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The Havisham Blog

Reviews and opinions on literature past and present

Quick news!

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I was in News From Nowhere the other day volunteering and came across the fully published Moss Witch by Sara Maitland. While I was at Comma Press in August, I helped proofread the series of short stories while it was in it’s final stages of editing and now there it is on the shelf. While I was at Comma I asked Katie about the process the book has to go through before it gets to a bookshop and it’s a very long editing journey for any publication. There’s just something great in seeing something that you’ve seen be created, put together and helped with while it was all PDFs and scribbles. Now it’s become completely bounded and covered to be sold for others to enjoy. It must be a good feeling for the editor, I mean it even felt good to me ūüôā

The Reader Organisation (In the beginning…)

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So, I have good news: I got an internship at The Reader Organisation (TRO)! Well, I’ve been there for 2 weeks now but I’m still incredibly excited to be part of an amazing and inspiring organisation.¬†TRO is a charitable social enterprise working to connect people with great literature through shared reading. Their mission is to build a Reading Revolution where they envisage a world where everyone has access to literature that can enable great discussion and personal responses. To me, reading has always been important. It’s a way to relax and escape, but also reading has always been an amazing topic of conversation. Have you ever been reading the same book as your friend and then had that great discussion about it afterwards when you’ve finished, the one where it leaves you thinking about the possibilities of the book and what it all meant? Well, that’s the type of feeling TRO creates in a shared reading environment and I’ve had the chance to see the shared reading groups first-hand (but I’ll talk more about that later).

I first heard about TRO from Sophie Povey, (the ‘Reader Places’ manager at the organisation) when she came into PC World to buy an iPad about nearly 2 years ago. Fascinated by what TRO did, I looked them up but was unlucky, as there were no intern vacancies available. However, as Sophie had said, I kept checking back to the page in case the chance to apply came about. About 4 weeks ago, I was having one of those days where you just apply for jobs; like where you write about a dozen cover letters and fill out numerous application forms until you’re bored of talking about yourself. Something told me to check TRO’s website, so I went into my ‘Favourites’, selected the reader and was lucky enough to find an application for the Communications and Development internship and I had just under a week to fill out and perfect the form.¬†

After I had my interview, I wasn’t completely sure if I’d been successful. Unlike other interviews I’d had recently, I relaxed, took my time and thought about my answers and most importantly I was completely myself.¬†

The following day I had a phone call before it was time to head out on the shop floor at Currys (I have now moved to a Currys store) from the Literary Learning Manager Casi who told me I had been unsuccessful in getting the Communications and Development internship as they has a stronger candidate. However, Casi quickly raised my spirits by offering me a new position as Market Research Intern on the Literary Learning team because she believed I had a good eye for detail and of course I accepted. I cut my hours at Currys to just weekends and started at TRO the following Monday ūüôā

I was greeted by Michelle (People and Support Administrator) who showed me around, introduced me to everyone, and gave me my induction programme for the following 2 weeks. I had lunch with everyone which is a Monday tradition where everyone brings something to eat and everyone has lunchtime to catch up with each other,which I thought was lovely idea. I was scheduled for several meetings throughout the week with other members of staff which was good because I could then figure out who everyone was and what their roles were within the organisation. I also needed to get to grips with my own role and what Casi expected from me.

Objectives:

  • to research individual courses that are coming up and to find how that theme for that course can appeal to a particular market.¬†
  • to review commissioned courses since 2008
  • to monitor the evaluation of courses¬†

 

Over the two weeks I attended several shared reading groups. The first was at Toxteth Library, where I joined a really friendly reading group. A lot of the groups are with people who don’t necessarily read at home and enjoy reading in a group. The facilitator began the story aloud and as it began to unravel, more and more discussion surrounding the story developed and a couple of the group read aloud (I even had a go!). When I left, I felt really good. It was such a great way to read. English at university had been reading and discussing but not like this. Here participants take the take the text at face value; tell you how it makes them feel, if it feels like something that has happened in their lives or if they’ve read something like that before. It’s all about those personal responses to reading aloud. I went to another group on the Thursday of all women, who crochet for fifteen minutes with a cup of tea before reading (they’re reading¬†Never Let Me Go¬†by¬†Kazuo Ishiguro at the moment). I went to another reading group for children under five which was so much fun. I had the opportunity to make boogie puppets and sing ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ all before lunchtime. I then went to another group of just two men who were making me laugh for the full hour as they related the story to their own personal ghost stories at home. The reading groups have been a great opportunity to see the work of TRO directly and it’s such a good feeling to come out of the reading group feeling like there has been a great enjoyment of the literature involved.¬†

 

I’m really looking forward to my next few months at TRO. I’ve already had a great two weeks there, everyone is lovely and welcoming. It’s a job I’ve never had to do before which is challenging, but a good challenge. A challenge that I can learn from and realise my potential.¬†

 

Comma Press

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This is a little late but better late than never. About 2 weeks ago I spent a week in Manchester  at a lovely and small publishers called Comma Press. Hidden away in the northern quarter in an old building shared with the company Madman, is the small but dedicated publishers Comma Press.

Comma Press is a not-for-profit publishing initiative dedicated to promoting new writing, with an emphasis on the short story. It is committed to a spirit of risk-taking and challenging publishing, free of the commercial pressures on mainstream houses.

I found the publishers by using a northwest directory of publishing companies at the beginning of this year and Katie (who does the marketing Comma) told me they only had space for work experience in august.  I marked the 19th august on my calendar and hoped that the opportunity would still be there at the time. Luckily it was!

What turned out to be a very expensive week travelling was completely worth it and reinforced my interest in the publishing industry. I met some really lovely people such as the editorial manager Ra Page who was happy to answer any questions I had and other people doing work experience that week. I was given the new collection of short stories called The Moss Witch by accomplished novelist Sara Maitland. It was sometimes hard to remember that I needed to proofread the book as I was getting into some of the stories and the analysis of them that was written by writers interested in the subject of that particular short story. I was told that it was important the manuscript for the collection was proofread a few times in case anything was missed. It taught me to be very thorough.

When I completed proofreading The Moss Witch, I was told to create a rough bibliography for another collection but this time it was analysis of popular short stories such as Edgar Allan Poe. It reminded me a lot of university but it made me think of all the pieces that need to be put together to create a book.

Something I have been thinking about recently is social media marketing and connecting to groups using social media and it’s something that a lot of industries are using today including publishing so it helped a lot when Katie let post events on their Facebook page about a creative writing class and also create the newsletter as well. It’s something I definitely want to look into in the future.

After a great week Ra treated Jenny (the other girl doing work experience) and I to lunch at Bakerie where we talked publishing and were treated to books that were published by Comma.

It was such a good opportunity that I’m so grateful for as these little looks into the industry help me to make decisions about what I could possibly see myself doing. Just a massive thank you to Comma for giving the time!

It’s a Book

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I was sorting through the children’s books at the bookshop and I came across this book and thought it was brilliant.

This completely sardonic picture book by Lane Smith mocks the digital age in a way that rings true. From working at PC World (especially over Christmas) you see so many parents buying tablets and iPads for their children to “keep them occupied”. I’ve seen people buy 16gb iPad minis for 3 year olds, tell me their 2 year old can play Angry Birds and that their 9 year old has the iPhone, iPod, iPad and wanted an iMac so she’s got the set. As sad as this sounds (and maybe it was just me), but when I wanted to be kept occupied I played outside or picked up a book.

I was cleaning out my shelves the other day and found so many books I used to love as a kid, loads of Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter. Books that looked worn because I read them so many times like The Secret Garden and later Tracy Beaker and The Bed and Breakfast Star. I wonder how many children now would know about Peter Rabbit or Jemima Puddle Duck (favourites).

In It’s a Book there’s a donkey (or basically a jackass) on his laptop with what looks like a monkey while he asks his friend what it is he has in his hand. When the monkey replies “it’s a book” his friend is curious and asks if it scrolls down, tweets or if it needs to charge and all the monkey can reply is…no “it’s a book”.

The clear message of this book is that in this digital age, not enough children are reading printed books. I wouldn’t be surprised if kids won’t know what books in years to come or try to swipe to the next page instead of turn it. Even Kindles have digressed from the standard black and white easy to read e-reader. But now the Kindle Fire let’s you update your Facebook status, listen to music and get a bit of reading in when you get the chance (I should know, I have one).

I think Lane Smith has right idea about modern technology and it’s influence on the youth of today. I was 11 when I got my first mobile phone and was made up because it had Snake on it. Now an 11 year old will be onto their second upgrade of the new iPhone so they can send snap chats to their mate across the classroom. If you get the chance to put your phone down or your tablet give it a read, you might enjoy it (she says as she types this on her WordPress app on her new Samsung S4…)

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Liverpool University Press

This is a bit of a late account of my week at Liverpool University Press (LUP). I was lucky to finally get a placement at LUP which publishes academic books. The company has very recently looked into expanding into ebooks which means that academic books can be read online. My task was to read and spot check each ebook to check for any errors. It was an interesting job and meant that I had to learn to be meticulous and precise. In one chapter I found the name ‘Francois’ with a Chinese symbol in the middle of it. It made me think that if I hadn’t chosen that particular chapter to look over, it would never have been noticed. It just made me want to go through every chapter to make sure! Having work experience there made me understand more about the company and the different aspects of it. I expected LUP to be a really big building with lots of offices and people but only 10 people work in a small building with a red door just on the outside of the city centre. This meant that I got to understand the ins and outs of the industry a bit more and I was told I was free to ask anything I wanted in order to find out more. I was really grateful for the placement and it gave me my first real look into the publishing industry and to be honest, I like what I saw ūüôā

Who Made Your Pants?

These are £18 from the website
Who Made Your Pants?

Have you ever wondered who made your underwear? No?

I was in News From Nowhere the other day and a customer pointed out the washing line hanging in the store with two pairs of frilly lace knickers pegged to it. Funnily enough, I’d never noticed them there! Mandy explained that it is¬†a¬†company that gives women who have had a hard time a job making pants. ‘Who Made Your Pants? (@whomadeyour) say:

“We also think that it’s not really on for anyone to be made to work in bad
conditions just for a cheap pair of pants. Who could feel lovely in something
made in a bad place? So we make our pants in a great place”

The factory is in Southampton, the women can work their way into different parts of the company such as finance or marketing. ‘Who Made Your Pants?’ say that they use the waste fabric from bigger underwear companies to create these actually¬†really nice pieces of underwear, they don’t even give you a VPL. All profits go back into the business and are used for training for the women, fabrics and wages. I think that it’s a very interesting way to give jobs in what seems like a happy and good working environment. When you order a pair of the underwear, you get a letter from the woman that made them telling you her story and saying thank you. It’s definitely the kind of thing that News From Nowhere would support but it’s definitely a very inventive way of sending your support.

Every time you buy a pair of our pants you’re keeping another woman in a job

http://www.whomadeyourpants.co.uk/

A great evening at the Cosmopolitan Media Masterclass in Manchester

I was thoroughly excited at the prospect of attending a media masterclass presented by a panel of truly inspirational women. Not only because it meant I had a lovely break from writing assignments, but because I knew it would give me a lot to think about.

Arriving at the¬†Renold building in Manchester, we were greeted by a large copy of the cover of this months Cosmopolitan, with covergirl¬†Alesha¬†Dixon, a great summer collection and talk about a ‘new orgasm’. We acquired drinks tokens for a glass of wine and patiently waited for the lecture to start. When we all shuffled into the lecture hall there were gift bags waiting for us, courtesy of Cosmo¬†(I was mostly grateful for the full-sized bottle of Palmer’s Cocoa Butter because I love the stuff) and we all had a look through to see our goodies before it began. The panel was very diverse and included the editor of Cosmopolitan, Louise Court (@LouiseCosmoEd) who pretty much has The Dream Job. Rachel Burke-Davies (@MissRachBD) who co-presents the Breakfast Show for Capital FM was also there as well as Rachel Hardy (@RachelHardyPR) who was a publicist at Lime Pictures. Sarah Hall (@sarah_hall) was also on the panel who had worked her way up to become a publicist at Sony. There was also the very determined Lizzi¬†Hosking (@lizzihosking) who is the Entertainment Director at Cosmo and finally Pat McNulty (@Pat_McNulty) who is the Web Editor for the magazine.

Cute goody bag from Cosmopolitan
Cute goody bag from Cosmopolitan

Louise asked all of the panel questions regarding their jobs, the glamorous side of things and the not so glamorous. We also learnt some great advice for applications and how to get ahead. Rachel Hardy told us how important it was to be interested in the industry and to show that in applications and covering letters etc. She also stated that we should consume news across different forms and have a passion for the job. Sarah agreed, she told us about how many people she’d asked in an interview “what are your three favourite music campaigns?” and they didn’t have an answer. She stressed that you need to research the company and be “media savvy”. The rest of the panel then went on to discuss that you should always be a “yes person”. Lizzi said that a lot of the jobs would just be making tea and photocopying but saying ‘yes’ can help to show your enthusiasm and drive.

We also learnt a lot about the panel. Pat told us that she did a French literature degree which she admitted wasn’t the most helpful degree but even so, it put her on the path that led her to being the web designer for one of the biggest women’s magazines in the UK. Rachel Burke-Davis was similar. She had spent a lot of time doing various different jobs within the radio station until she finally managed to get on air a month before her 30th birthday. As I’ve said, Lizzi was very determined in getting the job she wanted, she admitted that she’s still got the big pile of no’s that she received from various companies before she managed to get a placement at Elle in London while in her first year of university. Taking a risk, she took out a bank loan, moved to London and began to pursue her career (without telling her Dad). Sarah told us that a lot of the time she was working for nothing but getting the experience she needed and having part-time jobs on the side. She told us how she planned to move by saving as much as she could before making that big move to London. Louise recounted a story of when she’d done a placement and the boss had told her that they were only looking for ‘high flyers’; “who’s the high flyer now?” Louise told us smiling. There was also a question and answer session where people asked whether age was important to the industry, whether it mattered if you had children and also the competitiveness of the media industry.¬†Dos and Don’ts from the panel:

  • DO behave and be professional when on a placement or doing an internship
  • DO be aware of what you do or say on social media sites
  • DO be presentable for interviews
  • DON’T have an ego
  • DO tell the company what you can do for them in covering letters
  • DO use good paper quality if you’re sending applications by post
  • DO be creative with your¬†covering letter¬†(Sarah Hall sent a covering letter in the form of a press release and got 2 internships from it)
  • DON’T copy and paste covering letters and forget to change the name of the company and who you’re writing it to
  • DON’T forget to check spelling and grammar
  • DO research of the company.

We also received some advice and inspirational words from the panel:

Rachel Hardy: “Take every opportunity”

Rachel Burke-Davies: “Respect the position you’re in. Be yourself, be confident”

Sarah Hall: “Be indispensable and enthusiastic”

Lizzi¬†Hosking: “who cares if you get loads of nos!”

Pat McNulty: “Push yourself and be brave”

Louise Court: “Run your own race”

Week…not sure how many at News from Nowhere

I haven’t posted a blog post in a¬† while because 1. I’ve had too much work to do and 2. I’ve been very content at News From Nowhere and feel like I’m starting to understand the business a lot more. So, while I’m on my way home on this weirdly snowy day in March I figured I would do a post.

Today, I ran through all the new books as usual and wrote in their descriptions before putting them on the ‘new books’ display. There were lots of new non-fiction books today, quite a few of them were on Ireland, don’t know if that’s because it’s just been Paddy’s Day. Mandy had said that she would show me how the tills worked and today was the day. I’m used to working on the tills at PC World but the system at News From Nowhere was pretty old school.

Mandy said I must think all sorts about the system she uses but the truth is I love it. Everything isn’t supposed to do with the computer and technology, most of it is by hand and recorded with a old till. It’s such a change but I think this system suits the shop perfectly. Mandy taught me how it all works as we has munch on Wispa bars and I wrote everything down. There weren’t many customers because of the snow, but those who I did serve were very patient with me while I was learning the steps.

As it was quiet I was sat on the till reading Where are you going, where have you been? whilst listening to ‘Eyes Open’ by Snow Patrol (I got to choose the CD because I was on the till). I got to thinking about independent bookshops and this nostalgia that everyone seems to have for the old way of life and the old way of doing things. This might be a reason why News From Nowhere is doing so well. I wondered if someone was to open an independent bookshop now if it would be as successful? Of course News from Nowhere is special in its own way because it’s a specialist bookshop (focusing on radical books) but with larger companies like Amazon dodging taxes etc people could stop having faith in such large businesses and support their local ones again.

Week 4 at News From Nowhere

 

(just a quick post today…)

Volunteered again today at News From Nowhere. I’m getting the hang of things now and not having to ask as much about what to do next but still need to make sure I’m doing things right as I don’t want to make a huge mistake. When I came in, Mandy told me that a rep would be coming in and I could sit with them to see how it all works. So, at 2 o’clock after I’d entered new books and opened some parcels from publishers, I met Andy who was a publishing representative. He came with his iPad full of new books that would be of interest to Mandy to sell in the radical bookstore. Because of the high¬†prices of hardbacks, decisions were made from the price of the paperback. A lot of the books were academic so were quite expensive and probably wouldn’t sell that well in the store. Most of them were political, some were plays and others social (e.g. fostering). It was interesting to see how Mandy made the choices for what she wanted to keep the store stocked with, thinking about what the customers would like and how certain books relate to current events. I was really grateful to Mandy for letting me sit in on her meeting with the rep. I feel like I keep getting new insights every week I volunteer there which I’m really glad about.

 

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