My last day at Penguin was made slightly hazy by the wine my sister had kindly fed me last night, but after a hearty breakfast I was on my way and ready to read some more words.
This morning I picked up a manuscript that I had started yesterday afternoon. My catchphrase in the office has become ‘it’s not….it’s not awful’ when something is really…not great. Well, this MS (publisher’s lingo darling) was dealing with a really tough subject. Let’s say the First World War (it wasn’t, but I’m really conscious of being rude or cruel and I don’t want a writer to stumble on this and twig). The writing was great and I enjoyed the lack of cliché (I can’t deal with awful clichés and I ban anyone from blurting, retorting or sputtering. Honestly. Who does that in real life? I’ve never heard anyone say something suddenly and think ‘…she blurted’. Crap, utter crap) but the writer had fallen into a very irritating, but easy to fall into, trap. She was too kind to her characters. This will be entirely hypothetical now (just in case) but imagine the horror, the absolute vileness of being in the trenches in WW1. Then imagine that the men living in those trenches sit around all day playing cards, drinking rum and sometimes bobbing out to fire a few rounds. The sergeants and captains are fair and kind and don’t revert to violence or bullying. Everyone really just gets along. There’s one man though, oh-ho-ho, he’s awful! What a nasty man. He once pushed a man over in the mud then laughed at him. What a joker. What a bully.
See how this is going? It just didn’t ring true to me. Plus the whole novel read more as a character study or an exploration into relationships than a story; there wasn’t really a narrative. I don’t mind everyday life stories about exciting or horrific, dynamic events, but I do want SOMETHING to happen.
So then I began a story that has captured me. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to finish it today but Sarah had asked me to see what I thought and give my opinion, which was nice as it seemed like it was a book she really liked but hadn’t managed to win anyone over with yet. I’m loving it, it’s incredibly touching and painful and sweet. Old school ‘four female forty-something friends and their lives’ but done in an original and interesting way. I like.
Which brings me on to my last day. I had to give back my ticket (the card that beeps you in and out of doors – sob) and turn off that computer for the last time. It was the last day that I could sit and look out at the Thames as I ate my lunch. I walked slowly back to my desk after and read all afternoon. Before I knew it, it was 4pm. I had made as much tea as I think is possible in three hours, just to drink in as much Penguin as I could. Literally.
Before I left I was presented with a few books from the imprint I was working for. That was such a lovely gesture and I was so pleased they were willing to let me have a gift. FREE BOOKS! I was pretty bloody thrilled with the whole situation. How kind, I thought. How generous to give me free books!
So, the most exciting part of the day. Well, I wasn’t looking forward to leaving this afternoon, of course I wasn’t. I didn’t want to go. As I was packing up and turning off the computer Sarah had a chat with me about the two weeks. She called me a ‘super reader’ and was really grateful that I had been able to read through so many manuscripts. I told her that I was so pleased that I had been able to spend so much time reading and it had been such a wonderful opportunity to enjoy so many different types of writing. What an incredibly lucky girl I had been to be exposed to so much talent, nearly talent and not-quite talent.
THEN she said ‘so, Charlotte, ever thought of getting into publishing?’
YES. YES LOTS THANK YOU.
‘It’s just that, you know, be great if you could keep in touch, you know…do you want to focus more on the writing or do you think you’d like to get into publishing? Because I think you’d be really good at it’.
Cue warm glow in tummy.
I said that I’d very much love to work in publishing and that yes, keeping in touch sounds pretty amazing.
So she said a big thank you and that it had been really useful and a pleasure having me work there. Amazing, how awesome to hear that. So my plan is, I wait a few days, then, once the paperwork to complete my placement has come through I’ll e-mail my thanks and say ‘all sorted, cheers’! And sneakily attach my (massively updated and sexed up) CV as a kind of ‘….by the way….’
So, it only leaves me now to sign off from my amazing two week placement and say farewell. It’s been really fun updating this (nearly) every day and I’ve been really touched that anyone has read it! So thank you very much for scanning over my words and if you have enjoyed them then I’m really thrilled. It’s amazing to be able to share something I’ve been so excited about.
Until next time, when I shall be brandishing my latest work, ‘Diary of a Penguin Employee!’….. Good night!