to do it I hope the next one will be quicker!

How many times have publishing houses rejected you? My agent doesn’t tell me that! She only tells me the good news, and it’s a process we’re still going through.

What does a typical day at the office look like for you? Well, every six weeks or so I live somewhere new: this year alone I’ve worked from Bali, Malaysia, Bangkok, India, Derbyshire, London, Rome and I’m answering these questions from Istanbul! So my routine changes constantly but mostly I try to be up and out at a local café by 9 or 10 in the morning, where I do my most creative work (book writing) first. I’ll eat lunch, wander around whichever city I’m in, maybe take a yoga class and meet friends for dinner or carry on working. I do about 8 to ten hours work a day, four or five days a week, broken up into a way that serves my life – rather than altering my life to fit my work.

Let’s talk blogging. Why did you start your blog and how much of a part did it have to play in getting you to where you are now? My blog has been everything in getting me to where I am now. It’s been going since 2008, and in the first instance has been a place to simply practice writing. I found my voice through keeping to regular updates, and once I had my voice I started getting to grips with different ways to promote my work: newsletters, social media, different styles of posts. I’ve grown a small but committed readership and that is why my agent signed me: I demonstrated that people, my readers, were already invested in me. Like I said, I got my first job in London because of my blog, too.

What are your achievable goals? To get my first book published, write a second one, and keep living all over the world as I do it. I think I’ll always blog – it’s such an intimate medium, and I find real joy in connecting to my community that way. I’ve considered running ads on site too, so maybe it will grow to accommodate that – but only if it “fits”. I’ll never do sponsored posts, I don’t think. I just want to keep telling stories. I don’t want to *become* the advert.

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would it be? I’d be a hairdresser, I think. But honestly: I cannot conceive of a world where I don’t write.

You talk about your “tribe”. How do you recommend someone find theirs? Do you actively scout it out or leave it to fate? The only way I have ever found “my people” is through doing me. Whenever I’ve tried to manufacture aspects of my personality to attract the attention of people I thought I wanted to be friends with, it’s never worked. Folks recognise inauthentic personalities a mile off. I find that whenever I stop seeking approval from others and commit to writing good stories and living my best life, I fall in line with others vibing at the same level. The universe knows what she’s doing that way.

That said, I always reach out to people – online and IRL – to tell them when I like what they do. That’s’ been the beginning of many a friendship! Everyone likes to hear when they’ve positively affected you (but no brown-nosing!)

And finally, what one piece of practical career advice would you give to your younger self?

Create a portfolio of work. No matter what you do: nursing, teaching, writing, topless dancing – you need a go-to place online where – at a glance – a potential employer can see your experience, your passion, and how you’re contributing to the industry you want to be part of. Be a thought leader, investigate why your field works as it does and show that you’re willing to work to make it better. Even Tweeting about your industry is a good start, or keeping short blogs. Be proactive, and be prepared for a career path that is a wiggle of stops and starts – nobody gets their dream job at 22.

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I really love what Laura does. She’s real. And I like that.

THE JOB CENTRE

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I know how hard it is to land your dream job straight out of university.

In fact, it’s near on impossible.

I worked bars, retail, and mundane temp jobs after graduating, heck I even proof read market research reports for a living at one stage. I struggled with knowing what I wanted to do, why it was mandatory for people to get up before 7am, why grown ups behaved so bizarrely at office parties and why people insisted on bringing their own mugs into the office. But I also interned at magazines, publishing houses and kept my blog alive.

The working world wasn’t all it had been cracked up to be, but I made it work. With no direction.

All I ever wanted – pre and post graduation – was for someone to write down a list of jobs for me to choose from, let me pick one and then usher me into said industry. But it wasn’t that easy, of course. First of all, I hadn’t considered my future a priority between the hours of Monday Mosaic and Thursday Arena, which meant I had no work experience under my belt. Secondly, I knew I wanted to write and there’s no clear route into that. And thirdly, I had no real guidance or practical advice to follow.

It’s very easy for people to tell you to ‘pursue your dreams!’ and to ‘do something you love!’ but unless that thing is saving lives, putting out fires or sorting out accounts, there no clear cut path for you. You have to forge it yourself. And I ended up doing what many creatives do when they aren’t sure what else to do and led myself down the garden path into teaching. Don’t get me wrong, some days I loved it, but mostly I felt like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Admittedly, I learnt lots, but I could’ve learnt a heck of a lot more completing a writing course or looking into doing an MA.

However.

Learning the hard way not to let yourself get washed away with the tide has led me here. To this campaign. To help others to think about what it is they want to do. And then expose them to one person’s way of getting there. Because they might have some tips for you, they might inspire you, or you might just want an insight into the working world. Or a different industry. Whatever the reason, I hope it’s helpful.

Throughout September, I will be introducing you to lots of women who are doing their thing. And doing it well. Be it journalism, finance, marketing or surveying for a living, I’ve got it covered. These aren’t women who were handed their jobs to them on a silver spoon, but women who actually worked hard to get to where they are today. And I have a lot of time for that.

So listen to them. Ask them questions. Start a conversation. Network, even.

Being an adult isn’t easy, so let’s help each other.

Welcome to The Job Centre. The first post will be up tomorrow.