Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Anna Murai on her work experience with the Emma Press

I met Emma at the University of Birmingham when she was holding a guest lecture for one of my creative writing modules this spring. I’d come to Birmingham for a year abroad, away from my main literary studies in Germany, hoping to develop as a writer and maybe gain some in sight into the publishing world I knew I wanted to be part of one day. One hour into Emma’s lecture, I knew I’d gotten it all wrong: I wasn’t looking for a titan publisher in the bustling hubs of London, where you’re more likely lose yourself than find your way in. What I needed was a small press like Emma’s, warm and welcoming, tucked in the calm streets at the Jewellery Quarter, and brimming with originality and innovativeness that excited my inner creative.

A few months later I was interning at the Emma Press every Tuesday for a month. Writing it out, it sounds like an awfully short time, and it did indeed feel short, almost over before it’d really begun. While I was still realising I was finally at the heart of a publishing house, a dream come true, two weeks already flew by in a heartbeat. But I was quick to catch my footing. In spite of all the new environment I found comfort and confidence in speaking the same language I’d been immersed in as a writer on the other side of publication.

I helped compile anthologies, read new submissions and wrote reader’s reports. I helped out with publicity plans for different titles, interviewed authors and was lucky even to have met one of them, the wonderful and inspiring Rūta Briede, Latvian artist and author of Queen of Seagulls, at one of her crafting workshops where we painted puplaks, little painted sea-wood dolls she invented herself.

I discovered what it means to sit on the receiving end of submissions and deal with the weight of recommendation (or not) in my reports. I learned how press releases are written, how they change from title to title, and then wrote one myself for In Transit. I discovered a new joy in writing blurbs, how to navigate through Indonesian texts still in translation to capture the sense of the fledgling book. I glimpsed into the hard work and long hours of research that go into when looking for homes for new publications, or even when scouring for children’s books waiting to be brought to British readers across Europe.

But most of all, I was delighted in finding that we were all working towards a common goal. Being a writer who strives to write for a better, more hopeful world, it was encouraging and welcoming to see I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. At the Emma Press, everyone works to push the boundaries, discover new voices and always eager to explore new ideas, from the ideation of themed anthologies to the selection of children’s books to be translated. It was amazing and inspiring to see so many stories across Europe and Asia being in the works, and hopefully there will be more to come in the future.

The Emma Press and its team taught me to value and cherish creativity and fun in publishing in a way I’d have never imagined and more, to nurture the small dreams however far-reaching. I’ll be missing helping out and see incredible works become reality, and hope one day to experience the heartwarming magic of the Emma Press once again.