Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Heather Young of Growing Spaces on blogging about interiors

Thinking back, I think my career in interiors was probably inevitable. Many of my childhood memories involve DIY as my parents renovated our family homes (and we’re talking major renovations, not just a lick of paint here and there). In fact, my mum often jokes that I actually learnt to walk on floor joists as there were no floorboards down when I started to toddle.

For my 12th birthday present, I wanted to give my bedroom a makeover. I picked a colour scheme (navy blue), chose some bed linen, and my mum helped me to make new curtains and reupholster an old sofa bed. I felt so grown up, and I think from that moment on I was hooked on the idea of making a space my own.

I got interested in journalism after a work experience placement when I was 14 or 15 at a film magazine. It seemed fun, exciting, energetic, creative. From then on, I knew it was what I wanted to do, but I had no idea what area of journalism to head into until, by complete chance, I scored a work experience placement after university at a successful interiors magazine in London. Suddenly it all fell into place, and I recognised that interior design really was my passion, and that I could actually combine that passion with a career as a journalist. I think before that point, I didn’t really even know that there were interiors magazines out there.

Over twelve years later I still love anything home-related just as much as I ever did. An ideal day for me would be pottering around the house, working on some mini styling project, or rearranging the furniture for a bit of a change. Now I have a young family (my twins are nearing four years old), my pottering opportunities are rather limited, but when we relocated from London to leafy Berkshire a couple of years ago, I had a house that needed lots of work, and I saw an opportunity to start a blog about the project, as well as offer advice and inspiration along the way.

Growing Spaces wasn’t my first blog – I’ve been writing a blog about family life with the twins since 2010 – but it was my opportunity to start an interiors blog that was firmly focused on ideas that work in a family home, and that would address the challenges of family living and how to adapt your home and style to accommodate young children.

I’m still working as a freelance interiors journalist, so unfortunately I don’t get to blog as often as I’d like – one of my major frustrations is that the blog has to go at the bottom of the priority list, and I don’t have time to turn even half of my ideas into blog posts. The list of projects, how-tos and things I love that I want to blog about keeps growing longer, but the great thing about interiors is that a lot of these ideas won’t date.

My blog isn’t based on the latest trends in homeware, or the hottest home buys out there right to snap up right now. As well as offering some inspiration through our own renovation project, posts on Growing Spaces are more about home styling, or sharing clever storage ideas or a how to on a quick and simple decorating project.

There are a lot of amazing interiors blogs full of stunning photography that I love to read, but I hope my own blog offers something a bit more accessible and real – a lot of my readers have come to Growing Spaces from my parenting blog, so family-friendly ideas is really want I want to deliver.

My top three blogging tips would be:

1. Be passionate about what your blog’s about. If you don’t find your subject matter interesting, no-one else will either!

2, Make a note of any blog post ideas as soon as they come to you. I scribble things down on bits of paper, type them into Evernote on my phone or ipad, or send myself an email.

3. Be patient with your posts. I’m one of the most impatient people I know and once I’ve written something I want to click ‘publish’ straight away. But often I’ll write a few posts in the space of a few days, but then I won’t be able to blog again for a couple of weeks, so I schedule some of those posts to fill the gap.

Heather Young is a homes-obsessed interiors journalist and blogger. To find out more visit

Monday, 17 June 2013

10 Publishing Secrets by Scott Pack, Publisher and Author

Here are ten things that are often true of the acquisitions side of the publishing world but rarely admitted. Until now.

1. Publishers will sometimes, perhaps often, make a decision on a manuscript after reading the first sentence.
2. It is a fair bet that most submissions are never read beyond the first page.
3. Cover letter, synopsis and marketing plans accompanying a submission are often less important than whether or not the editor has just made a cup of tea.
4. At an acquisitions meeting it is rare for more than 50% of attendees to have actually finished reading the book under discussion.
5. At acquisition meetings people are more likely to point out reasons a book won't sell than reasons it will.
6. Current mood of the reader is as influential as quality of the manuscript.
7. Publishing myths - 'erotica doesn't sell', 'this is a magazine article not a book', 'humour books don't work outside of Christmas' - remain true until someone publishes a book that proves them wrong.
8. And then everyone else tries to replicate that success for six months.
9. A writer of literary fiction can turn their hand to another genre and be accepted, even welcomed, by reviewers. A writer of genre fiction will struggle to be accepted by reviewers of literary fiction. This can influence publishers when considering new projects by established writers.
10. Publishers are still far more likely to consider a book sent to them by an agent than via any other source.

These are sweeping generalisatons and are not true of all publishers all of the time, obviously. But I defy publishers not to find at least three things on this list that they recognise.

Scott Pack is a publisher and author and he blogs at Follow Scott on Twitter @meandmybigmouth

The Friday Project is the experimental imprint of HarperCollins trying out new ways of acquiring, publishing, selling and promoting their books with a strong focus on digital. Bestsellers include Sirens by Tom Reynolds (now a major Channel 4 television series), Confessions of a GP by Dr Benjamin Daniels and The Atheist's Guide to Christmas.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Trials and Tribulations of Setting Up a Social Network by Andy Meikle, Co-Founder of Sportlobster

If you’ve watched the Hollywood blockbuster, The Social Network, you probably have the opinion that the business of setting up a social network involves parties, secret societies, legal rifts and power struggles. The reality is quite different, something myself and my Sportlobster co-founder Arron Shepherd have experienced for ourselves since we conceived the idea of the site just over a year ago.

The concept of setting the site up can be linked to the Facebook founders, but little else of our story is the same. Zuckerberg started out with a site based on his passion: attractive female college students, giving his users on campus the chance to rate the students on Facemash. Arron and myself also found the seed of our idea in our passion. But this time the passion was sport.

It was one day when I came across a random blog about Novak Djokovic that the seed of the idea started to grow. I thought to myself ‘how do fans know this exists, and how does the blogger attract readers?’ I realised how disjointed the online experience is for following sports, especially if you’re a fan of multiple disciplines. I wanted to bring it all into one place and make it a one-stop shop. At the time I was running a technology company that I had founded in Dubai and I had finally found an investor to help the business grow.

Then I met Arron and we approached a potential investor with the concept of Sportlobster. We raised US$750,000 in two days to get the site started. It was at that point I decided to close down my other company, as the investment opportunity only existed if I remained CEO there, but I had decided the future was Sportlobster and I wanted to focus entirely on that.

Arron and I then spent the next year developing the site. We launched Sportlobster on 9 April 2013 and it was a proud day as we went live with the British media looking on at Wembley Stadium.

Of course, it hasn’t been simple. We have created a complex network and with that there are technological challenges that come with that. We are also perfectionists, so the pressure was on to have Sportlobster in a good place by the time of the launch, and we did all of that in eleven months, a very short space of time to create a network of this complexity and quality.

The response has been amazing, we have thousands of users from 126 countries and we have projected user numbers to reach 1 million by the end of this year. The aspects of the site that have proved most popular are the prediction function, which allows users to predict sport fixture outcomes which earns them points, and the news and fan article section, which allows users to write their own articles, just like that Djokovic blogger which, through a points scoring process, allows quality content to be brought to the attention of more Sportlobster users.

We launched with discussion forums for 32 sports and news content on football, rugby, tennis, cricket, golf, basketball and Formula One. We are expanding to 94 sports over the coming weeks to meet the demand of the users.

It was quite obvious people thought we were crazy. Two guys in their early twenties with a vision to fulfil the needs of sports fans globally. But we have created the first stage of this with the initial launch of Sportlobster. The next step is the mobile app which will be launched in the autumn and we are deep into the development for that.

For us, the challenge now is to keep spreading the good word about Sportlobster and get people to experience the site for themselves.  The feedback from everyone that has joined the site has been so positive that we're confident that if sports fans try the site they will be hooked!   It's been an incredible first couple of months and we can't wait to see what the future holds.

To find out more about Sportlobster, the social network dedicated to sport that is tailored to your preferences, visit

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Yogic Hypnotherapy by Dr. Shomit Mitter

Let’s face it: beyond a point, “talking therapy” – where you spill your guts once a week to a well-meaning, avuncular therapist – simply doesn’t work. Yes, it relieves the immediate pressure, and you do get an understanding of what some of the underlying issues are. But to understand something is not the same thing as to shift it. In fact, the opposite is often the case: the more some people understand what their problems are, the less able they are to shift them. The more analytically astute the chain of cause and effect they come up with, the more “inevitable” their problems seem to be – and the more difficult it is to change patterns of behaviour.

Given that most of the problems that people take to therapists originate in the unconscious, there is little point dispensing therapy through conversation – which of course tends largely to be restricted to the conscious mind. A far more effective way of locating and eliminating the cause of a client's distress is to use regression (going back in time to past events) under light hypnosis. The use of hypnosis enables the client to access the unconscious mind directly. The unconscious mind not only remembers everything that ever took place but is immune to the conscious mind's tendency to push any elephants under the carpet. Once "trigger events" are located, there are subtle but effective ways of processing them so that the complex is released. The mind emerges with a clear sense that the pain belongs to the past, something that, the client acknowledges, is conclusively over and done with.

However, eliminating the cause of a client's distress is only half the story. What one then has to do is to fill the void (that this process sometimes leaves) with a positive sense of purpose, direction and meaning. Far too many regression therapists focus exclusively on shifting the bad stuff. But it is just as vital to give hope as it is to shift despair. In my experience the best source of positive energy is yoga which allows us to access still, calm states of being in which it becomes possible to act effectively and with confidence. Some of the work I have done over the last fifteen years has been to translate the wisdom of the ancient Indian yoga teachers into modern, practical and user-friendly exercises that allow clients to experience (rather than merely discuss) the states of being that make for effective action.

By merging Indian meditation techniques with modern western hypnotherapy skills, I have been able to create my own special alchemical mix, Yogic Hypnotherapy. I believe it is because I use such a wide range of skills – that take in the timeless guidance of Eastern traditions with the expeditious agility of Western modalities - that I have had so much success with everything from addictions to anorexia, depression, rage, marriage breakdowns and grief. As one client put it recently, “I have never experienced anything so powerful so quickly.”

As Yogic Hypnotherapy not only shifts trauma but builds confidence, hope and success, many of my clients continue to do sessions well after they are “well”. The focus shifts from "healing" to "transcendence": life no longer consists of doing daily battle against bewildering and inexplicable forces, but turns instead into a way of exploring ever more profound, ever more powerful, ever more compelling views of what it is to be human. The benefits are quite practical: businessman turn in greater profits, out of work actresses find work, unpublished authors suddenly become famous. It is as if they have found a switch deep within themselves that they didn’t know existed, and have now learnt how to turn it on. They experience a reality within themselves that is immeasurably greater than anything they’ve encountered before. As Hamlet says, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” That is precisely what many of my clients learn through the course our work together.

Dr. Mitter is one of the leading hypnotherapists on Harley Street. He also teaches at the European College of Hypnotherapy and conducts workshops for therapists the world over. For more information, visit