Busy Busy

Breakfast in a youth hostel on day 4 of my placement. The fact that I’m interspersing my porridge spooning with keyboard stabs at 8am should be enough to tell you my placement is full on. I’m not complaining – everyone there is working beyond capacity, but still managing to be very nice and show me things. It’s good when I’m doing something that actually feels helpful. So far I’ve done a first edit on a 200 page book, written blurbs and a reader’s report for it and done editorial notes. I’m pretty sure that all this will be done again by one of them too, which is quite right: this book is someone’s new baby, they don’t want to leave it in the care of some incompetent spotty teenage babysitter! I’ve also proofread the new catalogue and stuck new labels on tubes of fruit pastilles (don’t ask – I’m not sure if they come under the confidentiality clause I’ve signed).
So right now I need to get on the move and leave the dining room – youth hostels in February seem to be the domain of women who might be making a stand against the age discriminatory name of the place, or maybe we are all just on placements and want somewhere cheap and warm to rest weary heads. .My desk awaits, and at least this morning I’ll know how to turn on my computer – that was embarrassing!

#FFF Flying Solo

Eek – this week my trusty tech-mentor, Hannah, was taking some well earned leave and the technophobe was on her own!

On the “to do” list was the blog on the GWL website about the four submissions received from week’s prompt and to introduce a new image as a flash fiction prompt for the coming week.  Also, I was to tweet the new prompt. Unsurprisingly this took me most of the day but I have to admit to a sneeky smugness at crossing everything off the list.

The stories from last week have been very varied and interesting.  Each one is a tiny creative jewel.  Here they are:

1.”I move closer. Alert to the red scent of your rage. Your breath snorts and rasps. Each intake another chance to heal.”

Are you angry still? (@_RedFi)

2.“In the distance, I heard my mother’s voice: ‘Come away from that strange creature, Wendy!’ You see, that’s how it’d started with Aunty Flo, the one we don’t talk about who danced for the King, a candy bar from a travelling musician. The chain came later.” (@H_Cross_21)

3.“Quite an adventurous and nice dream you had, but you’re also not plump, when awake? You are beautifully beary!” she said. “And you know what? I now will share my hazelnutbar with you dearest bear. And with you beariest red squirrel, that you are in your dreams, too, of course!” (@HagandSquirrel)

4.“It happened again, didn’t it?” Kim wagged her Flake in her best friend’s direction and Wendy nodded helpessly. It was not easy being a were-bear and certainly not during hunting season at Miss Bunty’s School for Gels” (@JayDeeSunshine)

Spurred on by the quality of these submissions, I selected a very different image as this week’s prompt.  It is slightly more political in spirit and is one of many postcards from the GWL archive.  For some of us of a certain age, this image may recall memories of the Greenham Common protests.  Here it  is:

I hope the shiny, tiny stories above will have encouraged readers of this blog to have a go at a tweeted story.  As usual, stories do not have to describe or be explicitly linked to the given image – the images are there simply to provide inspiration.  Stories should fit into the format of a Tweet (or a series of linked Tweets) and be told in less than 240 characters! Remember to  tag @womenslibrary!  For those who do not tweet, stories can be e-mailed to info@womenslibrary.org.uk and identified as #FlashFiction Friday.  Submissions should be made on or before Friday 22nd February and will subsequently appear on the GWL website.  #FlashFictionFriday is open to all so get writing, tweeting and sharing with your friends!

And so my placement at Luath finished on Friday. I squeezed back past the white van, up the wee alley and  was back into the real world again. Bagpipes faded into the distance as I made my way down the Royal Mile to the train station and I reflected on the interesting week I’d had.

I completed many varied tasks there: designed a book launch invitation, attended a book launch, wrote a blurb, rewrote the blurb, devised a marketing plan and a social media plan, researched an author for a profile page on Luath’s website to mention a few. But by far what I enjoyed most was proofreading manuscripts. Both were in their final stages so there were no major edits however there were some misspellings  and punctuation errors. I hadn’t realised that different publishers have their own ‘house style’ which took some concentration to digest. I think I’ll be more forgiving of any errors I read in books in future!

On leaving, I felt I had a much clearer understanding of the publishing world, the process from manuscript to print and the relationship between publisher/editor and writer. I would not now send a manuscript to a publisher that didn’t ‘fit’ what they print, I will always read the submission guidelines meticulously and I will never (not that I ever would have) address the cover letter with ‘Dear sirs’!

When I next walk past Luath Press on my way to Edinburgh Castle, I’ll feel privileged that I’ve been part of their world for a little while. In the meantime, I swear that I can still hear bagpipes playing!


Heading North

Tomorrow morning, an hour before sunrise, I will drive north up one of my favourite roads to my placement at Sandstone Press. Like I think everyone before their placement, I’m both excited and nervous. Oh, and worried about what to wear! I’m really looking forward to seeing from start to finish the process of publishing a book, and maybe to finding out some hints to increase the likelihood of getting published myself (hint 1: write a book).

I’m hoping I might get a chance to do some proofreading too. I’ve done it before, but a bit of Googling has introduced me to digital proofreading and marking up, something that’s new to me and obviously I’m panicking even though I don’t even know if I’m going to be doing any: classic self sabotage. Anyway, a placement is a chance to learn – after all there wouldn’t be much point in going if I already knew everything, would there? So I’m running with that thought, and packing my suitcase with my entire wardrobe – which should cover the first three days there, if I don’t spill anything on me.



A-Z of Dundee

Just when you think you know everything about Bonnie Dundee, it reveals something new. They don’t call it ‘The City of Discovery’ for nothing.

As part of this module, I’m lucky to be doing a placement with Dundee Rep. The Rep is currently developing a new production called A-Z of Dundee which will tour different communities within the city.

My fellow intern, Kai, and I are thrilled to be part of this project because we get a sneak peek into the world of theatre AND get to work with playwrights, directors and actors. We have a development meeting which can’t come soon enough.

The production is described as ‘a brand new anarchic, (and mostly true) history of Dundee’ which explores Dundee’s relationship with the rest of the world. We’re not going with the bog-standard ‘Jute, Jam and Journalism’ but will be uncovering things that people might not know.

For this we’ve been speaking Dundonians themselves – us included. After our initial meeting with Heather Cassidy at the Rep, director Ewan Donald and designer Leila Kalbassi, we went out in search of material that can be used in the production.

So,  we chatted to people in the city centre and set up other interviews with people of interest. We’ve had some insightful and amusing conversations so far, but we’ll be building on this before our meeting.

Setting sail for our own voyage

Frigate Unicorn – one of the world’s oldest warships.

To get into the swing of things, Kai and I visited the Frigate Unicorn. We learned a bit about the city’s history at sea and, I learned that sailors must have been very short – I was hunched over the entire time!

Nonetheless it was a valuable visit and we gather useful information, ideas and a contact for an interview.

Gunning for stories. The Frigate Unicorn’s gun deck was cool!

We still have a couple of weeks until our meeting where we plan on pitching our findings to the rest of the team. I’m sure there are many stories left to uncover, come back later to find out what they are – or better yet come to the show.

‘E’ is for E-book

In other news, the internship with New Haven is also going well.

Lately, I have taken fully formatted and edited manuscript and prepared it for E-book publication. I was given a template to use and an example E-book to follow. My job was to make sure the text was successfully transferred on to the template.

It was fun to do and to see how publishing in different formats works. Teddie seemed happy with my work (save for a few mistakes – oops). Take a look at the final product here.

Next up is promotion for another title in about a week or so.

Things are certainly moving along! I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks has in store at both placements.

You can also catch me on Twitter and my own website.

All the best,

H.M. Hussain 


What I did today at my placement

Luath. The most camouflaged Publishing Company in Scotland. If their aim is to avoid nuisance callers at the door, they have succeeded. According to Google maps, Luath is in the middle of the pavement. According to the manager of Camera Obscura next door, it is through a white door with no handle. Where it is I discover is down a wee alley, hidden behind a white van! And so I arrive slightly harassed and very apologetic to be greeted by the lovely Lauren who just brightened up my day. Nothing was too much trouble even the names she had to repeat because of my poor hearing.

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect but what I found was the most tranquil working environment. I think the piles of books, sheets of paper, manuscripts, more books etc serve as a kind of barricade to the world outside and it is easy to lose yourself here. It is such a different environment to work in from my previous job. You have time to and are encouraged to think and be creative and I loved it.

My first task wasn’t easy though. I had to create an invitation for a book launch in April. Simple. If you are adept with technology. I knew what I wanted to do, it just took me longer than I would have liked. The book is set in 1689 in Edinburgh and involves the gruesome discovery of a body. I knew exactly the image I wanted and I kept almost finding it except it had electric lights or a bicycle or something else inappropriate for the time however I eventually found what I needed. About an hour later, I had sussed how to change the text size, position, colour etc. I might not be quick but I am definitely determined.

I had time to read the book’s prologue and explore Luath’s website, getting a sense of the process to publication. I highlighted the tasks I would like to complete from a comprehensive list given to me by Lauren. With one already completed, I look forward to planning a Sales and Marketing Plan for an upcoming book as well as a Book Launch tomorrow, some Proof-reading on Wednesday and who knows what else for Thursday and Friday.

I do know that Day 1 has been really interesting and I have been made to feel very welcome. I can’t wait for the rest of the week.


History Talks and Boat Walks

Captain’s Log: 09/02/19, 16.35

Back with another update!

First of all, I’m delighted to announce that I am now doing a second placement! Along with Loretta, I am going to be helping facilitate a creative writing workshop as part of the Dundee Women’s Festival. The event, titled “Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices” will be occurring on the 2nd of March, and is composed of two parts: the morning will be talks from three different historians about extraordinary women from history; while the afternoon will be a chance for attendees to write in response to these talks. I don’t want to give too much away about the talks, but the topics span from right here in Dundee all the way to Germany, and I can tell you right now you don’t wanna miss any of them!

The main goal of Loretta and myself as facilitators is simply to encourage the women attending to put pen to paper. I have technically lead a writing workshop before. One person, a very smart, cooperative and forgiving 11 year-old turned up, and we mainly talked about her Harry Potter fan-fiction. Despite this bountiful wealth of experience and knowledge to draw from, I am as nervous as I am excited. I think I might defer to Loretta, who actually has real teaching experience.

In news regarding my placement at the Rep, on Thursday Hamzah and I met to share our ideas of people and places we might want to investigate and interview. This included a trip to Dundee’s own HMS Unicorn, one of the oldest warships in the world. We conducted a little research, explored the exhibition onboard the ship and established some potential contacts to interview later. I also took a plethora of pictures, though I unfortunately didn’t manage to catch any of the ship’s supposed ghosts on camera:

A narwhal horn

The gun deck

I think this is called the hold

Following this visit Hamzah and I headed to the library to record our first interviewees – ourselves. Next step is trying to edit out all the background noise so they’re usable!

This is Captain Kai,

Signing off.

P.S. Did you know that Captain Kidd, supposed pirate and inspiration for the persona of Ryuji Sakamoto in Persona 5, was born in Dundee?


#FlashFictionFriday – here we go!

How thrilling to arrive at the Women’s Library today to find that we have our first piece of tweeted flash fiction.  Here it is :-

During the day, three further submissions have appeared on the GWL Twitterfeed.  I am overcome with excitement.

Having done some more publicity via the website and Twitter today, the prompt will remain the one which appears below until next Friday 15th February.  A compilation of the stories inspired by this prompt will then be published on the GWL website next week, at which point I shall choose a different image from the wonderful GWL archive to whet the creative appetite and inspire new submissions.

Please consider writing and tweeting a piece.  Share with your friends and encourage them to participate too.  It’s fun! If you are not a Twitter user, feel free to e-mail your response to info@womenslibrary.org.uk

Just use the above image as inspiration – and tell your story in up to 240 characters

#FlashFictionFriday @womenslibrary

a time to dance

It is hard to take in that next week  I will actually be meeting Bernard MacLaverty in his home – in my home town –  almost forty years since Lamb and Cal and A Time to Dance first captivated my young imagination.

A privilege, and I hope a joy.

It’s All Kicking Off

After a few weeks of waiting and rescheduling, I am delighted to be able to report back with an update on my placement at the Rep!

Yesterday (Monday 4th) was our first meeting, held in the Rep bar. I only ever seem capable of arriving early or late to things, so I had fifteen minutes to distract my friend on reception from his work before we started.

When the show’s director, Ewan Donald, arrived, there was that surreal moment of meeting in person for the first time a talented actor you’ve seen on stage in a dozen different guises. The immediate recognition of someone who is in fact a complete stranger. But he and everyone else proved to be very welcoming.

The show itself, A-Z of Dundee, is apparently still in its early stages, but the job of my fellow intern Hamzah and myself has been confirmed: go out into the public, gather up as many different stories as possible, and find out how the world relates to Dundee, and how Dundee relates to itself. Even though I had been told already this was what we’d be doing, now that our work is beginning in earnest it all feels much more real – and exciting!  All through yesterday I kept getting distracted from whatever I was doing, pausing in my work to add to the list of people and groups I think it might be interesting to try and interview. My hope is to try and gather as diverse a range of interviews as possible, showing both Dundee the old and the new. Gail, our tutor, has also emphasised our opportunity here to showcase the communities and stories that don’t often get told, so from my end expect an obnoxious barrage of rainbows and glitter.

Hamzah and I have already agreed on a few targets, and have arranged to meet on Thursday for some research in a certain nautical, supposedly haunted location, so stay tuned for that! In the meantime, I have another meeting tomorrow about another placement I have agreed to join…

Your intrepid journalist,


P.S. In far more important news, I have just beaten the Casino of Envy palace in Persona 5, and survived the half hour long cutscene that follows it. I knew a certain “ace detective” was too good to be true!