Written by Sarah Ellis on 18th July 2018.
Sarah Ellis is Assistant Company Secretary for Penguin Random House UK.
When I saw the article on PRH intranet about the Spare Room Project, I thought “I can do that”. I live on my own in a small two-bedroom workman’s cottage in Blackheath, South East London and although my spare room is usually full of clothes, shoes, pulp books, and stuff for the charity shop, I believe there also is a bed in there somewhere which a student could sleep in.
Having been born and brought up in London, I realise how lucky I am to be so close to everything the city has to offer but also how difficult it can be for young people to break into those opportunities.
So far, I’ve had five students staying with me, all different and all interesting in their own way. We’ve knocked along together although I’m sure it’s a learning curve for them as well as me. I’m used to living on my own so had to remember there was someone else around and they’ve had to get used to my odd little ways which come from living on my own. For one of my visitors I organised a drink with other members of my team, so he could meet a few more people in publishing to add to his network.
If you do offer a room, I think it’s sensible to lay down the house rules at the start and although I didn’t have any for my first visitor, I do now make clear that they are not to bring anyone back to the house, they should not eat in the bedroom and as I don’t have a tv or tv licence there is no watching catch-up. So far that’s put no-one off.
Generally, this has been a positive experience for me and I’ve kept in touch with some of my visitors to follow their careers. I thoroughly recommend this project as a practical way to help people to get into publishing who might not otherwise be able to so.
Find out more about the Spare Room Project.