Thursday, 20 August 2015

Guest Post: Rules for Body Confidence from The Self-Esteem Team!

Hi all! I am very happy to welcome on the blog today The Self-Esteem Team, otherwise known as Natasha, Nadia and Grace. They form this amazing, quasi-super hero team who travel the UK visiting schools, colleges and universities to deliver award winning classes on body image and mental wellbeing. 

I think this is a wonderful idea, and I really wish something like this had come to my school! I was a very gawky teen with a very negative relationship with my body. I went through puberty quite suddenly, growing hips and DD size breasts over one summer. With all my friends still skinny around me, and the 90s waif fashion a la Kate Moss in full force, I felt, quite simply, 'fat'. It's a feeling that still niggles at me today in my new-adulthood, even though I rationally know I am a healthy size and weight.

According to research by Girlguiding and Dove from 2013, 48% of teenage girls avoid everyday school activities because of a lack of body confidence. So what The Self-Esteem Team are doing is still very necessary and relevant. 

So I am very happy to host here a guest post from Natasha Devon, intrepid leader of The Self-Esteem Team on 
The Rules for Body Confidence:
You’re only ever going to get one body, so the sooner you learn to love it, the sooner you can get on with the important life-long work of being generally awesome. Here’s our top tips:

1.       Health First.

Health is a lifestyle, not a look. Being healthy is not as complicated as the internet makes it appear. It isn’t particularly exciting or glamorous, but the sort of advice your Nan might give you – three balanced meals per day/’you’re not going out until you’ve had breakfast’/’eat this apple I cut up for you’/’get off your X-Box and go out and get some fresh air’ – are actually the keys to maintaining a healthy body.

If you’re living a healthy lifestyle (with the occasional treat thrown in because life is too short not to eat a Krispy Kreme once in a while) then your body is exactly as it is meant to be. It won’t necessarily be the same as your best mate’s, or your parent’s, or anyone else you know, but it’s yours to rock as you see fit.

Granny knows best...

2.       Identify your best bits.
When we look in the mirror, our eyes are usually drawn to our least favourite body parts. This means that, over time, our idea of what our ‘flaws’ are become exaggerated in our minds. (Other people don’t look at us in the same way we see ourselves, which is why it’s so frustrating trying to convince your best mate that bump on her nose is barely perceptible to the casual observer and definitely not a reason to stay in wailing ‘I’m hideous’ into a pillow).

To reverse this, try and identify your ‘good bits’. Make a conscious effort to look at these first when you see a photo or yourself, or catch your reflection in something shiny.

Think Amy enthusiasm, and all about yourself.
3.       Find your style.

The fashion and beauty industries have been much maligned for causing body insecurity, but they’re actually fantastic ways to express yourself. The key is to use them for YOUR agenda, instead of allowing them to use you for theirs.

Find a style that conveys who you are. It might be that you roll out of bed feeling that you look exactly how you ought to. In which case, don’t feel pressured to do anything at all. It might be, however, that you want to dye your hair 17 different colours all at once and (I am SO SORRY to your parents and teachers for saying this) that is totally your prerogative. After all, it’s your hair.

Just make sure that your look expresses you, not what you think you ought to be.

4.       Question!

You know those pesky fashion and beauty industries? Well, their existence pretty-much depends on convincing you that you need to change. Ditto fitness products.

With the lines increasingly blurred between ‘entertainment’ and ‘advertising’ and most people indulging in more ‘screen time’ than ever before, if we’re not careful we can absorb thousands of messages every week we’re alive which scream ‘YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH!’.

The trick is to question. Buy that hair gel or join that gym if it makes you happy, but know that you were more than good enough to begin with.

Even the amazing Brooke Davies didn't have it all together...
But body confidence heroes like Demi are showing that pressure from the media is not okay...

Not to mention J-Law. So ...

5.       Forgive Yourself

Wearing an outfit you will only be able to look back on through splayed fingers whilst rocking back and forth and blaspheming repeatedly is a Right of Passage. Everyone has done it (it teaches us humility/to be more forgiving of the fashion choices of others).

I know photos on social media can never truly be deleted, but that doesn’t mean you have to look ‘perfect’ all the time. Photos are designed to capture a moment. If it so happens that in that moment you were sweaty and red about the face, with your mouth hanging open and a bit of dribble coming out (because you were – SHOCK HORROR – enjoying yourself) then that’s really, really ok. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a bit of a dick!

Preach Emma, you wonderful human you!

6.       Invisible Qualities

Repeat after us: Your value cannot be captured in a selfie.

Take some time to think about the qualities you’re bringing to the table that have nothing to do with how you look. Are you kind, brave, funny, strong, loyal or witty? Chances are, that’s why your friends love you (and not because you have a great bone structure).
Sometimes, body confidence is all about realising that you’re more than your body.


So let's go out there and be our awesome, incredible selves! Right Bey?


Definitely words to live by! There is loads more advice just like this on body image, relationships, self love and so much more in The Self-Esteem Team's Guide to Sex, Drugs & WTFs?!! (John Blake Publishing, out now!)

Thanks to The Self-Esteem Team and Natasha for your very inspiring guest post! I hope you all enjoyed it. Comment below if you've ever experienced or are experiencing anything like the above. Know that you're not alone.
Lots of bookish love!




Monday, 10 August 2015

#YAShot Blog Tour - Volunteering, Interning & the road to Publishing

It will come as little surprise that I love books. I always have and I’m pretty certain I always will (unless I am one day crushed by my falling, overloaded bookcase in which case my devotion might waver). So when I graduated in 2012 with a degree in languages, I passed on being a teacher or translator in favour of doing something I loved… books. But that begged the question, how does one ‘do books’ as a living?

Publishing wasn’t something that really occurred to me as an option until I took a part-time Christmas job at Waterstones. It was there that I utterly fell in love with the book world - getting advanced copies from publishers, reading The Bookseller for the first time, learning all about the wider mechanism that made these things I had loved all my life. This love accelerated quickly, and soon I was applying for publishing grad schemes and internships.  

The only problem there is that most publishing internships are not paid, and the majority are in London. With only 13% of the UK population living in London, how are the remaining 87%, myself included, supposed to spend 3 months living in London unpaid?

Don't fret - there is an alternative to selling your kidneys and hauling down to London. It is a brilliant time for literary events in the UK and every day a new literary festival seems to crop up. Take YAShot for example, a new one-day Young Adult and Middle Grade ‘festival’ curated by Alexia Casale.  It is taking place in the centre of Uxbridge on Wednesday 28 October 2015 in partnership with Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstone’s Uxbridge. Now yes, this festival is in London, but they are all wonderful opportunities to grow your skills and they are happening all over the UK. Here is a comprehensive list of all the festivals taking place around the UK.

Working at literary events such as YAShot, you are exposed to a huge amount of experience, people and resources related to publishing e.g.
- what goes into the event organisation
- the wording and look of promotional resources
- what the marketing looks like and how it works
- how to write copy (If you get offered to write anything, grab it with two hands! if you don't get offered, suggest it. Copywriting skills are gold dust in publishing, duh.) 
- the logistics that go into arranging and event and pitfalls to avoid
- how to communicate with and manage authors and other stakeholders…

What volunteering gives you is something to talk about at interview and that golden goose egg – transferable skills! You also get to meet incredible authors, publicists, publishers and fellow publishing career hopefuls who happily shower you with advice and encouragement if you’re not too shy to ask. Getting to know people and building relationships is a big part of the publishing so endeavour to meet at least one new person at every event you go to. I know this is a catch-22 as a lot of bookish people are inherently shy, but it will pay dividends. 

I still volunteer at my local library to keep in touch with what's going on, to get to know lots of titles and meet new people. Many libraries don't have the budget to take on volunteers now, but research initiatives like the Summer Reading Challenge which takes on volunteers to help run the project. I did this in 2014 and it was ridiculously fun, as well as a great insight into what's happening in the industry.

So get researching things happening in your area and get volunteering, it'll be the best thing you do for your publishing career this year! YAShot will soon be looking for volunteers soon, so if anyone does wants to travel down to London for 1 day volunteering, check out their website.

Bookish love,

Me on the job with Chris Riddell (current children's laureate) and Paul Stewart

Thursday, 6 August 2015

#GBBOtweetstake with Bookish Tweeters

Hello all! So I, like many other people, love The Bake Off. It is awesome, and that is all that needs to be said on the matter. Last year, I did a sweepstakes with my friends from university and it was incredibly fun.
So I thought why not try it with all our bookish friends on Twitter? Here is how it's going to work:
Using a random number generator, I have assigned people their contestant. We will be rooting for whoever we are assigned to for the next eight-ish weeks. When the winner is decided, the bookish Tweeter with the winning contestant will get to choose a book that all the losers 'have' to read. And then we may well have a discussion about that book when we're all done. Simples!
 Here is the breakdown of who got who:

The Great British Bake Off - Mat.The Great British Bake Off - Sandy.The Great British Bake Off -Ian.The Great British Bake Off -  Marie.

             Mat                             Sandy                                Ian                               Marie

   Alice @alibelle              Laura Salters, author       @NathanaelSmith         Daphne @wingedreviews

The Great British Bake Off -  Nadiya.The Great British Bake Off - Paul.The Great British Bake Off  Ugne.The Great British Bake Off  Flora.

 Nadiya                                  Paul                             Ugne                             Flora

 Maisie                           Robin Stevens, author            Heather                  Keris Stainton, author
@ThemaisieAllen         Jesse @thatjessebloke        @MissWBooks           

The Great British Bake Off -DorretThe Great British Bake Off -Alvin.The Great British Bake Off  Tamal.The Great British Bake Off -  Stu

 Dorret                                  Alvin                            Tamal                          Stu

Chelle @ChelleyToy           Lily @cieria               Laura @Midnightstar3       Stacey @theprettybooks
WeiMingKam                                                             Me (Rachel)
@weimingkam                                                     @rachel90kennedy

As you can see, some contestants are doubled up (because I can't count properly and didn't want to leave anyone out) so if you're reading this and want to take part, we do still have spaces! Comment below with your Twitter handle and we'll make it happen.
Good Luck to all, and may the best baker win!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Giveaway and Author Interview! Lauren E James, author of The Next Together

Happy Wednesday all! Hope  you're all doing well.

To cheer up this dreary day, I am delighted to be doing the first ever giveaway on this blog! And I can't think of a nicer author to kick things off with than Lauren E James and her fantastic debut The Next Together.
Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again. Each time their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated. How many times can you lose the person you love?
For Matthew and Katherine it is again and again, over and over, century after century. But why do they keep coming back? How many times must they die to save the world? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace? Maybe the next together will be different.
A powerful and epic debut novel about fate and the timelessness of first love.
The Next Together is a brilliantly original and pacey read, full of epic romance and wonderfully researched and executed historical settings. I really enjoyed the jumpy plot and all the mysterious twists and turns - towards the end I was racing to finish it. It also scores major points for me being partially set at Nottingham University, my alma mater.
Here is a little Q&A with Lauren all about The Next Together:
Hi Lauren. So jumping right to it, where did the inspiration for The Next Together come from? 

I'm not really sure - it's a story idea I've been working on since I was 16. It was always the story I'd write about in English lessons if we were told to do some creative writing. It kind of grew from there!

What was your favourite time landscape to write?
I have a huge soft spot for regency romances, so I think the 1745 timeline was my favourite. There's a scene set during a carriage ride near the beginning that still makes me swoon when I reread it! 

Were there any other time periods you were interested in writing for this? I'm yearning for a 1920s Matthew and Katherine...
Several people have mentioned this, so I feel like it's going to have to happen one day. Flapper Kate would be so sassy and hip, I'm not sure I'm cool enough to write her! 
I did once write a medieval short story, and there may be a WWII one in the keep your eye out for that!

From The Next Together, I get the feeling you are lover of epic romances and historical novels. Any favourites?
Oof, so many! I love The Time Traveller's Wife, Outlander, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Fingersmith and The Ghosts of Heaven. But I could list my faves all day!

If you had to spend multiple lives across history with one famous person (either from the present or from history), who would it be?
Probably the unbelievably cool La Maupin (a 17th-century swordswoman and opera singer. Her tumultuous career and flamboyant life were the subject of gossip and colourful stories in her own time, and inspired numerous portrayals afterwards).
If I could cheat and choose someone fictional, I'd probably go for Artemis Fowl!
 So to the GIVEAWAY! For your chance to win a signed copy of The Next Together, pick a famous person/historical figure you'd want to spend multiple lives with and tell me why in the comments section below. I'll be picking a winner from there!
Good luck!

Big thanks to Lauren E James for being on the blog today, The Next Together is published by Walker Books on September 3rd 2015.