Placement with Jennie Renton

Edinburgh’s West Port is enchanting. Having been used to the flatness (and wetness) of Glasgow, the dips and peaks of the windy, winding streets just past Grassmarket have become one of my favourite things about the city. My reason for being in West Port, too, is equally exciting.

Main Point Books is one of a few second-hand bookshops in the area, and for the past few weeks I’ve been an editorial intern with Main Point’s owner, Jennie Renton. Jennie works freelance for several publications, and also Luath, so I was prepared to enhance my skills and gain insight into the world of freelancing. She also created Textualities, an online and print compilation of fiction and the book trade. Working from the back, and at times the very front, of such a beautiful, book-filled space has been surreal in the best way possible. Being surrounded wall-to-wall by books is surely the most inspiring work environment.

Though I’m only four weeks into my placement with Jennie, I’ve already learned from and contributed a fair amount to her editorial commitments. First up was an afternoon of proofreading. Evergreen is published by the Word Bank and Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust, and is a re-imagining of Patrick Geddes’ magazine of the same name. I proofread the third issue, for which Jennie did the typesetting. I had the freedom to make comments on changes or corrections that I felt were appropriate, which Jennie and Sean Bradley (the editor) then checked over. As nervous as I was to justify my comments, they were supported by Jennie and Sean, who were very encouraging.

My editorial work continued when I got the chance to work with prolific Scottish author, Angus Peter Campbell. Luath is due to publish his new novel, and I was set to work with Angus on the blurb. The process was fascinating and painstaking – redrafting the all-important blurb alongside Angus was exactly the kind of editorial experience that I was eager to get my hands on. I hope to have the chance to work closely with authors in the future, and as I continue my placement with Jennie, I’m sure the opportunity will arise again.

While I still have a few weeks left of my placement, I’m finding being around Jennie (and her colleagues, clients and customers!) very useful. Genuinely passionate about the book world and the written word, Jennie provides a great learning environment. Encouraging with tasks and constructive with feedback, she demonstrates a level of skill and enthusiasm that I hope to emulate throughout my publishing career.

I can’t say with certainty what I’ll be doing on my next visit to Main Point, but I can say that I’m excited to make my way to West Port again for the placement experience of my bookish dreams.

 

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Inside Main Point Books
Photograph by Ewelina Wasacz

People going in and out, stopping in wonder, browsing through the shelves, chatting or celebrating the silence – this is how it looks like here every day. There are works by Walter Scott or Leo Tolstoy waiting to be read again. There is art, feminism, travel, and sport books ready to be picked up. People from all walks of life are drawn to this place. No wonder. It’s magical.

You may ask ‘What are you doing here’? I’m being lucky, I answer. I’m having a great pleasure working for Jennie Renton, the owner of Main Point Books, which is an independent bookshop. As it happens, Jennie is also a founder of Textualities.net, a website dedicated to books and writing, and a freelancer involved in production, editorial and publicity activities.

When imaging my placement I thought of someone passionate and knowledgeable about publishing who would show me their craft. And this is exactly who Jennie is. However, I also pictured this person as someone working in a formal, modern, spacious office full of Macs and other technologically-advanced devices. I couldn’t be more wrong when it turned out to be a lovely bookshop, with a friendly atmosphere and hi-tech gadgets kept to minimum. I prefer this cosiness much more to a typical office environment.

My placement is a basket full of development opportunities. One day I work on internal page design for a football book that is just about to be published. InDesign, action! Another day I find myself helping out with the biggest purchase ever made in the shop by one of the top hotels in Edinburgh stocking up their Scottish-themed library. But that is not all. There is also the production side to my placement when I oversee the progress of publication of Edinburgh Review, a literary magazine released three times a year by the University of Edinburgh. The quality of work of both well-known and unknown writers is outstanding. My job is to design the internal pages of the magazine. One busy afternoon I also have a chance to uncover the complex process of copy-editing.

All these activities create a unique opportunity to discover  and learn different aspects of publishing business. I’m never bored here. How can I be if there are so many interesting tasks to complete? I work in various locations: Jennie’s shop, Edinburgh Review’s office, the Napier University campuses, which adds to the general excitement of my placement. Before I started this unforgettable journey through joys and challenges of a freelancer’s work I had not expected to be involved in so many activities. They truly allowed me to get a taste of a real-life ups and downs of working in the industry.

If you feel like having a good read and an enjoyable conversation get up and pop in to  this superb bookshop at 77 Bread Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9AH or get yourself a cup of tea and enter the online world of literature at http://textualities.net/.