Monday, 9 April 2018

Guest Lecturing, Take 2.

When I was 17, full of feelings and desperate for an outlet, I created a blog - between lessons at college. It was my own tiny space on the internet, where I could go in good times and bad. I would never have believed you if you'd tapped me on the shoulder and told me where it would take me someday. In fact, I'm glad nobody suddenly apparated before me and told me this right then because, knowing teenage me, I'd probably have been terrified and deleted braceletsandbangles.blogspot.com before I'd even written my first post about the boy I fancied in Drama class. 

As you all know - well, I assume so because I go on about it quite a bit - I have been an occasional Guest Lecturer at the University of Winchester (my alma mater) for about 2 years now. 

February 2016, I was asked by my ex-lecturers (and good pals) to speak in a Creative Writing seminar about my writing journey and creative work post-graduation. I was 1 of 3 successful (that would have been in quote marks because I'm not sure you could call me that, but the other 2 who spoke were very, very successful so I can't devalue them, y'know?) graduates, and I was so thrilled and honoured to have the chance to talk to the students about my writing...and my blog. I then was asked to return and give actual, full seminars in October 2016. 


(Photo: Erin Veness)
(obvs my 'cool lecturer' pose)


Then most recently, at the beginning of November 2017, I led another 2 seminars in the Creative Writing first year module PW1001: Publishing 1 - Blogs and Social Media (a module I would have loved had it been taught when I was studying there!?!). Both were almost 2 hours long, and my job was simply to explain to the freshers how I work on my blog, the opportunities I've got through it, how I can now earn a little income from it - and why I created it in the first place. 

I felt this year I was a little bit better equipped to do the job - a year's more experience both blogging and lecturing! I felt more confident preparing in the weeks before; I knew what worked and what didn't, I definitely knew what I needed to talk about the most and what to barely touch on, and I thought I knew what the students would ask me about. 

See, I always begin my seminars with a Q+A. This is partly to get the students chatting, break the sort-of fourth wall, make connections and prevent them going into screensaver mode as I talk at them for hours...ughh, I'd be furious if my seminar was just that, some twenty-something know-it-all blogger going on and on about her life and writing projects?!? 
Anyway, the Q+A starter is also designed to help me - to get an idea of what they want to know, what to focus on and how to apportion the rest of the time I've been given. 

In October 2016, my grand lecturing debut, I got some cracking Qs to A. I wrote a post shortly after, listing the questions I remembered answering in case any readers were also curious about the basics and intricacies of blogging. 

Well, I got some fabulous Qs last year, too. The really interesting thing was the difference between seminar groups this early on. The first seemed quite keen to learn about the monetising of my online presence; they were asking how I'd been noticed by various companies and how they could find work if they set up a blog, etc...

But then the second group were way more into the personal side of my blogging life. 
I was going around the room slowly, group by group, clockwise - not picking on anyone randomly, as I knew that would make me seem super evil. And yes, the questions were personal, but nothing I couldn't handle. If anything, I was happy to be asked more about me, after the morning group had been hounding me almost exclusively about money and publicity; the mathematical side of it all. 


(Photo: Erin Veness)


There was a tricky question at one point; a mature student (I love mature students, they are so verbal and engaged!) asked me flat out 'how has your blog impacted on your relationships?'
I actually fell on my back foot a little, physically, as I replied to that one. I think I said something like 'Well, it's affected some friendships, and I guess it is a bit of a weight to carry into a romantic situation...?' Then I laughed, stupidly. 'I've been single for a while now, so y'know.' Then I added, thoughtful suddenly: 'then again, if a person I start to date then finds my blog - which is easy, I don't hide it - and reads most of it to find something they don't like...that's good to know early on I guess!'

But then another student across the room half-raised a hand and blurted out 'don't you ever get scared?! Like...your whole life is online. Doesn't that ever make you feel insanely vulnerable?'


(Photo: Erin Veness)


Well, in short, yes. I do get scared. I do feel vulnerable. Insanely so. Oh, I feel insane a lot of the time, too. Vulnerably so...?

I started writing my blog, as I said, when I was a mixed up 17-year-old girl full of feelings with no place to put them. I'd always scribble things down in my sparkly sticker-covered WHSmith notebooks, of course, but after a while that wasn't enough. I was desperate for a release, a space of my own to vent and share - to talk about my A Level stresses, ramble away about my hopes for the future, and obviously gush about my crush on the boy with stripey blonde highlights and yellow motorbike. 


I could never have imagined where it would get me, and what it would evolve into. I now receive books in the post every week from some of my favourite publishers; I've got some amazing part-time jobs, internships and one-off gigs thanks to my this blog and my social media presence; younger readers feel they can approach me for advice on anything from writing to reading to really personal matters (that is probably the best thing that's happened, tbh). 
I do feel vulnerable sometimes, sure. But more often, I feel strong.



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