By Emma Axelsson, Spare Room Project participant
Wednesday 1 March 2017
Suffolk is hardly another world away from London. A train journey from my local station directly to London Liverpool Street clocks in at just under an hour. However, in the world of publishing work experience and internships, where work is often unpaid or expenses only, that hour-long journey combined with tube tickets and food for the day quickly turns expensive. After commuting from home daily for two weeks, my first placement in publishing last October ended with the realisation that it was possibly also my last, just because of the total cost.
Nevertheless, when I was offered another placement, this time at Kyle Books in their publicity department, I was determined to make it work somehow. With roughly a month to make plans, I contacted the Spare Room Project on something of a whim, having seen it pop up here and there on Twitter. I didn’t imagine much would come out of it, so it was to my surprise that a few e-mails later, I was told I had two generous strangers willing to put me up for a week each.
By the end of January, I packed a small suitcase and temporarily moved to London. At Kyle Books, I immediately felt like I was in the place I wanted to be; I love all things cookery and photography-related, so spending most of my days on Photoshop working with images by some of the photographers I have admired for so long was as good as I imagine it can get on a placement. I also got the chance to try my hand at writing press releases, proofread beauty and cookery manuscripts, and conduct research on what might become the next big thing for cookbooks. Above all, I came away with the confirmation that publicity in publishing was what I had in mind for my future career.
Staying with my hosts was wonderful; from debating US politics over breakfasts with Deborah during my first week, to staying with Katy and her husband, discussing her work at Unbound and making tentative friends with their shy cat, it was a great experience to make London my home for a fortnight. Not only was I fortunate enough to stay with them, but they were both kind enough to dedicate an evening or two to having a chat and sharing advice about their own careers in publishing and the general industry. Thanks to them and the Spare Room Project, I was even learning outside the hours of my placement. To make things greater than I ever could have imagined, less than a week after finishing my time at Kyle Books and returning home to Suffolk, I received an email asking if I’d be interested in coming back to a full-time position, and so I write this article as their new sales and admin assistant.
Of course, I think it goes without saying that I don’t think the Spare Room Project is the entire solution to issues surrounding unpaid work and London-centric placements—that would be too simplistic. However, it is something of a start, and my hope is that others—both potential hosts and aspiring publishers—will consider getting involved.
Find out more about the Spare Room Project here.