Posted 17.07.19 by Alex Watson
It all started with a briefing at Penguin’s Strand office. After meeting (sitting awkwardly with) my work experience colleagues, we were taken up to a meeting room for some ice breaker exercises. We were split into two groups and told to create a short story that had to contain a fact about each of us. My fact was that I’m going to Tokyo next year. So, we ended up with a five-sentence opus that chronicled the story of a man who rudely shoves another man out of the way to get onto the tube. We learn the wronged man is on his way to conduct a job interview for a powerful position in Tokyo. When he gets to the interview, he finds that the candidate first on his list is the very man who shoved him out of the way on the tube. Life’s rich pageant.
After this, once all the admin was out of the way, it was finally time to make our way over to the Vauxhall Bridge Road office. I was taken to my desk and after phoning IT to get my login, I was up and away. Checking my email, I have various tasks to complete, so the first thing I did was to create a to-do list, in order of priority. If I had one piece of advice, it would be to do this. The list enabled me to keep on top of my tasks and divide my time between them to make the best use of it, there was a great sense of achievement to be had every time a task was ticked off.
I began by reading the first fifty pages of a manuscript, and writing a feedback report on what I liked, didn’t like, whether the plot worked and any other observations. I was then asked to read through a book of PG Wodehouse’s letters to find any references to sport, a task that took me until the end of the week. In between, I was able to scour the shelves for books and help to package up lots of boxes that were being shipped off. In amongst all this, I was asked to transcribe an interview with a footballer’s wife, a task that took me right through to the end of the week.
On Thursday, I became the hero of the hour when I was sent out and returned with a plethora of pickings from the biscuit aisle. It was during this session that I gleaned the most insight, as I sat back and listened to the more experienced editors discuss various authors and divulge some tales from their time in the industry.
I was privy to a pitch meeting, wherein everybody in the department is able to see which books are going to be published seven months hence. In this instance, I was delighted that the first novel to be discussed was The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray, A colleague in the team was totally enthused by both author and novel and speculates that it will be a huge debut next year. I was also asked to write a rejection letter, and the following day I had to package up and return an unsolicited manuscript with a different rejection letter.
Overall, it’s been amazing being able to be a part of such a huge operation, gleaning insights from listening to the conversations about sales, discussions about the intricacies of a particular page or line, and just soaking in the love of literature than emanates from everybody working here (and don’t forget to sift through the boxes of books while you’re here, making sure to ask they are available to take!)