A Letter To My Younger Self by Shelby Gibbs

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At 7 I wanted to be an author. At 12 I wanted to be a lawyer. At 16 I was clueless and at 18 I was sure I’d be a book editor. Truth be told, I’m not all that good at storytelling, debating, or proofreading. From such a young age we are expected to have a career path in mind and whilst that is always subject to change, you are still expected to have one when an adult asks you what you want to be when you grow up. I’ve always found this the most exhausting and stressful question to answer, as though I will be held to my desire to be a lawyer at age 12. Oftentimes the best way to find out what you want to do is through trial and error. Work experience is not just a tedious 2 weeks aged 14. It’s essential to figure out your place in the world and what makes you tick. So, now in my early twenties and in the final year of my degree, when I was asked to work alongside the Stroud Book Festival team, I jumped at the chance to explore exactly what made me tick. I think my 7-year-old self would be pleased to see that I still get opportunities to write in this industry. My 12-year-old self would see how my fondness for debate has helped me to weigh up strategies effectively and make informed choices in the workplace. My 16-year-old self would be most proud to see that regardless of the career confusion I’ve found myself in an industry I love and in an environment where I’m constantly learning and growing.

Working with Stroud Book Festival this year has introduced me to Stuart Lawrence’s debut book, Silence Is Not An Option, in which Stuart provides us with the tools to live a successful, happy and fulfilling life. Stuart Lawrence is the younger brother of Stephen Lawrence who, in 1993, was killed in a racially motivated attack.  Stuart suggests we should choose to learn and to keep learning. It occurs outside the four walls of the classroom and does not end in adulthood. Our private lists of strengths, weaknesses, passions, and interests are constantly growing and we shouldn’t find ourselves limited to the career goals set as children or even young adults. On a similar note, my dad is very fond of the cliché “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” and clichés are often clichés for a good reason, this is certainly the case when working for Stroud Book Festival since it’s allowed me to grow my private lists and inform my future career goals.

Working alongside the Stroud Book Festival team for the past six months has been an invaluable experience. I began working with the team as part of my degree and have continued my work with them into the summer. Initially, my role was to help with the following: the pricing and delivery strategies of the upcoming festival, marketing the festival on a budget, and better targeting the festival to a younger audience. As I was studying Publishing I had a foundation knowledge of the industry but that cannot compare to working on a live brief where your research, thoughts, and feelings impact genuine outcomes. This makes your every action more considered, your research more in-depth, and your attention more refined.

During my time with Stroud Book Festival, I have been responsible for crafting some social media content for them – this included event images, videos of the team, tweets, and Instagram stories. This is quite a simple task for someone’s Instagram account however, crafting content for a business like SBF requires considered insight into their present and potential audiences. The tone you strike needs to be personable, professional, and clear. Community is vital to the festival and to Stroud more broadly speaking – since the beginning of the last tumultuous year and a half, the physical sense of community has been hard to come back so being able to create this virtually was a special focus of mine.

Much like Stuart Lawrence, Stroud Book Festival believes that silence is not an option, they are constantly seeking to bring awareness to movements and causes that align with the values of Stroud’s community. The book’s ethos is that speaking up and standing up is essential to creating a positive impact on the world and fulfilling personal experiences too.

We are fortunate enough to have Stuart joining us to discuss Silence Is Not An Option as part of our family events programme this year.  And if working alongside the Stroud Book Festival team and reading Silence Is Not An Option has taught me anything, it is that learning is a lifelong journey that continues into adulthood. Join us! Tickets

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