Written by Alex Antscherl on 13th August 2018.
Alexandra Antscherl is the Editorial Director for Enid Blyton Entertainment at Hachette Children’s Group, a division of Hachette UK. Before joining Hachette in 2016, she was Executive Editor at Penguin Random House Children’s, where she was Jacqueline Wilson’s editor for many years as well as working on the publishing of Roald Dahl and Puffin Classics, amongst many other authors and brands.
I’m privileged to work in an industry that’s creative, exciting, dynamic and fun. It’s rewarding to be part of the process that puts stimulating, entertaining, gripping, amusing or beautiful books into people’s hands—particularly into children’s hands, as I do. We have a responsibility—and indeed a business incentive—to make those books as inclusive and diverse as our society is. The more potential readers can see themselves reflected in books, the more likely they are to engage with them. We are addressing that in our commissioning and publishing, but we must also do so in our recruiting. But in our insulated publishing bubble so focused inside our capital city, how often do we remember that not everyone is from, or lives in, Greater London?
Opening careers in publishing up to people from a wide range of geographical backgrounds (as well as ethnic, religious and other diversities) is an essential part of making our industry more diverse. And once the workforce is more representative of the country around us, then it becomes far more likely that our books will be too. For aspiring editors, designers, rights execs, marketers, publicists, production controllers and others, it’s increasingly essential to have had work experience in publishing to be able to land that coveted first job. But how do people from outside London or the commuter belt manage that when placements are frequently unpaid or offer expenses only, which makes accommodation in London impossible to fund?
The Spare Room Project is a brilliant first step in tackling this problem. It’s a superbly simple idea, which immediately appealed to me. Being lucky enough to live in a house with a spare room means it’s no trouble at all for me and my family to host an aspiring publishing entrant while they’re doing work experience (at another publishing house) in London. We’ve been having Spare Room Project guests on and off since the beginning of 2018 and have thoroughly enjoyed meeting them all. We’ve hosted young people from Cumbria, Scotland, the Midlands, Ireland and Canada. They’ve all been charming, polite, interesting and fun to have around. Our teenage kids have loved the experience too, finding it fun to meet people from all round the country and further afield and learn about their own home life and so on. And our cats are always happy to meet a new human to flirt with and then disdain. It’s been a pleasure to give some young people a bit of support as they take their first steps on the career ladder and I’ve been thrilled that three of our guests have landed their first job in publishing while they’ve been staying with us.
Do you work in publishing? Do you have a spare bed in your house? Do you want to encourage people from a diverse variety of backgrounds and regions to join our industry? If the answer to all three questions is yes, then contact the Spare Room Project and get involved. You won’t regret it!