The Interns’ Opinion
What is it really like at Luath Press? We asked a couple of our interns to write a post about their time with us…
Arriving at Luath Press on the first day of my placement, I was presented with a pleasantly lengthy work experience checklist. Not only did this satisfy my obsessive love of ticking items off lists; it also promised a highly useful learning experience. The remainder of the week did not disappoint: I was exposed to all kinds of initially frightening activities, which in the end turned out not to be too momentous after all. Having thought that the creation of a barcode, for example, would involve the meticulous drawing and spacing of black lines, I was pleasantly surprised to find that, naturally, ‘there’s an app for that’. The biggest challenge, in the end, may have been a 20-minute showdown with an uncooperative computer (I emerged victorious).
Being used to writing highbrow academic nonsense most of the time, I found it difficult to adjust to the language of press releases at first. But after some practice, I feel that I finally understand the appeal of Mad Men. I also had to confront one of my mortal fears – answering phone calls by strangers. By day three, I had managed to restrict my symptoms to the occasional nervous titter. (Of course, it does help that roughly 75% of callers turn out to be an automated spambot.)
My favourite part was probably lording it over the slush pile; nothing like a bit of megalomania in the morning. (This may be a good moment to apologise for any potential bestsellers I scornfully relegated to the rejection pile…) And the occasional flash of brilliant writing reminded me why I want to work in this industry after all (proofreading comma wars can cause momentary amnesia when it comes to this). I got a chance to look at Luath’s upcoming titles, and it’s safe to say that there is much to look forward to in the next few months – from Douglas Skelton’s tartan noir thriller about Glasgow’s criminal underworld in the 1980s (Blood City) to Dilys Rose’s mesmerising tale of a woman coming to terms with her difficult familial past (Pelmanism).
Another favourite moment was when my lowly literature-student self was allowed into an author meeting. It is the most exhilarating experience to engage in editorial nit-picking with the one person who is even more passionate about the given book. While I did feel rather sacrilegious making editorial suggestions, said author was fortunately of the gracious kind, so that compromises were reached without any major nervous breakdowns and/or physical altercations. I can’t say how I would fare with the reputed divas among authors, but after this great initial experience, I’m certainly open to a challenge.
I will look back on my week at Luath fondly, grateful for the technical knowledge, ‘book banter’, and industry gossip I became privy to. Grateful also for temporary access to things that are incompatible with a student budget, such as Microsoft Publisher, Adobe InDesign, or even just a consistently functioning printer (for Christ’s sake). Finally, I appreciate the continued patience and support of the people working at Luath; their good humour in answering my rookie questions was exemplary. Though some consternation about the small job market seem to be an inextricable part of publishing, working with the lovely people at Luath has shown me once again that one would be hard pressed to find an industry more passionate about what it is producing. After ticking ‘write blog post’ off my list, then, I will enjoy the view of Edinburgh from Luath’s prime location on the Royal Mile once more, step out into the sun (with a mildly puzzled expression – how is it not raining?), and feel at least a little bit closer to that coveted career start in publishing.
Working at Luath Press had a lot of firsts for me; the first time working in an office, the first time taking on an hour-long commute each way daily and the first time being confronted with the reality of real world work (play time at uni is over and only the Big D stands between my status as a student and being a certified MLitt).
On Monday, I arrived anxious in Edinburgh and eager to start. After a short introduction by Gavin I was confident again (I knew lots of the things he was talking about already!).
The confidence lasted approximately five minutes; the second Louise handed me a manuscript to proofread, it went straight out of the window! I have to let you know that English is not my first language, therefore I dread the editing and proofing part very much. I familiarised myself with the house style, picked up a red pen and began reading the manuscript. And then… poems, lots of poems. I asked myself ‘how do you proofread poems?’ In the end I didn’t dare change anything, because structures etc. are very important when it comes to poetry. I’m glad to say that the poems were very well written and an interesting read. I now know more than ever about St Kilda and I have an urge to visit the island just to compare what I have read with reality.
Now a dab hand at editing, I had a go at writing some press releases for this book and some other titles. This was not as easy as it sounds, especially if there was no previous involvement in the commissioning or editorial process. Reading the first chapter, one chapter in the middle of the book and the final chapter is a good way to get to know the material. Coming up with press releases was challenging and enjoyable.
On Wednesday, I actually got the chance to meet the author of Animal Lover, Raymond Friel, which was very exciting. Sitting in on an author’s meeting was also a first for me. It went without a hitch and there were no complaints afterwards about my conduct. I even dared to make a suggestion. Luckily, Raymond was open to all suggestions and not difficult to handle or diva-like at all. He could have been a diva if you take his successful career as a screenwriter into account.
It was really fascinating to get an inside view of how publishing works – holding a manuscript, seeing the changes which took place during the editorial process and seeing the different stages of cover design is not something the average person on the street can experience. A glimpse behind the curtain of publishing, so to speak.
I really enjoyed my time at Luath. Being part of the industry, even if only for a week, was very interesting, gave me some insights on how things work and what my future work life hopefully will look like.
P.S: Reading submissions and deciding what will happen to them feels, to quote Titanic, “I am the king of the world”.