In celebration of our 25th anniversary of children's publishing we are delighted to present the fifth edition of Onion Origins - this one's from an Onion in our Sydney office.
A very sensible plan...
I left high school with the very sensible plan of making lots of money and retiring early (I was, of course, willing to vary this to 'marrying rich and not working' if the option were to present itself), so I began my career as an auditor at a very large accounting firm. It didn't take me very long to realise that perhaps I wasn't quite as shallow and money hungry as I originally believed myself to be* and I handed in my notice so I could follow my heart and do something I really cared about.
At this point I stalled. It was all very nice to grandly declare that I wanted to do something 'that mattered' but what did that even mean? So with nothing better to do, I continued my business degree, supporting myself with a vast range of jobs (the most unusual being the small stint I had as a turf layer), whilst waiting for that light-bulb moment when my dream career would present itself to me. In a moment of desperation I even tried a self-help book which told me to visualise how I would ideally like to spend my time. I imagined myself sitting in a little room surrounded by books reading all day. Upon reflection perhaps I should have taken the results a little more seriously, but at the time I declared all self-help books to be useless, threw it across the room and curled up with a copy of my favourite comfort book, Pride and Prejudice (and I admit vaguely revisiting my idea of marrying rich - oh Mr Darcy, why don't you exist in the real world?).
In 2001 I was following the path of so many other 20-somethings looking for meaning in life by backpacking through Europe. In Norway I met a family member of a friend who took me to her office. It was at a book publisher called Cappelen Damm. I stepped inside and was overwhelmed with how much I loved it. As I was walking along softly stroking the books and occasionally even sniffing them, it hit me that perhaps this was the future career that I was so desperately seeking.
From then on I determinedly worked at getting into publishing. I enrolled in a Diploma of Publishing and Editing and subscribed to the Weekly Book Newsletter which my research told me was the bible of the Australian Publishing world. I also read that the best way to get into publishing was through reception, so I got a job as a receptionist in an unrelated company to get experience.
Then began the process of applying for any and every job that was in book publishing (there weren't many, but I applied for them all!). My first interview was with Allen & Unwin in the Sydney Office. I didn't get the job. But they were lovely and told me they would hold onto my resume in case something else came up - obviously I thought they just said that to make me feel better. Imagine my surprise when they actually did call me I was interviewed for another job. I also didn't get that one. When I was called in for a third role I began to suspect they were just messing with me. But I went for it anyway, and after two interviews I was employed in the Publicity department, which it turns out is a brilliant place to learn a lot about publishing and be involved with all the other departments.
It didn't take me very long to realise that it was the children's and young adult books that I really loved. So I started unnecessarily attending the children's marketing meetings, reviewing their books and basically doing anything I could to make sure the children's department knew who I was. My plan worked, and when a role came up in the children's marketing department I convinced the children's director Liz Bray that I was the right person for the role and here I am.
*Please note I do not think that accountants are shallow or money hungry. Many of my best friends are wonderful, creative and passionate people and are also accountants, but they also didn't choose the career for the sole purpose of making money, they actually liked it.
**Hard to believe I know, but remember those ads where the accountant gets all excited when they help get you a good tax return, some people really are like that!