“One Man in his Time Plays Many Parts…”

I bring you a brief pictorial clue (like in University Challenge) as to what I’ve been getting up to recently (and the reasons for why I’ve been so absent from this blog), although I hasten to add that I am certainly not this sort of girl…

… and certainly not working in that sort of publishing.

This (sadly out of print) book has been causing something of a furore recently (perhaps only in the publishing world) so if you happen to have a copy do please let me know!

Indeed, Dorling Kindersley have recently taken me on as a temporary Editorial Assistant so I am currently swamped in pages to proofread, climbing a steep, mountainous, learning curve, but revelling in every second of it.

There certainly is more to a book than its cover (said tongue-in-cheek and trying to avoid innuendo)…

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“Now, Fair Hippolyta…”

Spring has sprung and this makes me want to languish poetically in plays such as A Midsummer’s Night Dream, with fairies called Peasebottom and the like. Of course the weather isn’t quite midsummer balmy yet, but there’s nothing like casting off the gloom of winter to make me ridiculously overly optimistic.

The next line of the above is “our nuptial hour draws apace” and as a whole plethora of my friends are getting married over the next six months I’ve been reflecting on pretty home-made gifts for weddings. As such I’m actually (in contradictory fashion) featuring below a fabric-covered noticeboard for my own room (matching bunting to follow) and a blanket box that some friends and myself built, painted and decorated for another friend’s baby shower. However, ideas for wedding gifts would be much appreciated, particularly, in this economic climate, items of the “thrifty chic” variety. For now I’m off to revel in the spring sunshine…

“I’ll Pheeze You, In Faith”

Another year; another pile of books. Quite a lot of these seem to have been carried over from the last pile. Don’t think I’m doing very well here. However, one of my surely ill-fated New Year’s Resolutions is to read books of different genres (i.e. less classic, historical, romantic fiction). So here we have a non- fiction memoir about a woman’s battle with breast cancer; an Italian novel in translation, recommended by Nick Clegg (!);  a very funny satire of Dr. Johnson, sprung to fame from an anonymous twitter account; a classic I claim to know merely because I’ve seen and love the West End musical; admittedly, an historical classic (Fowles), but one I incurred a huge library fine for before acquiring my own copy and am thus determined to get beyond chapter 2; a Man Booker shortlisted novel written in a new and innovative style far outside my comfort zone; Birdsong, which I’ve put off reading for too long and want to read so that I can go see the new stage show; and yes, another craft book so that I can annoy my family still further by leaving thread and scraps of material around the house! And then there’s a novel I read in proof form that I’m very much looking forward to seeing out in hardback later this year…

Any New Year reading challenges on the horizon for you? Maybe this year will even be the year I finish a Russian Tolstoy classic! (Pigs flying?!)

“Escalus”

I have spent the week in bracing cold Yorkshire, visiting relatives, and assisting my grandfather’s family history hunt (or at least, attempting to). This was how my sister and I discovered that one of our great great grand uncles, sadly killed in WWI, was called Sylvester. Which is almost as great a first name as Escalus – the opening word of Measure for Measure.

Another brief post to wrap up 2010, featuring perhaps one of my most adventurous craft projects – involving second hand china and melting candle wax to near boiling point over a stove. The result is fun and vintage: teacup candles for friends (or yourself!).

Should auld acquaintance be forgot/ And never brought to mind? …
For auld lang syne, my dear / For auld lang syne. We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet /
For auld lang syne.

“Blow, blow thou winter wind… Then heigh ho, the holly!”

I have taken this moment to break my own rules in favour of festivities. Although Shakespeare does not seem to ever spend long pondering Christmas in his plays, these lines from a poem in As You Like It are suitably seasonal and definitely topical wintry-weather wise.

Today’s post is short and merely features some recent Christmas crafting activities: candle table decorations,  home-baked gifts from the kitchen and a selection of my favourite red and gold themed tree decorations.

“When Shall We Three Meet Again?”

The other night I was fortunate enough to catch some of the BBC’s Macbeth, starring Sir Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood and directed by Peter Goold. I was even more fortunate to have seen it in the original, raw, live flesh on stage in Chichester’s close-quartered, atmospheric theatre, and this televised version took me right back, having lost none of its terse tension, high drama or beautifully acted characterisation. It also reminded me how much I have missed watching theatre critically: whether for university or for the theatre reviews I used to write for University of Warwick’s newspaper The Boar: http://theboar.org/arts/2009/jan/13/wherefore-art-thou/

This post’s opening line also serves another purpose. Recently I visited my very best friend in Northampton and whilst there was certainly no witchcraft or aiding and abetting plots to kill Scottish kings, she did re-teach me the magic of using sewing machines, resulting in the following draught excluder (matching doorstop and cushions to follow: Northampton’s material markets are full of bargains). I was also reunited with the pottery I painted at her hen party. Funny how these things never turn out the way you expect…

Next stop: Christmas!

“If You Shall Chance, Camillo, to Visit Bohemia…”

“… you shall see… great difference betwixt our Bohemia and your Sicilia.”

“Publicity? Oh.”
This probably wasn’t the response that the nice HR people were expecting when they rang to tell me about the placement they were offering me at Random House. Neither was it the response I intended to give, it was just that I’d never really considered that area of publishing before. But the next minute I was jumping at the opportunity, and I’m so glad that I did!

Many people think that publicity is super glamorous: hanging out with authors all day long, organising signings and tours and attending awards ceremonies. And of course, that is part of it, but what lies behind the glam, back in the office, is a lot of hard work, organising, correspondence, research, filing… No day has been the same these last three weeks. I’ve often begun my mornings by searching through all the various newspapers, hunting for reviews of books published by our various imprints (and becoming very well versed on current affairs at the same time). Then I might send uncorrected proof copies, or the finished article, in mailings to reviewers (trying to read the books as I go!), forward fan mail and general post to the relevant authors, or even design flyers for bookshop events. I was privileged enough to sit in on a marketing meeting and I haven’t looked at books in shops the same since I walked out the room. Discussions centred around books being published next year, the best marketing strategies, predicted sales, the best jacket design/ blurb terminology, and I now judge books by their covers more critically than I ever did before. I even catch myself watching people in bookshops: wondering what they’re picking up and why.

I haven’t met anyone famous (although I was, on separate occasions, rewarded by the site of Jonathan Powell and Sam Willetts across the office – check out their work if you’re unfamiliar), but I have read a fantastic novel that’s not due out until February next year. Beyond saying Half of the Human Race is brilliant I can say no more, but expect to have me bombarding everyone I know with recommendations for it come 2011. Neither have I been to any award ceremonies (although the Galaxy Book Awards were held last week, and Random House did very well – prizes for Terry Pratchett, Martin Amis, Edmund de Waal amongst others), but I have learnt heaps, had my knowledge of the whole publishing process widened, conquered my feeling of being like a country mouse in the big town, AND been surrounded by mountains of books all day long. It’s been something of a three-week dream for me. And I’m sure that if asked again then my answer would be, “Publicity? Yes please!

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