Written by Isabelle Grey on 23rd July 2018
Isabelle Grey is a former journalist and television drama writer whose DI Grace Fisher crime novels are published by Quercus. Her latest, Wrong Way Home, was a Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month.
I came across the Spare Room Project on Twitter and immediately thought: what a great idea! It’s no good us publishing folk in London wishing for more diversity and greater opportunity for those who can’t afford to gain the vital experience and contacts offered by internships in London if we don’t put ourselves out to make it happen. I have a daughter (not in publishing) whose early career choices were dependent on being able to take up London internships –, and I therefore also have her old bedroom as a spare room.
I was particularly happy to have a Spare Room Project intern from the north of England, as I grew up in Manchester and understand that for many people the north-south divide can be very real. Once I welcomed Sian I realised that I wasn’t putting myself out in the very slightest – quite the opposite. It was a breath of fresh air having her in the house and hearing about her degree (so different to my day), her experience, ideas and plans, and about her placement with the Cornerstone publicity team. She was curious about every aspect of publishing, and it was wonderful to think that the future of publishing lies in such inspiring young hands as hers.
She was also the perfect guest! When a friend later needed someone to promote his rock star memoir online, I immediately thought of Sian, whose work exceeded his expectations. I was thrilled to hear that she’s gone on to a permanent job with a London publisher, and it’s always a pleasure to run into her at various literary events.
However, hearing about how many other jobs she first had to apply for - even with a first-class degree and two internships under her belt – highlighted how disadvantaged candidates must be who are unable to take up internships because of the expense of accommodation – such a simple thing for many of us who live in London to provide.
When dates allow, I shall be happy to offer my spare room again, and would hugely encourage others to do the same. And I congratulate James Spackman and the Publishers Association for enabling such a brilliant idea to take off.