Archive for September, 2009

In the Book Design Games: France I, Rest of the World 0. Though as usual, in the Taking Photographs Tournament, Estelle = 0.

This is what’s what about Édouard Glissant. Ditto Patrick Chamoiseau.

Later on this week, interviews with guests of Newcastle’s National Young Writers’ Festival. HELLO INTERN will return next week.

‘Oh, my God!’ screamed Estelle. ‘I am sure that this is the most televisual book I have ever read.’
‘Well,’ Ignatius J. Reilly said, three stolen hot dogs in hand, ‘I am sure that I am simultaneously the most vivid and incorrigible character you will ever come across in all of American literature. Indeed, I have been decorated for it.’
‘I have often wanted to slap you across the face, Ignatius. You are psychotic in the extreme.’
Ignatius sighed. The earflaps of his hat were folded up to facilitate his hearing. He arose from his chair, which would not depart from his elephantine body. It took an effort with both his hands to ease it from his frame. The seat looked rather different in shape when he set it down.
‘Have you read Boethius?’ Ignatius belched. ‘I am a staunch believer in Boethius. I cannot abide these new philosophers, the ignorance of whom astounds me. When I perceive the bookstore arrangements of those abortions they call books, the filth they impart to the masses, I feel sick. In fact, my valve is giving me considerable trouble now.’
Estelle paused. ‘What’s a valve?’
‘You are a maniac!’ Ignatius screamed, his voice choked with saliva and fury. ‘Get away from me! You little understand the respect due a personage of my immense intelligence, height and breadth! I would not be surprised if you were not even a human being; a phony whose molecules rejoice at the thoughts of other incompetents! I am certain that you revere film stars, those carriers of mange! You enemy of Pragmatism and Morality! False proponent of American ‘art’! Cataclysmic affront to Hroswitha’s wisdom! That Fortuna should let me spin so low as this!’
‘Oo-wee. I think I got siphlus from dat man,’ said Jones, who was sweeping the floor.

Alright, so Belinda’s not an intern. She almost was one, but she became a publishing assistant instead. She still gets invited to my Oxford University Press Entry Level Power Lunches, so I’m sure life has furnished her with all the publishing plaudits she desires. And it means she has instructive material for you, rabid publishing ferrets. God bless her: it’s Belinda Leon.

To the left: Belinda’s rad ribbon-typing skills. Unfortunately, One HD has taken its The Poker Star website down, so I am without triple-adjective byline. (See the first intern interview for kind-of-an-explanation.) But I’m not an editor for nothing. Here goes.

Belinda Leon is: stark, asymptotic and tremulous.

Belinda, you applied for my job but ended up with a different one instead. (Strangely, we’re not mortal enemies.) What happened there?

I got this job in a fairly roundabout manner. I went to about 50 websites before I found the ad for your role, then umm’d and ahh’d for a couple of weeks while I organised my resume and drafted cover letter after cover letter. I finally screwed up my courage, and rang Debra James — who was listed as a contact on the ad. This was the Thursday before Easter, and I ended up leaving a message, and spent the whole weekend fretting over it all. I eventually got through to her a few days later, introduced myself, asked about the job, and gushed a little bit sillily about how much I wanted to work in publishing. I sent her my resume the next day.

About a week later I got a call from Debra, I began to panic at this — the deadline for the job hadn’t passed yet, and she started off by telling me I didn’t need to panic. Of course I panicked. I calmed down a little when I heard she was telling me about a different role, and asked me to interview for it.

I think I stood out because a) I had exactly the types of experience in the kinds of roles they wanted (I’d worked as an Admin Assistant for a tiny information publishing firm before), and also, I’m a raging nerd, which interested them. I did a Multimedia degree at uni, and am really interested in digital publishing, iPhone applications, and studied XML as part of that, which is increasingly important in the publishing world. The combination of being literary/publishing minded and comfortable with technology and programming appears to be a little unusual in publishing.

What does a publishing assistant do, apart from giving the editorial intern copious snacks?

I run around the office carrying stacks of books, draft up the contracts for authors, fill in scary amounts of forms, tie ribbons on the new books that come in so that the authors can untie the ribbon to see their books, help out with some of the editorial stuff, go to meetings, sit at the front desk one Friday afternoon a month for 10 minutes, drink large quantities of tea, discuss loudly the virtues of the different dogs on the calendar each day (though mostly I’m just calling out things like ‘where are the cats?’). There’s much more, which suits me. I’m constantly changing what I’m doing, and it means if I’m finding something boring, there’s lots to break it up with, and it’s usually over before too long.

You’ve done an IT degree and a diploma in English Literature. What was it about publishing that made you go ‘mmmm’?

I’m a huge book nerd. I love reading, and I love books. All about them, the smell, the feel, opening a new one fresh from the store, opening an old one from a second hand store and finding someone’s writing in it. There was also something about the process of a book that seemed so mysterious. How do you get from someone tapping away at a screen and turn it into a book? Do authors write in Word? is there a special program they need to use to make a book? HOW DOES IT WORK?

I seem to have figured out many of these questions now (yes, authors do generally write in Word. Some might use googledocs, or iWorks though) but the process is as interesting as ever, and I love being involved in it.

What’s your current favourite Youtube video?

How to pick just one?

A goat, on a cup, on a tightrope, with a monkey doing hand stands on its head is possibly the greatest thing ever.

But then again, how can you go past a fuel truck singing ‘Ring of Fire‘ by Johnny Cash?

Can I have an Express Post envelope?

No. I only get two a week, and you guys have stolen them all… but there are some Jaffas in my desk still, you’re welcome to some of them.

Dammit.
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September 22, 2009

You’re a journalist who makes an oopsie — kind of a big deal. Then Obama uses it in a speech. Oooopsie.

They’ve casted the film version of Tomorrow, When the War Began, aka the only book of my life when I was eleven. What with Steve’s fried-egg nipples, I’m surprised that I ever became sanguine about the idea of having a boyfriend. I mean, gross, John Marsden.

I still haven’t posted a review of John Banville’s The Sea, which I read last year, but here is Oslo Davis’s pictorial interpretation. Quite penetrating.

A couple of Google Books stumbling blocks — functional, not legal.

Rub your face against the sans serif font used in the new Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas website. Well, it’s kind of a website. You put your email address in the box and then you wait for them to tell you there’s a website. CAN’T WE JUST GO STEADY ALREADY, M-DUBS.

*God save me until March 21, 2010. God love me, for I love the Pixies.

Obviously, this is not my picture. It comes via. but it’s kind of a much better picture than the one I took and can’t upload because none of the three PCs at the house I’m currently staying at have bluetooth capacity. WTF? So it’s probably here for good, you guys. Learn to love.
While reading The Mystery of the Blue Train, I realised why I liked reading Agatha Christie books so much when I was younger: this book is full of odd, decent young women eager to be told nice things about themselves (3000 BOOKS: now with psychoanalysis!). And Aggie writes them as deserving of attention; Katherine Grey (guess what colour her eyes are) is a lady’s maid from St. Mary’s Mead, a gentle and empathetic soul who comes into quite a bit of money. Lady Tamplin, her rather distant and conniving cousin, invites the newly moneyed Katherine to the Riviera. On the luxurious Blue Train, Katherine meets Ruth Kettering, a wealthy and self-absorbed woman who takes Katherine into her confidence about her man troubles: she is in love with a dashing Count, but is still married to her playboy husband. But alas — in the morning, Ruth has been murdered.
Agatha, she is a pinnacle of verbal efficiency. Not a word in The Mystery of the Blue Train is unnecessary. And it’s so goddamn British: I think of old white men sitting in stuffed armchairs, reading this book and chortling to themselves while raising a glass of port to their pouchy lips. The thing is so easy to read and such a breezy pleasure. Excellent hangover fare. Even when I realised I’d seen a television adaptation of this book some time ago (about halfway through — not so impressive, really, my powers of remembrance), I stuck with it. What else can you do, faced with dialogue like this:
‘I was wondering,’ said Lady Tamplin, again drawing her artistically pencilled brows together, ‘whether–oh, good morning, Chubby darling: are you going to play tennis? How nice!’
Chubby, thus addressed, smiled kindly at her, remarked perfunctorily, ‘How topping you look in that peach-coloured thing,’ and drifted past them and down the steps.
Have you never read any of Agatha’s books? You really should, and if you take my advice, heed also this advice sub-item: read one of her Hercule Poirot mysteries. It’s been a long time since I read any Miss Marple books — I think I went through a phase when I was in high school — but Poirot resembles nothing so much as a big, clever, self-satisfied frog. Which is quite fitting, considering how tastefully his Frenchness is portrayed:
‘I ask myself,’ said Poirot, ‘I, Hercule Poirot’–he thumped himself dramatically on the chest–’ask myself why is M. Papopolous suddenly come to Nice?’

Repetition, emphatic italics, bad grammar, weird self-referencing hand action, first and therefore redundant third-person establishment of identity: ol’ Aggie would have won herself a goodly number of those 25-words-or-less promotional competitions, had she chosen to enter them. Edit: Quel embarrassment! Our friend Poirot is Belgian, not French. There goes my crap metaphor. Thanks to OUP Development Editor, Michelle, whose fact-checking skills almost reach the heights of her fondness for bananas.
It’s sad to end the review like this, but I must sound the Bad Ending Alarm. The final chapter is brief and ties up a couple of loose ends, but it’s more syrupy and sickening than the middle of a peppermint cream. I guess you can’t have it all.
September 18, 2009

Now there’s a pre-weekend question for you.

I know a few of you were interested in what went down at the IPRIA parallel importation restrictions seminar. The four panellists were proponents of removing the restrictions. I have notes, but not the time to write them up as yet. There’s a vidcast available here. I’d be interested to hear what you think.

Congratulations to the joint winners of the 2009 Vogel award, Lisa Lang and Kristel Thornell!

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This is the second year the Australian Publishers Association has run their internship program, which is funded by Copyright Agency Limited. The program gives six rabid publishing ferrets the opportunity to get their furry little snouts in the door. The internships are funded through to next year, meaning that another five or six people will get the chance to experience the publishing industry firsthand around this time in 2010. Most of the current interns are just over halfway through their terms, and I thought I’d check in with them. First kid on the stumps: Stephanie Stepan, publicity intern at Text Publishing. I guess that means I’m publicising…her?

Picture on the left: Steph’s desk. Yes, that’s what the glass slipper looks like, publishing Cinderellas — Express Post envelopes.

Steph, blossoming publicity expert that she is, will probably agree that I need a gimmick for this series of interviews. I mean, who wants to read about the most lowly people on the publishing ladder? Interns? No thanks. Well, courtesy of my friend Chris, soon to appear on television in a poker game show (not joking) called The Poker Star (still not joking), I have some awesome bylines, ‘borrowed’ from the One HD website. Ready?

Stephanie Stepan is…’unpredictable, tenacious and intimidating’.

Steph, tell us a little bit about yourself.

The nutshell version goes a little like this: I’m a recent Creative Arts/French graduate who had a certain career crisis at the beginning of the year and have now, much to my delight, landed myself a six month long publicity internship at Text Publishing.

How did your interest in publishing arise, and what steps did you take to get involved? How about your interest in publicity specifically?

A Creative Arts degree sounded like a good idea at the time, but in the end I found myself in that familiar arty dilemma of no real certainty about what I wanted to do. I was a chronic dabbler. I’d worked as a photographer while still at uni, had written small pieces for magazines and tried my hand at a marketing internship with STA Travel, but still I ummmed and ahhhed (this sounds terribly Gen Y doesn’t it). At the end of last year I saw a job advertised for a publicist at Black Dog Books. Suddenly I thought: why on earth had I not thought of this before? As expected, someone with experience got the job, and I naively thought my marketing background might just stand up. So, as is the way, I thought I’d just offer myself for free, and went on to do work experience with them. From there I applied for the internship at Text and after some grueling interviews I got some very good news.

What was the interview process with Text like?

Nothing like a good interview to get your heart hammering, is there? In preparation I found out as much as I could about Text and though it was impossible to know their entire list I had a good knowledge of their more prolific authors, their overall philosophy and how I might fit into that. You get a useful hint about what you’ll be asked at the interview by looking at the key selection criteria so I had a good idea of how I would respond and why I wanted to be in publishing. ‘I just love books’ is just not an answer you ever want to use! I’ll confess that I wasn’t really overly nervous until the second round where they left me to my own devices for an hour, handed me a book and asked me to write a publicity plan and a press release as well as do a proofreading exercise and following that sat me down with the publisher for a second chat. That really got my heart thumping!

How is your internship structured?

I’m lucky enough to work with three other publicists who are all extremely good at what they do, so I’m on a bit of a mission to glean as much knowledge as possible by the end of the year. For the most part, I’m learning how to run my own media campaigns in really enjoyable bite-sized chunks. For example, I might organize a press release for one author while designing a launch invite for another. I also work in an open plan office, so I do a lot of observing, and hear some great conversations, ask questions and have come to accept that I will at times just make a buffoon of myself.

Text is a growing publisher — I’m sure it’s a pretty exciting place to work, but I bet it’s not all swanning around at Blue Diamond, either. What’s an average day like for you, and what have been the highlights?

Oh, the glamour of my coffee stained, paper-filled desk. Most of the time I leave the frocks at home and I dig into anything from writing copy for promotional material and chasing after the media to the never-ending mail outs and towers of media clippings that regularly find their way to my desk for filing.

Text is also a great size — there are almost 20 of us — to learn how all aspects of the industry work and I count myself extremely lucky to be involved in editorial and book design conversations on a weekly basis. I’m also thrilled that we publish such a large variety of local and international authors as I never dreamed that I’d be able to find a job where my love of languages would come in handy.

I’m sure you remember what it was like to wonder about the publishing world and how on earth it was possible to get the hell in. Do you have any advice for people who are interested in working in the industry?

I think it’s true of many roles in the Arts industry; there are very few entry level positions and you begin to wonder if you should be sending a box of chocolates with your applications! If you’re still in university I would suggest lining up work experience throughout your holidays. You’ll find a lot of the big publishers are booked out in advance so get in as early as possible. You’ll get an idea of where you might like to be in the industry and while you may not end up with a job at the end of it at the very least they will know who you are. Be prepared to pester a little, often follow-up calls are necessary and find out if there any formal processes each publisher requires. While it might be nice to brag that you spent your summer at Penguin Books, don’t discount smaller publishers. Often you’ll get more of a chance to speak to the whole team, and more opportunities to eavesdrop on/pester/ask questions about their day to day work! Also, do your research. If you’re lucky enough to be able to get some experience at a publisher make sure you know as much about the company as possible — Google is grand — and are able to articulate clearly why you want to work in publishing. At one point I also began making contact with course coordinators of publishing courses at various universities and asked for their advice on where to go. In a nutshell, make yourself be known!