Joining the press team at BCLF

by Sagal Mohammed
20 May 2016

Working on the press team for the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival this year was an incredibly exciting opportunity for me. Not only did I grow a newfound love for young adult fiction, but I got the chance to work with both the Deputy Editor and Features Editor of GLAMOUR magazine, Natasha Poliszczuk and Claire Matthiae. As an avid GLAMOUR reader, the prospect of working with the people responsible for some of my favourite articles was enough for me to postpone my end of degree celebration plans and dedicate my first weekend of study-free life to writing articles about award-winning children’s authors. 
The GLAMOUR before the art-craft
Before discovering all the secrets of how to write a best-selling children’s novel, the press team and I were treated to a tour of the GLAMOUR offices – being introduced to everyone from the Junior Beauty Editor to the Art Director – before receiving a full brief on my role at the festival. During the briefing with Claire, we were given the opportunity to choose four different events each to cover during the weekend, which of course meant compromising and working as a team to decide who was best suited for a particular event if more than one person showed interest in the same one.
Putting theory into practice
On both days of the festival, I really got to utilise the skills I had learnt during my journalism degree at Roehampton. Having studied modules such as Feature Writing and Magazine Journalism/Production, I felt confident in my ability to interview the authors and get some good quotes for my articles, especially after receiving a press pass which all of a sudden made me feel like an important reporter. Although I had the support of both my lecturer Alison and the GLAMOUR team, it was essentially an independent task as I was given the freedom to interview who I wanted and approach the articles from the angles I preferred. Also, the fact that I had to write live and to tight deadlines was a great challenge for me as it made everything feel real and was amazing practise for what is required of me in my future career as a journalist.
From YA to picture books
One of my favourite aspects of working on the press team was reporting on and discovering the variety of genres within Children’s Literature. On day one I experienced interviewing Lauren Child, the author of the kid’s classic Charlie and Lola and felt the energetic atmosphere of the excited children. Similarly, on the second day I attended an arts and craft event where the children got creative and made flower pots in honour of Holly Webb’s new sequel to the famous book The Secret Garden. Nevertheless, the other two events I covered were aimed at a slightly older target audience as the authors of Young Adult fiction books hosted a panel discussing many of the serious issues teenagers go through such as feminism, love and identity and the importance of books.
I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the press team at the Barnes Children’s Literature festival as the experience only enhanced my enthusiasm for pursuing a career in journalism, particularly after hearing the wise words of Costa Coffee Book of the Year Award winner Francis Hardinge advising her audience of mostly eight-year old aspiring writers to “just keep going”.
Twitter: @saqal_xo

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