My night at Red Magazine’s Book Club

Over a year ago I was invited to an ‘Author Master-Class’ hosted by Cosmopolitan Magazine. Authors including Lindsey Kelk and Victoria Fox were on hand to answer questions from a keen audience made up of aspiring authors, avid Cosmo readers and wannabe bloggers. Being all three I found the event highly enjoyable and inspirational but throughout it I was also terrified. I spent the event cowering in the corner, avoiding the free champagne and canapés and feeling completely out of my depth. I didn’t feel like I belonged in a room of such incredible women.

At the time I had a roughish idea for a first novel, I was temping in the city, tirelessly trying to find a job I actually enjoyed and living with my in-laws. During the Q&A I somehow plucked up the courage to ask an author a question. I can’t quite remember how I phrased it, or the answer (I was too nervous to really take it all in) but overall I found the evening a bit daunting.

So when I received an invite from Hearst to a similar event over a month ago the first though that came to mind is how far I’ve come since last year’s event and how I hardly recognise that timid (believe it or not), career jealous, young woman. The invite was to Red Magazine’s Book Club event hosted by novelist Esther Freud. I admit I’ve never actually read any of her work but I wanted to immerse myself in the world of magazine journalism and published authors for the night. Pre-event I felt super confident, I’m at a completely different stage in my life, I own a blog I’m incredibly proud of, I blog for a national website, I’m writing a book and I’ve found a job I love. I arrived with a new outlook, a fresh set of questions and poised to network, and the night certainly didn’t disappoint…

In true Mary Olivia Hickey style I arrived just in the knick of time, after finishing work at 6pm at Waterloo I rushed over to St Paul’s for a 6.30pm start. Emerging from St Paul’s tube I surprise, surprise got lost, despite using Google Maps I still ALWAYS get lost. I can never work out which way the blue blob wants me to go and so always end up walking 10 minutes in the wrong direction… Arriving at The Fable at 6.32pm I was greeted by three beautiful women. Incredibly slim, tall and in all black bang on trend outfits, despite only coming up to their shoulders and being 3 or 4 stone heavier I didn’t feel out of place. ‘Hey I’m one of you journos’ I thought to myself.

The first half hour, we were encouraged to network and enjoy the free champagne and canapés. And boy did I do both. With a glass in hand and a three pieces of salami down I spoke to 3 incredible women within the first 15 minutes. A lawyer, a short-story writer and a book seller. I was mesmerised by all three and strangely enough they seemed interested in me too. They were intrigued by my blog, the idea for my first novel and the content I write for Okay it did feel a bit like speed dating at times but overall it was just so refreshing to stand in a room full of intelligent, independent and career driven women.

Many of the guests were there to hear from the author and a real buzz drove around the room as we were invited to sit and listen to a reading. The author was fantastic. Passionate, creative and her language was so full of imagery and emotion her audience were able to step inside the pages of the book for a short while. She read an extract from her new book, Mr Mac and Me, which I am incredibly excited to start reading.

Following the reading she had a 30 minute conversation with Observer journalist and author, Elizabeth Day. This was a chance for the audience to really get to know Esther and so many of my questions were addressed. I’ve learnt that I shouldn’t panic if I’m not a published author by the age of 26, it takes years. I’ve also learnt that editing is a crucial part of the writing craft and more time should be dedicated to perfecting your work and unplugging the internet whilst you write is a successful writers biggest tip.

I found I could relate to Esther and so many of her writing habits. Like me she’s best in the morning and finds bashing out a solid 3 hours is better than flitting around for 7 hours. I also found like me, she’s self-concious of her work, until it’s finished and she’s happy. I doubt I will ever show my book to anyone apart from potential publishers until I land a deal.

After the discussion the audience were invited to ask questions. After listening to several guests encourage Esther to dig deeper into the meaning of the book I selfishly asked: “How do I dedicate the time to a book when I work full time?” The question was well received. A lady I had spoke to earlier in the evening smiled in encouragement. I got the answer I needed and I am taking it all on board. I’m going to dedicate more mornings, lunchtimes and precious weekends to my book. I’m also planning to hire a cottage for a week on  my own and bash out lots of content, minus my boyfriend and the internet. The most encouraging advice both Esther and Elizabeth gave me is ‘don’t panic’ yes I need to crack on but nobody is going to write my book MY way. This is something I’m scared of, my idea has been in my head so long I worry it’s going to move on and annoy someone else.

I left with my confidence intact, inspiration and a goodie bag full of goodies including a delicious box of truffles which  I enjoyed in bed when I got home whilst Tweeting the authors I’d just met.

Both authors and the editor of Red Magazine have asked me to keep in touch and promised to look out for me in the future. I hope I don’t disappoint!



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