If you had asked me last year how long I would like to sleep for, I’d have said 100 years.

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Since having children, my fantasy has been to have a night alone in a hotel. “With someone?” friends would ask, hopeful of gossip. But my answer was always no, just me, alone, asleep and uninterruptible.

Sleep is of a premium in my house, which is no surprise given that I haven’t really slept properly for the past decade. …

The books I liked as a kid were old even by the time I read them, so it’s understandable they have no interest

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One of the things you have to get your head around as a parent is that your child’s experience of childhood is theirs, not yours. You may want to share with them the things that you enjoyed, but you must do so in the knowledge that this may not be appreciated — when they are younger because they don’t understand about nostalgia and sensitivity as they throw your beloved baby toy across the room in disgust, and when they are older as a deliberate declaration of their independence.

Still, I thought sharing books would be a joy for both parties…

When it is your job to give your opinion, and help others form theirs, you start to see things as absolutes. Here’s how to avoid this.

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Some years ago I used to regularly write columns for newspapers in the UK, and as I am also a lecturer in journalism at Goldsmiths, University of London, I would often find myself talking to students about opinion writing, and analysing my own trade. (Note for American readers — in the UK we use ‘Professor’ for senior academics who have been appointed to specific posts that carry the title, and most academics are referred to as ‘lecturer’).

One of the things about writing a column, where you give your opinion on whatever subject you are covering, hopefully also weaving in…

Winning the prize is great, but that is not the only thing to be gained

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I love entering competitions and always have. Although the prize for one that I entered in my twenties was a four month Round the World trip travelling business class with a weekly newspaper column about my trip, I maintain that the most exciting competition I have ever won was a pack of stationery, stickers and transfers from a Disney magazine when I was about eight. I can still picture the prize and feel the delight of winning it and the thrill of using it.

Even now as an adult, I still like entering competitions, and find it hard to resist…

If it doesn’t make sense to you, it won’t make sense to readers

Photo of Apple Inc HQ in Cupertino, by Carles Rabada on Unsplash

One of my greatest lessons in editing happened years ago when I was working for a small think tank in the UK, the Fabian Society, editing their publications. We had agreed to publish a piece by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and I was going through it before publication. One word kept appearing again and again — Cupertino. Sentences would include phrases like ‘in the spirit of Cupertino’ and ‘working alongside x with Cupertino’.

A google told me just one thing — that Cupertino was a city in Silicon Valley, known for being the headquarters of Apple Inc (pictured)…

Any object can spark a feature idea if you teach your brain to ask the right questions

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One of the things I teach journalism students in my job as a lecturer at Goldsmiths College, University of London, is that anything can be an inspiration for a feature. While getting a commission can be difficult, and writing a piece can take rather a lot of thought, finding ideas to write about should be easy.

I’m writing this sitting in my kitchen and right in front of me is a bunch of bananas. In fact I have just started eating one sliced…

You meet so many people when you become a parent, but how do you know which ones will become the friends you want to keep?

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When you have a baby in non-pandemic times, the blur of people you meet can be overwhelming. Once you have dived into the world of parenting groups and playgroups, it’s like Freshers’ Week at university — you talk to everyone to begin with and then spend the next few years trying to avoid those you don’t like while engineering occasions to bump into those you do.

And yet it is worth pursuing those friendships, for when you find one that works it makes the whole process of parenting so much smoother. If you find friends with whom you can just…

You just need one, to carry you through to the next day

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Before I had kids I had an image of myself post kids, as a wise mama, giving out advice to friends who were a few years behind me in starting their families. But difficulties conceiving our first meant that by the time she was born most of my university friends had got there first. Instead it was me turning to them for advice, mainly consisting of me wailing “why didn’t you tell me it’s like this?” and them replying “you’d never have believed us.”

But a few years after that, my other group of friends — women I had met…

We need suggestions of books for clever but tired women

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I have three kids — the youngest is ten — and after each child it has taken me ages to get back my reading mojo. I was so tired and all consumed by the babies, none of whom slept well, that despite having studied English Literature, the idea of starting to read a novel, let alone finishing it, was just too much.

But it did come back, slowly at first, gaining pace as my brain remembered the joy it gets from a good novel. And I realised that there is a genre missing in the signage of libraries and bookshops…

I wish I had known these at the beginning of my career

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I am in a WhatsApp Group with a bunch of brilliant women my own age — late thirties and early forties. Recently we were discussing our early workplace experiences — the triumphs, the embarrassing fails, the lessons learnt and the advice we would give our younger selves, having had twenty years or so experience in the workplace. And the more we traded stories the more we realised that, sleazy men aside, the main issue we encountered was bullying, from people either senior to us, or who were at the same level but for whatever reason considered themselves to be senior.

Ellie Levenson

I am a writer and lecturer based in the UK, writing for adults as Ellie Levenson and for children as Eleanor Levenson.

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