27 March 2013

Onion Origins - ALG

In celebration of our 25th anniversary of children's publishing we are delighted to present the fourth edition of Onion Origins.

So, tell us a little about yourself...

I didn't believe my mother when she threatened to confiscate all my books. I was sixteen years old and, according to her, I wasn't concentrating enough on school work and piano practice (there may have been some truth to that, but that is entirely beside the point). I couldn't understand her position at all. I was reading too much? (A real rebel, huh?)

But I came home from school one day and my bookshelves were empty. All my books were gone, even the picture books!

For two weeks, I scoured the house searching for my abducted friends. And when I found them, well, I decided that was something Mum didn't need to know. My books were my trusted companions; they contained worlds and characters I could visit anytime I needed my spirits lifted. I hadn't understood how important books were to me until they were taken away.

When I was at uni, I realised I wanted my studies to have more to do with fiction, rather than just having to read prescribed books to research the next essay. So I transferred to Homesglen to do their Professional Writing and Editing course. It didn't take long for me to realise that I wasn't going to be a writer, but I still wanted very much to be around books.

I applied for job after job, and finally got my start with the A.M.E.B. as an editorial assistant. From there, I went to Macmillan Education and was a publishing assistant for three and a half years (I discovered that my love for books does not extend to secondary school text books). I was ready for a new job, a new challenge. My friend, who was also job hunting, was scouring the advertisements in the Weekly Book Newsletter and when she saw the ad for Publishing Operations Manager at Allen & Unwin she emailed it my way. I hesitated only long enough to ensure there were no spelling or grammatical errors in my CV. I really wanted this job.

When I got the call from Liz Bray asking me in for an interview with her and Eva Mills, I tried not to sound too keen when I said yes. And then I did a little happy dance.

I practiced for the interview. I'm not kidding. My best friend works in HR (handy) so we did mock interviews. Truly. Mainly to lessen my chances of me freezing up when asked, 'So, tell us a bit about yourself.' (Yes, at a different job interview, I didn't have an answer prepared for that. The silence was a little awkward, but really, how do you answer that question? It's so general. Is it so hard to be specific - what exactly do prospective employers want to know about me?!)

Anyway, this time I was prepared for that particular question... and Liz and Eva didn't ask it (thank goodness!). They both made me feel completely relaxed, and when I left the office, I realised I'd even enjoyed the interview (that was a first). I also knew that I really, really wanted the job.

A week later I was back for another interview, this time with Erica Wagner (she didn't ask me that question either - I was loving this place even more). She was very welcoming, and it confirmed my sense of 'rightness' about the job. And then there was the final hurdle: 'the test' with the then Publishing Operations Manager who was leaving to study law. Could I follow her instructions to create the Editor Workload Report in Excel?

In April, I'll have been with Allen & Unwin for three years (OMG) and the Editor Workload Report is only one of the many duties I do to keep all our systems running smoothly and wrangle the publishers and editors to keep all the books on track. One of the great perks of this position is that I know when the manuscripts will be delivered. So if I can't wait to read the next book in an exciting series and I know the manuscript is in-house, well... let's just say I'm really looking forward to the delivery of the next title in the Elementals series.

The most challenging thing about this job: my office is surrounded by books and every day I have to fight the urge to simply read. NEVER start reading Sea Hearts during your lunch break.

You will spend the rest of your day wanting to know what happens next, and that will torment you until 5.30-6 pm when you can pick up the book again, and then you'll trip over your feet because you'll be so busy reading while walking to the station, that you won't see the slight bump in the footpath, and then you'll stay up all night to finish it... and I think I understand why my mother confiscated my books (I'm not saying she was right).

- Aline Le Guen, Publishing Operations Manager

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