From author to PR manager

A short story about growing up with mixed heritage has set UoC Creative Writing and Journalism graduate Rashid Adamson on the path of success. He talks to Conny Kaufmann about writing to promoting.

The story “Torn”, which Rashid wrote for a writing competition of the Arts Council’s diversity branch Decibel and Penguin books, was published in the book “The Map of Me” in 2008.

“It meant a great deal to me to have recognition for the work I was doing”, Rashid explains. Currently, he is working on a memoire, which will be the full-length version of “Torn”. “The BBC had read the book and invited me to London to take part in a workshop. All participants were then invited to submit some scripts for radio plays. So I'm working on a couple I had in mind.”

But the writing is not enough for Rashid. Having over 20 years of business experience, the mature UoC graduate is just in the process of setting up his own PR, Media and Marketing business Yellow (“Red Yellow”) in Middlesbrough. “We big-up our clients’ public persona, get them noticed in the local and national press, analyse their target markets and come-up with dynamic ways to reach them.”

“I was always interested in PR and marketing, and the journalism and creative writing gave me insight into the media world. So it made sense to fuse my skills together and set up my business”, Rashid explains.

Publishing with the dark, wicked Wolf

A small group of like-minded and slightly warped people who wanted to specialise in the really hard hitting, dark fiction was all it took. Wild Wolf Publishing was born. That was a year ago, and already nine authors, including UoC’s very own Claire Lewis, have published their stories with the independent, Newcastle-based label.

“We’re looking for the darkest of dark – anything that falls through the cracks of civilised life. Where the reader sometimes roots for the bad guy, where the good guys don’t always win, where horrendous crimes or injustices abound, where the reader can delve into the twisted recesses of the human soul”, editor-in-chief Ed Wolf explains. Over the last twelve months, he reckons he saw over 200 manuscripts. “But the wicked subject matter and sharp, readable writing style which made reading compulsive is what made those nine authors stand out so far.”

Wild Wolf’s selection process can take between two and four months. Ed Wolf advises everyone to re-draft their stories several times. “Make sure you have an attention grabbing intro letter and synopsis. The author should be bursting with enthusiasm! If the author can’t be bothered to try to sell his work then a publisher isn’t going to either.”

Wir wollen Sonne!

The clocks have turned back, the orange leaves have almost all fallen to the ground already and are making the pavements treacherously slippery... autumn is well and truly upon us!

I can't help it, I'm a summer child. I don't like it being dark at 5pm, needing the heating on just to keep warm and most winter coats are not the most fashionable either.

So I had a little scoop around on Youtube, and I found one of my favourite childhood songs. It is called "Wir wollen Sonne" (We want Sun) by Rolf Zuckowski (everybody, and I mean everybody born after 1975 grew up with songs by Rolf Zuckowski und seine Freunde). His "friends" are local kids singing the songs with him, and if I'd lived anywhere near Hamburg when I was growing up, I would have loved to sing with him! I still know all the lyrics by heart!

As you might be able to tell by the people in the video, this song was recorded in the early 90s. And it played all day on the car's radio when my family was en route to our (summer) holiday destinations! On one of our 3-week holidays on the island of Wangerooge, it rained on all but four days - and I kept playing this song over and over, hoping that the weather would get better if I just played the song long enough (I want to add that I was roughly 6 years old or younger at that time!)

So all you Germans: relive your Rolf Zuckowski - memories! Everyone else - sit back, relax, and think of summer! It's only about 8 months away!!!

For your consideration

This has been on the internet for a few days now, but it still cracks me up.

If you don't know what this is about: Nick Griffin is the leader of the BNP (British National Party), which have very racist views. He was invited onto BBC's programme Question Time last week, where he was asked by the panel, led by journalist David Dimbleby (green tie), and the audience about his politics.

This little video cut together his responses, and probably reflects what many think Griffin really should have said.

UoC graduate Claire publishes novel

Getting her novel published was Claire’s big aim. Now that her first work is in print, she talks to Conny Kaufmann about her novel, similarities between her and the protagonist and how she finally got published.

When Claire Lewis was studying towards her degree in Creative Writing and Film at the University of Cumbria, she had a dream. This dream stayed with her so much, that she wrote a short story about it while she was in her third year. However, feeling that there was more to it still, she successfully turned her dream into her first novel “A sick work of Art”, which was published in August.

“The story’s main character is 24-year-old Maxie, who works in the coffee shop of an Art Gallery. One day, she finds a video on the internet, in which an artist kills someone. Through her work, she gets mixed up with the art scene and the story really gets quite dark from there”, Claire outlines her novel. “Because of the subject matter, one of my friends was worried I might have turned into a serial killer – but I can assure you I haven’t” she laughs. “And although 40 per cent of Maxie’s personality are based on me – we both live in Newcastle and our boyfriends are in the Royal Navy – there are still quite a few differences between us.”

When she couldn’t find a job as a writer after her graduation in 2006, Claire decided to put her novel on hold and do a fast-track journalism course. “I guess, in the end, it all worked out for me as an author. But that was the hardest course I’ve ever done!”

Claire had been sending her manuscript to publishers all over the country. In the end, Newcastle-based Wild Wolf Publishing, who specialise in dark fiction, thought she has potential. “It’s very exciting to have a proper book. It was published a little early and nobody told me, so imagine my excitement when I found it on Amazon!” She admits that one day she might go down to a bookstore just to see it on the shelf. “But at the moment, I just try to get reviews and feedback.”

“A sick work of Art” by Claire Lewis is available online and can be ordered in every bookshop. Wild Wolf Publishing, £ 8,99.

Hear and see Claire reading an excerpt from her novel:
(The sound is pretty quiet, due to technical problems, I'm afraid!)

When the Unthinkable becomes real

I have just read Clay Shirky's views on "Newspapers and thinking the Unthinkable". In his blog, he argues that the unthinkable scenario of newspapers dying because of the rise of the internet is already a reality - it is just a question of how we cope and adapt to these changes for journalism to survive.

Take media mogul Rupert Murdoch's rant, for example. He is not amused, that the internet provides news content for free, and is eager to charge readers for News Ltd's content. Murdoch even went so far as to call search engines plagiarists, for linking his headlines to the search and getting visitors to his websites. Something's not right there! Just like iTunes uses micropayments for their content, newspapers should follow suit. But, according to Shirky, these models only work when the provider can avoid competitive business models. The New York Times has tried twice before to charge for their content, with QPass and TimesSelect, but those models must obviously have failed, because their content is now free for everyone to read!

I can can see, however, where both Clay Shirky and Rupert Murdoch are coming from. Murdoch, who made his fame and (most importantly) fortune by selling news, doesn't want to let "his" content get out of hand. To him, internet users should pay for the privilege of reading the news. All it would take for him to stop Google accessing his content, is a little line of html code on his websites, that will keep crawler bots away. But then again, who would read his news, if they weren't specifically looking for it? Google News and other such websites give their users a digest of headlines that might be of interest to them, and then go on to send those users to the respective websites to read the full content. That does not count as copyright infringement! That would be like sueing the library lady for pointing out where a specific book can be found!
Shirky argues that news providers saw the internet coming and taking over, and reacted too late. A decade ago, the use of the internet began spreading and users from the general public picked up on it. We are now so used to free content, that we don't see why we should suddenly start paying for the privilege.

The problem is, that there is no new model for journalism. We all just have to adapt. Although newspaper sales might decrease, there will still be readers buying the hard copy. Especially when it comes to local news and general interest. And I personally think it would look stupid if we all sat around the Saturday/Sunday breakfast table with our laptops out, reading our way through the internet, instead of passing the Sports/Business/Entertainment sections around. I can understand why we pay for newspapers. After all, they have to be printed, and ink and paper in those quantities cost a fair amount of money. And yes, every journalist, whether he/she is working for print or online, wants to get paid. The problem is in the advertising revenue. It is far easier, and more people read the ads, when they are posted on the web. But I know I'd still be looking for an ad of my local car dealership in my local paper first.

I guess we will have to see what happens. Experiment a bit. As Shirky points out: "Experiments are only revealed in retrospect to be turning points." I agree with him on the point that society does not necessarily need newspapers. But what it will always need is journalism. And for it to be available to the public. I don't think that charging for the content is the right or best solution Ruoert Murdoch came up with. If Google cut all of his content off the search engines for a month, I am sure that Murdoch's sites will have less visitors than anticipated. An his Australian blog, Peter Ricci gives Rupert Murdich a little primer on how search engines work. The comments that blog received, suggest that Murdoch should let the next generation, the digital-savvy generation take over, before it's too late.

I don't know about you, but I suddenly have images of a man in my head. His name was William McMaster Murdoch (aptly enough), and he was the First Officer on board the Titanic, who saw the iceberg too late and who's actions led the safest ship in the world to sink....
Now that's something to think about.

Bye bye, Aaron!

Aaron, pronounced the German way "Ah-ron" is or rather was our horse. We've had him since spring 1999, and he is now 15 years old. Today, his new owner picked him up and moved him to his new stable.

My mum inherited a horse from one of her clients in 1996. His name was Power Game (Power, for short) and he was a show jumping horse, and the kindest horse you ever met. However, standing 1,80m at his back, he was also quite tall for 9- and 6-year-old girls. Although we rode him regularly, we decided in 1998 to buy an Icelandic Pony, called Lucky Boy, as ponies are not that tall. However, Lucky turned out to be a little devil (he constantly threw even Western Champions off...), so we decided to sell him and found Aaron instead, who at 1,65m was taller than Lucky (1,32m) and shorter than Power. Power Game died 24 years old in 2007 out on the pasture.
Aaron was only 4 when we first rode him and like Power a "Westfale". We agreed to take him for a two-week trial period, before we finalised the contract. That first night we had him, I rode him around the arena at night. Slowly walking him, long reigns, just so he could get used to the new surroundings. Then "Popeye", a stallion, played up next to the arena (the wall is only should-high, so you can see the boxes and horses on that side of the arena) and Aaron saw and heard it, and well, freaked. Off he went, and I tried to hang on. I'd lost the reigns when he bolted, and one of my feet had slipped through the stirrup. I'd lost the other. Somehow, I managed to get him to slow down again, got him to go on a circle and eventually was told by a fellow rider to just let him run into her horse, as her horse (coincidently a cousin of Power) was so old, he wouldn't be bothered. I did that and it worked, until Aaron turned around and cantered off in the other direction, the stallion still playing up. That threw me so much, that I lost balance and fell off, but because my foot was caught in the stirrup, I couldn't quite roll off. I landed halfway across Aaron's path and thought he'd run me over, but as soon as he felt my weight shift, he stopped. And when I was laying there in the sand, he touched my face with his nose and had a look in his eyes, as if he wanted to say "Oh no, did I cause that? Please don't be mad!!"
I believe all my back problems started that night, as I was taken to hospital, x-rayed three times and then told: "You've broken a vertebrae", "You've splintered a facet joint" and "You've just twisted your neck a bit" in that order, without ever getting it fixed properly. I don't blame Aaron for what happened. He was new, he freaked. I blame the stallion's owner, who slapped the stallion and caused him to play up and didn't stop or ever apologise when I fell off.
Don't get me wrong! I LOVE this horse!!! But in horseback riding, you should get back in the saddle as soon as you've fallen off. Maybe it's the fact that I wasn't able to, but I was always cautious riding him. Never letting the reigns get too long again. Every other horse I didn't know, I could take cross country, jump with it and be fine with everything, but although I did jump with Aaron, and rode him regularly when I was younger, and I trusted him, there was always this feeling of "if you fall off again, it'll really hurt!"
In a just-for-fun competition at our stable, I therefore opted to ride Power instead. I did fall off him a few times as well (especially when I tried to jump with him, and he stopped in front of the caveletti - and I fell off, cos I'd already shifted balance for the jump - and he looked at me as if to say "That's beneath my dignity!". After all, when he was a professional show jumping horse, he regularly entered the second hardest and hardest competition classes). But with Power, I could always get back on right away.
I stopped riding regularly, when I went to New Zealand. The fact, that the stable was a 30-minute drive to the end of town away from our house, buses only run there irregularly, and I focused on school, meant that over the last few years my sister and my mum took over looking after Aaron (my sister and I were co-owners of Aaron). Aaron and Power became really close friends, woud hesitate to go anywhere, where they couldn't see each other. When Power died, Aaron spent weeks looking and grieving for him.
Although there was only one horse to look after when Power died, the time and money factor became issues. My sister found other interests and I live in a different country, so most nights it was my mum and a girl from the stable who rode him or at least got him inside from the paddock. We love Aaron, but in the end we weren't doing him any favours. That, and the people who took over the stable concentrated on Western style riders, and ignored "us" English style (dressage, jumping) people.
However, the new owner doesn't live too far away! And according to my mother, who made the deal, we are allowed to visit and also ride him if we want to! It's a bit sad I never really got to say goodbye to Aaron, but I'm sure I will see him again!
So long, "Hörnchen"!

Not one of uni's prouder moments...

Yesterday afternoon: I open the front door, and find a letter on the floor, beneath the letter box. An official letter from the University of Cumbria.

Turns out, that after three weeks of being a Third Year student, I finally got to know whether I actually passed my second year or not!

We finished our second year of the Travel Journalism course in the first week of May. Everbody else got their results in July and August. But apparently, a certain Media Law lecturer had first of all got the results in too late and put the results in the wrong system, so it took this university five months and 2 weeks to process our results! Maybe it's just me, but I don't think that's acceptable at all. After all, we students get marks deducted if we hand assessments in a day late. So leaving it until after we signed up for another year, to officially tell us whether we passed the last year, seems just a tiny bit hypocritical!

I did pass the Second Year.
With 454 overall points last year, I got 56,75% - which in uni-speak is a Lower Second Class. However, if you count in my 516 points in Year 1 (thanks to the 85% I got on one of my tourism modules), which equals 64,5% or an Upper Second Class, I've just about got an overall Upper Second Class degree so far! The magic threshold from Lower to Upper Second is 60% - if you do your maths, I come out at 60,625% ! Which is why I need to pass most of my assignments with 60%+ to maintain that degree!

For those of you who are not familiar with the British marking system:
35 - 39%: Condoned Fail
40 - 49%: Third Class (D)
50 - 59%: Lower Second Class (C)
60 - 69%: Upper Second Class (B)
70%+ : First Class (A)
80%+ : First Class (AA)

My course leader was nice enough to email me a screenshot of my results (minus the Media Law one) in August, so I knew I had passed. But it still took the university almost two months, to actually confirm this!


From here on in, you can find my "Postcards from..." on Postcards from Conny.

So check my first blog entry there, for the story of my North Eastern adventure ;)

Writing your dissertation in 15 mins a day...

...yeah, as if!

My third year at university has only just started, and already I feel kinda overwhelmed by the whole "Write your dissertation"-situation. I am trying to really put in a lot of effort this year, copying lecture notes, doing all the necessary reading etc. and I'm fine with that. But when it comes to my dissertation - the thing I've been working towards for the last 2 years - I don't know where to start.

I know what I want to write about. I'd love to compare different travel magazines and newspaper travel supplements and determine how their content, style, tone, symbolism, semantics relate to their readership. I want to look at it both from a journalistic point of view (ie styles etc.),but also from a marketing point of view; analysing how readers can be split up into different market segments, what would appeal to these segments and whether they overlap or not. Is there a segment missing? Then why is that? And do travel publications vary from country to country? I want to find out, whether Britain, as an island nation, developed a different travel market than for example Germany, which has 9 land borders.

The problem is: I can't word my question. And without one, I can't work. Don't get me wrong, I've done my research proposal, I'm halfway through my literature review - but I need to formulate my question in order to get started. I'm the same in journalism. I need my headline first, to give me an angle on the story, to focus. At the moment, I feel like I'm hanging in limbo. If you have any suggestions, on how to put all that into a proper, academic-sounding dissertation topic, let me know!

I know I'll need to write about 10,000 words (without counting quotations) until mid-March and that I'll have to write a certain number of words per day or week to get there. We get tutorials at uni, on how to reference in the Harvard-System, but what I for one need, would be a look at a previous dissertation. How did they lay it all out? Did they include an appendix? How structured were the dissertations? I know that this is just about style, but once again, this helps me focus and getting the job done.

Over the next week, I'll have to read the books (including the ones about writing dissertations - like the "15 mins a day" one) and make a start. Get my first few paragraphs on paper. March seems miles away from now, and yet I know it'll come around too soon!

Wish me luck!

Cheese or font?

Can you tell a cheese from a typeface?

All you journalists, editors, designers out there, test your knowledge with the Cheese or Font Quiz! It's harder than it looks!

There are two versions of this quiz. A practice version, and the game version which actually counts your score! So go ahead and try whether you can distinguish world cheeses from computer fonts!

DVD Review: "Angels and Demons"

Robert Langdon is back. The Harvard professor who had to solve the DaVinci Code, has to rescue Vatican City from destruction in the movie adaption of Dan Brown's bestseller.

Although the script for "The DaVinci Code" was close to the version of the book, the writers took too much creative freedome with "Angels and Demons." Characters, which are vital to the story in the book are omitted or changed. Even the story itself had to be altered, and key elements are left out. It is impossible, of course, to summarise a 700+ pages book within 2 1/2 hours without having to make compromises, but book and movie can almost be seen as two different works of art now. Dan Brown explains in the bonus section, how he helped working on the movie script and what changes had to be made an why.

The film itself is outstanding. Tom Hanks convinces as American art historian Robert Langdon, who has to find the legendary "Path of Illumination" through Rome with the involuntary help of the Vatican. He has to stop a ticking anti-matter time bomb that could destroy the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. The centuries-old secret society of the Illuminati plans to bring the church to its knees through science. A race against time begins. While Conclave is being held in the Sixtine Chapel, four cardinals shall die on the "Altars of Science" - one every hour, on the hour.

"Angels and Demons" is just as gripping, mysterious and brilliant as its predecessor "The DaVinci Code." But those of you who are fans of the book and expect a one-to-one copy will be disappointed.

Time Management

Right, it's that time of the academic year again.

University has started, and before I fall into the same trap I fell in last year - doing everything last minute - I've now planned my weekly time wisely. The plan is simple, really. I'll spend 1 - 2 hours every day writing up the lecture notes, doing the assignments as soon as I get them and reading in the relevant text books.

Then in the afternoons (except for Modays, when it's in the mornings before class), I'll spend 2 hours researching / reading and eventually writing my dissertation. This way I hope I'll be keeping on top of things and don't have to worry about deadlines too much.

I really need to focus this year. After all, I want a fairly good degree. Last year, I didn't really give it my best. I still got quite good marks in most of my subjects, but because the people at this university kept screwing my course around (and that has nothing to do with the lecturers - just with the fact that they didn't give us the lectures we were supposed to have).

But this year really counts. It's my final year! So I'd better put some effort in!

Marge goes Playboy

She has just turned 20, and boasts an hour-glass figure. Despite having three children (a rude and mischievous ten-year-old called Bart, a smart and sensible eight-year-old called Lisa and a baby called Maggie who has already been a murder-suspect), being a strict mother and having yellow skin and blue, curly hair, she has many male admirers the world over. Now, America's favourite TV mum is set to disrobe for the well-known Playboy magazine.

Marge Simpsons, the matriarch of The Simpsons, is the first-ever cartoon character to appear in Hugh Hefner's magazine - let alone on the front cover! Her "strip" is part of a public relations offensive, celebrating the 20th anniversary of America's longest-running TV sitcom. According to The Independent, a Playboy spokesperson stated that Marge Simpson granted the magazine an interview, which will appear next to three pages of portraits that are "sexy" and feature "implied nudity".
Playboy magazine is hoping to attract more younger readers with this PR stunt. CEO Scott Flanders, told the Chicago Sun-Times that Marge's cover shoot is "obviously somewhat tongue-in-cheek. It has never been done before and we thought it would be kind of hip, cool and unusual."

The magazine hits the stands next month as a limited collector's edition. Subscribers will receive their magazines with human playboy bunny on the cover.

NASA on crash course

In a bid to find water-ice on the moon, NASA has crashed two unmanned spacecraft into the moon's southpole today. The first spacecraft hit the surface at 12.31pm and the second one followed minutes later, to detect water in the debris the first spacecraft had kicked up.

NASA had anticipated a cloud of 350 tonnes of debris to reach heights of up to 10km. However, neither on the video stream nor from earth could such a cloud be detected, proving a disappointment to watchers. The LCROSS mission (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellit) cost approx. GBP 49,000,000. But to fully answer the question whether there is water on the moon, NASA now has to evaluate all the data collected.

The lunar mission is supposed to help return men to the moon by 2020. However, President Obama has ordered a review of the manned spaceflight programmes, and the plans have been under scrutiny since then.

Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize

US president Barack Obama is the surprise winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. According to the BBC, the Nobel Committee stated that Obama was awarded the prestigious prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples".

Obama, who was surprised and humbled by the committee's decision, sees his win more as a call to action than a recognition of his accomplishments. He had only been in office two weeks before the nomination deadline.

As reported by CNN, Thorbjörn Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Committee, recognises Obama's efforts at dialogue with world leaders to solve "complex global problems" and working towards "a world free of nuclear weapons." He also stated that "only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future." It is understood that the decision was unanimous and came with ease.
Although there is scepticism by the public as to whether this award was too much too soon for Obama, world leaders congratulated him. The committee defended their decision, stating that they wanted to encourage Barack Obama just as they had encouraged Mikhail Gorbachov in 1990 for his efforts to open the Soviet Union. "Obama's diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population," the committee said.
Barack Obama is the fourth US president (and the third while in office) to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Former recipients were Jimmy Carter in 2002, Woodrow Wilson in 1919 and Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.

Newsroom Madness

Over the last two days, we third year journalism students have been quite busy. We had to get the Freshers' edition of "The Informer" designed, subbed and proof-read.

With only two weeks from the start of term until getting the pages ready to go to print (offstone), this edition mostly features articles written by the new first years.

In our first week back, we had to read and sub the stories they'd written during Freshers Week - and every first year group always comes up with the same ideas. "Where to drink in Carlisle", "How to live on the cheap", "Where to get books from" and "How to find a job" are usually along them. I had to oversee two stories written about Carlisle's bookstores. They listed Waterstones, WHSmith, Bookends and Book Case, but forgot to mention the aspect of the City Library and online second-hand book shops. I had to rewrite those two stories into one publishable version, and asked the two first years to get me 2 more quotes each - they came up with two quotes in total. Ah well, when you want something done properly...

Yesterday and today, we third years spend the day in the newsroom, slaving away on QuarkXpress, working on the page layout and subbing. I had spent Monday night working on my own version of Quark on my laptop and designed my pages, only to find that I couldn't open them on the university's newer system. So I had to start from scratch, creating two pages. This edition of Informer is a 12-page tabloid, but there are only 10 third years working on it, so two of us had to do an extra page.

On page 4, I had two articles. My page lead was Carlisle's City of Culture bid, while the anchor piece was a story I'd written about a Swedish designer. I used four pictures on the page, and also used crossheads and pullquotes, to make it look interesting and break up the text every now and then. I still can't believe I got away with the headline "The City of Culture, eh?", taking Carlisle's linguistic phenomenon of "eh?" into account. Terry just laughed and although he thought that it might be considered patronising, we kept the headline.

Page 2 was a bit more difficult to lay out. The front page held a story on the library closure, and there was a page turn onto my page. Which means, the story starts on one page, but finishes on another. I also had to place the imprint, a vox pop and a Students' Union story on the page. I finally decided to put the five vox pops on a green, 2-column wide colour patch and use pullquotes to make the words stand out. The imprint stayed in its traditional place at the bottom left corner of the page, while the SU story became page lead.

We were all very busy working on our pages, sometimes to the extend of not wanting to be bothered at all. However, at the same time we tried to help each other as much as possible. Luckily, the second year students helped proof read and so on, which made it a bit easier for us. Although we're Offstone today, we won't get to see the printed version til after the weekend. That has to do with CN groups printing schedule and our slot within that schedule.

Today, we had to check the pages again with fresh eyes. Check for consistency, house style, grammar, punctuation etc. and get everything converted into pdf files which can then be sent to the printers.

When all was done yesterday, the third year students went to the pub together. Technically, we only wanted to have a celebratory pint at the Crown Inn, our local behind the uni, after all the work was done, but we ended up staying more than 5 hours, having dinner there, and some even stayed on for the pub quiz as well. Good times. Now that's what I call journalism. After all, they say that you can pick up some of the best stories at the pub! ;)

Being "Karla Kolumna"

"Karla Kolumna" is a character in the old children's TV show "Benjamin Blümchen." She's a journalist and always darts around on her little scooter to find something to write about. Her nickname is "The Raging Reporter" (Die rasende Reporterin) and she is the reporter for "Neustadt". Even when I was little, she was my favourite character. Maybe, subconsciously, this inspired me to take up journalism.

And I feel, I am turning more and more into her.

It seems I've been the popular girl this week at the Solinger Tageblatt. After my "Postcard from Manchester" featured on Saturday's Karl.-Page, my "Postcard from the Lake District" followed suit today.
Honestly, the only thing that's missing is the scooter... oh yeah, and a talking elephant called Benjamin.

The University Code

I wrote a piece for the Solinger Tageblatt's youth page "Karl. " which got published yesterday.

It's about all those big words and abbreviations that are used in every day university life, but which are confusing for Freshers. Bearing in mind, that I don't study at a German university, I still managed to come up with a list for my University A-Z. It seems that you need a university degree just to be able to understand their brochures these days...

If you can read German, check it out here!

How much do you care?

How many friends do you have? 5? 10? 100? I know it's great to be the popular guy/girl, always surrounded by people, and always having someone willing to go for a night out with you. But how many of those friends will be there when you actually need them most? Probably only a handful!

Someone I care about deeply has had quite a shitty week, to say the least. Now, I for one can't stand seeing friends getting hurt or for them to try and solve difficult situations by themselves. Which is why I took a day off university and got on the next train. Many will say "Nah, it's alright, I don't need you here, it's all under control." But deep down I know that everyone longs for some company in trying times. Even if you're just there to give your friend a hug, hold their hand, or be a shoulder to cry on. Letting your friends know they're not alone in it. Or take them to the pub, a karaoke bar or a theme park to take their mind off things for a while - whatever is needed!

It all really depends on how much you care. I might only have a limited number of friends, and I can count the people I trust most on one hand, but at least I know that they will be there when I need them. It also goes without saying that I will drop whatever I'm doing to be there for them (if possible - which means, if I'm in the same country). The least I can do is be there and listen on the phone, or chat with them online.

In a true friendship, being there for each other is a given for me! There's just no excuse! Whether it's your other half or a classmate who needs support shouldn't make (too much of) a difference! We all need help sometimes!

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