Graduates / Journalism skills / Natasha Slee

One half of degree, completed! By Natasha Slee

First things first: my last blog post detailed the painful, tortuous and often tedious process of writing a dissertation first draft. Though glad to have handed something in, the prospect of writing the rest loomed over me like a big black stress-inducing cloud. Since that post, I have cried, persevered and endured many 6am starts to get down every last word of the final dissertation.

The draft I had handed in previously, although adequate, didn’t get as great a response as I’d hoped and it took a lot of persistence and swallowing of pride to rewrite and rethink afresh. But as I wrote the second half of the dissertation (the empirical study where I apply my own analysis), I could see how perfecting the first half made the rest so much more manageable. The second half – analysing three looks from the designer Ann-Sofie Back – was almost enjoyable.

Although I finished and printed three whole days before the deadline (yay!), I did not anticipate how essential the final read-through was, and how long it would take. Up until that point, I had only read through the dissertation in its entirety two or three times, as I would always end up stopping and rewriting a section. In the final full read-through I picked up several grammatical errors, which I had not spotted reading from the screen. Reading from a printed document definitely made me read slower and more carefully. I also found one too many Harvard References where I hadn’t noted the page numbers…which meant a frantic trip to another uni library to track down the last copy of this particular book.

Printing the dissertation, seeing it bound and inside an acetate cover, didn’t feel as good as I had expected. I couldn’t open it, incase I spotted a mistake. Finally handing it over three days later, however, felt amazing. One half of my degree done! I receive my mark in just over eight weeks, so fingers crossed.

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Binding the dissertation!

With the dissertation out the way, it’s full steam ahead with ALICE, my final major project, a magazine for teen girls. I love working on this project, and it’s made me realise how much I would love to work on a teen magazine, with TeenVOGUE (in New York!) an absolute dream. Contacting young bloggers, such as Who’s That Girl Opi and Orla the Lion, is rejuvenating on a stressful day. Their boundless energy and excitement for writing and fashion reminds me why I decided to pursue a creative career all those years ago.

There are many many strands of this project that I work on simultaneously (features, managing contributors, organizing shoots, and laying out pages) and many that I haven’t even thought about yet (building a website, establishing social media presence) that sometimes it can all feel rather ARGHH overwhelming, yet always exciting. Once one feature is written, or a shoot wrapped, there is always another to research and organize. These are some aspects of the magazine I am working on this week:

  • One feature called ‘Listening In On…Pen-Pals’ details a conversation between two international pen-pals, one from Seattle and another from Manchester, who now both live in the UK and are friends for real. The ‘conversation’ looks back at their pen-paling experience and what kept their friendship strong across the distance. Accompanying this feature, I am planning a visual piece about the website ‘Postcrossing’. Postcrossing enables you to send postcards to random addresses all over the world, and then receive random postcards back! I designed and printed a set of ALICE postcards and last week sent them out to random Postcrossing members in The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, the US, and Russia. Each postcard included an inspirational quote and a little information about ALICE. Any postcards I receive back will be printed in ALICE; I can’t wait to see what I get.
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ALICE postcards ready to go

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Messages written and stamped.

  • At the beginning of February I shot an accessories photo shoot. Instead of a photographer I used a photo booth, and styled jewellery onto three brilliant models to the theme of a vintage high school prom. It was a fun but super tiring day. In two weeks I am shooting a fashion story, this time with a theme of ‘school girl on summer holidays spending a lazy day in the park…!’ I have a brilliant photographer, and young model called Aiste. My friend Emily is acting as my stylist, which is a massive help, as you always need a second opinion on your ideas. The styling is all white clothing, and we are shooting in Hampstead Heath Park, so I am praying for sunshine and no mud. Next on my list to organize for the shoot are lots and lots of artificial flowers, to give the shots a summery feel despite the March timing.
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Shot from photo booth accessories shoot

  • As part of the health and beauty section of ALICE, I had an idea to write a feature called ‘What It Feels Like To…’ which explained, through a teenage sufferer and experts, a particular illness. This would educate readers so that if a friend or school colleague were a sufferer they would have greater understanding and may be able to help. I had been thinking about this piece for a while, and unsure whom to approach as it can be a sensitive subject. I knew people who suffered from depression, M.E. and anorexia but I felt too close to them to be able to ‘exploit’ their suffering. Fortunately, after discussing this with a tutor, she put me in contact with her niece who was diagnosed at 14 with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a form of M.E. I am interviewing her this week, and looking forward to writing a more serious, informative piece.
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