VICKI NOTARO

Dublin-based writer, journalist and columnist

Update

So I’ve been fairly silent lately, and haven’t been updating my press cuttings either – bad journalist!

However, it isn’t because I’ve given up or become lazy – quite the opposite, I’ve been thankfully really busy. In fact, I sort of accidentally got myself a job! I was really enjoying freelancing, but an opportunity with the Irish Independent came up and I couldn’t refuse.

So I’m now acting Editor of the Monday supplement Health & Living, and Editor of FIT Magazine, the Thursday glossy magazine. BIg change, eh?!

I’m still freelancing when I have time (which is eh, never) mostly for U and IMAGE magazines. I also write for the main Independent newspaper whenever I get a chance too.

So things are going well! Apologies for the radio silence, and thanks for all the support.

Oh and those wondering about my fitness challenge? I lost 23lbs and 20 inches in 10 weeks, which was about 7 weeks ago now. I’ve probably gained about 4 pounds back, but I have a new training regime that should have me back down to goal and maintaining ASAP.

Vicki x

My Fitness Adventure

Me the day before my mission began, wearing size 12 shorts and with a BMI of 25.1 – just barely in the overweight category.

A few weeks ago I undertook a mission from the Evening Herald, a paper I regularly contribute to.  I’d been chatting to my editor about my extreme laziness when it comes to exercise, and my increased levels of gluttony since I went freelance. My eating was out of control – biscuits for breakfast, an abundance of takeaways, frozen pizzas and waffles and at least one bar of chocolate as well, all on top of my fizzy jelly habit. I knew it was ridiculous and wanted to put a stop to it, but needed help. I casually mentioned writing a feature about getting fit to the Ed, and when she told me to leave it with her I promptly forgot all about it.

I had no idea what I was getting myself in for when she came back to me a few weeks later with a plan. My mission, if I dared to accept it, was to drop a dress size by Christmas with the help of Irish fitness guru Pat Henry. I didn’t have to be asked twice – I was in. I thought it would involve working out maybe three times a week, and gradually going from very slightly overweight to more toned. In my mind I was still a size ten, but in reality I had crept up to a 12 over the past year. I was looking chubbier, and hating any photographs of myself I saw, so my personal aim was to be happy with what I saw in the mirror and fit back in my 28-inch jeans comfortably once again.

An advertisement for the piece just before the first article. This made it real!

Pat Henry had other ideas. From the moment we met, I knew this was going to be harder work than I initially thought. First off, I was to work out 5 days a week. Secondly, I was told that any fitness regime needs to be balanced out – 60% diet, 40% exercise is the secret to success. I could give up my ideas of working out, eating chips and slowly losing weight. This was to be a complete lifestyle overhaul. No more white carbs (so see ya potatoes), very few brown ones, lots of meat and as little sugar as humanly possible – even natural sugar in fruit. Oh yeah, and 2 units of booze a week which is too little for me to even bother with. I thought the initial fitness assessment was tough, especially when Pat told me I weighed a whole stone more than I thought, but it was after my first weights workout that I was really frightened. I went home white as a ghost, completely stiff and feeling nauseous and cried in my boyfriend’s arms.

Week one. Hideous photos, but a real reminder of why I was actually doing this.

Week two. Major lifestyle change = big water and weight loss.

Week three. Still making progress and losing weight and inches. Looking noticeably thinner in the pics.

Thankfully, it’s getting easier – I’m actually starting to enjoy it (sssh, don’t tell anyone). My “journey” is chronicled in every Monday’s Herald (here are weeks two and three of my diary, sans photos) and I’m noticing a real difference. I think I’ve pretty much already achieved my initial goals, but this project is continuing until mid December – by then I’m hoping I won’t even recognise the old me.

Wish me luck!  And do follow my progress in the paper. If this effort being chronicled in a national title isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is.

 

In Good Company

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I am delighted to show everyone my piece on climbing the Twitter ladder in the October edition of Company magazine UK.

It’s not the first time I’ve been published in Company, but last time was under the pseudonym Victoria Vaughan, and was over two years ago now. I’m delighted to be able to be published with my real name, and even my mug on the Contributors page!

The girls there are so lovely, so thank you @tracyramsden and @companyedvic for allowing me to write this.

Two commissions from two massive UK mags in my first two months as a freelancer has been a dream come true, but the pressure is on to get even more now. Luckily, I’ve never been one to back away from a challenge….

Living The Dream

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Now that I’m a freelancer, I’ve taken to watching episodes of Sex and the City while I eat my lunch. I record them on Comedy Central to watch the next day, and have been watching from the beginning in recent weeks. Now, I’ve probably seen every single episode at LEAST six times each in my lifetime, and probably more with the later seasons, but I still love the series so much – let’s not ever talk about the bastard films, right? They’re not the same thing.

Lately I’ve been struck with a strange nostalgia when watching the show. Back then I used to ferociously covet Carrie’s life, a desire to be a writer so strong I could taste it. For me, the show was never about Carrie’s wardrobe (one thing I knew I wouldn’t achieve was her bod – the more I watch, the more I’m convinced SJP’s boobies are the result of a little augmenting), but about her entire lifestyle – her friendships, how she worked from home, how she got her inspiration and wrote about things we could all relate to on her little iBook… swoon. I wanted to be her so badly, even though I knew she couldn’t possibly live like that just from one weekly newspaper column – some elements were just too unrealistic.

When watching recently though, it really hit home that I am doing exactly what I wished I’d be doing ten years ago when the show was first on. It appears that I’ve made it happen as a writer, and I’m reminded of the young girl wishing, but imagining that kind of life out of her reach and only something possible in her wildest dreams. It brings me right back to those days, and that memory is so humbling. I still can’t quite believe that I do what I do for a living; in recent weeks I’ve had many pinch-myself moments, and since I went out on my own the sense of achievement and pride is almost as keen as the sense of fear and terror at the insecurity of it all.

Now watching Carrie’s exploits from the inside, I find it even more hilarious. Four dollars a word at Vogue? That’s not even how it’s done! If I were paid even 50c per word, I’d be a very wealthy girl indeed. Ransacking the shoe closet with the managing editor? All of the LOLz. Living off the column alone? Still outrageous. Writing so honestly and openly about your own sexploits and relationships, and those of your friends, on a weekly basis? Puh-lease.

But the magic is still there. I still sob when Harry proposes to Charlotte at the Synagogue, when Stanford and Marcus reunite at the prom and when Miranda tells Steve she loves him at Brady’s first birthday. Whether it was post-feminism, anti-feminist or whatever, I still adore it. It’s the show that cemented my desire to do what I’m doing today, and inspired me to write in my own voice about what was really going on in my life. It really did make me the woman I am today, and was as important to my formative years as Judy Blume and Marian Keyes.

So Carrie, you might be a selfish narcissist with a shopping addiction, but you have been and always will be my idol. Just don’t let Michael Patrick King talk you into another SHITE film, ya hear?

If this has inspired you to get back on the SATC buzz, it’s on Comedy Central Extra around midnight on weeknights, and is currently at the end of season two – pre Aidan!

So Glamour-ous

This month I was published in Glamour magazine’s September 2012 issue. A small one page feature on p54, it marks the second time I’ve been published in a UK women’s mag after Company in 2010.

However, it won’t be the last! Watch this space…. *cryptic face* :)

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You Know You’re A Freelancer When…

Today marks my one month anniversary as a freelance writer. And do you know what? It’s been a great month. I’ve been published in several very nice papers and magazines, and there are a few more lovely ones to come in the coming weeks. I’ve been on telly a few times, and blabbing away on the radio. Apparently, I look rested, which is always nice to hear.

However, I always have the fear that the commissions are going to dry up and I’ll be destitute. I go out midweek thinking I’ll be grand and forgetting that I still have to actually work the next day – The Fear and a deadline do not mix. I keep telling people “Oh it’s going great, I hope it’s not just beginner’s luck and that I can keep up the momentum.” – I should really sew that one on a t-shirt. And instead of pleasing one editor, I have to please several, all at the same time. Oh, and convincing my family I didn’t give up my job for nothing is fun. NAAAAHHT.

So all in all, while I’m feeling good and have no regrets, I have seen the darker side of this freelancing lark, and copped that it’s not quite as idyllic as most staffers imagine. However, it is pretty feckin’ great, and at this point I wouldn’t change it for the world. And hey! I have time to write blog posts like this one – with tongue firmly in cheek, of course.

You Know You’re A Freelancer When…

1. You regularly offend people. You may think you don’t have to answer to anybody when you’re freelance and you’d be right – but every potential commissioner is judging you on your Twitter feed. Whoops! *delete, delete, delete*.

2. You buy extra highlighters and keep the receipt because you write them off in 18 months. #winning.

3. There is never any food in the house. Even if you buy all the food in the world.

4. The postman judges you for being in your pyjamas at 10am when taking a delivery of face creams.

5. Ditto with couriers at 2pm. But they’re NOT actually pyjamas. They’re “house clothes” and my dogs think I look great.

6. You begin to think Ray Darcy is your best friend. Or boyfriend even. And Maired Farrell your feisty sidekick.

7. You try and get involved in conversations between Grace Dent, Caitlin Moran and India Knight on Twitter. Y’know, cos you’re all in the same boat.

8. You take regular breaks to watch Sex and the City “for inspiration”, and then berate yourself for falling for Carrie’s fictional lifestyle.

9. People tell you that you look really rested. Duh, it’s because you spent two hours on your make-up “for a review”. And slept until 10.30am.

10. Your self-promotion reaches new heights on social networks, and everyone starts to ignore you after inital choruses of “Woohoo, go you!”.

11. Everybody is schmooze-worthy. Everybody. Yes, even you.

12. You pitch a REALLY good idea, and then freak out when it’s commissioned, because now you have to actually write it without offending anybody/giving your mother a heart attack.

13. You keep saying “When I get paid…”

14. The Daily Mail is no longer a source of procrastination, but a necessary evil and a wealth of feature leads.

15. All you ever want is a travel feature so you can go on bloody holidays and not feel like a total slacker.

16. Your boyfriend secretly thinks because you work from home, you are now a 1950s housewife and resents coming home to a greasy, caffeinated laptop-slave.

17. You get business cards printed up and then forget to give them to anybody.

18. People ask you what you’re up to and you begin to ream off work in progress until you see their eyes glaze over.

19. Leaving the house seems like a terrible inconvenience. Unless it’s to go to a lig, of course.

20. You change your Twitter bio regularly to reflect what metaphorical professional hat you’re wearing that day. I nearly added “relationships expert” to mine because a radio station called me one three times.

21. You swear that next week, you’ll start that routine you’ve been banging on about.

22. Commissioning editors take out a restraining order against you. LOL, JK. Ahem.

23. You do that jokey thing where you’re all like “Oh, do you want to commission me? HAHAHA”. And you’re DEAD. SERIOUS.

An Ode To New York

Travelling is something I’m really passionate about, and writing travel features an avenue I definitely want to explore. A friend of mine (who is a far more prolific writer than I) told me that my blog is my shop window, so eh, happy window shopping!

My New York

I’ve visited NYC several times since 2006, both with my boyfriend Eoin and some of my best friends. The second I walked out of Penn Station and into the chaotic, hectic and somewhat undesirable (compared to other parts of the island) Midtown, I fell desperately in love with the city and that love has lasted and a weird calmness descends on me as soon as I land in the Empire state. I love it so very much – from the smells to the people, the landscape to the architecture, the sounds to the sights. It’s my perfect holiday destination.

The best trip I’ve ever taken to the Big Apple was definitely the most recent one. It was late January, it was snowy and it was wet, but it was still nothing short of magnificent. New York is the kind of place you have to have enough money to enjoy – I’ve been there at Christmas with a budget of €100 a day, and that ain’t fun. But for this trip it was my birthday, we had a nest egg and a plan, and I had the time of my life.

Where we stayed…

Eoin and I stayed in Hotel East Houston, which is in the part of the city where the numbered sideways-running streets turn into named. Not quite SoHo, not quite NoHo, just Ho (which is short for Houston). This meant everything from the aforementioned to NoLita and Chinatown, the Villages and the Meat-Packing District were all on our doorstep, as well as the Bowery and Lower Manhattan.

The view from the hotel’s roof terrace.

The rooms were small (this IS New York) but perfectly formed, included a breakfast buffet and the staff were absolutely lovely. However, the best thing about this place was definitely the location. Having stayed here, I would simply never stay above 14th St ever again. Over the years we’ve been at hotels and apartments everywhere, from the Upper West Side, Chelsea and Flatiron to Time Square and Central Park, but forevermore we shall be Downtown dwellers. Why? Because when you stay there, you feel like a New Yorker. This is where people live, these are the places you see in the movies, this is the real, honest-to-God NYC. We took the subway in a way we never have before, walked everywhere, stumbled upon amazing street art and came across gorgeous little shops and restaurants. Downtown has everything Uptown and Midtown have – big stores, movie theatres, sights and sounds, but it’s just infinitely cooler, calmer and more chic.

Snowy day time view

What we ate…

I had a list of places I’d heard were New York institutions, so we made it our business to eat out as much as possible. Here is a mouthwatering selection of dishes we tried…

Pineapple Upside Down Sundae at Serendipity 3

Pinkberry noms!

Pizza at Lombardi’s

Challah French toast at the Remedy Diner

And other restaurants we visited where I forgot to snap the food…

Katz’s Deli, famous for THAT scene in When Harry Met Sally

The Spotted Pig, recommended by GOOP. Eoin was not very impressed, and it was pretty expensive, but a cool British themed gastro-pub with VERY trendy staff.

Probably my favourite meal of the trip, my birthday burger, fries and cocktails at this awesome downtown haunt, Schillers.

Where we went…

We did everything this trip that we hadn’t done before, and some stuff we had. The Statue of Liberty…

Who’s yer one?

Ellis Island

I finally went to see Wicked

And Rock of Ages…

3pm matinee show on my birthday, and they served drinks all throughout the performance. Not just any drinks, but jello shots and vodka cocktails. Rock on!

Got a mani/pedi at the Bliss spa at the W…

Hung out with my er, Paisan (cough) in Little Italy…

Meandered around Bryant Park after dark…

People watched at Washington Square Park….

Visited my favourite 5th Avenue dog run…

and obvs made the obligatory trips to Time Square

This guy reminded me of my dad…

;

Still haven’t been up the Empire State though… which is ridiculous when I’ve been there SIX TIMES. And once on Valentine’s Day when I was just dying to recreate the final scene from Sleepless in Seattle…

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of…

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So you might think I’m done with New York, but you’d be VERY wrong – I’m planning on going back this “Fall” to experience it with the gals and do some research and writing, as well as sampling the nightlife, something I haven’t done with Eoin. There’s so much still to explore and discover, from the larger boroughs to the Bronx Zoo, Queens and the Hamptons, to Manhattan itself. In fact, I bet I’ll still be visiting NYC regularly when I’m old and grey, cos it’s just my kind of town.

London and Me

When I handed in my notice, I fully believed that I was going to hop, skip and jump across the pond to London. Partly because I couldn’t comprehend just jacking in my brilliant career, but also partly because I thought that’s where I needed to be. Ireland was opportunity-less, or so I’d been led to believe. So therefore I must up sticks and doesn’t London have one of the brightest, most dynamic and impressive publishing industries in the world? Why wouldn’t I want to go to the land of beautiful magazines and loads of money and budgets and fabulous things?

Oz was too far away, Canada complicated, America too, and everywhere else I knew too little about to contemplate a move. I had a brief period of hysteria where I was all for the middle east, but then I remembered who I am and that I don’t fancy foreign prisons much. Ahem. #liberal.

So London it was. Not too far away, not too frightening, and thanks to a four year relationship with a Surrey native I sort of knew my way around. I set about planning a new life there, all the while knowing that a move there would mean leaving my boyfriend of six years (and roomie of four) behind at least temporarily, and eventually dragging him somewhere he didn’t want to be. The thoughts of not living with him gave me a pain in my gut and the worry about taking him away from a secure job to a place be wasn’t mad about ate at me, but he was insistent on going where I thought would be best for me, so I swallowed it, telling myself not to be ridiculous and that it was something I HAD to do. Sure what else was I going to do? It was scary, but somehow not as scary as the thoughts of trundling onwards, stuck and wondering.

Still, the whole time I was planning a move to London I was apprehensive and not quite myself. However I had told people that that’s what I was doing, and an odd pride made me think that for that reason alone I had to see it through. I couldn’t be seen to chicken out, or be made to look like a wuss and a waffler. To Irish people, those things are almost as bad as being full of yourself, the gravest cardinal sin of all.

A swift trip across the pond didn’t make me feel better about my plans, only worse. Still I stuck with them, buying myself time by telling people I was staying put til September cos I’d be MAD to go over during the Olympics. Phew, I thought. I’m so clever, now I don’t have to leave my house, boyfriend, friends and family so soon.

That’s when how ridiculous I was being really hit me, and when I realised that it might be even more brave and admirable to stay in Ireland and try and make a go of it here. Part of the attraction with London was that if things were slow to start, nobody I knew would witness it, whereas if I was here branching out on my own I’d worry I was being watched and judged and begrudged. I felt like quitting my job and staying put was voluntarily going back to square one, and that the only valid excuse for quitting one’s lovely job in a recession was to “go away”.

When I admitted this to a few good friends, they agreed that I was being ridiculous. One particularly wise pal asked me how Ireland was ever going to recover if all the good people left, appealing both to my ego and my easily pulled heart strings. I decided to listen to said heart and my gut, and ever since I admitted that I wanted to stay in Dublin and realised that this didn’t make me weak or spineless or unable to see things through, I feel happy and calm and excited about my new life and all its possibilities.

So now you know why I’m still here. I plan on freelancing for the UK as well as Ireland, and the ball is rolling on that. Not that anybody over there has been bashing my door down and begging me to work at their mag, mind. I thought I was brilliant applying for all sorts of positions I knew I could do really well, but forgot that this is the meeeeja darling, and if nobody has a breeze who you are, then you’re basically nobody. Hopefully not for long…

Farewell, Paid Job

As I write this, I am embarking on a metaphorical “journey” of sorts, much as I loathe the word – cheers Simon Cowell for ruining that one. Today is my last day working for KISS Magazine; once we send the august issue to the printers, I’ll no longer be its Deputy Editor.

For the past four years I have been lucky enough to hold a position on an award-winning Irish magazine that many would imagine to be a dream job, and in many ways they’d be right. However, while I’m happy to say that the dream hasn’t turned into a nightmare in any way, it is time to move on. In any time or place, such a move would be unnerving, but in Dublin publishing in 2012, it’s nothing short of kick-me-in-face, pull-my-heart-out-of-my-chest TERRIFYING. So yes, I’m giving up a safe and fairly cushy job that I have loved in the middle of an economic crisis. But I’ll be GRAND. Or so I’ve been told.

I’ve been at KISS since 2008. Hired out of the blue on the strength of an impassioned email and some college paper musings, I was still in my final year of university when I landed the job of a lifetime. I interviewed celebrities, wrote about what was really bugging the youth of today, trialled make-up and skin care and generally had a fabulous time. I couldn’t honestly believe my luck, and it soon became clear that I had wedged my foot in the door right in time.

After two and a half years, I was promoted to Deputy Editor. I had grown up a lot in that time, and I wasn’t the green-around-the-gills girl who had first walked through the doors. Sorry Trinners, you may allegedly be for winners, but I got my real education in KISS Towers under three of the most talented female editors in the biz – thanks Susan, Sarah and Nathalie, for everything.

Over the years I had begun to expand my repertoire by writing for KISS’ big sister women’s mag STELLAR and The Evening Herald, conscious all the time that I was building a portfolio and a career. I might not have realised it yet, but I knew my future wasn’t as a staffer. Still, it was only about six months ago that I really realised I needed a change. You simply can’t work for a teen mag forever, as living in an adolescent mind-set doesn’t gel with living an adult life – I had Bieber on the brain and teen issues always circling my mind, and my grown-up thoughts had no place in my work. I had been writing in my own voice for STELLAR for a couple of years, which definitely scratched an itch, but there are countless responsibilities when writing for a teen mag, and the image you present to the world has to be a certain one. I always struggled with this, and longed to write more risque features and show more of my true personality, which isn’t always (or ever?) PC. However, this is Ireland in a recession. I longed for more broad experience and to spread my wings, but where the heck was I going to go?

Assuming there were no opportunities in Ireland (because TV told me so), I believed I had to go elsewhere. After some research I decided the best place for me was London, and set about putting feelers out which were well received. I convinced myself that this was the answer, that LDN was where I belonged even though every other aspect of my life in Ireland was peachy keen, and I knew next to nothing about the London publishing scene other than it was LARGE and far-reaching. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I decided to just do it. I quit my job with 3 months notice, and set about pursuing a new life in England. But it was only after coming to terms with the enormity of what I had done that I realised that in my heart of hearts, I didn’t want to go – more on that here. I realised that while Dublin may be doom and gloom central, there are opportunities for people who are clued-in, enthusiastic and available. Still, throughout all the nerves, moments of confusion and total “What the HELL am I doing?” outbursts, I never doubted for a second that leaving my job was the right decision. Through all of the confusion, the failed planning, the what-ifs, I knew in my gut I was right. That’s what’s kept me going, and stopped me running into the publisher and begging him to tear up my letter of resignation.

So here I am, remaining in Dublin and open to any and all opportunities that might come my way. There’s so much I’ll miss, from the office banter (looking at you, Dillon) to the cupcake deliveries, hilarious shoots and Friday drinks, but hopefully there’ll be more of all that in my future somewhere. I’m on the precipice of something potentially thrilling and after several weeks of abject terror, I’m feeling good. I’m *whispers* GOING FREELANCE. Ta-da! There, it’s in print. As of today, I will be my own woman, and it’s very exciting to be stepping out into the great unknown with nothing but myself to rely on. Sure, it’s really scary but the prospects I have are thrilling, and the freedom intoxicating.

It’s not going to be easy, and I might freak out from time to time, but do you know what? It’s better than sitting around wondering and waiting for things to happen for me. I’m going to make them happen instead. So wish me luck, comrades. Here’s to voluntary unemployment, AKA freelancing. Hurrah!

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