There’s currently an unintentional Jane Austen sub-theme happening on this blog–so imagine how thrilled I was about this interview with Laura Baker, who is working in that favorite Austen destination, Bath. Laura has a degree in Honours English Rhetoric and Professional Writing with a minor in French from the UWaterloo, as well as a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
JLH: What is your current job title, and what responsibilities does it include?
I am a Group Editor in the Children’s Department at Parragon Books in Bath, England. I brief, commission and edit titles for children aged 0 to 12, including treasuries, activity books, craft books and baby and toddler novelty books. I also plan and oversee the picture book list, working directly with authors and illustrators. I’ve even written one picture book myself and have had it published under a pseudonym! Finally, I manage Assistant Editors to provide support to junior members in the team.
JLH: What made you choose Waterloo?
I chose Waterloo for two reasons: the co-op program and the Rhetoric specialty. I thought it would be really good to get work experience throughout my schooling, especially because at the time I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. It really was incredibly valuable to gain real-world experience that later helped me to get other jobs, and it was very useful to try out different careers – even if I found out most of them weren’t what I wanted to do in the long run! The RPW program also appealed because I was interested in media and professional writing.
JLH: Any thoughts about your favorite courses at Waterloo?
I got a lot out of the courses that were based on practical skills, such as the Creative Writing and Rhetoric of Text and Image courses, as I learned skills and theories that I have been able to apply in my various jobs. I also really enjoyed the Interpersonal Communication course, which helps me with my management duties today.
JLH: What has stayed with you from your time at Waterloo studying English?
Mostly the friends I’ve made, and the experience I gained from my co-op positions.
JLH: What advice do you have for current students?
Definitely do co-op! It gives you such good professional experience, which counts for a lot when you’re trying to get a job after graduation, and puts you above the competition. It is also so valuable to try different positions and industries to see what suits you, and to try things you may not have considered.
JLH: What do you wish you’d known right after graduating?
Things don’t always go to plan, and you may not know exactly where you want to end up, but that’s okay! It’s taken me a little while to get here, but actually all those steps along the way have helped me to move on to the next one from the experience gained, and I am now right where I want to be in my career. My co-op positions included a job with the government, English tutoring at a college, technical writing and marketing copywriting. Then, after UW, I came to Wales in the United Kingdom to do my MA in Creative Writing. Through that (and due to my previous work experience from co-op), I managed to get a work placement at an independent publishing company of fiction and nonfiction for adults, and I stayed on afterwards as an employee. Then, following that, I applied for the job of Assistant Editor at my current company, in the children’s department. And since then I’ve gradually taken on more responsibilities, working up to Editor, Senior Editor and now Group Editor – and I enjoy my job daily. I feel that I’ve taken a very clear path to get here, and I genuinely believe each one of the steps along the way was an important one to do.
JLH: Can you tell us what you are reading?
Lots of manuscripts! I’m currently working on a treasury of fairy tales and fables, so I’m reading and editing authors’ abridged versions of over thirty stories. For fun, I’m also reading Marian Keyes’ The Other Side of the Story, which is about an agent acquiring manuscripts and writers trying to get published. Just up my alley!