Category Archives: Work experience

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

While interning at Hot Key Books last week, I was invited to write a blog post for their blog. I was inspired to write about adult themes in children’s literature after reviewing notes from the Parent Parlour, a parents conference held by Hot Key

Adult themes in children’s literature are nothing new. From allegorical tales such as those of Dr. Seuss, to historical novels such as GOODNIGHT MR.TOM by Michelle Magorian and WITCH CHILD by Ceila Rees (both of which I read and loved as a child) children’s stories that explore issues of war, politics, poverty, even genocide have always found their way on to bookstore shelves. But is this difficult genre beginning to over-saturate the children’s market, and how dark is too dark?


During my week interning with Hot Key Books, one of the tasks I undertook was typing up notes from a parents conference held by Hot Key. The message from the parents was unanimous; they were concerned about appropriateness of the reading material that was readily available to their children. These concerns have even bred the term ‘sick lit’, attributed to books whose portrayal of harrowing themes such as torture and emotional abuse might be considered explicit or gratuitous.

For myself personally, as someone whose favourite books as a young teen were about apartheid (the wonderful NOUGHTS AND CROSSES series by Malorie Blackman), and who as a late teen cut their hipster lit teeth on Chuck Palahniuk (seriously NOT suitable for kids!), I feel that relaying social commentary in children’s lit is both appropriate and effective –if, and it’s a big if – those themes are delicately handled.

A young narrator can often allow an author to approach difficult topics with innocence and a lack of bias that only exists in the young and un-jaded. Maybe there’s a sense of idealism there; if we thought like children, wouldn’t the solutions to our worldly problems seem so much simpler?

Books with adult themes have a huge cross-over audience; Hot Key’s own MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardener has both children and adult editions, and I vividly recall my Grandma lending me her copy of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME by Mark Haddon when I was 11 years old. I think that the ability to share the joy of books between families and across generations is something really quite special.


What I love most about children’s books that touch on adult themes is that they treat children like the intelligent and curious people that they are. Some of my favourite films are children’s movies that have the same kind of respect for their young audience; one being the beautiful adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, directed by Spike Jonze. In fact, I even gave a presentation on this film as part of my degree in Fine Art earlier this year.

In my experience working with kids in the past, I’ve often found that they have a huge capacity to cope with and understand difficult subjects, though of course, as with all things, there needs to be a line. There’s a big difference between tackling a difficult topic in an age-appropriate manner, and writing horror into children’s novels in an attempt to push the envelope.

What do you think about adult themes in kid’s books? Do you have any favourites from when you were younger, or any which you’ve read recently? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

 Originally posted 29th March 2013 at

Are Magazines For Me?

This summer I was fortunate enough to be offered a placement with Archant Magazine group. I was there for a week, which was broken up by working on two different magazines: Discover Britain and Wild Travel. ‘Discover Britain’ covers events and locations on Britain, which usually has a historical twist. On the other hand, ‘Wild Travel’ covers wildlife for all of those who love the outdoors and nature.

Based in Cheltenham, the office stood three floors high and was packed to bursting with many of the company’s magazines. ‘Discover Britain’ and ‘Wild Travel’ are produced by the same team, with ‘Wild Travel’ only in its third issue.  Researching new ideas for the magazine took up a large amount of time in the week that I was there. Having recently changed its name from ‘Heritage’ to ‘Discover Britain’ all of their content has a historical element to it and so it was very easy to get side tracked reading all of the information!

Every month they have a section dedicated to events all over Britain and so it was my job to research the upcoming Christmas events. These events tended to range from exhibitions to carol concerts at Salisbury Cathedral. Once found, the magazine required me to contact the chosen organisations for a high resolution image. It was a good chance to practice interaction with others on behalf of an organisation.

Once completed, I moved over onto the ‘Wild Travel’ magazine where I researched top wildlife trips and luxury safari lodges, contacting the organisations for information. Once all the information had been found I had to condense everything into a short paragraph for the magazine. The team alternate each month between the two different magazines, which keeps the job interesting. I noticed how necessary it was to have almost constant interaction amongst the team to keep things flowing quickly and smoothly. Overall, it was a good insight on how a magazine is put together and run and I think it is an industry that I would really be interested in pursuing.

An Injection of Glamour

Starting my placement year at H. Bauer Publishing in August, I was excited for what the year might bring in terms of knowledge, experience, and professional contacts. I was not prepared, however,  for the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing event or a cheeky late night conversation with Mr Vernon Kay…

With the phrase “Lucky girl” still ringing in my ears, I jumped excitedly head-first into my new marketing assistant role at H. Bauer Publishing just over a month ago. Having managed to secure a couple of weeks work experience at Bauer before, the familiar faces roaming the corridors of the cool Camden-based offices made the somewhat arduous transition from uni-student to professional working-girl slightly less daunting.

Sitting comfortably at my new desk, I had expected my first few weeks to be filled with the highly mundane yet irritatingly important tasks like web-stat analysis – no such luck! Instead, I was informed a mere 14 days into my new job that I was going to be an essential  element in the smooth-running of this year’s TV Choice Awards, one of Bauer’s biggest events of the year. Publisher of TV Choice magazine (the UK’s biggest selling mag!), the preparation for the big day had been in progress long before I had arrived and yet there I was, the new intern, being prepped for the star-studded occasion.

In the days leading up to the event, I experienced a mixture of excitement, panic, and anxiety about my role and what it might entail; however, I can honestly say that it was one of the best experiences in my life. From the moment I arrived at the famous Dorchester hotel, it was all-hands-to-the-deck as red carpets were rolled out, cameras set up, and security on stand-by in anticipation of the ever-looming paparazzi. (We did, however, have one small break whilst waiting for a certain Lady Gaga to check out of the hotel).

As glamorous as this all sounds; be under no illusion, I was not there to wine and dine with the celebrities. It was hard work as I tried running in heels, ferrying images up and down flights of stairs from the photographers on the red carpet to our in-house web-developers, but the buzz of the evening was electric and unbelievably exciting.  In between the hard work though, I was allowed to mingle with the stars on my breaks, having pictures with the likes of Ant & Dec, cracking jokes with Keith Lemon (well he was) and posing to be seen with the TOWIE crew. It was also an amazing opportunity to network with some very influential people in the publishing world and that, above all, made it worth-while.

I’m not saying that this is your typical work placement story but, so far, TV Choice Awards aside, taking this placement year has been the best decision I have made and I am excited to see what else it has to offer, so here’s to the next 11 months…

Keith Lemon acting serious…

One half of the famous duo

Making Hay

I am fortunate enough to live near Hay-on-Wye in Wales, home to the famous Hay Festival. During my search for publishing work experience earlier this year, I called by the Hay-On-Wye offices to see if they were able to offer me anything…and they said yes! For two weeks I was a resident in their offices and what a lovely place to be!

The offices themselves are located in an old hall with beautiful wooden floorboards and large windows. Book cases and posters lined the walls (plus a coffee machine right by my desk!); I can honestly say I was in heaven. Also, the people were nice – a big point I guess!

I was assigned the task of reading a book, the author of which would be appearing at the festival and providing interview questions. It was a good book and I, for one would not complain if this became my full time job. Aside from this, I spent my time organising press clippings, creating spreadsheets and trying my hand at proof reading.

Proofreading opened my eyes to the skills that I certainly need to work on; such detail went into the program, it quite astounded me. It also developed my grammatical skills – a target to work on in the future. It was great to experience ‘office life’ a bit more and to understand how the place is run. Everyone was lovely and always willing to answer any questions that I threw at them, which contributed to a pleasant two weeks there!

I thoroughly enjoyed working at the Hay Festival and am going to make every effort to return and try to learn more about their international festivals (they run internships). In the mean time, onwards towards some more exciting ventures…

Work Experience with Walker Books

It was around the 6th March 2012, I had just received my first work experience placement in a publishing house, Walker Books, in the Marketing and Publicity department. I can only describe myself as bouncing off the walls! Walker Books produced many of my own childhood reads; I was extremely happy to be visiting their headquarters to see what goes on behind the scenes.

As a country girl, the prospect of travelling to London on my own was quite daunting, never mind that I would be entering a new work place…shock horror! How was I going to cope with the tube? Well, off I went and I am coping wonderfully.

After arriving an hour and a half early on my first day (nothing like being on time), I was given a tour of the building, introduced to a number people and shown the ropes. As an intern, I was given jobs such as mailing out post and fetching certain books from the stock rooms – which sounds thrilling but it contributes to your basic understanding of what goes on. I was also allocated research tasks such as looking at blogs from book reviews to beauty campaigns; this proved incredibly fascinating. However, the highlight has to be writing press releases for J. Smith by Fougasse, the life-size version of the one in Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. It is an incredibly beautiful book and is due to be released at the beginning of May.

I also spent an afternoon in Foreign Rights which was overwhelming when I saw the numbers that they were dealing with! However, it was an extremely interesting experience. Those in Foreign Rights are able to attend the international book fairs such as Frankfurt and Bologna. There is so much still to learn about the UK market that getting my head around the foreign markets is quite a task!

Overall, it was a thoroughly good experience and I learnt a great deal. I owe a big thank you to Walker Books!

London Book Fair 2012: A Novel Experience!

Walking up to the entrance of the grand exhibition hall, I was filled with excitement and uncertainty as to what each day would bring! I flicked through the pages of the LBF directory: the vast number of companies was overwhelming.

As the morning of the first day began, the atmosphere was electric. The theme for LBF 2012 was China, and walking around it truly felt like that. Oriental symbols, pictures, fashion, people, food even! Heading towards the Author’s Lounge, as ‘Fast-Print Publishing Assistant’, I was ready to be of assistance.

Throughout the day, Leah and I spoke to authors interested in self-publishing and listened to their unique stories. Each author shared an individual tale about the inception of an idea for a book that they had transcribed onto paper. Their passion for writing was admirable and their personal journeys spoke levels about their commitment to being published. Conversations never ran dry but were always exciting and totally unpredictable, and so each day I came home exhausted.

The second and third day brought further excitement, and we spent a little more time walking around the fair and understanding the different areas of publishing. It was interesting to see the different cultures of organisations as people conversed over coffee or discussed business contracts – diary in one hand, iPad in the other. We attended a seminar on ‘Careers in Publishing’ organised by the SYP, providing guidance on how to break into the industry. It was both insightful and entertaining; it gave me many useful tips for the future!

Around 4pm each day the fair became quieter as people made their way home and companies began packing up. At this point, I was able to reflect on the day’s activities and simply breathe in the atmosphere, whilst coming to the realisation that I was actually quite tired and needed to put my feet up!

By and large, the experience was invaluable and certainly provided insight into the world of Publishing. I hadn’t realised how many different areas of publishing there are, and how friendly people can be. It appeared that people work hard in the industry and still maintain an amiable, calmness about them that was pleasing to see. I relished the opportunity to be part of London Book Fair and hope to be back there next year, perhaps working for a publisher!

By Rebekah Ducat

The London Book Fair 2012: A bright spot on a rainy day

The dull day outside was immediately forgotten once I stepped inside the halls of Earls Court Exhibition Centre. I had been let out of work for the morning to visit the London Book Fair (thank you, Walker!) because they felt that it was worth the visit, and it truly was. There was a buzz to the place; it was so bright and alive. It was certainly an experience walking through those doors for the first time! There were people browsing and people striding around like they ruled the world, and indeed, this is where it happens; British and international publishers come together to deal.

This year the book fair was focused on the Chinese market (heads-up: next year it’s Turkey!). I wish there had been the opportunity to ask about that market, but everybody was so busy with their sales. While that was unfortunate, there was so much else to focus on. The Book Fair has everything you could want, from children’s publishing houses like Little Tiger to small independents from the far corners of Wales. There’s something there for everyone.

Soon I had to head upstairs to my chosen seminar, which was the SYP’s ‘How to get into publishing’. The hall was really busy (lots of competition but nice to know there’s hope for publishing yet!) but having a prime seat I really felt a part of what was going on. The talk was brilliant with Neil Morrison, Alistair Horne, Mary Ann Kernan, and Suzanne Kavanagh contributing, all of them experts in the industry. Before I knew it they were asking for the last question and the talk drew to a close. How disappointing but really useful!

Next year I plan to visit many more seminars, as there was so much on offer and so much to learn. It’s an exciting time to be involved in publishing and so I look forwards to what the future brings!

Photo courtesy of Rebekah Ducat