interview

Interview: Rebecca Freeman on Copy-Editing, Language Mastery, and Creative PhDs

12:00 pm


Time for another interview! This time, we're heading down under and meeting Rebecca Freeman. Rebecca's a freelance copy-editor and applying to study for a creative writing PhD, you can see why I'm interested in interviewing her! We spoke in depth about her experiences with other languages, the steampunk story she's planning to write for her thesis, and how she deals with creative ruts. I had a lot of fun learning about Rebecca's work, so I hope you do too. Read on...


Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Rebecca! Jumping straight in: how did you find yourself working in the field of copy-editing? Is this something you've been formally trained in?

Rebecca Freeman:
I've always had a bit of a sixth sense for spelling and punctuation, since I first learnt to write. If something's not quite right, it gives me the shudders - that probably sounds worse than it is! But I find a page of clean copy very calming. I've not had formal editing training, although I've worked at a small publisher as an assistant editor, and I've freelanced as well, which has given me the opportunity to work on many different texts and manuscripts, including romance, speculative fiction, poetry, PhD dissertations, and advertising copy. And now I've got experience in proofreading, line-editing, as well as structural and content editing. It's been so interesting.

Magic & Musings:
Where did your passion for language first come from?

Rebecca Freeman:
Both my parents were very much into reading, and our house was one full of books. My mother read to me every night when I was young. I remember wanting so badly to learn how to read myself, and apparently, I came home at the end of the first week of school and told my parents that I wasn't going back, because 'We didn't even learn to read!' Once I did learn, I just devoured books, and I also spent hours writing stories of my own. We lived on a farm and both my siblings are several years older than I am, so reading gave me new, exciting worlds to explore and staved off my loneliness.

Then when I got to high school, I studied German and ended up going to Germany on youth exchange once I'd graduated. Becoming fluent in another language was incredible, because it not only granted me the opportunity to communicate with a whole different group of people, it also taught me so much about English and the origins of words.

Once I returned home, I studied English, French, German, and Philosophy at university, all of which reinforced my love of language and piqued my curiosity about communication, argument, and logic. Later, I taught German, French, and ESL at high school, and teaching just takes everything to another level, because you get to share that language journey with so many others. I miss that a bit, now that I'm working from home... although watching my children learn and master language is a fascinating experience, too.

Magic & Musings:
Wow! That's a real skill you must have for learning languages. I'll continue struggling along with my GCSE in Spanish!

How do you go about advertising your services? Was there an initial apprehension or crisis of confidence when first telling people about your business?

Rebecca Freeman:
I advertise locally, and use word-of-mouth to find clients, although I've also had some clients find me online. I was lucky enough to do a short business course which offered a 12-month mentor program. I got some great advice and assistance, and it helped me learn about some of the pitfalls to look out for. I did feel apprehensive when I first began... I think everyone who starts their own business is worried that it will fail, but so far so good! And with every client, I learn something new and gain more experience - every job is different, and that's what keeps it interesting.

Magic & Musings:
Tell me about your plans for your PhD! Which writers inspire your fiction in particular?

Rebecca Freeman:
I'm so excited about the PhD! I'm doing my application for candidacy right now, so I'm feeling especially motivated as I lay out my plans and objectives. Creative PhDs tend to be a bit different from the more traditional research-a-topic-write-a-thesis type, with which most people are familiar. Mine will be in two parts: a novel of about 90,000 words, and an exegesis (basically a short thesis of about 30,000 words). The novel is in the steampunk genre and is set in the 1890s in Western Australia, in the town where I live. Albany was the first permanent European settlement in Western Australia, and there is some interesting history here. I'm going to focus on some of those historical aspects, such as whaling and the interaction between Indigenous Australians and the Europeans, but they'll take place in an alternative, steampunk universe.

I'm inspired by all sorts of different writers, both fiction and non-fiction. I think I used to be a bit of a snob in terms of valuing some work over others, you know, dismissing writing if it weren't 'literary' enough. But having written several stories, and now editing other writers' work, I just have a very deep respect for anyone who completes something, especially if they publish. Finishing a project is a powerful thing.

More recently I've been reading a lot of steampunk (of course!), and standouts in this genre include Paul di Fillipo and Stephen Harper Piziks. I've also just started The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato and I'm really enjoying it.

Magic & Musings:
Now, that sounds amazing. I'll definitely be reading it!

What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively? Are there any books on writing and creativity you would recommend to others?

Rebecca Freeman:
I tend to have a lot of projects on the go at once, usually a couple of short stories and at least two novels, which seems to help. That means if I'm bored or getting stuck with one, I can move onto something different. Getting away from writing entirely can also be worthwhile; I enjoy running, hiking, and gardening, and all involve doing something quite separate from writing, but still spending a lot of time in my head. Sometimes I nut out a problem while I'm running or pulling weeds, but just having a break to think about other things is good. I really love where we live, so being outside is important to me, and probably important for my mental and physical health, too. I always feel better when I've been in the fresh air, away from the computer screen.

I remember finding On Writing (Stephen King) very helpful when I read it, probably ten years ago now. I think I was looking for some kind of instruction book to tell me how to write, but in the end, I realised that to be a writer, all you really need to do is write (and read, of course)! Having the confidence to do that took me a while to find, though.


Magic & Musings:
Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done? A specific hot drink? A relaxing album?

Rebecca Freeman:
Even though I have a study/writing space set aside, where I can close the door off to the rest of the house, I tend to do a lot of my work sitting on the floor! I'm sure this has absolutely nothing to do with how messy my study seems to get (apparently it's the dumping ground for everyone else's stuff...). But I do love having an area which is just 'mine', and I feel very at peace there (the mess notwithstanding).

On the days when all our children are out at school/kindergarten, Adam and I take our work to a park, where we drink tea and eat chocolate biscuits and write (he draws). I write by hand when I'm out of the house, and the change in pace helps, as does the act of simply writing on paper. I like being able to turn pages! If it's too rainy, we head to one of our favourite local cafes, or the library. Being away from home is good for my productivity, even if I don't necessarily write a lot when I'm out. It's a time when I'll discuss plot or character problems with Adam, and often we can work it out together.

I'm a HUGE fan of tea, and so most of the time, when I sit down to write, it'll be with an enormous mug of tea (usually Lady Grey).

Magic & Musings:
Tea certainly makes the world go round. I'm partial to a peppermint, personally.

What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Rebecca Freeman:
For goodness' sake, take some time off now and then! The world won't fall apart if you have a nap on Sunday afternoon.

Magic & Musings:
I truly believe naps are the foundation that hold my life together. I don't know where I would be without them! So, what are your goals for the future of your copy-editing business?

Rebecca Freeman:
I'd like to continue finding clients from a variety of backgrounds - I feel so lucky that I've been able to work with clients from all over the world, with different views and stories. It's just a blast. I'd also love to get my business to a point where I could hire someone else to assist in the editing, because it would mean I'd be able to take on more interesting work. Right now, it's hard when I have to say 'no' to really wonderful stories or dissertations, just because I don't have the time.

Magic & Musings:
And time for a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Rebecca Freeman:
I've just finished A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston, and I loved it. Memoirs are a funny genre...too many fine details and they become boring. But this was so riveting, and much of what he says about acting applies to the creative arts in general. I was sad when I finished it!

I watched Complete Unknown a few weeks ago, and it's been in the back of my mind ever since. I love Rachel Weisz in films and I also thought the premise was great... and it made me wonder about the kinds of stories we tell about ourselves, what truths we choose to share with new people we meet.

As for music, it's not that new, but I can't get enough of Imagine Dragons' Night Visions and I've also been listening to a fair bit of Nero's Between II Worlds. For a bit of a slower pace at night, I'm fond of Vince Jones' Trustworthy Little Sweethearts. It reminds me of listening to it through headphones while I was studying as a teenager and in my 20s.

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish?

Rebecca Freeman:
Art is amazing. How lucky we are to live in a world where it exists. And thanks so much for the opportunity to answer all these questions! It's been heaps of fun.

Magic & Musings:
How can people find our more about you and your work?

Rebecca Freeman:
If they have some work they need editing, I'd love for them to get in touch! Meeting new people and getting to know them through their writing is pretty special. I offer a range of different services, from simple feedback to detailed content editing, and I'm very flexible with payment plans (I know first-hand how hard it is to make money from your art!). People can visit me on my website or they can email me at postscriptediting@gmail.com, and they can also find me on Twitter @path_ethic.


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interview

Interview: Ariel Bissett on YouTube, Making Zines, and Portrait of a Freelancer

12:00 pm


Where do I even begin? Ariel Bissett is a Canadian Youtuber and freelancer living in London, creating zines, a podcast, poetry, videos, all sorts of wonderful art, and soon, short films. For me, she's such a delight to watch, as she speaks with passion about everything she comes across, and isn't afraid to dabble with anything. Her videos and podcasts are incredibly engaging, and her art is poignant, but fun. I can't wait for you to meet her if you haven't already, because her attitude and creations will help you breathe life into your own ideas without you even realising. 



Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Ariel! First of all, for any readers who don't know your background, tell me a little bit about yourself and where you are today.

Ariel Bissett:
Hey, Magic and Musings! My name is Ariel Bissett and six years ago I decided to start a YouTube channel to share my love of reading with other bookish people. During those six years I surpassed 100k subscribers, I've gotten an English degree, I've found a new love for making zines, and I've gotten to speak at events like VidCon and Book Expo!

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into creating YouTube videos? Was there something that drove you to do it?

Ariel Bissett:
I was sixteen when I filmed my first video, and I haven't stopped since. I was in high school and I didn't have any friends who were into reading as much as I was (or, at least, I didn't know of anyone who was into reading as much as me!) and when I accidentally stumbled onto some book reviews on YouTube I knew I wanted to be a part of it. For me it started purely out of the want to create something, share my ideas, and be a part of a community.

Magic & Musings:
Moving on to some of the specifics of what you get up to, what was your first introduction into the world of zines and what about them made you want to create them yourself?

Ariel Bissett:
Hilariously, my mum found a zine I made when I was around seven years old about a snowman, but I didn't call them zines then. I've always been making little booklets and stories, I just didn't know there was an awesome community behind it! I learned about zines in one of my classes at university, but it wasn't until two years later when I decided to try and make one. And then I was hooked!

Magic & Musings:
I'm the same! I remember spending so much of my childhood making booklets about literally ANYTHING. So, what makes a good zine in your opinion? What are some of your favourites and are there any we should keep our eye out for?

Ariel Bissett:
The whole point of zines is that they're ALL amazing! Personally, I actually don't think the content matters that much - it's more about the creator's drive and enthusiasm to make something that they care about come to life. The whole world of self-publishing really excites me! Two of my favourite zines are Chump by Seán O'Reilly and Missing by George Muncey.


Magic & Musings:
George is wonderful! I can't wait to check out his zine, but I already love his photography and YouTube channel, so I know I'm going to love it. Now tell me a little about your podcast, Portrait of a Freelancer! I'm really enjoying hearing about your experiences so far, and it's been the last kick up the butt I needed to declare myself as beginning the freelance journey.

Ariel Bissett:
I'm so excited to hear that! While thinking up an answer to your question I had a little bit of an epiphany: I think I've started my podcast for the exact same reason I started my YouTube channel all those years ago. I wanted to surround myself in a community I'm excited about and I wanted to share my ideas and experiences. I have a lot of freelancer friends, but they all live in different cities or countries, so this podcast is giving me a way to communicate with other freelancers. I also think it's so valuable to share your process with others so that everyone can know that it isn't easy for anyone: we're all going to make mistakes.

Magic & Musings:
Did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place where you could share your words, videos, podcast episodes, or any of your work?

Ariel Bissett:
This is a tough one. I've never been afraid of public speaking or of sharing my ideas, so my hesitation to post content doesn't come from that angle, but as my audience has grown I have definitely started to worry more and more that I'm going to offend someone or be misunderstood. The key for me is to not rush: if I spend time putting in the work and making sure I'm proud of it, I know I can release it out into the world and feel okay!

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your work, what are you the proudest of and why?

Ariel Bissett:
You're going to make me pick?! (Yes, because I am pure evil.) I'm very proud of a lot of my projects, from my simple discussion videos like "Not A Proper Reader?", to my poem "Thigh Gaps and Other Traps" (Seriously people, watch this amazing video!), to my zines! I think I'm just really proud to be an advocate for reading and creativity. But also, I think I have some great projects in the works that might be some of my proudest achievements!

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying or non-binary artists and their work. Which writers and bloggers, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Ariel Bissett:
Because I'm sure you don't want this list to go on for too long, some of the ladies that have really inspired me are: Leena Norms (The best.), who is clever and inquisitive and confident, Estée Lalonde, who is so full of grace and savvy and shows me what hard work can achieve, Sanne Vliegenthard, who is incredibly generous and open and a never-ending fountain of kindness, and Alli Cherry, who has taught me how important it is to embrace yourself, be comfortable in yourself, and how great it feels to take care of the planet!


Magic & Musings:
You've just named a whole bunch of people I adore too! Now, I know you spoke a little bit about this on your podcast, but for those who don't know, do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to?

Ariel Bissett:
If I need to get to work, like really get to work, I have to put on jeans. For some reason it makes me feel like "OKAY, ARIEL, IT'S PRODUCTIVITY TIME!" But generally no, I seem (at least so far) to be able to work anywhere. (Mainly from my bed...)

Magic & Musings:
I ALWAYS work from my bed, so no judgement here.

What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively? Are there any books on writing and creativity you would recommend to others?

Ariel Bissett:
If I could make every creative person read a book it would be Show Your Work by Austin Kleon (I love Austin's other book Steal Like an Artist!). That book opened me up so much and made me so excited to be creative! And if I find myself in a rut? I just move on to a different project! I don't want to waste time stressing about something if it isn't working. I just pick something else and keep going.

Magic & Musings:
Is there a medium you would really like to experiment working with next?

Ariel Bissett:
I'm really interested in doing more stuff with digital tools. I'd love to make a Twitter bot and I have a cool idea for an ebook!

Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Ariel Bissett:
No one is going to be surprised, but I definitely think that you should have Lorde's 'Green Light' on repeat right now (Trust me, I already do!). As for a movie, have you seen Captain Fantastic?! It will make you a better person, SERIOUSLY GO WATCH IT. And ahhhh books. I think you should go pick up So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (A fantastic read.). If you're reading this it means you're on the internet and this book needs to be read by everyone who uses the internet.

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? What's on the horizon for you in the next few months?

Ariel Bissett:
Thanks for having me! You can find me on most social medias under Ariel Bissett, and as for upcoming things...all I'll say is that I'm trying my hand at my first ever short film!

--

Enjoying this series? Want to keep it going? Consider supporting me on Patreon for lots more exciting things in the future. Find out more here.

film

Mason Weaver, the character I needed

12:00 pm

Photo Credit: Legendary Pictures
This post contains spoilers for Kong: Skull Island, so if you haven't seen it or just don't want to be spoiled, don't read on!

There's a moment where I, and probably a lot of other people, feared the worst. She is face on with Kong, alone. The pretty blonde and the monster. We all knows what happens next in Kong-lore. She's picked up, kidnapped, and carried off, to be saved later by the men in her life. But there's a brief pause in this film as the two characters face one another. The pause is a little longer than you would expect. It makes me think, I wonder if the filmmakers did this on purpose, to make us remember the story. To make us remember what usually happens. We anticipate it, the hand reaching out, grabbing her as she screams, but it never happens. Kong leaves, and there we have it. The female lead in a Kong movie, not the damsel, not the film star waiting for her hero, but Mason Weaver. An equal.

I know we're still only at that place where we have one or two 'token' females in the line-up for Hollywood movies (unless they're 'women's movies', but that's another post altogether) (also, yeah, there was only really one other woman in this film, a biologist played by Chinese actor Jing Tian, and she didn't have a lot of lines), but when they're treated like just another character, it really is comforting. You don't have to spend your film-going experience picking apart the jokes aimed towards female characters, the lingering shots on their bodies as the male characters look on, the way they're shoved towards the back when the real excitement of the plot happens. No. We're getting women on the front line, quite literally in the case of Weaver.

This is a bit of a half-post because I don't have much else to say. I just wanted to put that thought out there. The thought that we now live in a world where Mason Weaver exists on the screen. The more I become aware of these characters, the most I've seen that they've been there all along, and it's almost like we've gone through the darkness, to get back to the place we were before. Dr Ellie Sattler and Lex Murphy in Jurassic Park. Ellen Ripley in Alien. Where did we go wrong, and why has it taken us so long to get back?

P.S. I was going to go back to the cinema to see Kong again and take some more notes, but they stopped showing it after only a month. I'm disappointed, but maybe there'll be a follow-up post once it's released on home media. Plus I need to see that giant spider crush that man again. It was brutal.

P. P. S. How good was it to see a character that was a photographer and actually TOOK PHOTOS????? Unheard of.

interview

Interview: Emilia Buggins on Freelance Design, Being a Night Owl, and Sticking To Your Guns

12:00 pm


Welcome to another episode of whatever I end up deciding to call this interview series! Today I'm chatting to Emilia Buggins, a freelance art director and designer from London, with an incredibly diverse range of styles and a lovely work ethic. She's also a dab hand with a camera and has the sweetest little sausage dog I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot of sausage dogs in my time. If you want to hear more about working for the freelance dream, some inspirational female designers, and basically just want to get to know the lovely Emilia better, get to reading!


Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Emilia! First of all, for any readers who don't know your background, tell me a little bit about yourself.

Emilia Buggins:
It's a pleasure and of course! My name is Emilia Buggins and I'm a creative graphic designer-cum-art director. I illustrate and love playing with photography and video too. Variety is the spice of life after all. Last year I finally made the jump from being permanent at an advertising agency while working my own side hustle, to full-time freelance life. 100% no regrets, will full ambitions to take it all the way up to 11. I'm half Finnish, half British, and I'm pretty inspired by the unconventional simplicity and sisu of Finnish design and culture. I haul from the 'sunshine coast' of the UK but I live in London with my boyfriend and my sausage dog, Piggy, who is definitely the most popular personality of us all, and most certainly the cutest.

Magic & Musings:
Piggy is too adorable! Now, if you could describe your design style in three words, what would they be?

Emilia Buggins:
Quirky, colourful, and elegant.

Magic & Musings:
I think they all work perfectly! When did you first get into design? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby? If you did study it formally, would you say this was a good or bad experience regarding allowing your creativity to flourish?

Emilia Buggins:
I would say I first got into design as a kid but I just didn't know what it was. I would always be drawing or making things and once I discovered graphic design was a thing as a teenager, it all sort of fell into place. I did my A-Levels, followed by a foundation year where I decided to apply to Central St Martins for my BA. I had gone to an open day and fallen in love with the beautiful old building and the honesty of the course director. Magically I got accepted and I would say that it was a really good experience in terms of creativity. Everyone on the course had been top of their class - which was as intimidating as it was inspiring, but it was a really supportive atmosphere. We were set briefs every two weeks for the whole of the three years, each time you had to research, develop a response to the project, and create the outcome. It pushed you to really think conceptually and the whole learning process there was very independent, which is something I loved, probably why freelance life suits me to the T. You could build the course around what you were interested in. I wish more knowledge of the real world had been imparted but I wouldn't change my experience there for the world.



Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Emilia Buggins:
What a good question. I guess I tend not to think about gender when I look for inspiration and am usually inspired by people's processes more than anything. But I do have my female design heroes and creatives I admire and aspire to be like. I love the work of Paula Scher at Pentagram who has to be the most badass female designer in the industry. In the world of advertising you have Cindy Gallop who is just incredible. I also recently saw Grey London's CCO Vicki Maguire talk, who was the most down to earth person I've seen speak. She also owns a sweet shop! Work-wise I'll also look back at the same people for inspiration: Designers Ro&Co, Lotta Nieminen, Sagmeister & Walsh, Hvass & Hannibal, and Vicki Turner. I'm also surrounded by some incredible female friends who are just killing it right now. They're probably the most inspiring and motivating people of all.

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your designs, which are you the happiest with and why?

Emilia Buggins:
I'm not sure I can pick! I love all of them for different reasons. I guess the work I'm happiest with has been the projects for people/companies who are doing amazing things to benefit the world or people in some way. I work very closely with a modern pharmaceutical brand called Sagitta which is looking to provide products and tips which take a preventative approach to health. I love the idea that this brand could really help people in the long run and encourage them to be active participants in their health through easily-accessible information and the best products. I also worked closely with Yellow Bird Project to create cool things where the profits would go to charities. And I recently worked on a branding project for a vegan burger company. I might not be vegan myself but I do understand the impact that animal agriculture has on the environment, so it's a good feeling being able to work on a project that encourages people to make a kind choice for the planet, even if it's just a little one.


Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I'm really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album you listen to?

Emilia Buggins:
My favourite time to do work is about 10 at night, and I can happily crack on with things 'til about 3am. I just adore the peace and alone time that comes with darkness and find I can focus so much clearer than any other point in the day. When I can't do that, because the rest of the world doesn't work like that, I rely on a solid cup of tea, just slightly milkier in colour than a standard cup (with oat milk), and a moderately organised workspace to get me through. I also go through phases of listening to music or the 'How I Built This' podcast on NPR or having Netflix or TED talks on in the background, depending on how I'm feeling and how much of my brain is required.

Magic & Musings:
Podcasts are pretty much my number one way of getting work done and feeling motivated. There's so many amazing ones to choose from, and I'll be definitely adding 'How I Built This' to my list. Moving on a bit, what do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Emilia Buggins:
Take a break - go for a walk with Pig, work on a different project, talk to my mum, clean, read, have a bath, give my mind an evening of rest. But never for too long as it's so easy to lose momentum and not so easy to start back up once you've paused for too long.


Magic & Musings:
That's basically the same as my list when I'm feeling a little stuck. Having a bath is a surefire way to get me back on track.

What are your favourite tools you use to create your illustrations? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?

Emilia Buggins:
I don't really have a set style for illustration. Typically I'll try and think of what is most appropriate to the brief and then I'll have a go at it. However I am most comfortable with watercolours and pencil drawing, or using Illustrator to see how I can blend fluid lines and flat coloured shapes, and I also love playing around with photos and seeing how they can be messed around with.

Foe things to read there is a very, very handy post on Jessica Hische's website on The Dark Art of Pricing which I found super useful. For motivation I love reading The Great Discontent as it's very inspiring. Also perhaps this isn't necessarily about creativity but Patti Smith's Just Kids and the Steve Jobs biography are very motivating, brilliant reads for their approaches to work alone.

Magic & Musings:
Just Kids has that same effect on me. Patti's approach to work is inspiring, and her world sounds so beautiful.

Have you ever explored working in another medium?

Emilia Buggins:
Only during college really. Part of an art foundation is to discover what areas you might be interested in just by trying them. I suck at textiles, I can't use a sewing machine to save my life much to the dismay of my mum - I am in awe of people who can. I quite enjoyed working with glass and ceramics but really graphics is where I feel at home and it's a place where many mediums can come into play.


Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?

Emilia Buggins:
I think the internet has been the most amazing thing for me, without it I definitely wouldn't be able to do what I do. Social media has been great for building a network but the main thing for me has simply been email. It's meant I could work with people I've never even met in real life on some really lovely projects. I find the process of working through email simplifies getting briefs too. Often I've found if there's a discussion in real life that a lot of the items discussed will be forgotten or not clarified, whereas with writing you have the time to think and make clear what needs to be achieved.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Emilia Buggins:
I came to realise a couple of years ago that there are many ways to the top. Some ways will be faster, some more scenic, but there's always a way. As long as you stick to your guns you can reach any point you are shooting for. The only reason anyone really achieves success is because they don't give up. I wish I had realised that earlier as I probably wouldn't have been so tough on myself.


Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Emilia Buggins:
I read Shonda Rhimes' Year of Yes at the start of the year and it was very motivating. I'm also reading a book by a lady who didn't spend anything for a year and it's been making me consider how much money I could save, which I think is wise for anyone in this day and age. 

The Get Down on Netflix is amazing. New York in the 1970s just as disco was at its peak and the rise of hip-hop began. Baz Luhrmann magic and ten years of research and work went into getting that show made and it's incredible.

I'm a music nerd who has been getting a bit bored recently which is sad, but the music that's been getting my groove is by a small London band called Zola Blood. I went to see them play and they were extremely good live. Highly recommended listening.

Magic & Musings:
Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Emilia! Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Emilia Buggins:
I guess the only thing I might want to add is advice for anyone considering freelancing or starting their own business. I would 100% recommend it but I would also say to do it smartly. Get the struggle out of the way while you have some solid income to rely on - build up contacts, work and save up an emergency fund, put the word out that you're looking for things to do and eventually it will happen.

If anyone wants to find out more you can check out my website. I try to update my portfolio and blog when I have time. Also Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. And if anyone is in London and wants to have a chat or meet a cute pup, I'm always up for tea!

Thanks so much for having me.

--

Enjoying this series? Want to keep it going? Consider supporting me on Patreon for lots more exciting things in the future. Find out more here.

review

teatourist March Subscription Box*

12:00 pm


* teatourist are such a lovely bunch and sent me another of their subscription boxes with no obligation to review, but you know me, I love to write about things I enjoy! *

Another month passes, and another selection of gorgeous teas pops through the letterbox...

Rose & Strawberry Red Bush from The Spice Kitchen - The first I tried, and an absolute dream. This is perfect for a little sweet kick, and very spring-like. Containing rooibos, thistle and rose petals, blackberry leaves, and strawberries, this is caffeine-free and a real treat for your sweet tooth. I left this to steep for a little longer than the prescribed three minutes and the flavour ended up having a lovely kick to it. I'll definitely be making another pot of this soon.

Turmeric Root Chai from The Chai Kai Tea Company - A fancy chai tea containing coconut flakes, calendula and sunflower petals, and turmeric has a floral, citrus taste to perk you up in the morning. I gave this to my mum to try as I'm not a huge fan of turmeric (and she is!); she says it's like drinking hot cross buns, which sounds like a positive review to me!

Mulled Apple Brandy from Nothing But Tea - A white tea complimented by bits of apple, cinnamon, and mullein flowers: how festive-sounding!

Wilderness Honeybush from Leopard Friendly - A caffeine-free 100% honeybush tea which helps to fund the Cape Leopard conservation in South Africa's Kouga Mountains. It's low in tannins so you can't overbrew it (magic words for me who always forgets there's tea brewing). I really enjoyed the unique flavour of this one, and it's a super dark orange colour!

Honey Lemon Morning Blend from Teagime - This is a detox rooibos tea, flavoured with lemongrass, bee pollen, elderflower, elderberry, and liquorice root. I like any sort of tea that's marketed to be had in the morning!

Chocolate Orange from Nelson & Norfolk Tea Company - I first tried this when I had a huge cold, so really wasn't a fan of the flavour thanks to my messed-up taste buds. What's not to love about black tea flavoured with cocoa nibs and orange blossom? I'll soon be trying this again, when my body decides to co-operate...

Lookie at all of this amazing tea! And want to know the best part? I've got a discount code for you all to use to get 30% off your first box when you start a 'month-to-month' subscription with teatourist (which can be cancelled or paused at any time!). If you want this discount, use the code MAGIC30 at checkout and you can discover some wonderful new teas, too.


If you missed my last post, or just want to know a little more about teatourist, here goes!

Teatourist is a fantastic way to discover new teas from specialist companies all across the country that you may not have otherwise heard of. In each monthly box, teatourist select one of their bestselling teas and pops it in the box for us lucky folk to try. Every month will treat you to different teas from different companies. As you can see in March I received a few redbush teas, which I didn't have the previous month, so it's a wonderful way to discover new tastes. Each sample gives you about four cups, so that's a whole lotta tea-love to share. 

You can choose between a rolling subscription (£15), fixed 3 or 6 month ones (£40/72), or purchase a one-off if you just want to give it a try (£15). Easy squeezy. Free delivery and usually ship around the 20th of each month, but if you're ordering a one-off you'll get it within three working days.

Each tea comes with a mini profile telling you where it's from, what it tastes like, how much you need, and how to brew it. You can really tell these people care about their tea being made properly!

You can find teatourist on their website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or follow along with their official hashtag #beateatourist

Don't forget to use the code MAGIC30 at checkout to get 30% off your order!

interview

Interview: Carrie Poppy on Investigative Journalism, Podcasts, and Filling Yourself Up Creatively

12:00 pm


Someone embroider this interview for me on a pillow so I can gaze at it when I'm feeling uninspired. 

Today I'm sharing with you the absolute joy that has been interviewing Carrie Poppy, journalist, podcaster, writer, performer extraordinaire. I'm pinching myself because, honestly, Carrie was on my list of 'people to reach out to when you're feeling a little too confident' and, by god, she was so kind and answered all of my questions right away. For the uninitiated, Carrie co-hosts one of my favourite podcasts (we all know I'm a podcast fiend), Oh No, Ross and Carrie, writes about science and belief, and is an all-round interesting, hilarious, and hard-working person. I urge you to read on and find out more. Hopefully you'll come out of it feeling as inspired and uplifted as I did reading through her answers for the first time. 


Magic & Musings:
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Carrie! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do?

Carrie Poppy:
Sure. My name is Carrie Poppy, I'm a writer, journalist, and podcaster. A lot of the work I do centers around the subject of belief (religious, spiritual, metaphysical, alt-medical, and more). My favorite project is my podcast Oh No, Ross and Carrie, where I and my co-host, Ross, join fringe spiritual groups, undergo freaky alternative medical treatments, and examine any extraordinary claims that come our way. I also write and speak on the intersection of science and belief for various outlets and events around the world. Most recently, my TEDxVienna talk on science and the paranormal was featured on Ted.com. Some people call me a 'skeptic', although I don't like that word, so I don't usually use it. I like to think of myself more as an evidence-lover. I also have a dog named Ella, who is very, very cute.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into writing and journalism? Is this something you've been formally trained in?

Carrie Poppy:
Journalism sort of fell into my lap. If I had to pick two central aspects of my personality, they are empathy and curiosity. I don't mean the empathy part as a self-compliment -- I think I've given people the benefit of the doubt when it didn't make sense, and I think I've failed to give people the benefit of the doubt when I should have -- but generally, I tend to assume that everyone is trying their best. And I am an intensely curious person, always wanting to know more about what people believe and why. I now realize these are two characteristics that I see in most good reporters: they always want to know more, and they are able to step into other people's shoes with little effort. So, in that way, I was built for it. But I didn't plan on becoming a journalist. I started doing the podcast, and after a couple of years of it, editors started paying me to write articles about the same stuff I was reporting on, on the show. And I thought, "Oh, wait, did I accidentally become a journalist?" That's when I decided to make it official and earn my master's in journalism. I got a full scholarship to the USC Annenberg master's program in journalism, and graduated in 2015.

Magic & Musings:
When you first started sharing what you'd written with those around you, did you find yourself having to overcome any hurdles regarding your confidence?

Carrie Poppy:
Hm. No. Is that terrible? (No! Not at all!) I guess I always knew I was a good writer and a good public speaker/performer. Now I look back at some things I wrote years ago, or episodes we made early on, and I cringe at them. Perhaps more modesty was in order. But whatever keeps you producing is good. The only guaranteed failure of a project is the one you never finished.


Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary creatives and their work. Which female journalists and writers, if any, would you say have been influences on your work or inspire you the most?

Carrie Poppy:
This is a great question. The women writers whose work inspire me the most are: Naomi Klein (her book, No Logo, had a huge impact on my life and buying practices, Sarah Vowell (the wittiest woman alive), Mary Road (whose book Spook had an enormous effect on me as I was reconsidering my own beliefs in the paranormal), Rebecca Watson (who vlogs about science and women's rights in the news, and is biting and funny), and my girl, Gloria Steinem. Not everyone likes Gloria, but I LOVE Gloria. She started out as a journalist, and became an activist and organizer. She is an engaging and warm writer, and she inspires me every time I read her. I have a framed photo of her looking out over my freaking bed. When my boyfriend shows people our bedroom, he likes to joke that if he were single, he would look like he was trying too hard.


Magic & Musings:
Tell me a little more about your podcast, Oh No, Ross and Carrie! It's one of my favourites that I always jump straight on when there's a new episode.

Carrie Poppy:
Aw, thank you! I love hearing that. The show centers around investigations of fringe science, spirituality, and claims of the paranormal. My friend Ross and I try out anything that makes an extraordinary claim. That might mean getting fire-cupped on our backs until we're both black and blue (did it) or getting Reiki for injuries and migraines (did it) or looking for ghosts on the Queen Mary with various "scientific" equipment (did it) or going to the Kabbalah Center for their introductory lectures (did it), or even joining Scientology undercover for three months (yup!) The show's been on for six years now, and our investigations are getting more exciting every year. We have some really fun stuff planned in the next few months.

Readers of your site might be interested in the business side of the show. We started out with a $0 budget, and we recorded episodes on the floor of my North Hollywood apartment, then. I didn't even own a table. In those early episodes, you can hear my dogs running around on the floor and wind knocking through the very thin walls. We had two $40 USB microphones, and that was all we could spend money on. I remember back in those days, I was stoked when we got 50 downloads for the first episode. I thought, "That has to mean strangers are downloading the show! I didn't tell 25 people about it, and I doubt Ross did either!" Sheer hard work and passion for the subject kept us going for three years, growing that audience into thousands. Each episode of our show takes between twenty and eighty hours for each of us, and sometimes more, so those years of not being paid were brutal. In our third year, Lindsay Pavlas at Maximum Fun spotted us and recommended us to Jesse Thorn as a potential podcast for the network. We signed on with them, and continued growing with the support of the incredible MaxFun family and our sponsors. Last month, we got half a million downloads in that month alone. We've been lucky, of course, but we've also worked our asses off. Neither of us is making riches off the show (in face, we need more members this month for MaxFunDrive!), but we feel very lucky to be working on a show that people love.




Magic & Musings:
What's been your favourite investigation for the show, and why? I imagine Scientology was pretty special but I know there have been some other eventful ones that are probably particularly memorable.

Carrie Poppy:
The Mormons always stick out in both our minds as a favorite because they were so kind to us even after they realized what we were up to. After six months undercover with them, taking classes, getting baptized, and joining the church, we told them we were actually hosts of a podcast, and would be reporting on everything that had happened. They responded something along the lines of, "Well, you say a podcast brought you here, but we think God brought you here. And you're always welcome here." That blew me away. I actually used it as an example in a talk I gave on what everyone can learn from Mormon outreach.

Other favorites that come to mind: The Aetherius Society (absolutely delightful people), Laughter Yoga (gut-busting, good fun), The Raëlians, ghost hunting on the Queen Mary, and yes, definitely Scientology.

Magic & Musings:
I'm interested in knowing how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done? A specific hot drink? A relaxing album?

Carrie Poppy:
I just bought a little $2 piece of art that I found that says, "Don't spend time on it. Spend time in it." And I thought, "Yeah! That's exactly it!" For me, I have to totally release control and immerse myself in something to get it done. This interview right here is an example. If I had tucked it away when I received it, I might never have gotten to it, or kept thinking about doing it, 'til it gnawed at me like a chore. Instead, I decided to do it right away, give it my full attention, and intentionally enjoy it. Treat it as an opportunity to think about the questions and get new answers, myself. That kind of attitude is the only way I get things done.

There's also a book by Anne Lamott called Bird by Bird that's for writers, and is wonderful. If you're a writer, at least read the chapter on writer's block. That was the most powerful and important part, for me. She says that when you can't write, it's not because you're "stuck"; it's because you are empty. Give yourself permission to fill yourself up! Go see art, go be among puppies, go experience joy. That's not cheating; it's creating the space where you can work again, because you're filling yourself back up. That change in perspective is what has made it much easier for me to be creative and productive.

But that's all theoretical, and your question was much more pragmatic. Practically speaking, the best place for me to get work done is in a big comfortable chair, either facing my desk, or with my laptop in my lap so I can face my balcony and look at the birds who visit me every day. I also sometimes take my laptop and walk about a mile and a half to my public library, and work there, and get my 10,000 steps on the way there and back, to boot.

Any hot drink will do, except those bullshit decaf herbal teas that are really just hot fruit juice. If I wanted that, I'd sit on a juice box.

Magic & Musings:
What do you do when you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Carrie Poppy:
See above about filling yourself up. For me, it's playing with my dog, watching movies that inspire me, reading books and plays that are really good (usually new ones, sometimes ones I've read) and planting seeds. I get really intensely weird and hippyish about seeds. You plant them in the ground and they just BECOME PLANTS? This shit is going on all around us! This is alchemy. 




Magic & Musings:
If there was one thing you could say to the world if you knew everyone was listening, what would it be and why?

Carrie Poppy:
"You can probably save way more lives than you are currently bothering to save. You can save hundreds of animal lives and dozens of human lives a year with very small changes in your personal life. Eat less meat, give money away. Don't overthink it. That's always worse than just giving it away. If you're one of the people who needs to receive aid, not give it, then I'm sorry, and know that you are deserving and worthy as you are."

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Carrie Poppy:
"Nut graphs are really important. You look like you don't know what you're doing if you don't have nut graphs." (Also, "the guy you're dating is a dangerous con man with a secret life, so get out of that," but that's not that applicable for other people, so...nut graphs).

Magic & Musings:
Fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Carrie Poppy:
Sure. The best book I read in the last year was When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. It's a memoir by a surgeon who discovers that he has a rare, terminal cancer at a very young age, just as his wife becomes pregnant with their first child. The two of them face birth and death at once, and the prose is beautiful in a way I can't possibly do justice. Read it.

As for films, everyone has got to check out Holy Hell on Netflix" It's an amazing documentary about a cult called The Buddhafield with an extraordinary story. The director was himself a former member, and he even confronts his former leader within the documentary. It's very powerful stuff, and the filmmaking is creative, yet never overproduced. I watched it twice in two days.

Oh no, music. I am never up on new music, so I will recommend you listen to the only thing I ever listen to in my car: Lemonade.

I think you only wanted recent things, but if you were looking for my favorite book, movie, song, and album, then it's A Prayer for Owen Meany, Magnolia/The Graduate, 'Moon River', and The Mountain Goats' 'Heretic Pride'. My favorite TV shows are The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and I Love Lucy in that order, and my favorite color is orange. I LOVE favorites, but most of my favorite things were made before I was born.

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? Anything exciting we should look out for in the future?

Carrie Poppy:
Find our show on iTunes and at maximumfun.org!

Since this outlet is mostly for women, let me just say: if you think people are treating you differently because you're a woman, you're not imagining it. You're almost definitely right. Know that there are good people out there -- men included -- who are ready to listen and be good to you. I felt for a long time like I had to take that bullshit because what was the alternative? Now I have met enough good people to know, there is an alternative. It's to be loud and unrelenting about your rights, and the good people will surround you like dolphins and carry you to shore. Is that a thing that happens? If not, dolphins are weak.

--

Enjoying this series? Want to keep it going? Consider supporting me on Patreon for lots more exciting things in the future. Find out more here.

reading

Why are your favourite books your favourite books?

12:00 pm


I've had my blog for over three years now and I cannot for the life of me remember, or be bothered to search to find out, if I've ever written about my favourite books. So today, my birthday (!), I write to you about my favourite books. And instead of a boring list with no context, I thought I'd tell you a little about why I love each one, and what sets them apart from other books I've read. I can't really see a theme between them, so at least I can rest safe in the knowledge that my taste isn't predictable.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
This book shit me up real good, man. I know I'm supposed to be a writer, able to articulate thoughts and feelings, but, damn, this book shit me up real good. That's the only way to explain it. I've read scary books before, but none of them have made me feel as unnerved as Annihilation, and it's not even a horror, or a thriller. A group of four female explorers are sent off to explore Area X as the twelth exhibition in a series to find out what resides in this assumed uninhabited zone. You might think you can predict what's going to happen (Aliens? Mutant? Science experiments gone wrong?), but you really have no idea.

The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton
This is a bit of a strange one, a book on architectural psychology (yes, that is an actual genre, and a bit one at that), but there's something about it that really worked for me. It discusses the human need to create a world and home around them that reflects their ideals in order to be happy. I guess it's hard to explain why I like this one so much. It's an experience, with de Botton's signature writing style lulling you into comfort as he talks about ceilings and Doric columns 

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
Amanda Palmer's book is what you need to read if you're feeling out of control of your own life, and a little scared to take risks. The whole premise is to ask for things that you need, and not feel the shame of needing help. A self-help/memoir hybrid, Amanda speaks about her life in relation to this way of thinking, describing how it's gotten her where she is today. It's fascinating, very emotional, and deeply inspiring. I think I need to give it a reread.

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
This is a rather recent read compared to everything else on this list, but it's really stuck with me. You can read my review here, but to summarise, this is the story of three women in different time periods, and their links to the original story of Rapunzel. It's a dark read at times, but the way Kate Forsyth describes the settings of Versailles and rural Italy is so engrossing. Her characters aren't always good people, and that's what makes them so compelling as we're shown all of their emotions and motivations. It weaves realistic historical fiction with magic and fantasy; I need to read more of this genre!

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
This is one I read back in sixth form as part of my English A Level on gothic fiction, and it's stuck with me ever since. Carter writes dark and twisted feminist retellings of fairytales, laden of literary imagery and references to classic fiction. I would always recommend to someone to read this around Halloween. It's quick, it's fun, and it's devilishly eerie. Carter was just a superb writer.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Do you want to cry for the duration of a book? You do?! Okay, well pick up The Book Thief and get back to me. Liesel is a young girl in Germany who finds herself dropped off to a new set of parents during WWII. She finds comfort after stealing a book from the bottom of a book-burning heap, and is introduced to the world of reading by her Papa. At the same time, a young Jewish man is being hidden in her house, who she shares her stories with. The entirety of The Book Thief is narrated by Death, if you want an idea of how this is going to make you feel.

The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno
Billy Argo, the child detective, is sent into a depressive episode when his partner-in-crime, his sister Caroline, commits suicide. This story takes place ten years later, as Billy is leaving a home for 'Mental Incompetence' and seeks the answers to all of his questions about his sister's mental wellbeing and subsequent death. It's a sadly sweet little book that felt a lot like reading a Wes Anderson film as Billy befriends some nerdy children, a terrible pickpocketer, and works in telesales.

Death Note by Tsugami Oba
It wouldn't be a list of my favourite books without the series that got me into manga. Flashback to my teenage years and actually owning a Death Note backpack which I actually don't remember getting rid of. This series may have entered your consciousness thanks to the recent trailer for an American adaptation being released on Netflix. Pretend you never saw that and come back to me on the good side. We don't need them. Death Note follows a young student, Light, after he finds the 'Death Note' of a Shinigami (basically, a death god). Whoever's name gets written in the notebook will die. Light gets a little power-hungry, vowing to bring justice to the world, people catch on to everyone dying, everything becomes a detective story. That's the simple version. Trust me, it's a hell of a ride, and the anime is absolutely incredible. This is pretty much my favourite story...ever.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Hands down, my favourite book (yes, I know I just said Death Note was my favourite story, shh). We follow Aziraphale the angel and Crowley the demon who attempt to ruin the End Times that have been brought about by the birth of the son of Satan. They really like living quiet lives in the English countryside, so the End Times isn't ideal for them. There's a lot of plots going on at once, one involving the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, disguised as bikers. There's witchcraft galore, and a whole lot of sass. It's a hilarious read in typical Pratchett fashion, complemented by his own and Gaiman's fantastic world- and character-building. If you don't feel like reading, the BBC did a fab radio adaptation a few Christmases ago which is really worth a listen.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
I never thought there would be a play on my favourite books list, but Oscar Wilde was just a fantastic wordsmith and his wit was something to envy. There's something about 'mistaken identity' plotlines that I absolutely despise, but this one makes me cringe in the most enjoyable way. If you don't know anything about this story, I'm not going to give any of it away because, well, it's basically impossible to explain without just outlining the whole plot, so pick up a copy! It's short, and it's hilarious, like Danny DeVito.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
I like a lot of miserable books. This one is no exception. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth go to a boarding school for special children, and the novel outlines their lives growing up together, and how their relationships change as they become adults. It's a really emotional story with a lot of unexpected plot elements I won't give away to you here, but they really turn the book into something very different. Let's just say this is classified as 'dystopian' and we'll leave it there.

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud
Last but most certainly not least is a graphic novel from the grandmaster of comics, Scott McCloud. This chunky 500+ page volume details the experiences of artist David who makes a deal with Death. He can create whatever he wants with his hands, rekindling his love for art, but he will die after 200 days. Naturally during this time, he meets a girl and falls in love. You can feel the tragedy already, right? This is a stunning graphic novel, drawn in hues of blue, in a really formidable hardback.