London, The Spare Room Project, and Me

The Spare Room Project offers people from outside London who want to do an internship the chance of having a place to stay free of charge for some or all of their time there. To make it even more appealing the people who offer to host work in the publishing industry themselves. It aims to ease the financial barriers that people outside of London may be faced with when taking up an internship opportunity in London, the hub of publishing in the UK.

After not having much luck with finding a placement locally in Edinburgh I turned my sights to London. Countless emails, cover letters, and CVs were sent across every publishing house I could find and just as my hope dwindled Abrams & Chronicle offered me a two-week internship in their marketing and publicity department. After my “OMG YES YES YES” email, only slightly more formal the reality set in. Pound signs flashed before my eyes like I was a cartoon character, as I did my research. Accommodation, food, train to London, the Tube all began piling their costs on my calculator. As the numbers inflated so did my panic. I needed this placement. I needed to gain industry experience. It was my chance to test out my skills from my MSc and to really experience publishing first hand.

Knowing I’d probably left it too late, I applied to the Spare Room Project on a whim thinking I had nothing to lose but everything to gain. I continued to scour websites trying to find a hostel that was reasonably priced, had no bed bugs, and passably clean toilets – more of a struggle than I ever really wanted to know.

Just as hope dwindled, an email notification dinged early one morning. It floated into my inbox titled “Spare Room Introductions” and I about squealed with joy. Someone was willing to host me for my first week of placement. Suddenly the pound signs and panic deflated at the prospect of only needing to secure accommodation for a week. But then the unbelievable happened! About a week from my start date, another email titled “Spare Room Introductions” landed in my inbox. I now had somewhere to stay for my second week of placement! It felt too good to be true, suddenly the hundreds of pounds I needed for accommodation were a distant memory, floating out of sight.

My first week I was placed out in Totteridge and Whetstone. It was about an hour commute into Abrams & Chronicle but that meant I could grab some early morning reading, never a negative! I was staying with a lovely family and their two cats. They made me feel so welcome from the moment I arrived, they invited me to join them for dinner every night and again for breakfast. It was so wonderful to know that I wasn’t alone in a hostel eating by myself every night. Instead I had conversation, laughter and amazing home-cooked meals to look forward to every night.

My second week I was transported to the complete opposite side of London over near Stratford. New Tube line and new area to discover. This time, I stayed with a young couple in their amazing newly renovated house, and first time hosters for The Spare Room Project. Once again, I was welcomed with open arms, warm meals, friendly conversations, and invitations to join them in their Netflix watching. What more could a newbie to London hope for? I loved getting to peek inside the world of audiobooks at Penguin Random House from listening to my host and learning something that didn’t come up during my classes.

Without The Spare Room Project I don’t think I would have gotten nearly as much out of my placement. I know if I had been living in a hostel with the constant reminder of pound signs flashing in my head every day, it would have caused constant anxiety and stress. Instead, it allowed me to put all my energy into learning and enjoying my placement and make connections in London as well as the publishing world.

Before I sign off, I wanted to extend a huge thank you to everyone who works on the Spare Room Project to help people like me from outside London have a viable option of completing a placement. As well, a huge thank you to both of my hosts who were so welcoming and generous enough to allow me to stay, and to Abrams & Chronicle for giving me such a great first-hand introduction to the publishing industry. It is such a fantastic initiative and I am so thankful to have gotten the chance to experience it, it made such a huge difference to my everyday life and perception of London and the publishing industry. So please make sure you sign up whether as a host and help someone out!


Working Events for an Independent Bookshop



Golden Hare Books
© Katalina Watt 2018

In October I joined the close-knit team at Golden Hare Books in Edinburgh, and we were recently delighted to be named the 2019 Independent Bookshop of the Year in the Scotland category of The British Book Awards, also known as the Nibbies. We’re also chuffed to be shortlisted for Children’s Bookseller of the Year and Individual Bookseller of the Year, with the results being announced in May.

My role is primarily assisting with events, which range from book launches to book groups. The former involves liaising with authors, publishers, and guests to ensure the events run smoothly and overseeing logistics such as POS displays and merchandise, catering, seating, tickets, and sales. For the latter, I spearhead the monthly Short Story Clubs and YA Book Groups, selecting and preparing readings and facilitating group discussion.

For the YA Book Group, which debuted this year, I’m aiming to work through a range of author experiences, genres, and formats, ensuring we’re reading as widely as possible. Golden Hare is constantly innovating and finding new ways to be even more inclusive and representative. I’ve really enjoyed all the debates inspired so far, as we’re all pushing to read beyond our familiar genres and authors. Continue reading “Working Events for an Independent Bookshop”

Taking the next step into the real world for 2019:

With the semester is coming to an end it can only mean one thing: one step closer to entering the workplace and one step further in leaving university. Upon reflection, I have learned more about publishing and the impact that the industry has on society.  I have learned the importance of pushing to pursue a career in the field that may suit my skills in the future. It hasn’t been an easy year but it has certainly opened my eyes to what may be out there. Opportunity’s to attend events have been flowing in, such as SYP and LBF, to name a few and although I never did attend it is good to know that these exist to educate people on the industry and to network.

It’s been inspirational to see so many creative ideas formed throughout the course and I have even surprised myself, with the potential to not only create something new and exciting but challenge myself along the way. To me the software introduction such as Photoshop and InDesign have been my biggest challenge but also my most rewarding, and so I hope to continue to work with these in the future. I have learned the complexity of working out Adobes features, to piece together why they are relevant. In my latest project in which I have invested a lot of time due to such an interest I feel this is most relevant to the entire years’ coursework.  I have the passion of realising my own book has new potential and now with the right knowledge and direction I can push on with this project, on my own terms. The knowledge from the course has widened my experience and if anything taught me that there is still so much to leant after university has ended. The learning will be continuous, which is exciting as it aids in shaping a path for the future in publishing whether this be design, editorial or more personally becoming an author myself, it is an exciting path to take.

I hope to seek an opportunity in the publishing industry as an author soon but still feel I need to explore my options. The difficulty I have learned is that I still have areas that contain weaknesses and so are good to work on in the future. For example, editorial skills which are important could be easily improved with practice, workshops or mentoring and is overall key to further motivation in finalising my project.

With conferences like SYP and they provide an opportunity to network and although I never took advantage of this it is good to know there are events such as this to aid others in publishing.

Being a student at Napier and having the opportunity to study Publishing at a MSc level has been challenging. This challenge has been amazing and taught me the unexpected and why now more than ever, publishing is an important to our economy and education. To learn about publishing houses and companies alike that contribute, has truly opened my eyes and motivated me to want to learn more.

In 2019, the industry looks as promising as ever now that I have had more insight into what to expect. I look forward to graduating and finding my path into where I fit into it all, as anyone should. Knowing where my weaknesses are in aid to me in being conscious enough to be able to develop my skill set and work on what needs to be improved. As I leave behind the security blanket of university and seek opportunities in the real world, it shall he exciting. So far, my only goal for the reminder of 2019 is to begin to piece together all the current knowledge and exploit this to pursue in becoming an author in the industry.  Its exciting to know what 2020 shall bring and what changes in the industry shall occur.

My Friend InDesign

If you look through this site, you’ll be able to see examples of the sort of amazing things that people do while studying publishing at Edinburgh Napier University. What I would like to talk about is a little bit different. It is what I have spent the most time doing over the past year and it is probably the most important thing that I do.

My Friend Image 2 (1)

InDesign, it is a computer program by Adobe that has become the industry standard in book and magazine production. It is in the same family of products as Photoshop and Illustrator and more importantly, it is my friend. Continue reading “My Friend InDesign”

Literacy and Libraries at London Book Fair

Most of my experience of my first London Book Fair as a MSc Publishing student this year was a dazed wander around the Olympia, trying to take as much in as possible and also not get overwhelmed. Publisher stalls were fit to burst, pathways were bustling with people, and panels were sometimes full to the brim. There were however two panels that weren’t as crowded but that I wish had been. Both explored the importance of literacy to the wider community, to society as a whole, and implored publishers to collaborate. I can’t begin to summarise the range of initiatives, expertise, and overall sense of hope that these panels gave me properly in this post but hopefully it communicates something of what I got out of those experiences. 

One half of London Book Fair 2019

Continue reading “Literacy and Libraries at London Book Fair”

5 Tips for Writing & Editing Scots


Hi, I’m Angus, one of this year’s batch of MSc Publishing students. My work placement involved editing some of the very first titles put out by The Wee Book Company, who publish in Scots and nothing else. Since I’m the kind of gadgie who likes to lecture others, I’m going to use this platform to share five wee tips for writing and wrangling with Scots.

Narrative Voice vs Dialogue

Something you’ll hear again: Scots is a spoken language. The page is not its natural home.

This means that in a first person story told by a Scottish character, you’ve got full license to write in their voice, and be as chatty as you like. Imagine the character is sitting in front of you, relating their tale. Scots isn’t for internal monologue. Scots is for speaking.

Which means that in third person, you might want nothing but the dialogue to be written in Scots. After all, third person narration is usually supposed to be neutral, and disembodied. If you have it speak in Scots, it becomes a person. Point in case: Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song.

Who’s Speaking?

Scots is a spoken language. There’s no official, standardised version. So when you write Scots, you really have to ask yourself: who’s speaking? Who we are affects the Scots we speak. Consider:

  • I is Eh in Dundee, but Ah in most of the country. Eh dinnae ken.
  • Is a 9 year old Fortnite addict speaking the same Scots as Granny? Naw, he’s no.
  • Is @ScottishPatterr retweeting Victorian-era Scots? Nae chance.
  • Do the suburbs sound just like the schemes? Tak a guess, Einstein.

Sense of Humour

Think of how modern Scots manifests in pop culture. Irvine Welsh. Chris McQueer. Limmy. Chewin’ the Fat. Burnistoun. Still Game. Are these smart people? Yes. Are they writing brilliant stuff? Yes. Do they give the impression they take themselves incredibly seriously? No. I’m not saying Scots English can’t be dour, direct, and deep. In fact, those first three guys on my list do dabble in the darkness. But not before they entertain you.

Spelling Consistency

Scots is spoken. It doesn’t have standardised spellings. The page isn’t its natural home. Blah blah blah. So when you do put Scots on the page, does it matter if spellings switch between ‘I’ and ‘ah’, or ‘highlan’, ‘heighlan’, and ‘heilan’? To some it might not. Don’t try to impose your rules on a rule-free language, they might argue. I decided that in the case of The Wee Book Company, I disagreed. I didn’t want smart alecs like me to be able to flick between two different pages, and see the same word spelled two different ways.

So, if you’re editing a big chunk of Scots writing, I’d suggest making a spelling grid. That means picking out every word with a contentious spelling, and settling on the rendering you think is most suitable for the piece. Later on, of course, you can always break and bend the rules, but to do this you need to have a rule to disobey in the first place.

Learning from the Greats

Did I mention that Scots is a spoken language? With no rulebook to follow, you’re better off following precedents, and learning from the Great Masters. That’s what photographers, painters, and filmmakers do. Why shouldn’t editors? Why shouldn’t writers? Here’s a recommendation for free: The Acid House by Irvine Welsh. Inside this collection of mostly insane short stories you’ll find a least half a dozen different ways to write Scots prose and dialogue, and you’ll probably end up very jealous of just how clever Mr Welsh is. Bawbag.

What goes into a translation: lessons learned from a Visiting Arts translation workshop

For UK based Persian to English translator Shahab Vaezzadeh, fiction translation is a rarity. It’s something a little bit different from his day-to-day commercial translation work. Translating literature is more collaborative and as language is generally freer in literature than British Council briefings its translation can throw up different problems to commercial works, i.e. what should be done with the longer sentences, higher frequency of adjectives and tendency towards onomatopoeic words that are far more common in Persian than English? Shahab addressed all these issues at the Contemporary Iranian Literature, Translation and Performance Workshop, put on by Visiting Arts. As well as other issues that are relevant to the publishing of translated literature.

Visiting Arts, organised the event alongside Comma Press and the Edinburgh Iranian Festival, as a means to a means to promote Iranian literature and translation in the UK, which they’ve been doing for the last ten years. The event included a workshop on live translation as performance art taken by Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh, an alumnus of the Visiting Arts’ National Centre for Arts residency programme. Nazli also gave a reading of some of her recent writing. Continue reading “What goes into a translation: lessons learned from a Visiting Arts translation workshop”