After my first two weeks of class in Oxford last semester I was on the brink of insanity. Why?
1: Because just looking at my syllabus stressed me out to no end (in fact, I think I called my parents after my first Shakespeare class and told them I was quitting grad. school)
2: Because I didn’t know how to function in a school setting without my usual school people, aka my best friends
and 3: Because about 163 hours of my week (there are a total of 168 in a 24/7 week) were COMPLETELY up to me
That last one really got me. Yes, there was a lot of studying to do. Yes, there was probably 163 hours worth of reading I could have done. But, I needed to maintain my sanity.
So I began to search for a job. A class friend had mentioned finding part-time work at one of the million (yes, there are about that many) publishing houses in Oxford. I thought that was a good idea and had had a similar one myself, so I looked into it, and this is what I found: Signal Books, Ltd.
How I stumbled upon this publisher I can’t quite remember, but I have been doing “work experience” (British for an unofficial internship without pay) there since the beginning of October, two afternoons a week.
Signal’s headquarters are in a shed in my boss’ backyard. I was surprised by this when I showed up to a private residence for my interview, but have grown very accustomed to it since.
James, the creator/director of Signal, publishes mostly travel literature and has a small team that works with him, most of them stationed in London. I am the only one, that I know of, who also puts in hours in the shed.
Don’t worry, the shed is heated, I have my own desk and computer in one corner and James has his in the other. I mostly proofread to-be-published books, work on bibliographies and fact check. We usually have tea at some point, and I peace out around 5:30.
Every once in a while, I remember how random and unique my job is. I get to do more important things than I would at a really big publisher, but I also get to experience scenes probably not witnessed often at places like OUP and Random House. Like today, when James’ son came into the shed following the family dog, Alphie (sp?), and laughing because the little terrier was sporting a brand new made-for-canines football (what the rest of the world calls soccer) jersey. When the son said he was going to take Alphie for a walk, James specified that the new jersey was only to be worn on special occasions.