A Week in a Swansea Life
Good afternoon, blog readers! [to be read in the style of Pauline Campbell-Jones]
I hope you are well and that the weather with you is better than the pitiless days of rain we’ve been blessed with here. My apologies for the recent sporadic posts but I spent a week at Swansea Life magazine – may have mentioned this sparingly on Facebook and Twitter. Swansea Life is a lifestyle magazine based in the city and aimed at the young, fashionable ladies of South West Wales with money to burn on boutique home interiors, bespoke fashions and fabulous dinner parties. None of these apply to me. The in-office team consists of the Editor, Editorial Assistant, Commercial Writer and the Fashion Director, supported by an army of invisible contributors, freelancers and the non-paid desperate. There are also three lovely subs.
I’m sure you’re dying to know how it went, so please find an overview below.
On the morning of my first day, it became clear that there was no opportunity for an extension of my placement and certainly not for paid work. The magazine is a high-quality and well-selling and, as such, the Editor is spoiled for choice with offers of free labour and non-credited items; nothing to lose and everything to gain.
This being my first time writing for a tangible entity ie. not online, I was thrilled and apprehensive at being given three assignments on the first day:
- Interview Jon Paulus, co-founder of Paulus Quiros in Burry Port, Llanelli; a company which designs custom bicycles. Mission: a company profile
- Interview Mumbles-based couturier, Sarah Joseph, about the bridal dress she designed for Kim Hook (nee Tashara). Mission: a feature
- Read a few soon-to-be-released books. Mission: a 100-word review on each.
The rest of my day was spent researching the businesses and preparing a series of questions for the interview.
After several tense phone calls to kick the day off, the Editor informed me that the article on Sarah Joseph Couture would now be extended. The bride (model and new wife of Welsh rugby legend, James Hook) had signed an exclusive deal with Ok! magazine and pulled out of the interview at the last-minute: great news for me as my piece was now being pushed up to a cover story in South Wales Wedding Planner. I called Sarah and booked 30 minutes of her time the next morning – slightly embarrassing when she answered the phone and thought I was a friend. We soldier on.
Mr. Editor approved my questions and, procrastination over, I called Jon Paulus for my landmark, first ever telephone interview. A truly charming and interesting gentleman, Jon told me all about the process of designing bicycle frames, their manufacture and the assembly stage in order to create the machine we all know and love. Contrary to what you may be thinking, he told a fascinating story and it was a pleasure.
So, I gathered up my notes, checked the house style and wrote 900 informative but non-flowery words. Mr. Editor liked it.
The previous day was an immense confidence boost and marked a number of firsts for me, so I bounded into the office ready for my next challenge: Sarah Joseph. Sarah was really happy to chat with me about her dress and was clearly well versed in interview conduct; details flowed, names were dropped and quotable statements were many.
Following the advice of Mr. Editor, I sifted through the facts and turned out a first person feature using quotes to ‘add flair and colour.’ I submitted it by email and he loved it; it would undergo some light editing but was otherwise finished. After only one draft. I requested feedback or guidance as to what editing it needed and was told it would be simply for length and not to worry. I cannot help but worry.
As Mr. Editor was out of the office I decided to focus on my smaller, but equally challenging task: the book reviews. Limited to a string of titles and authors I’d never clapped eyes on before (and didn’t have copies of) I once again turned to the wonderment of Google to do some research. It was a lot easier than I thought. All publishers supply a general synopsis of upcoming releases on their website, so I read them over, skipped to Amazon for pre-release reviews and then glanced over the authors’ biographies. Then it was a case of merging all of the info into 100 poppy, vibrant words. Job done. Interestingly, the Commercial Writer called to ask for my name and thank me for the great reviews. Shucks.
Having completed all assignments and not able to start any newbies on the last day, I spent Friday conducting research. I had suggested two stories to Mr. Editor and was adding flesh to the sparse and muddled bones. Depending on the results, I can submit both pieces as a contributory writer.
I then assisted Mr. Editor in sorting the business awards entries, filed all of my work and notes and handed out my good byes. We had an informal chat about my work, style, progress and likelihood of being published, where I was assured that, unless something big cropped up in the next three weeks, I could safely assume that all three of my contributions would make the September issues.
And that was it. I enjoyed the whole week immensely and learned a lot about obtaining accurate information, adopting the house style and changing an article’s tone to suit the audience – to name but three. I’m incredibly grateful to Swansea Life for giving me an insight into the operations of a successful monthly mag, and for the sage advice for its seasoned Editor.
It’s just over a week until these magazines go to press and I’m waiting, very impatiently, to see my name on the hallowed pages of a local glossy.