You may have noticed we've not been very active bloggers recently - sometimes "real life" gets a little too hectic to reflect online. But now we're back - and what better way to return than with a Weekend Review from one of our favourite bloggers (and now RL friend) Janet...
What do you do for work?
I’m a Book Selections Manager for The Willoughby Book Club, which basically means I pick books for people as a job! I also manage all their digital marketing and social media. The WBC is a Leicestershire business set up in 2012 by husband and wife team Adam & Chloe Pollard and they’ve since grown to be the foremost book subscription company in the UK.
In summer 2015 I was a very stressed secondary English teacher, when I saw an advert for book experts to join their team: I applied, and the rest is history. Now, instead of working 70+ hours a week, I spend my days looking at, talking about, taking photographs of and choosing books.
How do you go about choosing a book for a complete stranger?
99% of our customers give us information when buying a subscription – whether it’s for themselves or as a gift – so I have to hand a list of authors, genres and/or books that each customer loves, and sometimes extra information like a Goodreads page or blog. From there, it’s a mixture of extreme book geek-ness, research, and luck!
For example, if a customer has told us they enjoy reading YA romances, Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novels, and the Tales Of The City series, I might pick one More Than This by Patrick Ness – combing, as it does, elements of LGBT romance and dystopia in a literary YA adventure. It helps that I read – a lot – and that I enjoy immersing myself in researching titles.
What advice do you have to someone considering a change in career?
It’s something I’ve done twice now: first, applying for a PGCE after spending a couple of years as a legal secretary, and then leaving teaching for WBC, and both times I felt instinctively that I was doing the right thing. I’m not a risk-taker by nature, but in both cases I leapt first, looked later.
So my advice would be to trust your gut and your heart, and don’t let fear talk you out of something you know is right. Ultimately, if things don’t work out, you can always go back to the career you left with some new experiences under your belt and on your CV.
What's been your proudest career moment so far?
Even though I left the profession, so many moments in teaching made me proud: it’s a great job in many ways – those lessons when a student finally gets ‘it’, or when a class throw themselves into a text and enjoy it as much as I do. I don’t miss the stress of teaching but I do miss the students themselves.
And your biggest achievement outside of work?
Being accepted onto an MA in Gender Studies at Leeds University, which I’ll begin in September.
When is your weekend?
I’m very lucky to only work four days a week, so my weekend runs from Thursday evening until Sunday. Friday tends to be my ‘get things done’ day, leaving me with two days to properly relax.
How did you spend this weekend?
It was a pretty typical weekend for me and my partner; as neither of us have family near (Thomas is from Glasgow and I’m a Yorkshire girl) there weren’t any family meals or gatherings to attend. We started Saturday the usual way: a lie-in punctuated only by our cat, Missy, shouting at us to get up.
Thomas is a huge foodie – he loves to eat and will try anything (provided it’s vegan!) so our weekends often revolve around our meals, both at home and out and about. Saturday was no exception; we started the day with Huey on 6 Music while we made breakfast – vegan croissants with fresh strawberries and strawberry jam – before heading out, first to Market Harborough for a mooch around the charity shops, then into Leicester for a late lunch at Oscar & Rosie’s, which has just opened and serves some of the best pizza in the Midlands.
Sunday was a lazy day at home. I started the day curled up with a cuppa and a stack of magazines, then worked on zines for an hour or two. I had a stack of my previous zines to send out to people, as well as needing to edit some submissions for a zine Laura and I are currently working on. It’s called Mixtape and is all about 90s (i.e. the best decade!) nostalgia: we’re still looking for contributions in whatever form you like, so give me a shout for more information or to submit.
We had vegan ‘fish’ finger sandwiches for lunch, then went for a long walk on Aylestone Meadows. We’re so lucky to live in a city but with nature close by – within minutes of leaving home we’d seen a heron idly watching the river, a robin darting around collecting twigs for a nest, and a rabbit escaping into the hedgerow. Then home, with a cup of tea and a book (current read - The Lauras by Sara Taylor), before I made vegan lasagna for dinner, accompanied by 6 Music on the radio once again.
Which bits of your weekend do you usually edit out of your blog posts?
The inordinate amount of time I spend in my pyjamas! I’m a total homebody and can happily spend a whole weekend just pottering around the house, reading, and hanging out with my cat. All very enjoyable, but it doesn’t make for very interesting blog posts!
Your ideal Sunday menu...
Breakfast: A large mug of tea and pain au chocolat fresh from the bakery, eaten with Thomas on the balcony of the Paris Airbnb that we stayed in on our first trip together.
Lunch: A salmon cesear salad with a glass of sparkling wine, on the outdoor terrace of Montebello (in the southern suburbs of Cape Town) with my mum, cousins, aunt and uncle.
Dinner: I’d dine solo, with just a book for company, on veggie nachos at Lola Rosa in Montreal accompanied by a pint of local Quebec cider.
What's in your fridge?
My fridge has a split personality; although I tend not to eat or cook meat at home, my shelves usually have at least three kinds of cheese as well as butter and eggs for baking, while Thomas’s are stuffed with an array of vegan staples such as hummus, vegan mayo, and Violife cheese. Plus, of course, stacks of fresh veggies and usually at least three lots of leftovers (currently languishing in Tupperware - some homemade guacamole and leftover chilli, and a tofu Thai red curry).
QUICK FIRE - without too much thought, name your absolute favourite...
Book: Impossible to name just one! But three off the top of my head are Persuasion by Jane Austen, anything by Poppy Z Brite, and Simon Vs The Homosapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Film: Dazed & Confused
Fashion brand: ASOS
Holiday destination: Cape Town
Museum: The National Media Museum in my hometown of Bradford.
How can people follow what you do and get in contact?
I’m @jbistheinitial on Twitter and Instagram and my blog is jbistheinitial.blogspot.co.uk