Thoughts on a column-writing masterclass with Owen Jones

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I write regular opinion pieces on Friday called The Friday Article. What started off as a way to talk about myself in the third person became a platform for me to comment on politics, current affairs, deafness and other social issues which interested me. It’s finally become something of which I’m proud, and fits perfectly into this blog’s theme of it being ‘online journalism portfolio’.

Owen Jones is a writer and columnist at The Guardian. Photo: Marc Lozano on Flickr.

However, ideas at the moment have been running low, and as a student journalist, pitching comment and opinion pieces to editors to be published and commissioned is something I haven’t yet considered in depth. A recent talk by columnist Mary Dejevsky at university first got me interested, and so this brings me on the column-writing masterclass with Owen Jones at The Guardian.

With a stuffed rucksack on my back and folder paper ticket in my hand, I approached the newspaper’s headquarters with excitement. I had entered the building on two previous occasions and so the cosy interior – complete with eccentric armchairs – felt all too familiar.

It wasn’t long before we were signed in and offered refreshments ahead of the main event. After the first session, I had the opportunity to meet Owen himself. After introducing myself, he was happy to sign my copies of his books, chat further about his tips for pitching columns, and wish me a belated happy birthday. Thanks, Owen!

After the final two sessions, both my notepad and brain were filled with ideas for comment pieces and pitches. As I write this two days on, I’m working on one particular article to submit to editors in the near future. I went to the event looking for inspiration, thoughts and a greater understanding of this particular writing form, and that’s certainly what I got from the masterclass as I left the building three hours later. Thank you both to The Guardian and Owen for a great event.

It’s also worth mentioning that after an amazing evening at The Guardian, I hopped on the tube to meet-up with my blogger friend Emily, from Emily Underworld. Within Five Guys, we chatted away – albeit briefly. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I had to dash to make the long train home. It was wonderful to meet Emily, and I hope to meet her again soon for a proper chat.

In terms of future comment pieces, though, I left the event with some re-energised enthusiasm. As always, whenever I surround myself with fellow writers, the creativity and imagination spreads around. I left York Way with a smile on my face, determined to publish more Friday Articles on this blog, and pitch some ideas to national newspapers, too.

Exciting times lie ahead, I’m sure.


Meeting vvnightingale

It was fortunate that I had the chance to go to in London yesterday, as it meant I could finally meet a good blogger friend of mine, Victoria from vvnightingale, in real life.

Victoria wasn’t the first blogger I’ve met up with. Earlier this year, I said hello to Maeve from Thrift O’Clock when she visited Cambridge. Whilst I certainly wasn’t new to the experience of meeting someone who – for a long time – has been just text on a screen, first impressions still matter to me when it comes to saying hello to bloggers face-to-face.

Well, when it came to meeting Victoria in Waterloo station, my first impression certainly could have been better. After minutes of wandering around the station trying to find each other, we finally said hello outside the main entrance.

One of the things we had already planned to do was pop to a nearby Wagamamas for lunch. Whilst I like to think that many opportunities I’ve been involved with in London have allowed me to see many parts of the city, Victoria still became what was essentially my tour guide.

We arrived at Wagamamas a little while later and we ordered ourselves lunch. As a fan of noodles, I had the chicken ramen with homemade lemonade, which was delicious and reminded me that I need to go to Wagamas more often – especially when there’s one near my university in Lincoln.

For me, there’s always something weird about starting conversation with other bloggers. When you’ve followed their blog for months – even years – and you ask them a question about their pets, or a recent holiday, you have to remind them that they blogged about these things in the past. If not, the conversation becomes awkward – understandably.

But as I spoke to Victoria over lunch, this was completely different. Conversation flowed, and we talked about everything ranging from our shared love of languages to politics. It’s always great when you can have lengthy conversations not just online, but offline too.

Whenever I see friends in London, I always panic about what we can get up to. Not many attractions in the capital city are cheap and even if they are – or free, even – they may require bookings and it’s never quite straightforward.

Again, Victoria was my tour guide and suggested that we visit the Hoise of MinaLima – a little exhibition/museum in Soho which showcases the work of the designers behind the Harry Potter movies.

The exhibition was based inside a small house (much like the Sherlock Holmes museum, which I would also recommend) and was decorated from head-to-toe in drawings and letters taken from the films. Dotted on the walls were covers of The Daily Prophet along with handwritten letters to Harry Potter.

For any Potter fan, the exhibition is definitely somewhere to visit – especially when admission is free. But aside from all the Harry Potter designs, Victoria and I were interested in one floor, dedicated to collective nouns in art form.

For example, a group of starfish are called ‘a galacy of starfish’. How cool is that?

As I looked round the house, I was in awe at the amount of effort that the two designed put into the films. Every prop was intricately designed in MinaLima’s quirky and eccentric art style. It really is remarkable and the efforts of the duo is reflected in the exhibition. Much like how the Warner Bros. Studio Tour reveals the cinematic magic behind the Harry Potter films, the House of MinaLima perfectly captures the wonderful art in the movies which can be so easily overlooked.

Finally, we both decided to pop into the National Gallery before we had to go our separate ways. In the end it became nothing more than a search for my favourite painting in the gallery, and us getting lost plenty of times.

After walking back to Waterloo Station, we said goodbye and I went back into the Underground.

I would just like to thank Victoria for agreeing to meet me and for putting up with my craziness for the day. It was absolutely wonderful meeting you, and for those reading this, why not go and say hello to Victoria on her blog? Also, if you haven’t met up with fellow bloggers before, then I would definitely recommend it.

Have you met any other bloggers in real life? What did you get up to? Comment below!