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An exciting and facinating journey from being a journalism student to becoming a novelist!

Alumni Stories, Uncategorized.

Helen Buckley, posing with her first novelHelen Buckley (Journalism and Contemporary History, 2007) was a successful journalism student in City, thriving in the industry by scoring several placements with publications and even a paid internship with an MP. After graduation, Helen took the vast experience she accumulated as a student and channelled that into helping vulnerable and in-need people both in the UK and abroad.

Helen used writing as a medium to manage and understand the difficult situations she was experiencing in her private life. She has managed to get her first novel Star in the Shadows published, already earning positive reviews from readers! Her book tells a story of Kiara, a teen runaway who has found stardom but is fighting the demons of her past in private. In a reveal-all TV interview her story will finally be uncovered, find out what effects Kiara’s confession will have on her fame, fortune and the ones she had left in her past by buying it on Amazon.

Find out more about Helen and how she came to publish her first novel below:

Can you tell me about your time at City?

I really enjoyed my degree at City University. Our degree was a fairly small intake and was run in conjunction with Queen Mary, University of London, so I was a member of both universities.

At City we concentrated on the journalism part of the degree. I did placements at various publications including Health and Fitness magazine, Zest magazine, Cosmopolitan magazine, and I also got a paid internship with Emily Thornberry MP – who is the MP for the area where City University is located. It was when she was a fairly new MP and the experience of working in her Commons office was fascinating.

What happened after you graduated?

In my final year, I started volunteering for the charity Young Minds and through that experience, I realised I wanted to focus on work in the charity sector. I started work before I graduated with Stonewall, and stayed there for a few years running their national information service. Once graduating from City I also did an MSc degree in Gender, Sexuality, Politics and Culture at Birkbeck, University of London. Then I spent almost four years in Honduras, working with children and families living in poverty. After that, I returned to work for the Salvation Army, the Council for Disabled Children, and then Age UK.

How did your novel come about?

I started writing seriously as an escape – my husband and I were dealing with infertility and writing helped me to manage the difficult emotions arising from our situation. I completed my first novel and then fell pregnant from IVF!

My novel, Star in the Shadows, was recently published and I’m chuffed to pieces with the positive reviews and feedback I’ve received.

The book is about a teen runaway who becomes a pop star but she carries the shadows of the past with her. The book follows her journey and that of the family she left behind. It’s dramatic and gritty with a dash of romance too.

I’ve just finished writing my second novel and I am writing my third, when my baby son allows me time to write!

What has been the most rewarding experience?

As an author, I think the scariest thing is letting people read your work. I was terrified! When the novel was published a number of book bloggers reviewed it and all the positive comments were so encouraging. Even if the book doesn’t get onto the bestseller lists, I’ll still find that experience so rewarding.

What has been the most challenging experience?

I’m lucky to have found a publisher but it’s a crowded market out there for books so it’s not easy to get your novel noticed.

It’s also been tough to find the time to write. I had to edit the novel when my son was a newborn so I was extremely sleep deprived! Now that’s he’s over six months and sleeps fairly well I get up early to write. Those 5am starts aren’t easy, but it’s the only time I have free to think creatively.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t give up! Keep pressing on and get those words down on the page. As Jodi Picoult said, “You can edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” My first drafts are often extremely rough, riddled with mistakes and verging on gibberish – but I can work with that.

Feel the fear and do it anyway. It could be the best decision you ever make!

Thank you to Helen for sharing her story!

Take a look at Helen’s website to explore the work she is doing – www.buckleybooks.org

Purchase Star in the Shadows from Amazon, Austin Macauley Publishers or Waterstones

Follow Helen’s activities on her social media: Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Emmy winning journalist recounts her time in City and discusses her impactful work in South Sudan

Alumni Stories, Uncategorized.

Anna Cavell standing at the emmy podium

City graduate Anna Cavell (Television Current Affairs Journalism, 2007) was an ambitious student at City, which landed her with a contract with the BBC as soon as she graduated. Anna worked in newsrooms in London and Moscow for the BBC and RT for three years before moving to report from East Africa almost 10 years ago. She spent 5 years reporting from South Sudan, considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. In the process, she saw both the good and the bad of humanity, which enabled her to stay motivated to use her career as a tool to assist in the causes of those suffering. In Africa, Anna has reported on topics as diverse as conflict and displacement to arts and culture.

Anna’s dedicated herself to her work, investigating the stories of Ugandan parents, who allege their children were adopted by American families without their knowledge or consent. The documentary earned Anna a News and Documentary Emmy, validating her efforts and giving a huge platform for her monumental documentary Adoption Inc: The Baby Business.

Find out more about Anna and her road to winning an Emmy here :

Can you tell me about your time at City?

The best thing about City was that all of my lecturers were closely connected to industry and had all had impressive careers prior to teaching. This meant that studying there was valuable preparation for a career in journalism and provided students with a network of contacts who were in a position to hire us when we graduated.

What happened after you graduated?

One of our final assessed projects was to make a 30-minute documentary which was shown to people from the industry at the end of the year. The editor of the BBC programme Newsnight came to the screening of those films and commissioned the story made by my team.  This was great as it meant that pretty much as soon as we’d finished the course we went straight to Newsnight to re-make the story with their correspondent.

How would you describe your experience as a foreign correspondent in Africa? 

Reporting from this part of the world has been an enormous privilege and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity. I’ve been here for almost 10 years, 5 of which I spent living and working in South Sudan. I moved here just after it became independent from Sudan and two years later civil war broke out. While there, I reported on some of the most horrific events imaginable – war, massacres, starvation and mass displacement. However, at the same time, I saw some of the greatest acts of courage and experienced enormous kindness from people enduring terrible suffering. Witnessing these events and meeting these people has forever changed my perspective.

What has been the most rewarding experience in your field?

There are so many! In September this year I received an Emmy Award for a documentary I made about fraud in international adoption. It was an investigation I’d worked on for many years so seeing it recognized by people in the industry was wonderful. Seeing the impact of my work is also a perk of the job. I made a documentary about some victims of human trafficking in 2010 and since then they’ve been trying to get justice through the Ugandan courts. The verdict in their case is due to be announced in November this year and it’s unlikely they would have got this far without the media attention. It came as a surprise when I started in this job that often after people experience trauma it comforts them to speak to a journalist. I don’t know why this is, perhaps the interest of strangers validates their grief or suffering, but it’s rewarding to think we can sometimes help, and almost makes up for all the times politicians tell us to sod off!

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to your work?

That really varies according to the situation. In conflict reporting safety, logistics and communications are usually the hardest parts. Working on investigations in Africa can be difficult because public institutions don’t necessarily keep records (or permit access to them) in an orderly way.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to seek a career in journalism?

Learning about how newsrooms and commissioners work is very important. It can be difficult to get a great story to air if it’s the wrong moment, or the wrong angle or the wrong outlet.  Investing time learning about which editors are looking for what is seriously worthwhile, whether you work in-house or freelance.

 

Find out more about Anna – twitter.com/AnnaCavell

Care Leavers Initiative – ‘City Cares’

City Future Fund.

Now in the second year of an Engineering degree, Christopher told us:

 

“City Cares supported me and gave me hope and opportunity when I thought there wasn’t any.  They picked me up from nowhere and helped me get somewhere.  I am studying for an undergraduate BSc in Engineering and the help from the bursary is vital.  All the staff are extremely helpful, super supportive, friendly and always keen to ensure my wellbeing.  I thank City Cares and all the donors who have supported it for their dedication, generosity and the great difference that they are making to the lives of the less privileged. I simply would not have been able to do this course if it wasn’t for them.”

 

Indeed, helping young care leavers and estranged students to achieve their academic potential through our dedicated care programme is a priority at City.  Breaking the social care cycle is essential in giving these young adults the chance to see a promising future unfold.

 

With that in mind, we aim to not only attract more care leavers to the University through our outreach work, but when they are here we ensure that they have access to a comprehensive support package that includes an annual bursary, a designated member of staff to offer them practical and pastoral support, priority accommodation that extends through the summer, and, priority for professional mentoring and mental health monitoring.

 

Thank you so much for continuing to make this possible.

The Student Hardship Fund

City Future Fund.

Katie is a second year midwifery student who came very close to dropping out in her first year of study. Solely reliant upon her own finances means that Katie has developed an incredibly strong work ethic, always supplementing her studies with part time work. However, the demands of the midwifery course and the requirement that students must not work whilst on placement – placements are typically around 40 hours per week – took away the capacity to fund her degree. It quickly became apparent that her student loan would not be enough to support her throughout her degree, just about covering the cost of rent but not money for travel, food, bills and vital course materials. Costs and the anxiety that goes with that began to spiral out of control. As Katie told us, “I had reached a point where, if I could not find money from somewhere, I would have no option but to leave my course.”  

 

News of the Student Hardship Fund came at just the right time. Katie applied and received that all-important hardship grant. The award primarily helped Katie to pay her rent but it also provided her with the reassurance that she could afford her travel costs to and from her placement, and also to her lectures. A weight had been lifted from Katie’s shoulders and with the disappearance of the stress caused by financial worries, she was able to focus one hundred per cent on her studies and placement.   

 

The immediate plan is for Katie to complete her BSc in Midwifery and to work in hospitals for a couple of years, rotating through different aspects of midwifery. This will give her further exposure to working with different patients and enable her to work up through the NHS career bands, closer towards one of her long-term goals of, perhaps, becoming a doctor. Furthermore, new ambitions are also being considered. A return to City to complete a Masters in Midwifery (Advanced Practice) and a longer-term view to undertake a PHD in Health Sciences in the area of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is an option.  She is also passionate about working for Sands, a stillbirth and neonatal death charity. As Katie remarked, “I want to specialise in bereavement midwifery because I have had a friend who was affected by stillbirth and I think this is such a vital and often neglected area.” 

 

Katie told us, “I am so grateful to those alumni and friends of the University who donate to the Hardship Fund.  The difference you have made to me is basically the difference between dropping out or staying. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!”   

An established journalist turned novelist, preparing to release a chilling, psychological thriller that will make you think twice about your neighbours!

Alumni Stories, Uncategorized.

Caroline Corcoran (Periodical Journalism, 2003) thrived as a journalist student in City, doing work experience at a teen magazine where she later landed a job. Through her career as a journalist, Caroline discovered a real passion for interviewing people and learning more about the art of writing. To allow flexibility into her schedule Caroline became a freelancer – this enabled her to dedicate enough time to start writing her first novel “Through The Wall“, a creepy psychological thriller said to be “A rival to Gone Girl for its addictive, twisted plot” by STYLIST. 

For her book, Caroline drew inspiration from her own life, combining some personal experiences with a truly chilling story of two neighbours who can hear each other through the thin walls of their apartments. Creating opinions about each other regardless of having never met, until the protagonist notices that something is off. A book out of place. A wardrobe door left open. A set of keys going missing…

Find out more about Caroline and how she came to publish her first novel here:

Can you tell me about your time at City?

Gladly! I did the Periodical Journalism Postgraduate Diploma (as it was known then) and it was one of the best years of my life. My first year in London, making some of my closest friends, being creative, learning what sort of writer I was (definitely not a news one), doing all kinds of interesting work and laughing a lot along the way.

Utterly brilliant for contacts too, with work experience, jobs and even now. There’s always a certain nod you do when you meet someone else who went to City, I think…

What happened after you graduated?

I freelanced at a teen magazine called Sugar – I had done work experience there while I was at City – for a few months before a Junior Writer job came up which I got.

I interviewed Beyonce among other things and I loved every day in that job and regularly reeled from the fact someone paid me to do it. After that, I worked at various magazines/ newspapers and climbed the ranks to section/ deputy editor level before I decided in 2013 that I wanted some more flexibility and became a freelancer.

How did your novel come about?

I’ve talked about writing a book for a long time and a time slot came along when it seemed possible. it also helped that I had an idea that I thought might work: that bit of the puzzle had been missing before!

Creatively, Through The Wall came from a couple of ideas that I thought initially were separate books but eventually merged together. One was my experience going through fertility treatment, which I thought wasn’t written about honestly enough in fiction. And two was living in a London flat where I heard my neighbour often but never met them and my imagination running wild about what a situation like that might lead to.

Through The Wall is about two women that live next door to each other, hear each other’s lives through the wall of their flats and build perceptions of one another that are far from accurate. Then the situation escalates, and one of them becomes truly obsessed with the other’s life and wants to make it her own.

It’s an examination of how much we compare ourselves to others, and how damaging that can be. I hope it’s also a good, gripping read!

What has been the most rewarding experience?

The whole publishing process. I have worked with a great agent and brilliant editors who’ve all brought something more to Through The Wall. There are similarities with the magazine process that I’m used to – the cover sell, good quality writing, a lot of edits – but there are also huge differences, and I hadn’t anticipated to what extent they would exist.

So learning about how publishing works has been rewarding, as it’s fascinated me for so long. Seeing the cover of my book for the first time (and its international counterparts, as it’s been sold abroad) was a proper dream come true moment.

What has been the most challenging experience?

Time! Exhaustion! I started writing Through The Wall when I was pregnant, then picked it up when I had a newborn. I edited it when I was pregnant for a second time, and when I had another newborn. I learnt to write fast and focus more though, which is not a bad skill to develop when you’re used to procrastinating and faffing about on social media, as we are all guilty of…

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Ask around – use your City contacts – and find yourself a brilliant agent.

But before that, get writing and keep writing. Manuscripts loom too large if you stop and leave them for months. Get the words down and edit or delete later. But keep writing and being in the document so it doesn’t start to intimidate you. Oh and take any windows of time you have. Not many people have whole days to dedicate to writing their first book as you’ll likely be working/ studying too so if you wait for those, you won’t start.

Take that half-hour window to start a chapter. Do ten minutes of character work on the bus. Just get going. Personally, I plan chapters – even loosely helps – so that I don’t ever have that sinking ‘What’s next?’ feeling which is another thing that makes you stop writing, when you lose momentum. If you have a plan you always know where you’re going with the narrative, though I know lots of other writers don’t plan so perhaps that’s an individual thing.

Thank you to Caroline for sharing her story!

“Through The Wall” is out October 3rd and is available for pre-order NOW from Amazon and Waterstones.

If you would like to find out more about Caroline’s ventures, please check out her Twitter or Website!

 

Creating an influential business while still studying – how passion and determination pays off!

Alumni Stories, Uncategorized.

With a passion for sports journalism, and the drive necessary to be a successful young entrepreneur, Martin Caparrotta (MA Newspaper Journalism, 2011), together with business partner Kieran Beckles, founded and built The Sport Review website.

Originally having been started as a simple blog on which to practice their sports writing, The Sport Review has grown into an influential fan favourite with millions of page views every month.

Martin learned how to balance his studies and business early to maximise results from both. Soon after starting the website, he gained high-profile attention and received invites to important sporting events.

Find out more about Martin and how he started his business here:

Can you tell me about your time at City?

After having set up The Sport Review during my undergraduate studies, the website gained a small following. My business partner Kieran and I decided to pursue it as a full-time venture after we graduated.

However, I wanted to make sure that I’d be qualified to run the site full time, and also have a safety net if it didn’t work out, so I decided to do an MA in Newspaper Journalism at City.

The course was fantastic, even though it was probably the busiest year of my life up until that point! It really prepared me for life as a journalist. From court reporting to digital journalism, I learnt the skills first-hand that I would need to be able to manage my own publication.

What happened after you graduated?

We started working on the website on a full-time basis and focused on growing its audience. By mid-2013, the site was getting more than one million unique users per month.

We wrote about football, tennis, cricket and rugby union, while also managing the commercial side of the business at the same time. It was challenging at times but it was also highly rewarding.

As well as giving me the tools needed to operate as a digital journalist, the course at City also helped teach me how to think on my feet and while under pressure. We were required to solve problems and come up with solutions at short notice. For example, I often had to prepare for last-minute interviews with experts for news stories whilst having to do research out and about.

The skills I learned from this were particularly useful when it came to building some of the early commercial partnerships that we established with brands such as bet365 and viagogo.

How did your businesses come about?

Myself and my business partner Kieran had set up The Sport Review during our undergraduate degrees, whilst on a year abroad studying in Italy. We both wanted to be sports journalists and were looking for somewhere to practise our writing.

I continued to run the site alongside my studies at City. By that time, we were already gaining media access to some important sports events, such as the Champions League and Fifa World Cup host announcement ceremony.

I remember having to miss the last day of the first term at City to fly to Zurich to cover the 2018 and 2022 World Cup host announcement!

What has been the most rewarding experience?

I remember the first time I attended a Chelsea FC news conference. They were unveiling Andre Villas-Boas as their new manager in the summer of 2011. Most of the world’s media was there, and it was amazing just to be involved, let alone representing my own website.

Over the years, we’ve been incredibly lucky to attend events such as the Europa League final and London 2012 Olympics.

After the continued success of The Sport Review, we launched two new websites in January 2019.

Human Window is a new health, wellness and personal development destination.

helloBARK! is a new resource founded to provide pet owners with information, advice, tips and tricks when it comes to their favourite animals.

Both websites have been growing steadily and they currently have a readership of around 40,000 unique users per month respectively.

What has been the most challenging experience?

The first few months after leaving City were quite challenging. Kieran moved over from Ireland to live in London and there was quite a lot at stake for both of us.

It took time for the site to really pick up and in the meantime, all of my friends from my course at City had landed jobs.

There was plenty of self-doubt during that period, but we just kept pushing ahead – and I’m very glad we did!

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

It’s a cliché, but you really have to keep believing in yourself and moving forward, even when the times get tough.

If you really believe in what you’re working on, then it’s ultimately down to you to make the dream a reality.

 

Thank you to Martin for sharing his story! If you would like to find out more about Martin’s ventures, please check out his Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/martincap/) Twitter or LinkedIn!

Transforming years of global work experience into a thrilling spy novel!

Alumni Stories.

Inspired by his successful career in the high technology industry, involving years of travelling the world, author Richard (Rick) Marshall (Applied Physics, 1967) swapped his corporate suit for an author’s pen. His first novel Kuskovo, is a story of ruthless Russian espionage set at the height of the Cold War in the 1970s, and is available on both Amazon and Kindle. In Kuskovo, Rick tells the story of Alex Zoravar, who embarks upon an action-packed, transatlantic trail of intrigue in his search for the truth behind an accident involving his colleague and lover Dr Samantha Endel. At stake is the safety of the world.

Find out more about Rick and his journey into writing his own spy novel here:

Can you tell me about your time at City?

In 1963, when I started at City University, it had just been converted from being a College of Advanced Technology and before that, Northampton College.

I did a ‘college-based’, 4-year ‘sandwich’ degree with four industry-based periods of 6 months interspersed between periods at university. My industry periods were with Edwards High Vacuum in Crawley, Sussex (where I put my name to a published research paper), Hilger & Watts in Camden Town, London (analytical instrument development), UKAEA Reactor Fuel Element Laboratory in Preston, Lancashire (X-ray crystallography), then Hilger & Watts again (4-circle, single crystal, X-ray spectrometer development).

What happened after you graduated?

I joined Hilger & Watts full-time as an Internal Sales Specialist for X-ray Analysis Instruments, then after a year moved to Instron Ltd. in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, a world-leading manufacturer of materials testing machines.

Over the course of 13 years there I progressed from:

– UK Sales/Service Engineer

– to Export Sales/Service Engineer

– to Export Sales Manager

– to General Sales Manager

I then moved to Multitone Ltd (Radio Paging Systems), in London to take up the post of Group Sales Director.

4 years later I moved to Varian Associates Inc. (Analytical Instruments), first as Operations Director for Europe, based in Switzerland, then as Global Operations Vice President, based in California, USA.

Moving back to the UK, I became Managing Director of Chubb Fire Ltd then Group Managing Director for the European operations of the American fire detection company, Notifier.

In 1999 I ‘semi-retired’ as a management consultant for the European Performance Institute (EPI) in Brussels, before setting up my own management consulting company, Marshall Associates, retiring completely in 2008.

How did your idea and career come about?

I progressed into my career probably from a realisation that I was not cut out for work in research, twinned with a desire to travel/work internationally, yet stay in the technology sector.

When it comes to my book, I have always nurtured a desire to write, and in my retirement, thought I would try my hand. Initially, I had no idea what to write about, but one day, I mentioned it to my daughter-in-law, who said, ‘why not write about your interesting life?’ So I did – not an autobiography; more a memoir of all the strange and funny things that had happened to me over the years. From this, I hoped that an idea for a novel would emerge… and it did. So Kuskovo involves technology (ICBM’s), Russia (I spent more than 18 months of my life there), America (I lived there for 4 years), and romance (I am still in love with my wife of 50 years!).

What has been the most rewarding experience?

As for my career, turning around and growing international technology-based businesses by re-organisation and team building.

As for my book, realising that I can, and enjoy to, write.

What has been the biggest challenge with regards to your idea?

Concerning Kuskovo, I have been asked, ‘How on earth do you write a novel?’ Well, I suppose it’s different for different people and the type of novel. I can only answer for myself:

First, you must have the desire.

Second, you must find, or make, the time.

Third, you must have the idea for the main theme.

For the last of these, I have always enjoyed the work of Frederick Forsyth – international espionage/skulduggery – so I set out for this genre. The main theme idea came to me, I don’t know how, to build a story around a Russian attempt to steal Western technology, with a bit of romance thrown in. From this trunk, branches grew; and finally, leaves. It was not straightforward and involved an enormous number of re-writes (pruning) – some self-generated, others from comments of friends who read early drafts. The writing was, for me, the easy part – probably only 10 – 20% of the time. For this type of book, the rest was spent in research (made incomparably easier by the internet – saving me numerous trips abroad and interviews of experts), editing (I could make another book out of the back-stories I cut!) and publishing.

For me, this was a work of love and I did not slavishly force myself to work at it when I didn’t feel like it. I guess from start until now, it took some 3 years.

As a side benefit, promoting it has brought me back into contact with many friends and associates I had lost contact with.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

  1. Do something you love; you will spend half of your waking life working.
  2. Be patient: there are not many naturally good businessmen out there. If you’re good, you will succeed.

If you are interested in finding out more about Russia in the 1970s, Rick is available for talks where he dives deep into his travel experiences, revealing the situation and the quality of life there during those times… augmented by some curious and amusing stories. Find out more and contact details for Rick by clicking HERE!

Thank you Rick for sharing your story! If you would like to find out more about his journey, please email: rickmar001@aol.com.

 

 

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