A placement at Floris Books – what I learned about publishing (and had thought to ask).

Having undertaken a qualification in secondary English teaching, I am familiar with the concept of a work placement. As a student teacher you are required to undertake three separate placements, two lasting 6 weeks and one lasting 4 weeks. These are full-time, and you can feel like they go on forever. In publishing, when completing an MSc at Edinburgh Napier, you are hoping to take on a part-time or temporary placement, not required,but the aim of each is to provide valuable experience. For me this time, instead of teaching Curriculum for Excellence English lessons to teenagers in north Glasgow, I was packing my bag and heading to Floris Books, an award-winning children’s book publisher in Edinburgh. The opportunity to work at Floris Books as their Sales and Marketing intern is a rare and exciting one. Floris take on one intern a year, usually advertising the position from about October to university students at Edinburgh Napier and Stirling, before the role commences in January. This year, they’d chosen me.

 

Upon arrival and my first cup of tea (always trust a company that offers you tea immediately) I was given an introduction to the whole team. The office is open-plan and the resultant feel is that of collaborative effort and interdepartmental co-operation. The editorial team are at the back of the office, near the huge west-facing windows that showed the approach of any inclement weather (very important for later in the placement when a gigantic weather bomb hit and we stood in awe as snow swept in and hid the city behind sheets of greyish yellow cloud and tumbling white flakes), the design and production department are located in the middle, then sales and marketing with the head of publishing are closer to the front of the office. Having met everyone straight away, I was made to feel welcome instantly.

 

My role as intern had already been made fairly clear to me. Floris used a very detailed and useful job advert when looking for their intern and it was with this in mind that CJ Cook (sales and marketing executive) and I sat down to talk about my duties. Floris are very democratic in their approach to interns and their role. No one on placement is asked to complete a task that would not be expected of a member of staff – so no sorting post and making coffee that can be the case in some internships. Equally, CJ and other “marketeers” were keen to utilise the skills that I brought; being well-versed in teacher-speak, I could develop materials for use in the classroom with their books. Furthermore, as a Scots speaker I could help in creating specific resources for The Teeger that cam for his tea, the Scots version of the well-loved children’s classic. It felt like a very personal approach; Floris knew what I could offer, and my placement duties were tailored accordingly. I felt valued and a part of the team.

 

Over the course of the ten weeks, I worked with each of the various departments. I assisted in editorial on proofreading and Scots language. I helped to judge some of the submitted manuscripts for the annual Kelpies Prize. I learned from design and production what goes into the process of producing an illustrated children’s books (very useful in terms of my own live project at university!) and I created marketing materials for the promotion of that book. I applied skills gained from my MSc such as when html mapping and took ones from placement back to university to use on various aspects of coursework. The opportunity to see how a publishing house was run was thrilling, but beyond the acquisition and enhancement of my abilities was the joy in realising that this is an industry in which I truly want to work. I was welcomed, treated as an equal even though I was a complete newbie, given so many opportunities to contribute and have my voice heard. It may seem that all this is par for the course and I shouldn’t be surprised but honestly, after some of my teaching experiences, it wasn’t something I automatically expected. Floris Books treat their interns well, all members of staff are patient and will answer questions or give advice. They have monthly staff lunches where we all sat together for a bring-a-dish lunch. I feel I made friends and connections that will last long past the end of my internship and I am so grateful. If you ever get the opportunity to join them, you can be sure of a warm welcome, much like the teeger that cam for his tea.

 

Teeger
A teeger display in Waterstones.
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Back to school

As I have reached the crumbly age of 33, you may be forgiven for thinking it has been several years since I was in any classroom. Admittedly, it has been a while since I was on the other side of the desk, looking out from hastily scribbled notes at the lecture slides (or, if I am to perhaps reveal too much about my earlier education, at the overhead projector acetates.). However, you may be surprised to learn that it has only been five months since I said goodbye to my classroom. Five brief, whirlwind months since I packed up my books and lesson plans, gave away resources I had developed over the past seven years, thanked colleagues and mentors, wished my students well and walked away from a career in English teaching.

Many are in a similar position to me. Many young (at heart, thanks) teachers are leaving teaching positions across the country to pursue different careers. It is predicted that over the next 18 months, over 40% of teachers in Scotland are planning to leave education due to the stresses of the job, the unrealistic workload or the mountain of administrative duties which has been increasingly piled on them in recent years.[1] I can’t speak for all of these teachers. I can’t say whether my myriad experiences as a secondary teacher in Scotland mirrors any of theirs. And this is not that story. This is about my new journey, my venture into the world of words, this time from a different perspective. Continue reading “Back to school”