Michelle: Hello, and welcome to Better Words. I’m Michelle from The Unfinished Bookshelf and with me- [laughs] that sounded like bookshop. From The Unfinished Bookshelf (I’m a bit croaky this morning). With me is Caitlin, from Just a Bookish Babe
Michelle: This morning. No, not this morning. Just gave away when we’re recording
Caitlin: Or this afternoon, or midday, or midnight. We don’t really mind when you’re listening, but when we’re recording is in the morning. And that’s all the clues you get
Michelle: [laughs] Um, so, ‘cause it’s kind of early in the morning, what have you been up to lately Caitlin? Apart from, we both went to the gym last night. Yay us!
Caitlin: Yes we did. Gosh we’re so fit. I feel like we keep talking about the gym. Anyway–
Michelle: It’s ‘cause we’re proud we’re actually going. You more than me
Caitlin: Yeah. When we stop talking about it, you’ll know that we’ve given up. But no, actually after we went to the gym last night, you know what I did Michelle?
Michelle: What? Please tell me it was a face mask and pampering
Caitlin: I did a bit of pampering, but I watched New Year’s’ Eve
Michelle: Awww that’s lovely
Caitlin: It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure movie. It just has Zac Efron and Lea Michele in it, so where can you go wrong? Oh and Ashton Kutcher
Michelle: Ohh yes
Caitlin: Not to mention all the other faves from you know, like Valentine’s Day and all those ones that are exactly the same, but I just love New Year’s Eve. I love those movies
Michelle: I just find the concept of them so weird though. It’s like, let’s just get as many big names stars as possible and put them in with some weird plot where everything eventually joins up. Like, I just- who comes up with that idea?
Caitlin: Gary Marshall [laughs]
Michelle: Well, no Love Actually must have been the first one of those kinds of movies
Caitlin: Yeah, but I think it was different though because it’s British. The others are all American
Michelle: Yeah, but it’s the first time where you’ve got tonnes of big name stars–
Caitlin: And where it all comes together at the end where it’s like, oh they’re someone’s brother, oh you’re actually married to them, like oh! Yeah
Michelle: Yeah. Yeah
Caitlin: I mean sometimes- like, the first time you see it, it’s kind of (I mean, even though they’re not the greatest movies, they’re still very enjoyable to watch)
Michelle: That’s what a guilty pleasure is
Caitlin: Yeah. But then the first time you see them and you, like, all those dots connect and whatever, it’s like-
Michelle: It is a bit mind blowing
Caitlin: It’s like oooooooh and you like get it. It’s cool
Michelle: I do really appreciate that kind of storytelling, whether it’s in books or TV or movies, like I am so- well
Caitlin: I love connecting the dots
Michelle: I think I’m so bad at that, like in– like, I never pick it up
Caitlin: Oh anticipating what’s going to happen?
Michelle: Yeah. And I don’t think if I was writing something I would be able to do that, so I’m always, you know, whenever, I know um when I was reading– I think there was something I said about Kate Tempest’s The Bricks That Built the Houses where like everything sort of came together and it just had all these stories which I didn’t think had anything to do with each other. Like that [mumbles] gosh. That type of storytelling really, really impresses me. I love it
Caitlin: Yeah, actually–
Michelle: Just because I don’t think I could do it
Caitlin: Yeah, well I don’t think I could come up with it either, but that’s actually a good point is that really impressed me when I read Second Glance by Jodi Picoult
Michelle: Yeah. that was really good. Oh my gosh, you said her name the right way. Yay!
Caitlin: Thanks Michelle
Michelle: Is that just ‘cause we’re recording though because you always said you wouldn’t say it that way [laughs]
Caitlin: I don’t know, you know–
Michelle: So if you’re not Australian, you’re probably–
Caitlin: Or you say Pick-olt
Michelle: Or you’re just not a bogan. Australians, especially bogan Australians like us in Central Queensland have always said Pick-olt
Caitlin: Jodi Pick-olt
Michelle: Because we just read the name, and we’re like Pick-olt, but I saw Jodi, thank god I saw her a few years ago which was amazing because she’s one of my favourite authors and she pronounces her name Picoo like the tea and I was like ‘what’s that?’, um ‘cause I’m an uncultured person so now I say that and Caitlin and our other friend used to always laugh at me and I was like no, ‘cause I’ve met her I feel like I should say her name properly and, yeah. But then I felt like a bit of a tool for saying it like that when everyone else always said it different
Caitlin: Well it is a bit weird whenever someone goes ‘oh, you’re not pronouncing that properly’–
Michelle: I never said it like that
Caitlin: Well, there’s always words where you’re like, you know you’re not saying it right, but you just can’t say it properly.
Caitlin: I’m a bit like that with names because, like, if someone pronounces my name wrong or my friend’s name wrong, I’m like HOW do you get to that, because I always know the other way
Michelle: Oh, I mean you know I work with a couple of people who have very difficult names, shout-out to my lovely friend Zhanae, spelt–
Caitlin: Yeah, try and guess how to spell that
Michelle: [laughs] Z-h-a-n-a-e and when we first met I was like, what? Za– I had to like really get deep into stalking on Facebook to find her and I mean, our funniest conversations at work are when she’s been called something funny by someone on the phone. We had a colleague who moved to the Sunshine Coast who emailed us the other day saying ‘I’m listening to these girls trying to work out how to say your name and they’re like Zanee? Hanee? How do you say that?’. So yeah, we get a lot of laughs out of that. But obviously, not fun all the time for her. But, she laughs about it as does the other person I worked with. So I hope Zhanae doesn’t mind me–
Caitlin: I mean. Thank god our names are Michelle and Caitlin. Although I have to admit, I still get it mis-pronounced sometimes
Michelle: Oh. I’ve got Rachelle before and like, I got that from the Attorney General when I met him and our local MP who has the same name as me was like ‘it’s Michelle’ and I was like ‘thank you! You’ve had this problem before, I can see that’. So yeah, still get the wrong one sometimes
Caitlin: Well, mine is usually just spelling
Michelle: Oh yeah. There’s probably a million ways to spell Caitlin
Caitlin: Probably enough about names and our names. So, Michelle, what did you get up to after we went to the gym last night?
Michelle: Well, I finally finished watching the first season of House of Cards. I had the DVD, but then I just got lazy and finished watching the last two episodes on Netflix because–
Caitlin: I have to admit–
Michelle: I’m a Millennial
Caitlin: I feel so bad about that, if I have something on DVD, but I can’t watch DVDs on my phone or on my iPad, you know?
Michelle: Yeah. No, I was watching it on my TV, I was honestly just being a lazy Millenial and I couldn’t remember where I put the DVD so. So, yeah, um, have you watched House of Cards? Do you know what it’s about?
Caitlin: I haven’t, but isn’t it about like the president in the US, but the fake president and it’s Kevin Spacey
Michelle: Well, I mean, spoiler alert I think he becomes president eventually. Like, it’s up to season five now, so–
Caitlin: Oh whoops [laughs]
Michelle: I knew that already from listening to other podcasts
Caitlin: But he’s a politician?
Michelle: Yeah. So he is a congressman in the US. Very ambitious, shall we say. Would do anything to get where he wants to go and–
Caitlin: So, I guess five seasons he gets there? [laughs]
Michelle: Yeah. Yeah, so I’m interested to see where it goes. But, um, what we were saying just before about all the ends coming together really works in this because there are lots of things that he does at the start where I’m like ‘what? Why are you doing that?’ and last night was when all those little things came together
Caitlin: Oh, everything came together
Michelle: Yeah, to kind of fall into place for what he wants which is, spoiler alert, to get the vice presidency–
Caitlin: Ohhh. That’s like the first step
Michelle: His plan is to– Yeah, he has this step and he’s just got that and that’s where I’ve ended it so I’m going to keep watching season two. It did take me a while to get into. I think I tried watching it um, once before I got a few episodes in and was like ‘mmyeah whatever’, but it is a show people quite rightly have said I will love because there’s a lot of journalism too, it’s the interaction of like the press as well with the politicians and I do a lot of political reporting so people were right in saying that I would enjoy it. I love Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. So Robin Wright, who was in Wonder Woman, plays his wife Claire and they’re both so utterly ruthless. Like–
Michelle: It’s kind of like those characters you’re watching, where you’re like how can I enjoy watching, you are a horrible person, but at the same time you just want to keep watching them
Caitlin: They’re generally your favourite characters, those people
Michelle: Yeah! He’s so ruthless, but you know, she is too, but I love her a little bit more because she’s just awesome. But yeah, they’re just both such great actors, they yeah– but the whole cast is really cool too. But yeah, Kevin Spacey, so good.
Michelle: Like, if you liked him in Horrible Bosses, you’d like Frank Underwood
Caitlin: I love Horrible Bosses
Michelle: Horrible Bosses is so good
Caitlin: That movie is so funny
Michelle: I love it. I love it so much
Caitlin: No, Kevin Spacey is very good
Michelle: Yep, the Space-man is awesome
Michelle: And I’m also reading, I keep reading just a little bit before I go to bed and then I read a few pages and fall asleep because that’s what my life is like at the moment, it’s just sleep, I keep reading Remind Me How This Ends by Gabrielle Tozer
Michelle: Yeah, so I’m actually really-
Caitlin: I actually lent it to her, because I was like ‘you have to read it’
Michelle: Yeah, it’s Caitlin’s book. Which, obviously because you know I’m very picky about myself, I’m being very careful with, just so you know. Very careful. Um, so yeah it’s so good. I love- I don’t think there’s enough exploration of that time after high school
Michelle: And there’s definitely not enough explaination of what you do if you’re not going to go to university, ‘cause I think-
Caitlin: Well, yeah not even if you’re not going to go to uni, but some people plan to travel straight away or-
Caitlin: Or, you know, whatever your plan may be. I mean, we both went straight to uni-
Caitlin: But you still have a bit of a, like-
Michelle: An idea of what you want to do
Caitlin: Everyone has a limbo period at some point where it’s like, ‘oh what’s next?’ and it ususlly is after high school or after uiversity
Michelle: I don’t know, I haven’t had it yet ‘cause I just kept going. I just powered through
Caitlin: Uh yeah. Michelle just got a job straight out of uni, she’s so lucky
Michelle: No [laughs]. I got a job because I wanted to come back to a regional town, I wasn’t moving into Sydney or Melbourne. Like, I know people struggled to get jobs in those places. I was happy to come back to my regional hometown, luckily, could live with my parents and, yeah, get a job at a regional paper. Not a lot of people necessarily happy to take that path, but it’s one that’s worked for me and I’m very grateful to my boss for giving me that chance. I think I pinched myself for the first month. I was like ‘are you going to fire me? Like, have I really got a job’. I could not believe it. I could not believe it at all
Caitlin: It definitely is a bit of a weird transition to have a full-time job for the first time
Michelle: Because that was my first full-time job. I was very lucky not to have to work during uni, which is probably a good thing because I was very, very anxious. I wasn’t dealing with my mental health at the time so I was in a very bad place and it was very stressful, but yeah to go into-
Caitlin: I don’t really know how I had time to have a job during uni
Michelle: Neither do I, ‘cause you were also doing musicals. That was crazy
Caitlin: Yeah, I also did, like I did a fair bit like outside of uni even if it was just like helping out a lot more at home
Caitlin: Like, that’s still – I mean, yes, we should all help out at home, but it takes up time
Michelle: It’s different when you go from being that high school teenager to being at university
Caitlin: A young adult at university
Michelle: Um, you know, I will say I was very lucky not to have to do that and I didn’t do much except study and I think if I had done anything else- I was in a- like, now that I look back, I‘m like ‘whoa I was in a bad place mentally’ and I didn’t admit it so I didn’t really do much except study because I mean, at the time that was taking up a lot of time [coughs]. I am a bit croaky this morning, sorry everyone.
Michelle: But, I‘m loving it, I like the romance in it. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say there’s romance in it. Um, and I just, I like the small town thing as well ‘cause I think-
Michelle: Okay, we’re not from a small town, we have about I think on the last census-
Caitlin: It’s like 100,000
Michelle: I did a story, I did a story on this-
Caitlin: Just over 100,000
Michelle: Well, just in Rockhampton itself, that’s the region, so just in Rockhampton I think we’re about 50,000, um, just in Rockhampton itself
Caitlin: Literally just here, not-
Michelle: We have a lot of other areas
Caitlin: We have a lot of outskirting towns that get counted in the region, but-
Michelle: That was just from the census data, I think just for our state electorate borders, I’m just using my work knowledge here, um, but, we still understand the idea that a lot of people – like I don’t know what you were like at high school, but a lot of people were like, ‘I’m getting out of this place! And I’m never coming back and it’s horrible!’
Caitlin: Hell yeah, I mean I’ve always felt that it’s probably not that bad, but it’s probably not the time to go into talking too much about where we’re from
Michelle: I mean hey when we have a 10 min drive to work everyday… Although it does cut down on my podcast listening time I must say.
Caitlin: Yeah that’s a good point.
Michelle: Or my reading time, when I was doing my internship in Sydney, I was getting like an hour reading in on the train before work.
Caitlin: On the commute, on the trains and stuff?
Michelle: Yeah, that was good. But we are going to talk about that more with our guest today, because our guest today, is Gabrielle Tozer! So we are really, really excited to talk to her a bit more about this book and her other books, which we’re gonna do soon
Caitlin: And just like the media in general! Because we both work in the media so –
Michelle: Yes! Anyway, we’re going to do that when we give her a call soon!
Caitlin: Our guest today is an internationally published author, freelance journalist, editor, copywriter and social media specialist. She has written and worked for many Australian magazines and media companies. She is the author of The Intern and Faking It, and has had a huge year in 2017 with new novel Remind Me How This Ends, a short story in the Love Oz Ya Anthology and a new picture book titled Peas and Quiet. If you don’t follow her on Twitter, you should because she’s hilarious. welcome Gabrielle Tozer! Yay!
Gabrielle: Thanks guys, so nice to be with you!
Michelle: Thank you for much for joining us very early on a weekend morning, we really appreciate that.
Gabrielle: Sorry, I’m dragging you into my very boring lifestyle, of ridiculously early mornings so I appreciate it.
Caitlin: No, it’s okay
Michelle: We’re used to it, we’re used to it
Caitlin: I have to admit, I’m just so excited to talk to you!
Gabrielle: Aww, I’m excited to talk to you as well!
Caitlin: Thank you!
Michelle: I mean we are both excited but Caitlin particularly, when we were doing this podcast was like, ‘I want to interview Gabrielle Tozer!’ So yeah, this is really, really exciting for us. So I guess the most exciting thing for both of us, um, being in the media industry ourselves in different aspects of it
Caitlin: But we both really related to The Intern
Michelle: Yes. Yes. So, we were wondering how much of your own experience in the magazine went into writing The Intern and Faking It?
Gabrielle: Okay, so I wrote The Intern and Faking It when I was in my mid-to-late twenties so there’s not really like a percentage amount, you know, of how much of my experience went into writing that book, but what I can say is that I absolutely could not have written it without the career that I’ve had. And so what I mean by that is, I was one of those really, frustratingly annoying people who just knew what they wanted to do from a really young age which is quite similar to Josie who is a real go-getter. I had that same uncool side where you just, you’re doing work experience all through high school and you’re telling everyone you know that you want to be a journalist so, like, that was me at high school. So, I was doing work experience from about Year 10 at newspapers and at community radio stations and TV stations and things like that. I did my first magazine work experience when I was at uni, just because of my location. So I’m actually from a country town called Wagga Wagga and so when I moved to uni in Canberra, it was just a little bit more convenient to be getting to Sydney for things, so I remember I did my very first work experience at TV Hits, which isn’t around any more, but it was my bible when I was a teenager, I loved it. I also did one at a magazine that’s also now no longer around, it was smaller, but it was wonderful [clears throat] excuse me, but it was called Urban Hits and it was like an RnB/hip hop magazine and I love that kind of music and so it was a really small mag and so I got to do some pretty cool stuff there. Like I was literally there for a week and I was doing interviews and writing so much, which is, if anyone’s ever done work experience before, you often don’t get to do cool stuff like that you know? Like, it’s often you’re really learning the ropes. Well this wasn’t– I was thrown in
Gabrielle: And that was such a wonderful experience and that actually launched me into doing some paid freelance writing throughout university which is great
Caitlin: Yeah, that is great
Gabrielle: So my, sort of, entertainment journalism started during those university years. I was doing like street press stuff. So like, in Canberra I was interviewing a lot of like, some– not really celebrities any more but like, um, bands and musicians for the local street press mag BMA which I did that my entire uni and that was so wonderful because I was just hands on experience at the same time as I was doing my degree which was journalism, communications and I majored in creative writing as well, so I have like a real mix and I just was hungry for it so like once I go– graduated, I moved to Sydney and that’s where I guess my full-time experience began in 2006. So, I’ve been doing that now for over 11 years. Yeah, I never had like a crazy, full-time internship the way Josie did, but I certainly know all about them. I’ve done internships myself and I’ve also been a manager, where I’ve been managing interns. So I’ve seen in from both sides where you’re seeing how great some interns can be and how just lazy and hilarious and hungry in a really inappropriate way some interns can be as well.
Caitlin: Yeah, definitely.
Gabrielle: So this was just a cocktail of experiences that went into this. And during the time of talking about The Intern and Faking It publically, when it first came out, which feels like a really long time ago now, it– yeah, it just reminded me that I very much, for my very first novels (because you’ve got to remember this is the first novels I’d ever had written and published, so I was very much learning as I went for those two), it was very much a case of writing what I knew, but then exaggerating the hell out of it. There’s elements– like, if we sat down with the book, I could be like ‘that’s real, that’s fake’
Gabrielle: But it’s such a melting pot of all that. But I very much relate to Josie. Like, she is probably like– I relate to all my characters though. Every single book and story I’ve ever written. She’s probably bundled up into my insecurities, self-deprecating nature and like, I’m also addicted to Hawaiian pizza and had awkward experiences with guys at high school and, so like, she’s kind of like my awkward side that I’ve just really had a lot of fun with exaggerating.
Michelle: I think Josie, for me, it was the same sort of this. Although I must say, I didn’t– I’m a journalist and I didn’t, um, know what I wanted to do unti the middle of Grade 12, then I was looking through a catalogue for a universiyt and I was looking at all the classes that you do for journalism and I was like ‘oh, that sounds like me, like that actually does sound like it would fit for me’, so that’s how I picked my career. Luckily for me, it worked out. Um, but it’s really interesting that you had the same experience where, if you’re in a regional or a smaller area, or at a smaller publication, you get to do so much because I had the same thing when I did my work experience at the paper that I now work at. It was like, your first day in there: ‘do you have any story ideas? Hey we’re going to send you out on a job’ and its interesting now that I’m there, seeing the work experience people that come through and being able to pick and be like ‘you’re going to get a job’ or ‘you are not going to get a job’. Just knowing what my boss wants and that initiative. I guess the main thing if you want to be a journalist, is initiative. I guess always, in any job you’re doing work experience at, never be sitting there and not doing anything. Just ask someone ‘hey, can I help you with this? What are you doing?’ or, you know, if they don’t have anything ask them to tell you a bit about their job. I think that’s the big thing that I’ve noticed in teh transition to being an employee rather than a work exeprience kid.
Michelle: I did my internship, I had to do it full-time, in Sydney because I was studying on the Gold Coast, so I had to cram it all into four weeks instead of going like one day a week and I went down and did it at Pacific Mags and that was the most amazing experience. I was at Bride to Be, which was a very small team of people so I did get to do a bit of fashion, a bit of styling and a bit of writing and it was a really great experience, but I read The Intern after that and I was like ‘oh gosh, this is so familiar’. It was just great. So, I guess the next thing is that kind of industry, if people are looking to get into it, what they’re seeing a lot of is, you know, jobs are declining. It’s going through a huge period of transition. What would you advice be to someone who is looking to be a writer, to follow the same sort of career path as yourself or even just get into communications in general?
Gabrielle: You’re so right. It is in such a period of change. And to be honest, it has been evolving since I graduated and that– I graduated in 2005 and there were kind of warning bells from senior people then about what the media is going to become. And so I think the thing these days, we don’t have to go through at the moment because we’re already in the industry, but we– it’s about being adaptable I think
Caitlin: Yeah, that’s a really good point
Gabrielle: It’s very much a case of perhaps– like, for me, it’s very much like the industry is changing beneath my feet. So for example when I first set out to become a journalist, I only– Well, initially I was imagining doing broadcast as well and then at uni I had a major choice and I went with print and so, once I had chosen print, I just imagined that would be my career. I hoped I would write books as well, but I pictured my career being in magazines and I was just very optimistic, I didn’t just really think beyond that. Like, you know I didn’t think suddenly it would be in this massive period of change ten years from the moment I graduated and so I’m having to go through this myself as a working journalist, thinking ‘what do I want now for the rest of my life?’ in terms of what journalism is becoming because it certainly is very different for me from how it first began. There’s, you know, obviously a huge online element which is wonderful, because it gives access to so many people, but at the same time there’s not always as much time and resources and number of staff to be able to create the type of content you want so there’s a lot of lifting going on between magazines– oh sorry, not magazines. Between different online publications so it’s just becoming something that I guess I just never had imagined the media would be. So look, in terms of starting out. If I’m someone in Year 12 who’s thinking ‘I really want to be a journalist’, I’m not sure what career advisors are telling kids these days, but there’s kind of different paths to lots of the same destinations, right? So I went for a traditional route, which I know you can still do, which is doing a journalism degree and a lot of unis are still doing them. What other people have found, that have landed in the exact same media positions as me, is doing other types of degrees as well and simultaneously working on their writing and maybe doing some subjects in journalism. So, things like studying communications a bit more generically, or studying the arts and picking and choosing different subjects, kind of almost having like a varied degree which gives them options at the end because I found that for me, when the time came to apply for jobs, and this was you know, 11 years ago for the full-time job– when I had to start applying for full-time jobs, people were kind of like ‘okay, great, you’ve got a degree’ and then they move on from that part early and then it’s all about what separates you from that point, so it’s very much a case of what can you do that is going to make you stand out from the vast number of graduates out there. Because to be honest, and it’s a bit scary, but there are so many graduates out there who have studied the same thing, if you’ve studied journalism and similar things. So this is where that initiative and that hunger we were talking about comes into it and it’s why I think people that are going to continue to succeed as journalists (and they absolutely will because we always need news and always need information, like that part I am not afraid about at all you know what I mean? Like people just want content all day, so that’s going to continue)
Michelle: It’s not going away
Gabrielle: No, it’s not. No
Michelle: But it’s a limited number of people getting jobs
Gabrielle: Absolutely. There’s a limited number of jobs and graduates, so you have to stand out from the rest and I think what is going to make a difference is people knowing why they want to be a journalist. So this is super– it might sound a bit business jargon-y, but it’s literally like know your why. Why do you want this? Is this something you even want? When we’re having to make these decisions with our career, we’re quite young you know?
Gabrielle: I was just a freak of nature who knew what she wanted to do, but to be completely fair I didn’t really know what it would involve as a career. I think I was just a bit excited by the idea.
Michelle: Oh, me too
Gabrielle: Like, back then I was excited about the idea of like wearing fancy jackets on TV. I was going to be a broadcast journalist–
Michelle: But not white. No white jackets, thank you. We had this discussion.
Gabrielle: No white jackets
Michelle: If anyone didn’t see that, I’m going to link the viral video where two news broadcasters both wore white jackets and it was a bit of a thing in Australia. It was very funny
Caitlin: Oh, it was so funny
Michelle: Sorry Gab
Gabrielle: That’s alright. I think it’s just a matter of like knowing why you want to do it, staying focused and looking at what makes you different and knowing what your areas of potentially areas that could become your areas of expertise or passion could be and really just start throwing yourself out there. Like I started writing and, um, asking questions as well from like age 18 when I was at uni. I was bugging the street press mag about tips and, like, you’re just kind of hungry for it. But you’ve also got to want to enjoy it. This isn’t– This is an industry that people who last, I believe, who stay in it and are very successful are people that just genuinely love writing and love information and love entertaining and storytelling. Like, I feel like it’s not an industry from people who just want to roll into work and collect their pay cheque and go home. You’ve got to naturally have that kind of passion for it. But this initiative can be anything I think from being really eagar and offering your services to people and also knowing when to kind of step back and just get on with the job and not bug the bosses and let them get on with their job. Because what’s happened with the industry these days, as more jobs have been– and also as jobs have been restructured and jobs have been changed, there’s often a case of the bosses are doing like two or three people’s jobs at once so it’s kind of busier than it’s ever been, but it’s just a matter of what jobs are out there and are they the jobs that you want. So, there’s online jobs obviously and there’s all sorts of comms sorts of jobs and they still very much use those same skills for advertising and marketing and public relations and freelance journalism is something I know a lot of writers are doing while juggling other jobs and so they’re still able to pursue their passion for writing and maybe make some money on the side, but then they’ve got that solid base of a pay cheque in their part-time or full-time somewhere else. So I think we’re very much in a new era of kind of what being a writer looks like.
Michelle: We are. And Caitlin is giving me so many knowing looks because she hears it all the time when I’m like ‘oh I can’t do this because I’m still late at work’ because we have no staff, ever because being a regional paper as well it’s a place where there’s a high turnover because people start their careers here and then they move on and we’re not necessarily getting replacements. And like you said as well everyone, not just our bosses, everyone is doing the job of like three people and you have a couple of things you’re responsible for and it’s so busy, but like every day I love it. Even if the corporate things sometimes get to me a bit, but in terms of like when I get a good story? I still get that adrenaline rush of ‘oh this is such a good story’ and that’s how I know I’m doing the right thing. But I think Millennials, like our generation, are uniquely placed to be able to adapt really quickly to change and I think in some ways it’s a good time to be in the industry because if you have a cool idea and you can pitch it right, there’s way more chance of it getting accepted because bosses are willing to give things a go. If you can prove that, I mean let’s be honest it’s all about the hits online for a lot of people because that’s how we’re getting advertising revenue now, so if you can prove that it will get people clicking on things, then most bosses are willing to give it a go and so I think it’s actually a really– it’s a bit of a scary time to be in the industry but it’s also a pretty cool time as well
Caitlin: So interesting
Gabrielle: Exactly. There’s a lot of freelance writers who have perhaps never studied journalism or done anything like that, but they’re very passionate about it and very informed about what they’re writing about and are perhaps even more articulate than some people who have had journalism degrees. They’re wonderful writers and, yeah, they’re pitching to online places and they’re getting their stories picked up. So what they’re gradually doing is building up a portfolio and that’s suddenly becomes the most important thing, over everything else. Like, over a degree and over all that stuff. They start to build a name for themselves and more and more people then start to trust their name, almost like a brand. Like, I know what I’m going to get when it comes to this writer.
Michelle: And we’re being told that at work, in terms of you know; build your own personal Facebook, build your own personal Twitter because those followers can go with you and that can become, I have like minimal followers, but if you were to get quite a few followers that can be something you can pitch too when you’re going for a new job and so I think that’s something people can keep in mind. Blogging is a great way if you’re a teenager and you want to get better at writing and stuff, you know, get experience with your own blog and, um, if you are going specifically to a news or a magazine publication and you’re doing some work experience my number one tip would be to always start your work experience with a story idea because that’s going to be really, really impressive for everyone who works there because they don’t want to be handing you stuff every single day.
Gabrielle: Absolutely. And know the publication that you’ve gone to do work experience at
Michelle: That is a huge one
Gabrielle: It seems so basic. It seems so basic, right? But often people just have- they’ve never bothered to pick it up. They’ve just booked in for their internship or work experience. Maybe it was like Josie where it’s just been handed to them, it can go either way and maybe they just didn’t think to do that. But the more prepared you can be, the better absolutely.
Michelle: And also when you’re working there, if you’re working for a newspaper actually read your stories and read other people’s stories too because that’s how you can start to improve as a writer. That’s the number one tip my boss gave me when I started and I’d look at the way other people wrote things and think ‘oh, that’s really cool the way they’ve done that’ and you know, you eventually pick up good style tips. And if you are in university and you do a journalism degree, I think the important thing to remember is the style you learn at university is not the be all and end all. Every publication has its own style. I work at a newspaper, but my boss is very much like “tell the story” and the way that we write is totally different from the way that we learnt to write for newspapers at university . So being adaptable, again, is just such a big part of being successful in this industry
Gabrielle: Absolutely. And I also feel like being transparent about the fact that if you’re doing a three or four year degree, by the time you finish there might have been even more changes in the industry about what’s expected and the kinds of places where you can get work and so I think it’s just a matter of keeping an eye on that throughout your entire degree. Like, there were two different kinds of people in my degree. There were the people like me who were kind of living double lives where we were doing our university degree and loving it and we were also just throwing ourselves in the industry, just dipping our toe in the pool as early as we could because we just wanted to. And there were people who were doing their degree and not really daring to see what was out there. And often by the time their degree finished, they didn’t really then move into journalism, they went into other jobs like in the public service and things like that and I think if it is something you’re wanting at the end, you need to keep up. That’s three or four solid years of information that you could be gathering or building your portfolio, so
Michelle: Even, I’ve worked as a full-time journalist for three-and-a-half years and even in that time the way we put together our newspaper and our website has changed dramatically. It went from getting a newslist of stories that would be in the paper at about 1pm in the afternoon, um, with most stories going online the next day to now we have deadlines throughout the day. We have like three major deadlines throughout the day for stories and then we fill the paper, so yeah it’s such an ever-changing industry
Caitlin: It really is
Gabrielle: And if there’s way people can upskill in their own time without it costing a fortune, then that can be helpful. I didn’t do this during uni, but I wish I had just because one of the- we were told throughout uni that we would be learning using this program called Dreamweaver, so everyone was getting used to this program called Dreamweaver and then you know, when we were spat out into the world and went into magazines, no one’s using Dreamweaver. Everyone’s using Adobe InDesign and now we’re using InCopy and things like that. So it’s kind of like if you have contacts in the industry or you find yourself doing work experience you can kind of get those head starts and so then maybe you can learn how to use these programs that become so important when you’re on the job. If you don’t that’s fine. You get training and it’s completely fine, but sometimes I wish I had a bit of a headstart with InDesign because I kind of fudged my way through that in my first job. I may have lied and said I knew how to do it. Don’t do that at home! But I-
Caitlin: I did that too! I’m not very good at InDesign
Gabrielle: I had a training session with my friend’s dad, who’s an amazing designer and he sat down and was kind of teaching me the basics so I knew how to do sub-editing and move things around and stuff like that, but it was so stressful and I wish I had a bit more time to nurture those skills. But now it’s something I use literally every day for 11 years, so you adapt and you get there.
Michelle: And I would say if anyone is wanting to get into newspapers particularly or online newspapers, now doesn’t mean just print. It’s online mainly.
Michelle: The biggest thing which I ignored at uni, because I was like ‘I’m not doing TV journalism so I don’t need to know this technical stuff’, get yourself skilled in video. If you want a job as a journalist, they want multimedia. We’re learning it at work now, but if you want a job as a journalist at a newspaper, you’re expected to have video skills as well and I promise you it will be a really, really big selling point on your resume, if you have video skills. It’s something I didn’t have going in, I have them now, but it’s still surprising the number of people who are like ‘wait, this is for the paper isn’t it?’ and I’m like ‘yes, but we are online’
Gabrielle: Absolutely. Everyone is doing everything. And photography skills as well
Michelle: Yeah, definitely. So you also founded The Bottom Rung which is an online hub to help students get confidence before they’re entering the workplace which is I guess a bit what we’ve been talking about already. But apart from knowing some computer programs, what else do you wish you’d known before you went into full-time work and what’s the biggest lesson you learnt from that first job
Gabrielle: Okay, so having to cast my mind back here. I’ve learnt so many lessons, but this is a pretty big picture one that may not kind of click for people straight away at the start of their career, but maybe if they remember it, it will help them at some point. So, let me explain. ‘Cause I was so ambitious and so hungry for this when I was very young, it meant I put way too much pressure on myself about it. I was a stress-head, it wasn’t pleasant. You know what I mean? I wasn’t making life easy for myself. I kind of had this vision that careers had to just go up, up and up. Like, just imagine a big line soaring up high. So with every job it would be a better job, you’d be moving through the ranks and that’s what a career is. But when I was about 25, I’d been following that. I’d gone from being a sub-editor, I’d kind of become a deputy chief sub-editor and I was becoming a one-shot managing editor then I was a deputy editor where I was managing 11 people and I kind of was following what I thought was the career path that you’re meant to do. But when I was 25/26, I was just like this is not making me happy, this is not what I expected and I had this wonderful conversation with someone who pointed out that careers don’t have to go up the whole time. Sometimes to be happy, you need to like, take sideways steps with a job. Like, maybe you take a job that’s on a similar level, but it’s a different job and that’s what you might need. Or maybe it’s even taking a job that’s even stepping back a few spots and that might be what you need and that’s okay. So, they explained to me that a job doesn’t have to be this one big exponential line that’s soaring into the sky, it’s more like a little rollercoaster where there’s ups and bumps, that type of thing. It might sound silly, but for me that has saved me because I was kind of on the fast-track to burnout and did burnout in my twenties and that’s ridiculous. Like, I’m in my twenties, I shouldn’t be putting that much pressure on myself, but I was. So now I’ve done so many different things. I’ve gone from managing 11 people, after that job, after that pep talk I was like ‘well, I’m not happy, I’m missing writing’, so I then took a writing job where I suddenly went back a few paces, I was paid less, but my God I was happy and that just reminded me–
Michelle: That’s such good advice
Gabrielle: I stopped worrying about how a job title or the name of a magazine or online organisation would look to other people and I’ve thought about what would actually make me happy in my life rather than about, you know, if it’s what I should be doing. That has changed everything. So, I’ve kind of jumped around heaps in my career from being manager to being managed and now I’m a freelancer and I’ve done that for two-and-a-half years and it’s a completely different lifestyle altogether, but I’m okay with that and I no longer make these stupid statements like ‘I would never do this’ or ‘I would never do that’ because I’m now open to my career taking me on all sorts of paths and I think that’s really good to keep in mind so you don’t put too much pressure on yourself and think that you need to be in the top chir by the time you’re mid-twenties. I think there’s a lot of pressure– people put a lot of pressure on themselves to like be absolutely killing it from the start, but I’ve really have found out how important it is to learn the foundations, put in time in a job where you get comfortable enough in a job that you’re nailing it before throwing yourself into the next challenge, but I had to learn all those lessons the hard way
Caitlin: I think being open to new jobs is actually a really good point as well because, I mean, when I finished uni I was applying– I mean, I was applying for all different kinds of jobs but if you had told me at my graduation ceremony I would have ended up in the job I’ve got, I would have laughed in your face. But I really am enjoying my current job and just because I didn’t think I’d be here doesn’t mean this isn’t where I’m supposed to be
Gabrielle: Absolutely, and I think as well, because the media and even communications jobs like copywriting in advertising and marketing and that kind of thing do move quickly so sometimes you may only be at a job for one to three years or something like that and that’s okay as well. So sometimes you have to remind yourself is this isn’t permanent, this isn’t the rest of my life, if you’re hating it kind of thing. It’s very much about, with every single job (this is another piece of advice), but with every single job that you do, even if it’s hell, and I’ve had a couple that were hell on earth, you look back and go ‘what have I gained from this job?’. It might be skills that you can then take into a new job. It might literally just be an amazing job title that will help you get another job. It might be an amazing friend. There was one job where I came away with some, one of my best friends. Or it might just be something that you don’t realise for years actually helped you learn some lessons about yourself and what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are and that type of thing. So, I feel like I am one of those silver lining people, so I do try to, even if I’m hating something, afterwards I try to reflect on it and go ‘okay, that really sucked but was there anything good about it?’ and you can usually find a few things that were [laughter]
Michelle: We were talking a little bit before we called you this morning about Remind Me How This Ends, which we both– well, I haven’t actually finished it yet (I will by the time this goes to air), but we’re both really big fans of it and we were talking about you know, being from regional areas. We, and I’m sure you found this too, we have a lot of people who are like ‘I’m never going back’ and stuff like that, so we wanted to talk a little bit about that. Milo is very unsure about what he’s going to do with his life and that seems very opposite to what you were like. So, you know, why did you want to write about Milo and his indecision about what he’s going to do after high school.
Gabrielle: Yeah, so as I mentioned before Josie in The Intern and Faking It is my intensity during those early ages, like 16 onwards. That was where I was at. And believe it or not, so I’m 32 now and I started writing this book when I was about 30, I’d have to check that… 29/30 maybe. I was feeling like Milo, believe it or not. My period of indecision hit me a decade after high school. So, I was feeling doubt about everything in my life when– This is what leads me to write books. I kind of have these authentic, really, these feelings that just won’t let me go and then I just throw them into these fictional scenarios and so, yeah, I wasn’t having a great time in my life. I was feeling really confused about literally every aspect of my life. I was very unhappy about what the future was going to hold, yeah, I was all over the place and the only thing I knew how to do was to start writing that out and I didn’t deliberately think to myself ‘I want to write about someone who’s in a regional town who’s feeling stuck in a regional town’, I just knew that I wanted to write something that was more connected to my childhood and that lead me to the regional town, if that makes sense. I’d already done the city with The Intern and Faking It and that’s very much a part of who I am these days, but I wanted something that felt true to who I was when I was that age and I think if I was in a happier headspace I may have written a completely different type of novel set in regional New South Wales which, maybe I will one day, I could have written something that was more representative of the hilariously fun, you know, times that my friends and I used to have, more of a comedy. But because I was in such a low period and I did end up like going to speak to a doctor and that kind of thing to kind of help work through all those feelings, it just bled out onto the page and if you look at Layla as well, she’s just riddled with indecision about everything. Her and Milo, everything’s up in the air, their career, their relationships, that kind of thing. Everything is just feeling like they’re the last people on earth to receive the memo on how to get your life together. That’s how it was feeling for me. On paper, people are always so quick to judge; you’ve done this, you’ve done this, but behind the scenes everyone’s kind of got their things that they’re juggling and yeah, it almost became like therapy for me that book. It actually wasn’t a fun book to write, but it kind of, somehow I look back at it and think I needed to write that book, I needed to write it out of me
Michelle: I think it’s a book that’s going to help other people who are feeling the same thing as well, like, it’s, it really touched me. I could relate to it in some ways, but I know that there are other people who are going to be like ‘wow, this is me’ and they’re going to find some solace in that
Gabrielle: It’s been amazing. You know, I feel bad when people feel the same as Milo and Layla because they’re not in the best, the happiest headspace, but I was you know, happy that they were able to see themselves reflected on the page in a way that kind of gave them comfort. And I don’t want to give anything away with the endings, but you know understanding that maybe life doesn’t always have to be sewn up with a pretty red ribbon and you know handed to you every second. Maybe it’s just a matter of working it out as you go a little bit and being okay with that. Um, and yeah I was kind of was almost teacher myself a lesson as I was writing it. I definitely feel like I’m out of the headspace now, it’s like, it’s wonderful. I think this is writing for me– You can only write the story you have inside you to tell and like the next YA book I want to write is so different. Like, it’s another contemporary, but it’s so different in terms of tone that I’m just like– it clearly depends on where my head’s at
Caitlin: That’s really interesting. I have to say I really enjoyed reading it and I also really enjoyed the ending, I thought it was great
Gabrielle: Thank you
Caitlin: I don’t want to give too much away because even Michelle hasn’t finished it yet so that’s enough
Gabrielle: Yeah, I was really proud of that ending and I– There was initial whispers when I was first doing the draft of ‘is that the way we’re definitely going to end it?’ and I was like ‘absolutely’, like for me that’s the point of it and–
Caitlin: Yeah, that’s what I loved about it
Gabrielle: Yeah, some people have contacted me since, and I can understand why, asking for more, like more, a sequel and I’m like, it’s not really– I feel like I’ve told the story I want to tell. It’s very much about two people in this one period of their lives
Caitlin: Exactly. And that’s kind of it. And that’s the point. Yeah, I really liked that
Gabrielle: Sorry, I’m very hesitant to not give anything away
Caitlin: I know, sorry
Michelle: So, we’ll move on from the ending of the book. So, the other thing we wanted to chat to you about was your really, really super cute picture book that just came out
Caitlin: Oh, it’s so cute
Michelle: It’s so gorgeous! Why a picture book and how? How do you go about writing a picture book, finding an illustrator, how?
Gabrielle: [laughs] okay so, first question was why. So, I’m, again, one of those writers who, I follow the ideas rather than– so, for example I don’t sit down and think ‘I’m going to write a picture book’ or ‘I’m going to write a YA book’, I tend to have an idea for a story and then I go ‘oh my god, that’s a YA book or that’s a middle grade’ and then it just happened to be that this idea landed in my brain and it was absolutely a picture book and I kind of wrote it down, I remember emailing myself the most weird notes about it, ages ago. Like, way before I wrote it, and I just let it brew in my mind. And then one day I was chatting with my amazing publisher from Harper Collins and at the time I was still just a YA author with them and I think she just knew my passion for writing for children and so she, she had confidence with me branching out and writing for different age groups within YA and children’s. So with her kind of nod of ‘yeah, give it a go absolutely’ and with magazines, I’d always bounced between different demographics as well, so I’m comfortable writing for different audiences and plus I just love children’s books. It’s what got me into reading from a young age, you know, my parents buying me these gorgeous picture books. So, anyway, I just had this magical moment one day when I had the voice, the rhyme from Peas and Quiet came to me. It was just this beautiful writing experience. And I don’t want to be all wishy-washy about it, but these experiences never happen to me so it felt like the closest thing to magic that I’ve ever experienced magically and it started to fly out of me. It was amazing. And I’m not saying at all that writing picture books is easy. Because I’ve written about five other manuscripts and they’ve all been rejected so this wasn’t a case of ‘picture books are easy blah blah blah’, they’re hard but this one just felt special and I think it just all culminated at the right time for me and I actually wrote the first draft just before I started working on Remind Me How This Ends, so a long time ago and they’re a very slow pace, like if you do get the go-ahead [laughs]. They do move at a glacial pace. Then my situation is a little different, just because I’m already with a publisher. So what happened for me is I sent her my manuscript, you know, I think I sent her a few others at the time and they didn’t get a look in, forget about them. And this one stood out. She, with her 20-something years of children’s picture book publishing could see in her mind who would be a really good fit illustrator-wise and I was happy to be guided by that. So she sent me Sue’s name and I had a google around and I was like ‘oh yes, yes, yes, I like the vibe of her stuff’ and I could see tonally it would be the right fit. I was very protective of the work, obviously, but the moment I saw Sue’s work I had trust that she was kind of quirky and it was whimsical, but still cute and beautiful, and I was like ‘oh this is just everything that I need’. But it wasn’t as simple as that. Sue obviously had to say yes [laughs]. You know, you can get your hopes up, so I think I was just crossing my fingers and then, luckily Sue was available, but she wasn’t available straight away because she’s very in demand, does a lot of work with like Jackie French. This is why it’s so amazing, I’m so green in the picture book world I was just happy to be along for the ride really, I was like ‘yep, I’ll do anything you need’. Yeah, so Sue was able to do it, but we just had to push it back a little, so I kind of just had Peas and Quiet ticking along in the background and did edits and things like that while I was working on Remind Me How This Ends and it was always just this really joyous, beautiful creative experience that was like balancing out my angsty heartache while doing Remind Me How This Ends. It was quite lucky timing I think. It really, yeah, it really kind of broke up the madness I was falling into while throwing myself headfirst into Remind Me How This Ends. Because the only way I was able to write Remind Me How This Ends was to kind of go to the bad place, to access the feelings I was trying to feel to write about. While with Peas and Quiet it’s just joy and fun and drinking tea and pancakes and silliness. It was just so much fun. I don’t think I had one bad day in the number of years we were working on that book which is quite an achievement for me when working on a book
Caitlin: Yeah! That’s a pretty good thing to say, like it was all fun. That’s cool
Gabrielle: It was all fun, like even when we had tricky things to iron out, like I had to add in new stanzas because I needed more in the centre or I needed to re-write something because it didn’t quite fit with the illustration anymore, that kind of thing. That was never a big stress, it was more like I was excited to have a go. It just felt like a really fun project, it was. It was good. I just wish– like I said, they are very hard to write. In my mind, I’m like ‘I just want to write so many more’, but I just have this feeling that I’m probably going to keep getting rejected, like how many times, and eventually I might get another one. It’s not a case of churning them out year after year now that I’ve had one out. It’s very much, like, it’s everything has to line up to get the go-ahead. It will be an interesting ride with picture books from now on
Caitlin: It will be interesting to see where it goes from here
Michelle: So, yeah we kind of– that’s all our questions. So we are going to play a little game of Would You Rather
Gabrielle: Ohh, dangerous. Okay
Caitlin: So, I just have a question inspired by The Intern. So, Gabrielle: would you rather hand wash 5000 bikinis or untangle five crates of jewellery?
Gabrielle: Oh my God
Gabrielle: Look, I think– Look, obviously I don’t want to do either but I think I am going to have to handwash the bikinis. I am so bad at untangling jewellery. Like, I would probably rather untangle the jewellery, but I don’t think I’d get anywhere. I’m one of those people who always has to hand it to a friend, or my sister or something to untangle a really fine necklace, so I think I’m stuck with the bikinis you guys
Caitlin: I have to admit, I think untangling the jewellery would just drive me insane. I’d probably get the bikinis done quicker because you’re just washing them, it’s simpler
Gabrielle: Totally. Yep, put some music on and just like zone out, while I think with the jewellery you’d have to really concentrate and–
Caitlin: It would drive me mad
Michelle: I was going to say jewellery, but I would like– my stomach would be in knots. I get really anxious when I’m trying to do stuff like that, so I think for my mental health bikinis it is
Michelle: Bikinis would be better. Well, thank you so much for joining us Gabby, we really appreciate it
Gabrielle: Oh my goodness, my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me guys
Caitlin: Thanks again to Gabrielle Tozer for joining us, we just loved talking to you. As I mentioned at the very beginning of our episode, you definitely need to follow her on Twitter and now that The Bachelor’s back on TV, guess who’s live tweeting every episode? So Twitter, @GabrielleTozer, same on Instagram. You can also check out everything on her website gabrielletozer.com. All her books are published through Harper Collins and will be available though pretty much anywhere you can buy books. Make sure you look this girl up because she’s just fabulous. Now, remember, thanks for joining us for some Better Words. Make sure you follow us on Twitter and Instagram @betterwordspod, our Facebook page is @betterwordspodcast and check out our website at betterwordspodcast.com. Don’t forget to subscribe.