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Everything I Did When I Wasn’t Here

28 Apr

IMG_0723

  1. Applied to do a postgraduate degree
  2. Became a venue press officer during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
  3. Had eyes opened
  4. Worried constantly about postgraduate degree application
  5. Got accepted onto chosen postgraduate course
  6. Freelanced for a charity
  7. Started going to university
  8. Felt really fucking old
  9. Freelanced for an online marketing company
  10. Slept
  11. Didn’t sleep enough
  12. Stayed up too late
  13. Went to bed too early
  14. Drank too much
  15. Felt out of place
  16. Felt normal again
  17. Realised my priorities were different to those of my new university chums
  18. Got through the first semester
  19. Staggered through the second semester
  20. Thought of a dissertation topic
  21. Neglected my house
  22. Neglected my partner
  23. Arsed about on Twitter
  24. Saw some theatre
  25. Saw some more theatre
  26. Stressed about essays
  27. Wrote essays anyway
  28. Designed a book
  29. Started walking more
  30. Lost 14 lbs
  31. Wondered what life would be like if everything were different
  32. Doubted my abilities as a mother
  33. Worried I was failing my child somehow
  34. Continued to doubt my abilities as a mother
  35. Withdrew, isolated myself
  36. Lost track of time
  37. Procrastinated
  38. Cried
  39. Cried
  40. Cried
  41. Learned little about my chosen course, and more about the people on it
  42. Became theatre editor at The Skinny
  43. Danced
  44. Went to London
  45. Went to London again
  46. Found myself in Yorkshire
  47. Wondered where the time went
  48. Thought about blogging
  49. Worried that I had nothing to blog about
  50. Ate some pizza
  51. Danced
  52. Lived in my head
  53. Didn’t get out my pyjamas
  54. Thought about eating pizza
  55. Drank too much coffee
  56. Got annoyed when they put a Starbucks on campus with no warning
  57. Got introduced to Indesign
  58. Immediately hated Indesign
  59. Accepted that Indesign exists
  60. Danced
  61. Interviewed great people
  62. Wrote more features
  63. Remembered who I was
  64. And I wouldn’t change a damn thing. Not a damn thing.
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Trash Goes to the UK Blog Awards!

29 Apr
UK Blog Awards 2014 Finalist

UK Blog Awards 2014 Finalist

A few months ago, I announced that The Taylor Trash had been shortlisted for the UK Blog Awards 2014. Back then, I was still reeling from the announcement and dealt with my shock by drinking copious amounts of tea and not thinking about the Awards Ceremony that was taking place on the 25th of April.

When I emerged from my tea-induced funk, I had a packed suitcase, an outfit for the ceremony, my ticket in my sweaty hands and I was boarding a train to London. This is not, as you might assume, the antics of a normal Friday in Trashland, but it was great to be nominated, it had been two years since I last visited London and I was going to get to see some good friends while I was down there.

The UK Blog Awards 2014 Invite, featuring my thumb

The UK Blog Awards 2014 Invite, featuring my thumb

On Saturday, I pulled on my dress, got as dolled up as I could (although I have accepted that I will never dress as well as the fashion bloggers that were there on the night) and headed to the Grange St Paul’s hotel, which as the name suggests, can be found in the shadow of the great cathedral itself.

Drinks and Canapes, the first of many

Drinks and canapés, the first of many

I ate free canapés, I drank free drinks, I networked, networked networked, I swapped business cards and met some wonderful people, including Rachel and Lorna from Tea With Me and Friends and My Foodee Blog’s  fellow angry Scot, Colin McQuistan, who wrote a very amusing piece about the UKBA goody bag, which, was, uh, pretty eclectic. But the toilets were very nice, and had posh folded loo roll.

Posh Loo Roll

Posh Loo Roll

In short, I had a lot of fun, and while I didn’t win the Arts and Culture Individual blog category, that honour went to Skyliner, with The Secret Victorianist and Urban Kultur Blog awarded the ‘Highly Commended’ category, I didn’t mind. In fact, my defeat has made me think more about the direction I want The Taylor Trash to go in and what I want to achieve in the next 12 months.

So, what’s next for me and my blog? Time will tell, but big thanks to Becki and Gemma, the founders and organisers of the UK Blog Awards, for a great evening, and the chance to meet some fantastic people. See you all in 2015!

Somehow, I managed to resist the temptation to draw penises all over the #ThisisLuna Board

I resisted the temptation to draw penises all over the @ThisisLuma Board

Trash Gets Shortlisted For a UK Blog Award!

7 Feb
THAT UK Blog Awards Shortlist Announcement

THAT UK Blog Awards Shortlist Announcement

I’ve never been one for self-promotion; I find it awkward, and I tend to assume that people aren’t really that interested in what I have to say.

However, in the spirit of raising my profile and facing my fears, last year I decided to nominate The Taylor Trash for the UK Blog Awards 2014, which are designed to cater for all types of blogging in the UK, rather than focusing on a select discipline, such as fashion or lifestyle or parenting. So, after writing a guest blog for their website, I entered the awards, after all, I had nothing to lose.

Once my nomination was official, I had to put aside my fears and ask people to vote for me. I asked them on Facebook, Twitter and, as some eagle-eyed readers may have noticed, by using a badge on this blog, knowing that, after voting closed on the 26th of January, there was little I could do until the shortlist announcement at midnight on the 3rd of February.

When the day of the shortlist announcement arrived, I expected nothing more than a with: “Thanks, but no thanks, Trash” or, an apologetic, “Unfortunately, due to the high volume of applicants…” email. However, after midnight, I got an email informing me that, despite all my doubts, The Taylor Trash had been shortlisted in the Individual/Freelance Arts and Culture category in the UK Blog Awards.

After I picked myself off the floor, and more or less inhaled a cup of tea to calm myself down, I learned that my blog would now be appraised by the judging panel, with the winners due to be announced at the official awards ceremony in Central London on Friday, the 25th of April.

I’ve bought my ticket to the awards ceremony, so, all I can do until the night of the awards is work on my blog, book my accommodation for the big day, and thank everyone who voted for me over the past few weeks.

So, to everyone who voted for me, thank you, so much, you’ve made a tired, jaded arts hack very happy! I’ll be tweeting from the awards, I’ll do a write-up of the evening, and I’m really looking forward to meeting all my fellow nominees – see you in April!

Look, a badge and everything!

Look, a badge and everything!

2013 – There and Back Again

30 Dec
Image by dickdavid shared under a Creative Commons License

Image by dickdavid shared under a Creative Commons License

If you, like me, have emerged bleary eyed but largely unscathed from the annual festive fuckwittery that descends during the seemingly never-ending Christmas season, you’ll probably be reflecting on the events of the last year. (I’m not much of a Christmas person.)

2013 was a mixed year for lots of reasons. A divisive political figure died and had a big funeral that a much-hated politician cried at. Another divisive political figure died, and a bunch of world leaders took a selfie during his memorial service. A woman gave birth to a baby boy, and everyone had an opinion on it. A woman twerked on American television, and everyone had an opinion on it. Far too many of the UK’s most vulnerable continue to suffer because of benefit sanctions, welfare cuts and increasingly inhumane policies brought in by an increasingly inhumane government has continued their mission to punish the poor with nonsensical expenses and create tax breaks for the rich.

And I still can’t twerk or take a decent selfie. But, I digress.

This time last year, I worked full-time for an online marketing company. I’d taken the job because it was better paid than the one I’d had before, and, as I’d reasoned at the time, working 9-5 during the week gave me ample time to write, review and do everything else that I wanted to do.

However, I had a dream, a few dreams, in fact; I wanted to write, and I wanted to write on a freelance basis on my own terms. I longed to be my own boss and work on projects that I could see to fruition. I wanted to get out there, network and meet more people, not be stuck at a desk everyday, working on projects that might never reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Yet, the logical part of me (there is a sensible voice somewhere in my head) told me to stop dreaming; that my job was more than enough, that it was paying the bills and for a while, my dreams were pushed aside. It wasn’t long before they resurfaced, bobbing up and down in my subconscious, like the remnants of magnificent and mighty shipwreck. There they remained, always on the horizon, always waiting, and always just out of reach.

My day job kept me busy – too busy – and before long I realised that my writing had taken second place next to a job that I didn’t enjoy, that I didn’t want to do, and was taking up more and more of my time. I felt constantly tired, I was taking work home with me, getting stressed, not sleeping, and always worrying, worrying, worrying about what I hadn’t done, and what I needed to be doing.

I knew life as a freelance writer would be difficult, and that money wouldn’t be guaranteed, but I knew I had to do it. I couldn’t let the fear of failure hold me back, and as far as I was concerned, I’d already lost enough time working in an office when I wanted to be anywhere else but there. So, in August, I made the proverbial leap of faith; I gave my employer five weeks notice, and set about applying for jobs.

It was tough, a lot harder than I thought it would be; over a month after I left the relative safety of the 9-5 world, and after many, many rejections, unanswered applications and ignored speculative emails, all I managed to get was seasonal work delivering flyers for a well-known venue. There were days that I would go around town with my CV, handing it in to any business that was advertising for staff: shops, bars, coffeehouses – anywhere. I never heard back from any of them.

I’ve wanted to write for as long as I remember, and I knew I had to give it my best shot. Eventually, and through a dear friend, I managed to get some regular writing work, working on articles and blog posts for, you’ve guessed it, an online marketing company. I also work part-time in a restaurant, thanks to another old friend who was looking for staff, and so, I have days off during the week, where I can balance my personal writing with my work writing. It’s not the most comfortable way of living; I’ve made sacrifices in order to pay the bills (gone are the days of Spotify Premium, LoveFilm and buying brand new clothes whenever and wherever) but it’s a much better way to live.

I may have made a few mistakes along the way, and leaving the comfort of a stable job to follow your dreams without a back up plan isn’t the most logical thing I’ve ever done (whatever happened to that sensible voice in my head?), but sod logical. I’ve made the first step on a long journey of happiness, and I’m really enjoying this new beginning. In fact. I’m proud of what I’ve done, what I’ve achieved and I’m looking forward to what I will do in 2014.

Happy New Year!

Lianne Spiderbaby Didn’t Plagiarise Me, But I’m Angry Anyway

20 Jul
Lianne Spiderbaby, Plagiarist

Lianne Spiderbaby, Plagiarist

There is a very, very special place in Hell for people who plagiarise other writers’ work and pass it off as their own.

Recently, Lianne Spiderbaby (real name Lianne MacDougall), a well-known figure in the horror industry, who wrote for many horror publications, including FEARnet, Fangoria, Video Watchdog and was one of the hosts of the Fright Bytes YouTube channel was revealed to be a prolific plagiariser by Mike White of Impossible Funky.

Following an anonymous tip, White compiled a detailed and damning report into MacDougall’s body of work, which revealed that most of her articles, including her popular Spiderbaby’s Terror Tapes column on FEARnet, were not her own work, and had been largely ripped off from a number of other writers. Following the publication of this blog post, and the media attention surrounding this story, (MacDougall is, according to reports, dating Quentin Tarantino, himself no stranger to plagiarism controversies), more examples of MacDougall’s habit of passing off other people’s work as her own was discovered.

I’m not going to waste time and energy trying to work out what MacDougall’s motivation was for plagiarising other, and often unpaid writers, because, I don’t care about why she did it. I don’t particularly care about MacDougall, or her alter-ego, or who she may or may not be in a relationship with. I care about the writers she plagiarised, I care about the horror community, and I care about journalism.

When a someone is caught plagiarising, it’s not usually a first time offence. They could have been getting away with it for weeks, months, perhaps even longer. And when their plagiarism is uncovered, they are only sorry that they have been caught. Plagiarism destroys a writer’s reputation, it damages the reputation of the publication that writer worked for and it brings the journalism industry into disrepute. When someone decides to plagiarise someone else’s work, everyone loses.

In MacDougall’s case, each of the publications she has written for has been damaged in their own way, especially those that tried to defend her when the news of her plagiarism went viral. It’s embarrassed the horror community, a community where women aren’t as well represented as men. It will have affected the people who read her work, and her editors, but it’ll have hurt the unpaid or underpaid writers that she stole from, it’ll have hurt the bloggers that write because of their love of writing and film, and those that write in the hope of furthering their careers.

Plagiarists don’t deserve to be defended by publications, or have publications running scared about reporting the news of their lack of journalistic merit or talent, they deserve our condemnation. Plagiarists can’t plead ignorance; it’s well-known that plagiarism is deemed by many industries to be highly unethical. It’s not allowed in schools, colleges, or universities, in fact, it can get you expelled from all three of them. It is, essentially, the theft of another person’s intellectual property; it’s lazy, it’s selfish and it’s a very, very stupid thing to do.

I will never forget the day that I experienced plagiarism for the first time. I was a few months into my role of theatre editor at The Journal when I got a call from my editor, asking about a review written by one of my writers, a girl I will call Emma, for that was her name. Emma was studying a Journalism Masters, she was attentive, always asking for more reviewing work, and often asking for feedback on her pieces. I was pretty new at this editing lark, so I spent a lot of time giving her detailed notes and editing her reviews, which were often over the word count.

One publication weekend, a sub editor discovered similarities between Emma’s review of a dance piece, and a review of the same performance which had been published by another publication a few days earlier. The sub editor then checked her other reviews, and found that they had all been plagiarised in varying degrees from a number of sources, including one national publication and a local paper. In some cases, entire paragraphs had been copied and pasted into her copy. In others, some sentences bore striking similarities to other reviews of the same show. However, luckily, in more than one case, I’d unwittingly removed large parts of the plagiarised copy while editing her ‘work’.

Emma was confronted and denied everything, despite the evidence to the contrary. Emma was fired. However, Emma continued her course, graduated and the last thing I heard was that she was working for the BBC. But Karma catches up with everyone, eventually.

While MacDougall has so far said very little on the subject bar releasing one meagre tweet apologising for the “plagiarism in my work” (here’s a hint, if you plagiarise other people’s writing, it’s not your “work”, it’s theirs) it’s not enough. MacDougall has treated these writers, publications and the horror industry at large with utter contempt, displaying an unbelievable amount of cowardice along the way.

Her failure to answer for her actions, or attempt to redress the wrongs that she has committed is as infuriating as it is disappointing. It’s only right that she should face the consequences for her actions, although some are questioning whether this will happen at all, thanks to MacDougall’s position and her attempts at damage control, which included shutting down her blog and Twitter account, blaming her intern and pleading with editors to remove articles discussing her plagiarism.

Journalism is a very difficult industry to get into, especially given the current economic climate. The industry is constantly being questioned and analysed, it has suffered from recent scandals, from the rise of print journalism, from the loss of revenue. But the industry has suffered most from the loss of trust that has resulted from unethical practises, such as plagiarism, phone hacking and other sleazy methods that hurt people and damage journalism.

Lianne Spiderbaby has been damned by her own web of lies and deceit, and so, it’s up to the rest of us to salvage what we can and start building up trust with readers once more.

UPDATE:

After I wrote this post, I read BJ Colangelo’s posts on her fantastic Day Of The Woman blog, naming some of the best female horror journalists working in the industry right now.

These lists are super awesome, and it would be criminal not to celebrate the amazing work that these women are doing in the field.

And no, none of these amazing women are plagiarists!

Part One:

http://dayofwoman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/female-horror-journalists-you-should-be.html

Part Two:

http://dayofwoman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/female-horror-journalists-you-should-be_18.html

 

 

The Scaredy Cat’s Guide to Blogging

9 May
Photo by owenwbrown, used under a Creative Commons License

Photo by owenwbrown, used under a Creative Commons License

My Ultimate List of Fears [UPDATED]:

1. Heights

2. Bigger Heights

3. Flying Through Turbulence

4. Blogging

It took me three years longer than it should have to start blogging.

Let me explain; when I was at university, and training in arts journalism, the internet was still seen by many in the journalism industry as less of a standalone publisher, but more of a support to traditional printed journalism. By the time I graduated, it was becoming clear to many in the industry that online journalism had taken on a new dimension, and was seriously threatening traditional print journalism.

Back in those heady days of higher education, graduation and working in a job with no prospects and a weekly pay packet that paid just-above-minimum-wage-but-not-quite-enough-to-live-on, a lot of people I knew started to say things like, “You should have a blog. People like blogs.” I understood their reasoning; blogs would make my work more visible, a blog would give me an online presence, where I could write and hone my craft, and it might even get me noticed by some big time publisher/editor who’d send me an email starting with “Hey Kid, I like your style, here’s a writing job and a comfortable wage.” As if.

But for all the benefits of blogging; networking, work, the unreachable goals, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. The thought of blogging led to questions, big, horrifying questions that I couldn’t answer. Every time I thought about blogging, a little voice in my head would raise all sorts of questions. What would I blog about? What if nobody read my blog? Which platform should I use? How would I design it? What will I say? What if everyone thinks I’m an idiot when they read my blog posts? What if I am an idiot? What if I’m a terrible, terrible writer?

These questions went on and on, terrifying me, putting me off blogging, and so, the little voice would fall silent, until I started thinking about blogging again. After all, who was I? I was a theatre critic, just another underpaid and undervalued arts journalist. Why would anybody take me seriously? Why would anybody want to read what I have to say? Why should I bother blogging when I can’t get regular and paid writing work anyway? Sometimes, I would be brave, I would make vague commitments to creating a blog, like the time I registered a domain that I ignored until it expired. I set up various Tumblr accounts and even a lonely Posterous account that I promptly forgot about. Then, last year, I decided the fear was holding me back; it was time to have a blog, at least to showcase my work, and use in job applications.

I set up my blog in April, but didn’t write my first post for a month. I was so overwhelmed in the beginning; I didn’t know what to say, and that little voice kept telling me I had no place blogging was sometimes unbearably loud. After that, I used my blog to republish my reviews from other websites. It wasn’t an impressive blog, so I fannied around with free WordPress themes to make it look better, and added new widgets, categories and tabs. But, I still felt like my blog wasn’t working, it didn’t inspire me and I knew I wanted to write about more than theatre. So, I did. I wrote about the government, I wrote about abortion, I wrote about libel, I wrote about pseudonyms, I discussed disappointment, I lamented the lack of money in journalism and rejection in the industry. As I wrote, I grew more confident and that little voice that liked to tell me that I had no right to publish my work online grew weaker.

It’s been just over a year since I started this blog, while it has been difficult at times, and I’ll admit that the little voice of doubt hasn’t gone completely, I’m glad I started blogging, I only wish I’d started earlier. I wish I’d known that blogging doesn’t have to be so scary, I wish I’d known that the only way to be comfortable blogging is to blog regularly.

If you’re thinking about blogging; don’t think about it, do it. The more you blog, the more you will find your voice, your angle and an audience. Listen to feedback – if you get it – but don’t be afraid to share your opinion, to keep writing, researching and finding stories that you want to write about. Your blog is your space, where you can express yourself freely, and conquer your little negative voice. My blog definitely helped me get over my fear of blogging, next up; I will conquer my fear of flying through turbulence. Maybe.

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