Sarra Manning interview

When J and I interviewed Sarra, she walked in looking bright, bold and interesting. I was extremely surprised to see how such a talented and successful writer was so laid back and willing to talk all about herself, she provided both J and I with such amazing advice and even stemmed out after the interview to a more chilled out chat.
Sarra, having worked for Elle, Harper's Bazaar, Grazia, been editor of ElleGirl UK and wrote numerous top-selling teen books, was a great person to meet and gain invaluable advice from.
Here is the interview, especially for you Bon-Bons.

In your opinion, what has been the best thing you have done so far in your career?
I am proud of my books, but I think Elle girl was the happiest and most creative magazine. It was here that I worked with Sarah bailey for the first time; she gave me the job on J17. When I became the editor of Elle girl, I remember a photo shoot on gloves; the title was ‘Make glove, not war!’
Also, another great memory was when I interviewed Paris Hilton for Elle, she was 5 hours late and I had food poisoning.

Where did your ‘Fashionista’ book ideas come from?
Publishers said I was to write a series, but I really prefer writing stand alones. Americas Next Top Model, Project Catwalk and how child stars go bad heavily influenced me when writing the books. I wanted to show girls that celebrities are normal people just with extraordinary lives.

What is it like trying to get noticed in such a competitive industry?
I have worked in-house at magazines, done freelance work and wrote books, but the best tip is to just pitch! The more pitches you send out, the more replies you will get.

What was it like to come out of university and look for a job?
When you finish your degree, you don’t have the right skills to write straight away! I worked as a business journalist earning a tenner a side; you wont earn a lot of money straight after university. You need determination and you need to ready yourself for rejection, and learn not to take it personally. You also need to be persistent but not annoying.
In this industry, you gain experience from working, and at the start, you find that you are precious towards your writing; you need to see that criticism is constructive. If you are told to write 400 words, write 400, then you aren’t likely to get cuts to your work; always follow the word count.

Have you got any tips about pitching?
Don’t send companies full pieces, they may like the idea but not like your writing.

I read that you are a feminist and was wondering why?
I think although big battles have been won, I think feminism is still relevant. I think the media encourages women to hate on other women; they use language against us, about weight, relationships and work.

Did you ever learn shorthand?
I used to learn at college, but it is really boring. I am not upset that I have never properly leaned it. I used to skive the lessons and go to the park and stare at art boys.

Have you got any advice about the industry in general?
Internships and work experience are good to make connections. Everyone always says that ‘its not what you know, but who you know.’ I would suggest that you try to learn three things from every experience and get on to twitter, you can read other journalist and authors ideas and bounce off them.
You also need to have a good attitude: work hard, have a good reputation and be polite- remember names and do your paperwork on time.
The industry is very fast paced so just be eager and willing to do everything you can do. Be the eyes and ears at all times, because this is where you can gain ideas or inspiration.
And remember, you always start low down, and then work your way up!

Is there one final tip you can give on writing a piece for a magazine?
Two is a coincidence, three is a trend! Meaning that if you have three solid stories backing up an idea for a piece, it will most likely be successful.

Following the interview, Sarra did a book signing with the public.
I would like to thank Sarra for being such a fantastic person to talk to in order to gain insight in to the world of words.

Love K