10 signs your office knows it’s summer

Finally, it’s summer. The good(ish) weather has arrived, we’re driving to work with the windows down and weekends are spent enjoying the light nights…or are they? Maybe you’re spending your time worrying how you’re going to get everything done and still have some time off this year.

Still though, there’s always time to read a ’10 signs’ blog post…

10 signs your office knows it’s summer

  1. At least half the staff have filed a holiday request
    Have the men in your office started looking like this?

    Have the men in your office started looking like this?

    for the same week.

  2. You’re trying not to think about it.
  3. There’s at least one person who has swapped all normal lunch options for salad ‘for their holiday’.
  4. All of your clients seem to have a big project on at the same time, and it’s when you wanted to take a day off.
  5. You can almost see people pretending the water from the cooler is actually cold beer.
  6. You convince yourself staying until 6pm is OK really because it won’t be dark until almost 10.
  7. Going to the nearest beer garden after work seems more appealing than going home.
  8. Your clients have all started turning up to meetings with sunglasses on their heads, if only to rub in the fact that they are allowed to go outside during the day.
  9. The men in the office have started regularly talking about shorts as viable work wear.
  10. You have no idea how you’re going to cover everyone’s holiday.

Sound familiar? All is not lost! Summer is the perfect time to take on some temporary help in the office, and to celebrate the warmer days, I’m offering 25% off day rates when booked in July and August.

Whether it’s copywriting, keeping on top of your own business’s blogs and press releases or full PR for your clients, there’s no reason to fall behind. Get in touch and book today!

Stitch Education is launching in Hull

The news is out! As of September this year, I’ll officially be launching Stitch Education, a new course for schools which will see creativity being celebrated through arts and storytelling. I spoke to Laura O’Donnell, who runs Really Hull, to tell her about the project. You can see the original article here:

http://www.reallyhull.com/2015/06/11/people-laura-smith-stitch-education/

We caught up with Hull writer Laura Smith, who specialises in educational writing and has devised a new project, Stitch Education that she plans to roll out in Hull schools from September. She tells us about all about Stitch, and about her love for Hull, a city “that doesn’t feel like it’s going to get too carried away with itself.”

Hi Laura, give us the lowdown on your new project.

Stitch Education is a complementary curriculum for children who may be held back from reaching their full potential at school – whether that’s due to behavioural issues, learning difficulties or other reasons. It’s a programme of sessions that tie into subjects on the curriculum; the sessions are classroom-based but use creative and kinetic learning. Stitch is very ‘hands-on’, centred around arts and crafts and teamwork. The programme gives kids permission to use their energy and be a bit wacky for an hour or so, while building confidence and social skills to help them improve at school.

stitch logoHow is Stitch unique?

I don’t know of anything else out there that uses creativity and art quite like this. There are other courses that teachers can use to run alongside the standard curriculum; courses that, like Stitch, enable children to learn in a context that is separate from their usual teacher and their usual class setting. But no, there’s nothing exactly like Stitch.

How did the idea come about? What’s your background?

I used to work at Thomas Ferens Academy in Hull as a Teacher of Adventurous Learning. (We love that job title.) The premise of my role was similar to what I hope to achieve with Stitch. I’d come up with ideas and inventions to help kids use their imaginations and become more engaged – whether that was by pretending to be spies or crawling through school corridors like we were in a maze! I loved the job but eventually decided to go back to freelance writing, which was what I did before going into teaching. I then realised I had a huge backlog of teaching ideas that I still wanted to put into practice. I also missed the interaction with the children and thought that going back into schools on a freelance basis would be the perfect solution.

Your favourite things about Hull?

I’ve recently got into poetry and spoken word events, like Away With Words. Events like that seem to be popping up all over Hull. I don’t get up [to perform] myself though! I’m also really into what the Hull Independent Cinema Project are doing. Generally, I like the grass roots stuff, and there’s loads of it, which is great. I lived in Beverley for a couple of years until recently; now I love that everything is in walking distance and I don’t spend loads on taxis anymore!

I like having friends to visit who haven’t been here for a while, who – despite their preconceptions – admit that Hull is actually cool now. It is changing for the better, but it still feels like somewhere that will never get carried away with itself.

And what’s next for you?

I plan to launch Stitch in schools this September, and will continue my work as a freelance writer, writing education packs for schools and working on other projects. And I’ll also be enjoying living in Hull and seeing all the exciting stuff happening in the city over the next couple of years!

Find out more about Laura’s Stitch Education project or her other work by contacting her on email: stitch@stitcheducation.co.uk, Twitter: @StitchEducation or via her website: http://www.laurasmithwriter.com

Wahoo, it’s the Hull Children’s Book Awards!

Last week the Hull Children’s Book Awards took place. It’s an event I’ve attended for three years now, first as a school librarian, second as a teacher, and this time I went as a volunteer for my old school, partly because I didn’t want to miss out, and partly because I was keen to see my a piece of my freelance work in use.

The awards are organised by Hull Libraries, a dedicated team of people ready to turn preconceptions of libraries upside down with events throughout the year. They had asked me what I thought to creating a booklet for the children who attend on the day, summarising the nominated books, giving them some info about their favourite authors and generally keeping them busy with quizzes, puzzles, and interviews to read. I thought it was a great idea and agreed to write the content for it. What I didn’t expect was just how busy it kept all the students on the day! Walking into a room of hundreds of 11-15 year olds and being able to hear yourself speak because all the students are busy completing word searches was a big novelty!

Here's a snapshot of the booklet I produced.

Here’s a snapshot of the booklet I produced.

The day was a massive success, as always. Seeing so many young people get to meet the authors of the books they’ve been reading since the start of the year reminded me why I loved working in education – they’re so enthusiastic! It didn’t take long for the students to catch on that I’d created some space in their booklets to collect autographs too, and what started off as a simple reading booklet quickly became a keepsake for many of them.

When I went freelance I decided I wasn’t going to specialise in any particular area, not wanting to risk eliminating myself from appearing an all-round writer, but since doing this, and another project for Hull Libraries, I’ve decided it’s not a bad thing to play on your strengths and begin promoting myself as an educational writer.

All of my other services will remain on offer and exactly the same, but together with another project I’m working on, and with my background in education, the resources I already have mean I could create some really fun pieces of work for schools and organisations. There’s already a particularly exciting one in the pipeline. Stay tuned…

BBC collaborations and cultural debate – What Next?

By far the best thing to have come out of freelancing is the amount of people I get to meet on the local creative scene. Every meeting brings more introductions to people passionate about what they do, and even better, passionate about Hull 2017.

I’ve mentioned in my blog before now the ‘why wait’ approach that the city’s creative seem to be taking when it comes to 2017. Not only down to the sheer amount of planning that a full year of cultural activities will take, but because there is a genuine excitement in the city right now.

There are tons of initiatives, festivals and organisations growing in Hull at the moment, but the one I’ve recently become involved with is Get Creative, a collaboration between the BBC and What Next.

BBC Get CreativeBBC Get Creative is the chance to put a spotlight on the creativity which happens every day across the UK. By sharing the creative projects I’m involved with, the BBC is going to do its bit to spread the word and see others getting involved.

As part of this, I meet with the What Next Hull group to share ideas with others doing the same thing in the area, and see what we can achieve specifically for Hull as a group. What Next groups are springing up all over the country, but in Hull we decided that the group should be defined as a culturist lobbying group, strengthening the role of art in the city.

what next hull logoSince kicking off with a sold-out debate at Hull Truck Theatre, seeing the kings and queens of culture go head to head on local art issues and the future of Hull’s culture, What Next has met as part of a live BBC radio broadcast, which gave members of the public a rare chance to ask their cultural leaders about the things most important to them.

It’s a really exciting time to be freelancing at the moment. Every week seems to bring a new idea or opportunity to get involved in the local arts scene.

You can find What Next on Twitter, where I’ve live-tweeted during the BBC broadcast, and find out more about BBC Get Creative here.

8 tips for working from home

Working from home brings many positives – the proximity to the biscuit tin, setting your own hours, and swapping your suit for slippers, but it can be hard to stay on track and be constantly motivated too. Here are my top tips for stay at home success:

  1. Don’t put the TV on. If the house is simply too quiet, opt for the radio or put your iPod on in the background. For one, music is less distracting, and most employers would allow it in the office anyway, and two, you can’t give your work your full attention with Loose Women in the living room. Nobody would willingly pay you to watch TV, so it’s not fair to charge them for it.
  2. Go outside. In my first few weeks of freelancing I couldn’t work out why I was finding it so hard to fall asleep at night. In my last job I’d spend the majority of the day walking from building to building, and a lot of this time outdoors. As a result, I’ve lost pretty much all fresh air and exercise from my day, meaning I wasn’t as tired. If you’re too busy for a walk around the block part way through the day, spend twenty minutes in the garden. It’ll increase your productivity hugely, and keep your from feeling you haven’t left the house in days.
  3. Have a lunch break. Yes, you can snack all day. You can also see the bathroom scales take a sharp turn in the wrong direction. Set proper breaks for meals, just as you would at work, and keep fruit and nuts handy for snacking on. Nobody will like you if you become responsible for eating the entire local shop’s biscuit stock.
  4. Get dressed. Working in pyjamas is one of the first pros of working from home that comes to mind, and until the luxury wears off, it’s great. Once it’s gone though, you’re just the strange neighbour taking their bins back in at 6pm in their PJs, and nobody needs to become that. You don’t need to dress smartly, but getting dressed at all in the morning puts you in the right frame of mind and helps take your brain from sleep to work mode.
  5. Speak to people. By 5pm, the sound of your own voice can be a surprise if you haven’t used it all day. Try and spend a couple of afternoons a week working from a coffee shop surrounded by others, arrange meetings regularly and make social arrangements with friends to avoid feeling isolated.
  6. Don’t clean the house. Yes, it’s tempting to ‘just put the washing out’, but the more housework creeps into your day, the more your work creeps out of it. If you can’t work in a lived-in house, allow some time in the morning to tidy up, but make sure it comes before your working hours before it eats into them.
  7. Do clean the house. Yes, I know. I love contradictions, so much that I used to write both the For and Against column in my student newspaper’s opinion page. The fact is, if you’ve got work to do, but it’s just not happening, giving your brain something different to do for a few minutes can get you back on track. So yes, OK, go and put the washing out after all, but after that, return to your desk and don’t let it be the start of a six hour spring clean.
  8. Find the hours that suit you. Working while the house is empty might seem the best idea, but if mornings aren’t for you (and let’s face it, you’ve chosen to work from home, they’re probably not), then start later. But you do also need to work later. Experiment with different hours for a while until you find what suits you, and get the most out of your day according to when you’re most productive.

10 tips for writing a Valentine’s day poem

Valentine’s day. The public celebration of card manufacturers congratulating themselves on such a profitable idea. Florists and balloon guys are probably pretty happy too. But before the word ‘cynic’ leaves your mouth, know that V Day can also be a celebration of love. It just doesn’t have to leave you £50 worse off.

A homecooked meal, some candles, a backrub and a night of Netflix is certainly more romantic than tickets to see Fifty Shades, but what if you really want to do something special, without the consumerist angle?

vday

Break the mould this year and write something that will last longer than a box of sweets.

Writing a poem might seem daunting, ridiculous, or even outright mad, but I think you should give it a go anyway. Why? Because if it would be an unusual move for you, that makes it romantic, and even if it’s not Wordsworth, the effort will likely be adorable. And if it is usual for you, you probably don’t need the following advice. Maybe you should get chocolates to be different.

So, poetry. Soppy, right? Yeah, get used to it. So is Valentine’s day, and you’ve already committed yourself to the idea of that. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Poems do NOT need to rhyme. Try and be a little more original than that, and you’ll save yourself from having to think of anything that rhymes with blonde.
  2. Think of your happiest memories together. Let them create some key words and let lines form from those.
  3. Make it personal. It should be something that your partner can read and truly know it’s for them, and not just a rewrite of something you did for your ex.
  4. Don’t get caught up with embarrassment. Just say what you feel, and be natural.
  5. Don’t tape an engagement ring to the bottom. She’ll see it before she’s finished reading.
  6. Add humour. Not loads, and leave anything that happens in the bathroom in the bathroom.
  7. What’s your favourite thing about them? Add that.
  8. What’s your least favourite thing about them? Don’t add that. Really. It will not apply to no.6.
  9. Cheat. If you want to borrow a line from a real life, successful poet, why not? Just don’t pretend it’s yours. Showing you’ve done your research will add to the impressiveness.
  10. Still not sure? Go and adopt a puppy.

Have a loved up weekend, readers. Share your best lines in the comments too. I might need them.