I always enjoy how seemingly random things can connect. Back in the mists of time (at least TEN YEARS AGO – cripes) reading the always interesting small print on an innocent smoothies bottle led me to attending one of their “village fete” events. (Think small scale music festival, with a bit more ferret racing than usual.) At the event, I bought a t-shirt with the innocent logo on, which was manufactured by a company called howies. The small print on the T-shirt (yes, I read that too) was a bit different from the usual washing instructions and led me to the howies website. They fast became one of my favourite clothing brands and even now I can typically be found wearing at least one item made by them on any given day. (Also, with a bit of make-do-and-mend, their stuff LASTS.)
Being a customer meant I got their newsletters, which included more than just your typical “please buy stuff” content. There was usually a tale of something interesting that they’d encountered, or an event they’d staged. At the time, there was a howies shop on Carnaby Street in London (which I even managed to visit a couple of times – see the photo below.)
At the store they held various events – including a rap workshop with none other than Professor Elemental. (That chap really does get everywhere!) Another event they shared was a talk by author and blogger Emily Benet, who at the time was also a London shopkeeper – the tales of which were told on her Shop Girl Blog, which was at the time freshly published in the Shop Girl Diaries book. The newsletter write up for her event piqued my interest – as a former retail worker myself, any tales of life behind the shop counter are of interest – so I tracked down a copy of the book and very much enjoyed it. It tells of life running a lighting shop in a state of perpetual “closing down sale” as well as the story of Emily’s personal life as it heads towards a “reader, I married him” moment. (No spoilers, but be sure to read the book and her blog for the full story.)
Emily’s newsletter next shared news of her success in the 2011 Earlyworks Press Short Story competition, for which her tale “Five Pounds Short” was shortlisted. I was the first person to order a copy of the resulting book, "From Barcelona to Bihar" in which her story was published, directly from her via a link in the newsletter. Since I was the first, and was prompt enough to order before her copies from the publisher had even arrived, she very kindly sent me her own copy and also sent a signed copy of her first book too. (I do love a signed book, and this meant I could gift my existing copy to a friend. Sharing the book love is always a good thing!) I should also mention “Short Stories for Busy Adults” at this point. A collection of Emily’s short stories (the clue’s in the title) available as an eBook but not a print edition, so it sadly doesn’t get to have a place on the bookshelf with its peers (or to be in these photos.)
The next project was serialised online via the Wattpad website, as “Spray Painted Bananas.” (The title linking to a key plot point.) I am rubbish at reading serials online, but always happy to get the whole story in book or ebook format. In this case I did both, as I have a signed physical book but read the story on my kindle for convenience. (This often tends to be the case if I do get a signed book. I don’t want to “spoil” it by, you know, actually touching it or – shock – reading it, so I’ll get the kindle version as well. I must admit, I also find a kindle convenient for reading in bed (backlight) and for those REALLY HEAVY fantasy books that I like so much, as it doesn’t get any heavier when the page count goes up.) When published by HarperCollins the story was renamed “The Temp” – perhaps the banana based title was a bit too outlandish for the world of romance novels. I enjoyed the story of Amber’s journey from lifelong “temp” to artist.
Emily’s next book was in territory familiar to me – the world of social media and, especially, twitter. The title “Please Retweet” gives it away somewhat. Or rather, “#PleaseRetweet” as we all know how important the hashtag is these days! A lot of the story rang true, with behind-the-scenes chaos propping up the social media of the famous or semi-famous.
The latest published work from Emily is “The Hen Party.” A cast of not necessarily instantly likeable characters find that a hen party themed reality TV show doesn’t quite go to plan. There’s more to this Mallorcan hen night than booze and beaches!
Currently I know that Emily is working on a book of pregnancy tales “The Pregnancy Diaries” and I look forward to reading that in due course. None of her work is the sort of thing I typically read – not an elf, wizard or spaceship to be seen – but it’s good to read something different from time to time and I very much like her style. The new book will add to my “Emily Benet shelf” – the existence of which lead her to write the below comment in my copy of “#PleaseRetweet.”
As you can see, her books share space not only with my friend Cherry Radford’s romances but also a quite diverse selection of other books, including Doctor Who, Snoopy, some ghost stories and more!
Please do have a look at Emily’s website for the full story on the books I’ve mentioned today.