By Sian Devine, Intern at Cornerstone Publicity, Penguin Random House
The Spare Room Project is an initiative supported by the Publishers Association and run by James Spackman of Profile Books. Publishers offer up their spare rooms for interns based outside of London.
Born and raised in the city of Manchester – I am fortunate in so many ways. But unfortunately, a large proportion of publishing opportunities arise in London, and when it comes to internships and work experience, working in a city (nearly 200 miles from my own) means living in that city for the duration of a placement. Which becomes rather expensive rather quickly.
Having secured a placement with Cornerstone Publicity at Penguin Random House in May 2017, I was thrilled to make my first steps into the industry I desire to work for. However, it wasn’t long after I accepted the offer that money became a concern. Having seen the Spare Room Project circulating on Twitter I thought I would make contact to see if anything would come of it, and to my surprise I was paired with the generous Isabelle Grey, who was willing to put me up for a week in her Camden home.
When I got there I couldn’t believe my luck – it was everything I could have wished for and more. I had the best of both worlds: in the days I would work with the Cornerstone publicity team, assisting at book launches, producing press releases and conducting various research tasks. In the evenings I would return to Isabelle in Camden Town, where we would discuss everything and anything – as an avid reader of crime and thriller fiction, learning about Isabelle’s work as a crime writer was fascinating – I even got to offer some suggestions for her work-in-progress! It was great to learn first-hand about the author’s side of the industry, along with my experience in the publishing workspace, particularly as I wish to become an author myself someday.
It is difficult to put into words how magnificent Isabelle was as a host – she is an intelligent, kind-hearted and inspiring woman, and during the week that I stayed with her I felt like I was living in a home away from home. I never wanted to leave – my to-be-read pile of books has grown substantially from all of her recommendations – and I feel that I have made a friend and mentor for life in Isabelle.
I cannot shout my praises enough for the Spare Room Project. The scheme is a wonderful step forward in diversifying publishing environments and encouraging inclusivity within the industry. Without it I’m not sure I could have afforded accommodation in London for the duration of my placement with Penguin, and it also meant that I was learning things about the publishing community outside of working hours. While the project is not the solution to a rather London-centric industry, it is certainly a step in the right direction, and I would encourage more authors and publishers to think about getting involved as a potential host! As for those aspiring to get a foot in the industry door – do check out this project – I promise you won’t regret it.