To Study or To Not Study? That is the Question!

Choosing a Master’s in Publishing

So when it comes to completing a masters in publishing, there is much debate surrounding whether or not they help you to get into the industry. Since there is no requirement to even have an undergraduate degree when applying for an entry level job in publishing, it can seem unnecessary to study up to master’s level prior to starting work. And it is unnecessary. Many people have very successful publishing careers without and MA. However, this does not mean it’s not helpful or beneficial, and so I thought I would talk through why I’ve made the decision to begin studying an MA in publishing in January 2021.

One of the main benefits of studying a master’s is the opportunity to network, meeting others looking to enter the industry and specialists currently working in the industry. The publishing industry is very focused on networking, with the ability to do so very often being listed as a crucial means of entering into this competitive industry. Making these connections will be a lot easier when studying publishing alongside others pursuing a similar career path and having the chance to attend panels, events of workshops hosted by experts.

Another benefit of studying a master’s is that I will gain a more thorough understanding of the industry. I currently only have a bare-bones understanding of the different roles within publishing, based on the different departments, so studying a master’s will also help me to gain a clearer idea of specific roles that I would like to pursue. I, like many others, am drawn to working in editorial, however this is a competitive section within a competitive industry and I definitely wish to learn more about other roles before committing myself to what is essentially, the most ovbious choice.

Additionally, a master’s course will hopefully equip me knowledge and skills I will go on to use throughout my career. For instance, one of the modules I will study is The Business of Publishing which will, among other things, teach me how to write a business plan so that if I at some stage wished to set up my own press, I would know how to go about it. I will learn how to put together a marketing strategy, editorial plan and book proposals, all of which a key in pursuing publishing.

Finally, I should say that key contextual factors have pushed me to start my master’s sooner than initially planned. After graduating I originally planned to apply for jobs and internships in publishing for a year and then consider studying a master’s if I were consistently unsuccessful. However, both COVID-19 and the current recession mean that unemployment is up and the job market is oversaturated with people more qualified than I am. Therefore, rather than waiting to start a master’s I’ve decided to start it on a part-time basis in January 2021 and hopefully, once I finish in 2023 I will be more equiped to enter the job market and stand a better chance of being able to get into such a comeptitive industry.

Overall, when it comes to the decision of whether to study a master’s in publishing, it really is an individual decision, and there is no right or wrong answer. There is by no means a requirement to have a master’s, or a degree of any kind, in order to get an entry-level role in publishing so if it’s not the route for you then do not worry, it won’t stop you pursuing a publishing career. However, if you are struggling to kick-start your career or get that first internship it might be an option to consider, particularly if, like me, you enjoy academic study and feel that the extra knowledge would increase your confidence in your own abilities.

Goodreads vs. The Storygraph

So I was recently introduced to The Storygraph, a new platform comparable to Goodreads but without being owned by Amazon, through Leena Norm’s Youtube channel (which you should definitely check out) and having now used The Storygraph for a couple of months, I thought I would review how The Storygraph and Goodreads compare and whether I’ll be switching for good. The answer to which is…maybe.

My overall experience of the two websites is that The Storygraph is a resounding success. My favourite feature is the more in depth review options, beyond a rating out of five stars. The reader can review the pace of the book, character development and key words that would describe it. This provides more insight into what the user is reading, which was particularly useful when looking for more things to read.

The one aspect of The Storygraph that I disliked is not being able to track your progress as you’re reading a book. On Goodreads, you can input what page you’re on and see how far through the book you are, there is no such option on The Storygraph. However, it is still in beta so perhaps that is something that will be developed going forwards.

Despite this, I have much preferred using The Storygraph over the last few months. You are able to mark if you own a book, in addition to the usual ‘read’ and ‘want to read’, which, as a frequenter of libraries, I appreciate. The layout of the site is also both easy to use and aesthetic. There is now an app version, which is major bonus, as I would often forget to use it before this was created.

Overall, I would definitely recommend that every book lover tries out The Storygraph. You can transfer all of your Goodreads data across so you need not go back to square one, you can simply make a very easy switch across.

 

October 2020 Round Up

It’s the end of another month and despite the chaos of moving house and starting a new job, I’ve still managed to squeeze some reading in so please enjoy and happy Halloween!

Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Cafe

  • Author: Toshikazu Kawaguchi
  • Publisher: Picador, 2020
  • Summary: Following on from Kawaguchi’s debut novel, this delightful sequel returns the reader to a little cafe in Tokyo that can transport customers back in time and explores how we’d go to see the ones we love.
  • Rating: 4/5

The Other Mother (Audiobook)

  • Author: Jen Brister
  • Publisher: Penguin Books
  • Summary: Stand-up comedian, Jen Brister, recounts the trials and tribulations of raising twin boys as a same-sex couple, and being the ‘other’ mother.
  • Rating: 3/5

After the Silence

  • Author: Louise O’Neill
  • Publisher: Riverrun, Quercus, 2020
  • Summary: The infamous murder of the Crowley Girl has been talked about on Inisrun for the past years, but now a pair of Australians have arrived to make a documentary on the case and old wounds start to reopen.
  • Rating: 5/5

The Silent Patient

  • Author: Alex Michaelides
  • Publisher: Orion, 2019
  • Summary: Alicia was living what seemed to be a perfect life until the day she shot her husband 6 years ago and no one knows why. And she hasn’t spoken a word since.
  • Rating: 3/5

NaNoWriMo

As I’m writing this, it’s the 26th October and there’s one week until November, which means there’s one week until the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is an annual, online, creative writing poject that takes place throughout November, during which participants attempt to write a novel in a month. More specifically, they attempt to write a 50,000 word first draft.

NaNoWriMo is hosted and organised by the non-profit organization of the same name that provides all the tools, structure, community and encouragement to help people achieve their creative goals here. This very ambitious annual event has been running for 21 years, after starting in 1999, and has led to many highly successful novels, including The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (See my review here) and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

It is at this point, that I should mention that I have never personally participated in this annual push for literary creativity. However, this has never been for lack of desire, as I would love to be able to sit down and write a novel in a month. As a child I loved writing narrative fiction, dreaming of being a writer when I grew up, but then as I got older I fell out of the habit and it has now been many years since I’ve put pen to paper. This has resulted in me wishing I could participate in NaNoWriMo each year but having no idea where to begin and ultimately letting it pass once more.

However, this year I am going for a different approach. Although I will definitely not be writing a novel, I will be trying to do some writing. I’ve decided to take advantage of NaNoWriMo and use it to try and build up a habit for writing and write something everyday. Naturally, I have no expectations for the quality of what I will be writing but I am hoping that if I start writing something frequently, be it long or short, it will help me to at least get a feel for the process.

Therefore, from the 1st November, I will aim to sit down and write something everyday (or at least most days, everyday might be a little overly ambitious). I am planning to try and write lots of different things, from poetry to essays to narrative fiction so that by November 30th, I will hopefully have an idea of what and how I like to write.

Wish me luck, and let me know if you’ll be participating and if you’d like to see updates on my progress!

September 2020 Round Up

So life’s been slightly crazy and I may have been a little absent for the last month but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading so here’s another monthly round up.

Grown Ups (Audiobook)

  • Author: Marian Keyes
  • Publisher: Michael Joseph, 2020
  • Summary: The Casey’s are a glamourous family that spend a lot of time together. And they’re a happy family…at least on the surface. But when Cara, Ed Casey’s wife, bumps her head and can’t keep her mouth shut, the many family secrets start to unravel.
  • Rating: 3/5

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race (Audiobook)

  • Author: Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus, 2017
  • Summary: Awar-winning jouranlist, Reni Eddo-Lodge, offers an illuminating and necessary exploration of what it is to be black in Britain today.
  • Rating: 4/5

My Dark Vanessa

  • Author: Kate Elizabeth Russell
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate, 2020
  • Summary: In this original novel, a 15-year-old girl has what she understand as a loving, sexually awakening relationship with her teacher. However, years later, in a post-Me-too era, she is 32 and he has been accused of sexually abusing another former student, forcing Vanessa to confront it for what it was, and redefine what she thought was a great love story as abuse.
  • Rating: 4/5

The Graduate

  • Author: Charles Webb
  • Publisher: Penguin Books, 1999
  • Summary: The iconic novel of how college graduate, Benjamine Braddock, returns home feeling disillusioned with his future and starts an affair with his parents’ friend; Mrs Robinson.
  • Rating: 3/5

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

  • Author: Maggie O’Farrell
  • Publisher: Headline Review, 2013
  • Summary: In the middle of tending to her vintage clothing shop and avoiding her married boyfriend, Iris Lockhart receives a phone call informing her that a great-aunt, Esme Lennox, whom she’s never heard of, is being released from Cauldstone Psychiatric Hospital, where she’s spent the last 60 years of her life.
  • Rating: 5/5

August 2020 Round Up

It’s that time of the month again and I’ve been through quite a few books over the last 4 weeks.

Little Fires Everywhere

  • Author: Celeste Ng
  • Publisher: Penguin Books
  • Summary: A novel that tracks the gradually intertwining lives of the perfect Richardson family and the mother-daughter pair, Mia and Pearl.
  • Rating: 3/5

Olive

  • Author: Emma Gannon
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Summary: Olive is in her early thirties and come to the realisation that she doesn’t want kids, but will this drive a wedge between her and her closest friends, all of whom have started on the path to motherhood.
  • Rating: 4/5

Why be Normal when you can be Happy?

  • Author: Jeannette Winterson
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • Summary: The memoir of critically acclaimed author; Jeannette Winterson.
  • Rating: 4/5

Daisy Jones & the Six

  • Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • Summary: Daisy Jones & the Six were one of the biggest bands of the late seventies until they unexpectedly split. This is the first time they have all sat down to discuss what happened.
  • Rating: 4/5

Swing Time

  • Author: Zadie Smith
  • Publisher: Penguin Random House
  • Summary: This novel is set in London, New York and West Africa, and is about two girls who dream of being dancers, but only one has a talent for it.
  • Rating: 3/5

Little Fires Everywhere (Amazon Prime)

  • Network: Amazon Prime
  • Based On: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Summary: An American drama miniseries that tracks the gradually intertwining lives of the perfect Richardson family and the mother-daughter pair, Mia and Pearl.
  • Rating: 3/5

Why be Happy when you can be Normal?

Jeannette Winterson

Jeannette Winterson is a favourite author of mine, having first read Oranges are not the only Fruit as a queer teenager, and so I’ve been meaning to read her memoir for quite a while know. I ended up buying it on a whim when recently browsing books and I am so glad that I did.

Winterson’s memoir is something of a companion novel to Oranges, which Winterson refers to as ‘the story I could live with at the time’ with the reality being a far bleaker tale. Winterson writes with a desperation for the reader to understand her experience of being beaten or left to sit on the doorstep all night. However, despite this the memoir is filled with enough quirky little eccentricities that you never get beaten down, left unable to finish. Instead there is a desire to understand how this impressive author made it to Oxford and went on to live the life she did.

Winterson perfectly walks the line between revealing what her life has been like and choosing to hold back so as to remain a level of privacy. Although there are certain things Winterson chooses not to share, as is clear from her choice to unapologetically jump 25 years into the future, at no point do you feel entitled to the information as it simply seems too personal or too difficult to be shared. You are very aware that you are only privy to exactly what Winterson has chosen to share and that’s how you feel most comfortable reading about some of the lowest points in her life.

However, what is truly remarkable about this memoir is the absence of anger found in it, which is unexpected given the treatment of Winterson as a child. Winterson’s adoptive parents are never presented as objects of fury but mere products of the ill-treatment they themselves were on the receiving end of. Given everything you read about the treatment of Winterson by her adoptive parents this is an incredible feat as you would expect anyone to feel resentful or frustrated at the childhood they had to endure, yet Winterson’s memoir presents as a mere tragedy of circumstances. Whilst there is no justifying how Mr and Mrs Winterson treated Jeannette, there is also an absence blame through there being explanations for their behaviour. They had difficult lives and parented the only way they knew how.

I would absolutely recommend this moving piece of writing to anyone who is a fan of a memoir or Winterson’s writing. It is deeply tragic but incredibly interesting and should not be skipped over.

Olive

Emma Gannon

I saw Olive floating around book Twitter for a while and will admit to completely falling for the cover and being more drawn in by that than anything else. I guess sometimes I really do judge a book by it’s cover and so huge credit to the cover designer of Olive. However, once I started reading the novel I was immediately captivated.

Olive centres a group of four female friends who have known each other since childhood but are now in their mid-thirties, and three of them are either mothers or are on the journey to becoming mothers. This leaves the titular character, Olive, feeling isolated as a result her recent conclusion that she did not want to have children and the subsequent end to her relationship with her partner of 9 years.

By comparison, of Olive’s closest frinds, one is married with three young children, one is married and about to give birth to her first child and one is suffering from endometriosis and going through the rigorous process of IVF treatment.

As someone who has very mixed feelings around the prospect of motherhood and the process of becoming a parent, I really enjoyed this book because it considered aspects of the choice to not have children that I had not previously considered. As a 21-year-old the decision of whether to become a mother is purely a personal one that I have a lot of time to consider and don’t need to worry about for the next 10 years. However, I had never thought about the aspect of not choosing to have children that would differentiate you from those in your life who do choose to have them.

This is brilliantly dealt with in the book because at no point do you feel like any of the characters have done anything wrong. Each character is dealing with vastly different issues in their personal lives that make it very difficult for them to relate to each other. Olive is going through an incredibly difficult break up and struggling with the choice not to have children and just wants to talk to her friends about it but it’s impossible to talk about not wanting children with a friend who is desperately trying to have kids and in the midst of invasive IVF treatment.

The main conflict of the book is found in Olive’s friends finding her self-centred and overly focussed on the idea that having children is simply terrible (which is obviously not what you want to hear if you have kids). However, because we read the book from Olive’s perspective, and likely because I am somewhat sympathetic to Olive’s feelings towards motherhood, I did not find her either selfish or too critical . I think that the style of writing plays a role in achieving this as we spend a lot of time reading about Olive’s thoughts, with less time on interations between her and her friends, who are currently very busy with children, and only a minimal sense for how the dynamic between them has changed. This leads us to sympathise with all the characters, and simply highlights the difficulty of your life diverging from those of your friends rather than making any comment on whether or not a person ought to have children.

Overall, I would consider this an excellent novel for any young person wrestling with the question of whether to have children or facing the prospect of their life diverging from those of their friends and would definitely recommend it. This is an enjoyable book which makes for a fairly easy read that you can’t put down.

Don’t let the Cover Letters get you Down!

So I finished my university course at the end of May, in the midst of lockdown with no definite plans for the foreseeable future. Now it’s been 3 months, lockdown has eased, the UK officially announced it was in recession, I’ve applied for countless jobs…and I still have no definite plans for the foreseeable future.

I am hoping to enter into the publishing industry, ideally within editorial, which is already a highly competitive industry to get into so I was prepared for plenty of rejections before getting an entry level job. However, that means I have also been applying for any other admin-based jobs that I am remotely qualified for and have yet to have any success with this either. And this is slightly demoralising to say the least.

Despite spending every day writing cover letters and filling in applications though, I am trying my best to focus on the positives. Namely, that 3 months isn’t too long to be unemployed for, especially when I’ve only just finished university. Although moving home from a city that I love with nothing going on has made this feel like a long and frustrating change, I keep reminding myself to be patient and not start panicking for a few more months yet.

I also keep telling myself that even if the current recession is said to be one of the worst we’ve had, there are also predictions that we will bounce back quicker because it has been clearly linked to lockdown being implemented in the face of COVID-19. This means that even if there are fewer jobs going around, and more people looking, this hopefully won’t last as long as it could have.

Finally, I still have plenty of options. I am very fortunate to be able to move back home for the time being, and my girlfriend starts a PhD placement in January 2021 so I will hopefully be able to move in with her then. This ultimately means that despite being unemployed I do not need to worry about a place to live for the time being, which is an invaluable privilege. I am degree-educated with a variety of skills which mean that I can widen my search and apply for a fair few jobs.

This just leaves me battling the ever present job hunt fatigue and whilst this is tough I just have to persevere and remember that there are plenty of other people doing the same thing. I remind myself that applying for jobs is achieving something and not the same as doing nothing, because it’s easy to feel like I spend my time doing nothing when I seem to make no progress. Instead, I am using my time as well as I can; finding and applying for any and all jobs I can whilst increasing my relevant experience through voluntary publishing jobs. This means that eventually I will get a job, and in the meantime I just have to try not to let the endless cover letters get me down.

Little Fires Everywhere

Celeste Ng

I was recently prompted to read Little Fires Everywhere after watching the trailer for the TV show. I was intrigued by the concept but knew I wanted to read the book first and I am so glad that I did.

The novel centres around two families living in 1990s Shaker Heights, Ohio, who are brought together through they’re children. However, the matriarchs each take vastly different approaches to parenting. Mrs Richardson is committed to the rules, believing that if everyone simply conforms to the right way of doing things then there will be a perfect community, whereas Mia is an artist who has moved from place to place with her daughter, Pearl, living how she wants to and never staying in one place for too long.

This unspoken conflict between Mia and Mrs Richardson ultimately comes to a head in a custody dispute between family friends of the Richardson’s and a co-worker of Mia’s. After Bebe hits rock bottom and doesn’t know where to turn she leaves her baby at a fire station, where a social worker is called and the baby ends up being placed with the McCulloughs, who have been trying have a baby for almost a decade. Once Bebe finally receives the help she needs she desperately wants her baby back and so beings the tense custody battle and the catalyst for the downfall of Mia and Mrs Richardson’s relationship.

The story at the centre of the novel was what primarily caught my attention as it allows for exploration of the intersection between motherhood and socio-economic circumstances. This book considers how we as a society punish mothers simply because they have less money or struggle from social difficulties, such as being a single mother or an immigrant. If a mother feels unable to care for her child and abandons them, at what point does that become an irreversible decisions?

Finally, I think part of the brilliance of this novel is also found in how well Ng writes about Shaker Heights. On the surface, Shaker Heights seems like an idyllic place to live, where everyone has a nice house and every child goes to a good school, but the more I found out about it, the uneasier I became. The way Ng was able to create a building tension around seemingly harmless aspects of the community was very impressive. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the bins being kept at the back of the house, rather than the front, but every time a little rule like this is mentioned I was left feeling slightly more unsettled. This ever-present tension meant I couldn’t put the book down, always on the edge of my seat, waiting to find out what was going to happen.

This book is well-written with a simple story of motherhoos at its heart that still keeps you turning the pages, desperate to find out what will happen next. I would definitely recommend this book.