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Short And Sweet! – My Internship With Saraband

I’m a bit late with this one because there has been a lot going on, but I can finally sit and write about this great experience.

I realise I’ve been very fortunate in my internships and have done and learned a lot of exciting new things.

A couple of weeks ago, I made my way down to Manchester for a few days of work experience with Saraband.

Although not quite a full week, I was surprised at how much we managed to fit in.

 

Proof Reading

As a bit of a warm-up before getting to Manchester, Sara Hunt had given me a manuscript to proof. This was a good way of getting a feel for the type of books Saraband (and its crime imprint Contraband) publishes.

Proofing was something I’d done a little bit of before, but not professionally. So I had to take extra care that my attention to detail and my knowledge of grammar was on point.

A lot of the skills from uni came in handy; attention to detail, being thorough in my work and analysing the text. I was glad to get the practice and found it really enjoyable.

I’m realising that I enjoy working closely with the text and can see myself as an editor in the future.

InDesign

Another thing I’ve come to love doing is working on InDesign.

I got a chance to practice those skills again here in a few different ways.

Similar to updating the catalogue at Peepal Tree, I was responsible for updating Saraband’s Highlights sheets, making sure all the relevant information was there.

Working on InDesign is great  because there are so many things you can do  really easily and really quickly.

For example,  Saraband has a new book coming out called The Boxing Diaries which needs a cover design. Using InDesign, I was able to be quite creative and use my own boxing experience to come up with a mood board for the cover.

I put together a few images and example book covers for the boxing book and another book. I loved doing this because it was a chance to get creative and excited about the new books.

Marketing

This was something new and a lot of fun!

The title I had proof read needed a marketing plan, so we brainstormed and thought of different ways to make the title, a historical-fiction creative, appeal to people. Based on the themes of the book, I had to come up with ways to promote it.

This was a very collaborative task where I had to think outside of the box and use my knowledge of social media.

Together we came up with the start of a social media plan, some ideas for events and even an idea for a promotional video.

All in all, it was a busy few days packed with lots of interesting tasks.

If only it had last longer!

 

 

My Big Break

So, I’ve deliberately held off on the blog update this week until tonight, because I wanted to see how one particular predicament shook out.

Things were going as normal in the internship; I was continuing to sit in on rehearsals for the 13+ kids, and had also joined in the 9-12 year old classes. But then an unexpected favour was asked of me yesterday afternoon. As it turns out, one of the boys in the 13+show (who joined late) is getting cold feet. As of writing he’s still wavering, two hours before the show starts, so I am waiting in the wings, script-in-hand, as understudy for Lysander!

This is it folks, I’ve finally made it.

Peepal Tree Press – Another Internship Ends

Unfortunately, my time here in Leeds and with Peepal Tree has come to an end.

How do I feel?

I’m sad that it’s all over now and wish I had longer. But I’m also looking forward to going home and seeing family and friends again.

My internship has been so enjoyable for several reasons:

Working with great people

I have to say, that working at Peepal has allowed me to meet some great and inspiring people who love the same things as I do: books and everything to do with them.

From Jeremy and Hannah, who have been so welcoming, to the visiting writers and other interns, everyone has brought something unique and memorable to the experience.

 

Learning the business

Of course, one of main things is being able to get real in-house experience doing all the things I have and learning as much as I have.

If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know that I’ve covered a lot of things. I think my favourite things to do were editing and typesetting.

 

A wider reading scope

The major perk of working in a publishing house is obviously the free books.

So, being constantly introduced to new writers, picking up names that were repeatedly mentioned and discovering new texts I may not have come across otherwise was very exciting.  There was always something/ someone know of interest everyday.

 

Creative stimulation

I don’t know if it’s just being at Peepal Tree or if every publishing office is like this, but being in the office was very stimulating for my own creative writing.

I’ve come up with dozens of ideas that I can take home with me and make something of.

I found myself returning home from work most nights, despite being tired, filled with enthusiasm to write, whether it was my own creative work or ideas to include in my dissertation.

This is linked to the point above, but also because of Peepal Tree’s open door attitude in which writers drop in and out all the time.

 

Overall, I’ve learned that moving to a new setting, even for a short while, can be so beneficial both personally and creatively, for all the reasons I mentioned and more.

Thank you to Peepal Tree for having me and making me feel welcome.

Hamzah

P.S. Now to write this dissertation…yay (!)

 

They say that teenagers scare the living – wait, no, no swearing in front of the kids

Bad news first. I’m back on the network at Cumbernauld Theatre , but all of my work from the past two weeks has been deleted. In between redoing that work, I’ve been sitting in on the Summer Youth Academy classes.

The good news is those classes are really fun! As I stated in an earlier post, there’s lots of familiar games to play. I’ve mostly been sitting in on the 13+ group. We seem to have the same sense of humour and taste in musicals – I don’t know what that says about me.

As it turns out, the 13+age group is apparently the hardest to work with. They’re very determined to devise and perform a play entirely written by themselves, and to them there’s no such thing as too ambitious an idea. Or too angsty an idea. Or too cliché. As such, I haven’t been called upon for any actual writing or writing  advice; the kids all want to go their own way, and the adults would rather put on a polished production of Midsummer Nights Dream than rush the writing and rehearsing of an entirely new show. The real shame is that, given a lot more time, some of the kids ideas could develop into something quite impressive (they’re a frighteningly precocious bunch).

On the other end of the spectrum is the 6-8 class, who’re putting on a 15 minute show that was already 90% planned out by the tutors before the Academy even started. So once again my writing skills don’t come in very handy.

Next week, the 6-8 year old class will be replaced with the 9-12 year old class. I’ve been told they’re more willing and able to structure their own stories than the 6-8 year olds, but much more “malleable” than the 13+ group. Hopefully this means I will finally have the chance to prove myself as good for something other than a game of Splat.

As for my own writing, I’ve finished a first draft of my play. My main concern just now is making it more “theatrical” than “conversational”. We now have more physical comedy, voice overs, imagine spots and a musical number.

Splat! You’re out!

Kai

Progress and Setbacks

You could say I rolled a 7-9 and scored a mixed success on this week,  if you were a nerd.

Things were going well on Monday. I’d been working on my archiving task, while also getting to know the staff better. Having compiled a good collection of “interesting visual memories” – i.e. photos – from the theatre’s past, I spent the day writing the text to go along with them (75 words per page, and I’m likely to have 4 or 6 pages to play with). I’m essentially going for a series of words and images illustrating the variety of performances Cumbernauld Theatre has produced and hosted over the years; the ways they engage with the Cumbernauld community; and  the interesting history of the cottages, without getting too sentimental before the move to the new building.

Tuesday and Wednesday offered a break while I returned to Dundee for a flat viewing and a job interview. Thursday I returned to the office, ready to start compiling my text and matching images into a document to be sent to the graphic designers to prepare for publication, but disaster struck! Long story short, some electrical problems have resulted in me being locked out of the theatre’s servers, which means for the past two days I haven’t been able access any of the files I was working on!

My supervisors seem confident I’ll be able to catch up on the missed work once I’m back online, so, rather than sit and worry, in a rare show of proactive reasoning I’ve been using this unexpected time off to write more of my play.  So far it’s coming out…strange. A vague plan, loosely inspired by the set of Kennedy’s Children, to have a piece set in a gay club (and featuring characters based on people I’ve observed in my own local gay club) has (de)volved into more of a 20 minute angry monologue about LGBT+ issues that tend to be put aside, offering no solutions, but at least some acknowledgement. It’s a departure, but we’ll see how it works out! Don’t worry, there’s still jokes.

Next week the Summer Youth Academy starts, so wish me luck!

Getting Stuck In

The theatre from the outside still looks like farm cottages
The original studio theatre, now used mainly for classes and workshops

Today was day two of my internship in earnest at Cumbernauld. I’ve been going through their collection of archives, looking for interesting stories and visuals that could go in the Autumn brochure – or, as Ed, the artistic director, puts it, I’ve been indulging in some “creative archaeology”. I’m not going to give everything away here, but did you know that Cumbernauld Theatre once took over the local shopping centre, transformed it into a medieval street and performed a morality play of Noah’s Ark?

And, as promised, here’s some pictures!

Some boxes from the archives
The 250 seat auditorium, as seen from the stage
I always told mama some day I’d make it in showbiz
I have an office desk but the dressing room makes for a pretty good workspace

 

Judging A Book By Its Cover

We all know how the saying goes. It doesn’t bear repeating here.

Whether we like it or not, we do judge books by their covers.

How many times have you been in Waterstones, casually browsing, and picked up something because the front cover looked cool?

(Side note: the Waterstones here is really cool!)

Minimalist Faber cover or graphics heavy and funky, we all judge books by how they look.

If you haven’t heard of the writer, haven’t heard about the book from somewhere or haven’t heard a reading of it, this is the main way of getting you pick it up.

This week at Peepal Tree has been all about front covers.

We are publishing a debut collection by poet Marvin Thompson. Having been in touch with him, I got a brief outline of the type of things he is looking for.

The collection concerns various places; Jamaica where his parents are from, London where he was born and South Wales where he currently lives and works. The collection also features the poet’s father quite heavily.

To begin with, there was only a  loose idea of what Marvin Thompson wanted, along with some old photographs he hoped could be used.

Throughout the week, I have been using his brief and photographs in various ways to come up with cover designs. I’ve found that they all start off terrible, but the more I do, the more I churn them out, the better they get, and the more interesting the designs become.

I’ve been using my InDesign skills to layer and arrange texts and images. It’s been a lot of fun! I’ve enjoyed the challenge and the chance to be creative in a different way.

In other news…

A might have mentioned in a previous post about designing an advert for people tree which was to appear in The Bookseller magazine.

Well, it was printed and released in the current issue (Friday 28 June).

Here it is!

Peepal Tree ad in The Bookseller – Friday 28 June

 

 

 

A Summer In Cumbernauld

Hello again world!

Like Hamzah down in Leeds, I’m also going to be doing another internship over the course of the summer – with Cumbernauld Theatre!

The building doesn’t look much like a theatre from the outside (I promise I’ll get pictures). In fact, Cumbernauld Theatre was originally built in 1960, converted from abandoned farm cottages by members of the new town who, seeing that the town planners had neglected to include any cultural facilities, endeavoured to create their own as volunteers. Things weren’t perfect – the 55 seat studio theatre has a tin roof, so when it rained during performances the audience certainly knew about it. But now, 59 years later, the theatre boasts a 250 seat auditorium (with the original studio playing host to workshops), the centre is run by the professional Cumbernauld Theatre Company, and next year the company will be moving to a state-of-the-art new building, in a more accessible location from the town centre and train station.

That’s where I come in. After much liaising about where to fit in an aspiring playwright as an intern, I have been asked to research the theatre’s archives, dating all the way back to the 60s, and present a spread of their history to appear in the Autumn programme – this Autumn being the last ever season to be held in the original building. So, expect more and much more detailed accounts of Cumbernauld Theatre’s history in the coming weeks!

I’ve also been asked to help out with the theatre’s summer youth programme. The Summer Academy is a series workshops aimed at different age groups of children. 6-8 year olds and 9-12 year olds are given a week-long course in which to devise a performance, to be shown at the end of the week, while the 13+ group have a more intensive two week course. All the classes will be drawing inspiration this year from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and my job will be liaising with the tutors, taking part in the workshops myself and helping the children plot and write a performance. The real trick, apparently, is striking the right balance between steering the kids without taking over what is supposed to be their project – something I’ve found to be a key part of collaborating in theatre no matter the age range.

I’ve been to Cumbernauld Theatre four times in the past few weeks. The first time for my initial interview, to discuss whether the theatre and I were a good fit for one another, and more recently to witness some of the kids who’ll be attending the Summer Academy in action. I sat in two Saturdays ago on the term-time classes for 6-8 and 9-12 year olds.  I haven’t worked much with children, certainly not a big group of them before and never as young as 6, though I have been mistaken for a 12 year old boy on several occasions. I was, to put it mildly, terrified going in. What if a child started crying? What if one kid started bullying another? What if they all started bullying me? At what age do you not need to support their heads anymore?

More than anything else, however, the day proved overwhelmingly nostalgic. I recognised games and songs I used to love in drama classes years ago. And the kids – who I’ve been reassured I’ll never be left alone with, saving not just the cost of a PVG but also me from bursting a blood vessel from stress – are actually all sweet. Although they all seem to have an alarming compulsion to gravitate towards the most dangerous looking objects in the room whenever they think no one is watching. By the end of the day I was in awe of the two tutors who somehow manage them all every Saturday.

Last Wednesday and Thursday I was up again, to watch another group of children rehearse a show called Remote, written by Stef Smith in 2015 for the National Theatre of London, about young people navigating this age of technology and information. Or, as the Cumbernauld Theatre programme puts it: “Remote is a play about protest, power and protecting yourself.” What was most interesting to me was seeing how hard the children worked, and how much they improved from the first run-through I saw to the dress rehearsal the next day. All of them were guided and motivated, of course, by their director Hannah, who doubles as Cumbernauld Theatre’s Drama Practitioner.

From July 1st I’m going to be visiting the theatre and archives on a regular basis, while surfing the couches of some very gracious friends in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I await the next few weeks with excitement and (just the tiniest bit of) terror.

Until next week,

Kai

P.S. Having taken 130 hours to finish it, I am never touching Persona 5 again. At least not until the new downloadable content comes out. In the meanwhile I’ll have to find another game to report on for the sake of quirkiness.

My First Week At Peepal Tree Press

I’ve been in Leeds for a week and already done so much!

Where do I start?

Reading & Blurb-ing

First of all, there has been lots of reading! But that shouldn’t be a surprise, I’m working in a publishing company after all.

I have to say, one of the best things so far, is reading some great – and some not so great – writing for free!

The reading has mostly been fiction and poetry. Along with reading submissions, as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been reading an upcoming poetry collection which I have to write a blurb for.

It was like being in class, taking out a pencil, annotating the manuscript, taking notes and analysing the text. Nothing like a bit of close reading to keep you humble!

The interesting part was  how to write the blurb itself. I thought I knew how to do this, but that wasn’t quite the case. I went into default review mode and started writing  how I write for DURA.

It’s not quite like that. It seems to sit on the fence between a review and a newspaper article, with all the most important info coming first. My blurb had to be around 250-300 words, but I was surprised to learn that it could be extracted by a magazine, for example, and only the first 18-30 words used.

After a few editing suggestions, I went back to the blurb and refined it.
Now I’ll just have to see if my blurb makes it on to the actual book!

Advert for The Bookseller

One of the most enjoyable things I have done so far is to flex my graphic design muscles and make a half-page advert for an upcoming issue of The Bookseller.

Peepal Tree has half a page to advertise the company and promote its latest titles. So, I’ve been spending some time with Hannah, discussing different ideas and designs.

I suggested that we use a poem from one of the our latest releases, A Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson, to capture people’s attention. His poem ‘Black Olive’ is certainly one that will do that. The final version of the advert includes the poem, several book covers and general information about Peepal Tree.

Other bits and pieces

I was lucky enough to attend an Art Council Meeting with Jeremy to learn about how publishers can make the most of their digital and social media presence.

And, not strictly publishing-related, but Jeremy was one of the speakers at a conference on Post-Colonial Studies, where I met various students and academics and listened to some fascinating presentation.

Up next…

Currently I’m working on Peepal Tree’s catalogue for 2019. I have to make sure it is updated with the correct information and in the correct order before it goes to print.

In the coming weeks I hope to have a stab at come formatting and editing, but so far so good!

Before you go…

If you’d like to learn more about Peepal Tree Press, check out this interview I did with Jeremy and Hannah.

I’ll be back with more later,

Hamzah

 

 

 

Luath placement Day Five Its the final countdown…

Today felt rather odd, perhaps because I knew it was my final day at Luath, perhaps because I was going to meet Gavin for the first time and the controls of power would change from the girls working there to Gavin. I went for a coffee at the Castle Rooftop Diner again. I didn’t even need to ask for my order today, as they knew!  So I sat and relaxed before climbing the Luath’s tower. (Seriously, I think I will be fit after this!)

I met Gavin, and explained what I had been up to all week. I was then tasked with continuing with the Scottish Parliament: an oral history. This time not with proofreading, but with creating a blurb, a press release and other items on my list.

Later on, Carrie showed me the ONIX system and Maia explained how to create a barcode. These were useful things to see. I wrote a brief summary for  Gavin, and discussed this with him at the end of the day, prior to leaving.

I felt that perhaps he was perhaps surprised about my decision to leave teaching.  He did explain that it was difficult to get into publishing, and indeed to get published. I understand that fully, and stand by just teaching up to four days a month for money flow, but other than that I want to pursue my dreams.

As I travelled back  the Queensferry Crossing, I contemplated about my week. It was busy, eventful and I learnt a huge amount. I considered what Gavin had said about teaching etc.  However, I have come to the conclusion that I really do want to work with books and become an author, and I would also enjoy proofreading -on a freelance basis. I made my choice when I resigned my permanent post in September. I am totally convinced that it was the correct move for me.