Gabriella Bennet, a successful writer who studied Journalism and Creative Writing (now BA Journalism, Media and Communication or English and Creative Writing) here at Strathclyde, tells us about her time at the university and how her experience of studying here lead to where she is today.
Tell us a little bit about your background…
I grew up in Glenrothes, Fife, although I was born in England. I graduated from the University of Strathclyde in 2011 with the intention of taking up a Masters place at the University of Manchester to study creative writing but ended up being offered a job at an interiors magazine in Glasgow. Turns out it scratched the itch I had to write and get paid for it, and also plunged me into the world of journalism – a world I still inhabit now. I’m also an author and my first book, The Art of Coorie, was a Waterstones best-seller.
Why did you decide to study your chosen subject at university?
I’ve always loved writing. In 2007 I think the University of Strathclyde was the only place you could study creative writing as an undergraduate. I also liked the idea of equipping myself with story gathering skills to try and future-proof my journalism career if I couldn’t make money as an author (who can?). On top of this I wanted to underpin both subjects with a broader understanding of literature without going down an overly classical route. The university’s English Studies course touched on lots of areas I was into, especially experimental literature and Scots language.
What advice would you give to someone considering studying your course?
Be curious, ask questions, turn up.
Do you have a highlight from your time at uni?
I loved putting together a literary journal as part of my honours year Creative Writing module. And it was a joy to work with Kapka Kassabova on my dissertation. When I think about how tricky it would be to get advice or opportunities like that now it seems amazing that we had those resources within easy reach at Strathclyde.
Where are you working now (company, responsibilities)?
I am the editor of Alba, The Times Scotland's Saturday lifestyle supplement. I also write two weekly columns: one for The Times Scotland and the other for the Sunday Times Scotland.
What is the best part of your job?
I love being plunged into a new world every day. I might interview a PhD student in surf therapy and learn how riding waves can help with anxiety, or uncover secrets about a 19th century Arctic explorer who few people know about. Because I’m nosy, and probably a bit rude, I also enjoy getting access to interesting people and asking them questions I’d never be allowed to if I wasn’t a journalist. And I value the responsibility of being the filter through which information passes before it reaches the outside world.
How did your time at Strathclyde help prepare you for this role?
It gave me brilliant contacts and taught me how to look more closely at the world. How to scrutinise things without being scared of people thinking I was stupid for not having the answers yet. It also gave me a killer reading list. I’m always grateful for being exposed to writers I would never have learned about otherwise.
What are your ambitions for the future?
More books, a TV series of my own, trying not to sweat the small stuff.
Any final points, or words of wisdom?
Lots of successful people are only pretending to know what they’re doing. Once I realised this it made me feel a lot more confident!