Wednesday, 26 February 2014

February Wish List

It's that time again, my monthly wish list! Here's a short collection of the books that I want to read this month:

1. The Shock of the Fall - Nathan Filer (The Borough Press)
2. Life After Life - Kate Atkinson (Black Swan) *this weeks #1 Bestseller
3. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green (Penguin)
4. *Reread* The Book Thief - Markus Zusak (Black Swan) - a necessary pre-cinema trip re-read!
5. The One Plus One - Jojo Moyes (Penguin) - promises to be a beautiful love story!

Meanwhile, I am really looking forward to reading my next course text: Wave - A memoir of life after the Tsunami by Sonali Deraniyagala (Virago Press). Deraniyagala writes about her experience of the 2004 tsunami on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. I doubt it will be an 'enjoyable' read, but it certainly promises to be powerful.

I'll let you know what I think!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Publishing Career Speed Dating with the SYP

Last night, Ella - my university friend - and I made our way to the swanky Phoenix Artist Club in London for the Society of Young Publishers' Career Speed Dating event.

We were intrigued (and a little anxious, it has to be said) to find out exactly what the night would entail - not knowing how true to the "speed dating" concept it would be. In fact, the organisation was excellent; each individual was given a colour group on entry, and then asked to move from table to table with that group. The tables were separated according to the various publishing departments - editorial, publicity, marketing, sales, and digital - and this is where we met the professionals who were so full of advice and easy to talk to; it really was a fabulous experience.

As someone who wants to work in editorial, it was actually really insightful to be able to speak to professionals across the fields in the industry. There were not only reps from within publishing houses, but also from within the book industry as a whole, including a rep from the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction social media team, as well as the careers sector rep from The Bookseller magazine. All of the professionals were so equally passionate about the value of their role in the publishing process - they all made their own departments seem like the place to be!

The popularity of the night amongst aspiring publishers meant that the event could have done with a bigger venue to allow people to move about more easily. That said, whether standing, sitting or thigh-toning(ly) squatting, it didn't detract from the excitement that seemed to permeate the room.

Until recently, I've always seen networking events as a kind of daunting experience. There's so much pressure to get contacts and ask the right questions, it sometimes seems easier to want to stand in a corner and hide! What was great about last night, was that the atmosphere was so convivial and relaxed and the publishing reps seemed so happy to tell us about their experiences - I felt like I got a real understanding of why they love their job, as much as what they do.

In fact, every time I meet someone in the profession, whether they are a writer, agent, or publisher, I feel more and more assured that this is the industry in which I want to work. The enthusiasm that the professionals have for their jobs was palpable and I hope I demonstrated the same kind of excitement for wanting to break into the industry.

The one piece of advice that was reiterated across all the sectors was to persevere. Not many had an easy entrance into the sector, and it may have taken them several years (and a stroke of luck) to get to the point where they are today. Yet they proved that as long as you're flexible, dedicated and willing, it is possible. I certainly feel like I'm those things, so persevere I will!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Arts vs. Science: the age-old battle

The Arts vs. Science debate seems to be cropping up everywhere around me these days. Of course, this is understandable; at a university which is leading the field in many areas of scientific research, its hardly surprising that there's constant "banter" between arts and science students anywhere you look.

From the Lit.Soc debate at which my friend made a very valid point about art, in a certain way, actually being science (or visa versa), to my seminar tutor today who contextualised Margaret Atwood's representation of the debate in Oryx and Crake (2003) by asking: what is the function of art? Or indeed, what is the functionality of a student of the arts?

Before university, I was told that a languages and literature degree would open up doors to countless opportunities, for the very fact that it encourages a creative, open-minded, yet analytic approach to almost everything. Certainly at Warwick, this has held true; the English faculty in particular has made studying literature feel so relevant to society.

Sure, we've read the classics from Zola to Austen, Camus to Nabakov which all have their role to play in our understanding of history - literary, cultural, and social. In my opinion, they give an unparalleled insight into the way of living of past centuries. But it's the more modern literature that cements my love for my course. Ranging from Cities of Salt - Elias Khoury's novel about loss of identity in the Lebanese civil war, to The Baghdad Blog - a collection of posts by an anonymous blogger of the Iraq war. From Mahasweta Devi's Chotti Munda & His Arrow, written in almost-tribal song, to science fiction - the likes of Atwood and Kim Stanley Robinson - what I love most about my course (or at least about the modules that I've chosen), is that the literature is unsettling.

The kind of literature we are reading has made it in to the academic canon because it intentionally defies you as a reader, subverting your expectations and forcing you to question your preconceived ideas. I'm currently reading disaster literature - novels which are forcing me to think about our social order, our manner of living and the violent impact it is (often invisibly) having on the planet.

What makes studying a humanities subject just as relevant and indispensable as the studies of science is how it encourages new modes of thinking, probing, inquiring, and of discerning what things actually mean. Fiction offers the imaginative scope through which we are forced to re-consider our reality. In the arts, there is an innate concern with morality that demands the reader to doubt and question on a human level, in contrast to a statistic which, though telling you the answer, doesn't always ask why.

That's one defence of a humanities degree at least...Oh and, no, we don't all want to be teachers!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Graeme Simsion - The Rosie Project

If any of you read my January Wish List post, you'll notice that one of the books I mentioned was The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Today, I was lucky enough to be able to listen to the former data modeller and now award-winning author as he spoke at Warwick University to aspiring writers and publishers.

Graeme was charming and witty as he explained his career progression. Starting out in database design, he went on to establish his own IT consultancy business. Already boasting a talent for effective writing, Graeme published the textbook Data Modelling Essentials in 2004 which is now in its third edition.

In a rather abrupt career change, he then tried his hand at screen-play writing and had minor successes with a few short productions. Meanwhile, he was constantly evolving the concept of what would become The Rosie Project. He describes the pinnacle of his career as being shortlisted for Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award (2012) which he won, leading to him becoming a published author with Penguin Books in the UK (and now also a screen-writer for the Sony adaptation of his novel).  

From listening to Graeme speak, it's no surprise that The Rosie Project is hailed for its hilarious and exuberant entertainment value as it captures human interaction:

The plot follows geneticist Don Tilman who has Asperger's syndrome and who, at thirty nine years old, has never had a second date . He thus devises The Wife Project, a scientific test designed to find him the perfect partner. What follows is a charming, funny tale of romance as Rosie enters Don's world.

Graeme explained the relationship between the initial plot concept written as a screen-play, and the consequent book form of The Rosie Project as he advised writers to consider the different medium through which their ideas might best be portrayed.

For me, as an aspiring editor it was interesting to understand the process of writing - one that is meticulous and progressive - from an author's perspective (The Rosie Project took five years to reach the print form it’s in now.)

Asked how much of an effect the editing and publishing process had on the final product that is The Rosie Project, Graeme explained that it was a matter of tweaking length and emphasis on particular plot sections rather than totally altering the shape of the novel. It seems that the editor-author relationship was one of perfecting the novel without stealing its integrity.

As a writer, Graeme represents the epitome of perseverance. He advocates the necessity of accepting criticism and advice from others while also demanding more from yourself.

Look out for the sequel to The Rosie Project, which Graeme says he's just submitted and which promises to be just as much of a success!