Monday, 22 May 2017

It's that time of year again. . .

Leaving education? Going for an interview? Some points to consider.

"One morning, the eagerly awaited letter arrives on the doormat. You have been selected for an interview! Well Done! Full of excitement and anticipation you make a note in your diary and leave it at that. Right? Wrong! You have a lot of preparation to do before THE DAY."
Some point to consider when going for an interview.
Planning is essential.Who will be interviewing you? What questions will you be asked? What do you know about the organisation? What will you wear? Where will the interview be held? How will you get there?
Your letter inviting you for an interview should answer some of these questions but it is important to make a few notes. You need to know whom to ask for when you arrive. You need to be sure that you can get there in good time, so make sure that you plan your route and transport. Do you know which part of the building you should go to, who you must ask for, and what their position is? If you are driving there, do you know where the car park is and how far away from the building that you must go to.
"Check your letter and if needs be, ring up and ask for the department who sent out the letter and ask anything you are not sure about. If nothing else, it breaks the ice and gives you the opportunity to introduce yourself. You now become a person. Not just another name."
"You need to be sure that you can travel to work without any problems so it would be a good idea to do a dummy run beforehand if you can. If travelling by bus, check the bus timetables and any connections. If you live a distance from the organisation, they will want to be sure that you can get to work on time, especially if the job involves odd hours. It certainly would not do, in any case, to arrive late for the interview. It is much better to be self-sufficient and not rely on other people for getting to work.
Have you done some research about the organisation so that you can ask and answer questions?
"What kind of questions will you be asked? You will most certainly be asked why you want to work in the organisation, why you want the job or even what makes you think that you are suited for it. Have this information ready. You may be asked about the organisation, for instance; what they do. Have you researched on the Internet? Do you have some notes ready?" It is far better to have this information to hand when they ask the question.
First impressions count.
It is however not just an interview for the job, but for your future. A good rule is to dress for where you want to go to, what you want to be. Dress to impress is another maxim and very true as first impressions really do count.
Do you need a haircut?
Do this in good time to allow your hair to settle in afterwards. Make sure that you arrange your hair so that you can forget about it and not constantly fiddle with it. If it is long, don't constantly toss it back over your shoulders. Arrange it so that you don't have to do these annoying things and give the interviewer the impression that you would spend more time on your appearance than the job.
What will you wear?
Even if you are going for a manual job, a suit is never out of place. If you don’t have a suit and are unable to get one, a shirt and tie is an absolute must with a smart pair of trousers (male). You could then perhaps get away with a smart casual jacket. For the ladies, a suit is always suitable with a nice blouse—no low-cut tops please! No shirts or blouses with buttons straining and showing skin or underwear. Do your clothes need cleaning/washing/pressing? Get this organised in good time.
Do you need to take anything with you?
Have you got all your Certificates and/or Record of Achievements (School), or CPD Portfolio ready? Keep your certificates - the latest first - in a nice presentation folder or file.
Include your Curriculum Vitae (CV). The latest jobs/activities/ schools or colleges first. Do not include your date of birth and never your National Insurance Number. Your prospective employer can work out your age from your application form or CV. Your NI number is your identity and very personal. (If successful the payroll office will need it but it will be secure.)
If you have attended courses, have you kept a brief record of them together with what you did, what you learned from the course, and how you will use it? (This is called a Continuing Professional or Personal Development Portfolio (CPD). This not only shows your prospective employer that you have taken control of your own learning and development but that you will help the organisation to grow and develop and be an asset to it.
On the day of the interview.
Get up bright and early, have a good breakfast and with your head up, shoulders back, and a smile on your face, walk in to the interview with confidence. And come out with the job.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Background to Travel Writing.

Case History: The Long Leg of Italy: Explore with Just Us Two.

The travel-based books that I write are based on fact. Not so much a biography, they are more of a travelogue. But how do I make sure that what I write is authentic? How do I structure the ‘story’?

The Long Leg of Italy is a case in point. Unlike my first two books in the Just Us Two Travel series, which were quite straightforward in terms of chronological order, this one required some thought. 


I decided to start where our love affair with Italy began. This was many years ago when my husband and I ventured out independently to follow more of my dreams. He [said husband] had been adamant that he wasn’t having a party for our Silver Wedding but deemed that a ‘little trip’ would suffice. My imagination ran riot and, with the conviction that I wanted to go to Rome, I searched travel brochures on the quiet. With all aspects costed, I approached the subject warily stating that I wanted to go to Rome, and if there, well, Florence and Venice as well. After the shock had subsided – we had only been abroad twice and that as part of an organised group - and he had thought about it, it was all systems go.

Structure and research.

With all this in mind, when writing about Rome, Florence, Venice, and Sorrento, I delved into my elephantine and pictorial memory, searched out the pre-digital, copious photograph albums and, for reference to a later visit, the camcorder film that I had eagerly taken. 

I then began another journey; a very emotional journey as I retraced our steps, checked maps, checked Italian spellings on Google, and carried out Internet searches to verify details and gather expanded information. Of course, I saved all the web links for inclusion in a bibliography at the end – added value for the reader who wishes to explore more. 

The question that exercised my thoughts was: do I put both visits to the same  city into one topic area?; or do I simply 'tell it how it happened' in a chronological order. This last approach  was particularly relevant for Sorrento, which we first visited on our second tour of Italian cities. Not least because I had stated in Florence, when deciding to return five years hence,that we would reverse the trip, visiting Venice first, as after all the culture we would need a holiday. The difficulty was, how do I handle a subsequent second visit to Sorrento itself. I solved that by treating it as a second chapter.

I must share with you that in writing this huge part of The Long Leg of Italy, I was emotionally drained; the enormity of what we had not only undertaken and encountered as we travelled without guidance by train through the countryside between cities, but had also personally achieved, hit me; hard.

Many years later we again returned to tour this beautiful and diverse country. Although in the intervening years we had ridden into the north on our motorbike, this time we were safely with a travel company who would have all the information that we now liked to absorb and would be there if something went wrong. (Don’t forget that the middle-aged couple of the first visit are now considerably older!) We toured the south and Sicily before re-visiting the mountains and hidden lakes of the north a short while later. 

I decided to chat about this tour of the mountains and hidden lakes of Italy before the previous tour of the deep south. Why not keep it chronological? The answer lies in another book that was in the pipeline. As I was planning to write about the islands that we had visited over the years, it made sense to keep the Sicily part of this tour for that book; indeed, it was the perfect opening for Island Interludes.

Recording first-hand experiences.

On the tours, I took copious notes and recorded much information shared by the tour guide. Replaying the videos, especially our reverse second visit to Italy,, made me catch my breath when I realized what could have gone wrong - yet we simply decided that: ‘we can’. My study was awash with my collection of maps and guide books; my dog-eared Michelin guide came off the shelf to join the maps. I had also saved inconsequential things like the colourful entrance tickets to famous places, restaurant and cafĂ© bills (some in lire, some in euros) postcards, leaflets about places visited, the tickets from the Vatican to the Papal Audience in Rome and seats in St Peter’s Square on Easter Sunday, plane tickets. All these I resurrected from the photograph albums and the travel shelf. 

In order to clarify the actual dates, I found the calendar on the Internet and worked out  days from the dates on the plane and train tickets (Rome Florence and Venice). I was also thankful that I had categorized and recorded dates and places in the physical photograph albums. The later digital photographs, of course, have the date saved within the file details.

Bringing it all to fruition,

After making sure that the structure was right; after re-living the day-to-day events (especially the disasters on our independent traveller trips) I felt ready to select photographs for inclusion in the manuscript. I thought that it would bring the story alive.

After reaching the end of the first draft, it was time for another pair of eyes, confirmation that I had not missed anything out, confirmation of geographical facts and the disasters that had befallen us on the way. Hint: don’t pack a full-face Venetian mask with an enormous quantity of tissue paper - especially white tissue paper -  or Customs will pull you over with the suspicion that the solid white mass is something else; at least not if you are carefully carrying it. I won’t say more or else I will spoil the story. 

Cover images and design.

For the jacket cover, I wanted to show some of the diversity of the country while at the same time including the national colours. I settled for a photograph of the mountains in the Brenta Dolomites in the north east; the timeless scene of emerging from under the Academia Bridge on the Grand Canal in Venice - where the  of the white Basilica of Santa Maria Della Salute standing majestically at the point where the Grand Canal and the Guidecca Canal meet - greets you; and finally, a complete contrast. The Trulli houses in Alberobello in Puglia in the deep south. A green coloured outline map of the country overlaid on these photographs ,together with the addition of red lettering for the title, completed the front cover.

For the new hardcover format which is due out in June, I decided to put a photo on the back as well and apply some transparency (fade) so that the book information could be clearly seen by the reader. (This formatting for the jacket back has been applied to all the new hardcover formats.) I used a photo of the Dome of St Peter in Rome and carried it over the spine. My husband commented, 'we were right at the top of that!'. Yes, we made it without having a heart attack; thankful now that we had done it all while we were younger and fit.

Final thoughts.

The process that I have outlined is and has been for my other travel books and travel-based fiction. The Long Leg of Italy,  in particular, was a roller-coaster ride.

The Long Leg of Italy: Explore with Just Us Two 


Monday, 1 May 2017

New Glossy Case Laminate Hardcovers for Travel Books,

After weeks of being up with the lark, many hours of industry, and much TLC from my husband - who kept the wheels of 'the bus' oiled - we were pleased to receive the hardcover proof copies of the current three travel books and travel-based ORANGES.

Island Interludes, the fourth in the Just Us Two Travel series is in production.

It is now time to showcase them. Two have a completely new cover while they are all enhanced with a full page photo on the back underneath some transparency.

I chatted about ORANGES: A Journey in my last post:Exciting Times, Challenges and Deadlines.
The glossy, case laminate, hardcover, along with the other current titles has now come back as a physical proof copy for review.  The glossy case laminate hardcover with acid free paper inside exudes quality. ( I will have them on display at the Learning at Lunchtime - Carnival of Words event on Wednesday May 3rd.)

The first three Just Us Two hardcover titles and ORANGES are due for release on June 6th. Island Interludes will be released in September. All are available for pre-order at your local bookstore or online. Details of ISBN's are on the website in Rosalie's Bookstore.

Can you guess where the photos on the back covers were taken?