My name is Debbie Young and I live a multi-tasking life! I am employed by a lovely children’s charity called Readathon to work every morning in term-time and one morning a week in the school holidays, 9.15-1.15. My role here is varied, including managing their social media, contributing to PR and promotion, liaising with the schools who take part in our sponsored reading scheme and whatever else is needed. I’ve worked here for nearly three years.
And the rest of the time (afternoons, evenings and weekends, as family life permits) I run my own book promotion consultancy from home called Off The Shelf Book Promotions.
I also write books (she says optimistically, having just written one so far!) My first book is called “Sell Your Books!” (full details on the Off The Shelf website and on Amazon where it’s getting great reviews) and does what it says on the cover – helps self-published and indie authors to sell more of their books. My second and third books will be self-published next year. One will be a compilation of the best of my personal YoungByName blog posts, and will be called “Forever Young” (working title), and the other will be a collection of short stories inspired by my passion for radio. Its working title is “Tuning In”.
How did you get your current job?
I had just left my previous job of 13 years at a nearby girls’ boarding school, Westonbirt, without a job to go to. This was a bit rash but I was hacked off with working full time (and more besides) and being under constant pressure, which was affecting my home life and I felt I was missing out so much on bringing up my only child, Laura, who was then 6. My plan and my life’s ambition was to write books, but I could not afford to give up work as I still had a mortgage to pay. I went on a business start-up training day run by the local council and was advised that if I was financially risk-averse, which I am, I should get a paid part-time job and pursue my dream in the rest of the day. I was lucky enough to spot a job that looked perfect for me, advertised in the local paper, seeking a great part-time administrator for term-time only – every mother’s dream! I applied and prepared really well for the interview because I was determined to get it – and crossed my fingers! I was overjoyed to get a call a couple of hours later offering me the job.
What does an average day look like?
Get up before the rest of the household, make tea for me and my husband to kick-start us, get my daughter up, pack her lunch and whatever she needs for school that day (PE kit, flute, etc). A small medical routine of bloodtesting because she’s diabetic, write in her home-to-school book the latest on her condition, make breakfast and send her off to school. (My husband usually walks her to the village school as his contribution to the morning – he gets off lightly!!) Then I zip up the road to Readathon and spend a jolly morning there. Leaving at 1.15, I get home at 1.30, make lunch for me and my husband (he’s at home early retired – and is also diabetic, by the way). Then grab a bit of time on the computer to check emails (and book sales figures!) before collecting Laura from school.
If she has an after-school activity there, I get a bit longer on the computer. Bring her home, she plays or has a playdate while I work on the computer. Then I cook tea, we have some family time together, maybe play a game or watch a bit of telly occasionally, supervise homework and flute practice before she has a bit of chill-out time before bed. Sometimes she has after-school activities away from school or home – tap, Brownies, gym – so it’s mum’s taxi time. After she’s gone to bed, I typically work from 8.30 till 11pm on my computer, creating websites for self-published authors (there’s a list of clients on my Off The Shelf website), promoting my book, networking, and blogging on both my Off The Shelf blog of book promotion tips and my YoungByName one on my family life. I sometimes stay up beyond midnight, without intending to, because I’m so engrossed in what I’m writing. A couple of times a month I divert to committee meetings – I’m on the committees of both the PTA and the local diabetes support group.
What’s the best thing about your job?
About Readathon – feeling that I’m working for a really worthwhile cause, encouraging children all over the country to read for pleasure and to gain the many benefits that a reading habit brings. Did you know that being a regular leisure reader has a greater impact than socio-economic group on a child’s outcomes in life, socially, careerwise and in terms of personal happiness? It is such a privilege to be able to work in this field by running sponsored reads in schools all over the UK. The sponsorship money helps other good causes – seriously ill children’s charities – which is really the icing on the cake.
About Off The Shelf – helping other people succeed and sharing the PR and promotional experience that I’ve spent 30 years acquiring – and getting to know some really interesting authors who I’d otherwise never have met.
About being a writer – I’m finally doing what I feel I was born to do (if that doesn’t sound horribly conceited!)
Are there any downsides to your job?
No downsides to any of these – just exhausting trying to do so much in a limited number of hours. I never get enough sleep – I go to bed with my mind buzzing and wake up buzzing too. I keep a notebook and pen by my bed as I often wake up with a blog post or a promotion idea fully formed in my head!
What did you want to be as a child?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer but I did also go through phases of wanting to be a nurse (I liked the uniform!) or an English teacher or a diplomat (I liked travel and foreign languages).
If you could do any other job, what would you choose?
I’d be a doctor of some sort because I admire medical professionals so much (and have had a lot of experience of them, with my husband and daughter both having Type 1 diabetes and having rheumatoid arthritis myself). But that was never going to happen because I was never very interested in the sciences at school, other than biology, and was always set on doing an English degree! Being more realistic, I’d work elsewhere in the charity sector, possibly in an environmental charity or worthy cause such as Ecotricity. I love working for a charity and wish I’d made the leap sooner from the commercial world. (Westonbirt School is technically speaking a registered charity but it doesn’t always feel that way, as it’s a very upmarket school for which the annual school fees are in the tens of thousands!)