I’ve long been interested in how careers evolve. Alumna Laura Baker, who we first interviewed in 2013, was gracious enough to agree to a follow-up interview about how her professional life has changed in the intervening years. It is fascinating to see how much of Waterloo she carries with her moving forward. Spoiler alert: if you’ve been in a bookstore recently, chances are you will recognize some of her newer work!
JLH: We first interviewed you in 2013, when you were an Editor in the Children’s Department at Parragon Books in Bath, England. How has your career evolved since then?
LB: Wow, things have changed quite a lot since then! I continued to work at Parragon Books as a Group Editor until 2017, when I made the leap to go freelance. I am now working as a freelance editor and author for children’s books – and I absolutely love it!
Being self-employed, I get to work with a wide range of clients, from trade to mass market, for books from baby up to young adult. I work on a huge mix of projects: some recent highlights include writing text for beautifully stylish board books; writing and project managing sticker activity books for National Geographic Kids; writing craft books for Lonely Planet Kids; editing a new series of picture books for Save the Children; writing early reading books for Oxford University Press and curriculum-based picture books for Pearson; and creating TV tie-in books for a series on CBeebies (BBC).
I also now work with an agent for my picture book writing. I write manuscripts on my own time, send them to her, and if she likes them, they get submitted widely to trade publishers. Many don’t get through (it’s a tough business!), but I have so far had two picture books published under my own name.
JLH: In what ways did you take skills with you from Waterloo into your first position? Did you find as you moved onward, you have had to acquire new skills?
LB: I think a huge benefit of having done the co-op program through Waterloo is that I had a good amount of workplace experience before taking on my first permanent role. This meant that I had more confidence going into a new position than I think I would have otherwise, which was probably one of the greatest advantages I could have been given. I was also comfortable writing resumes (and had good experience to put on them!) and going to interviews, so luckily finding my first role was fairly seamless.
I also had a good backing of professional writing and marketing skills that I’d learned on various Waterloo courses, which helped me greatly in all my early roles.
As I’ve progressed through my career, I have had to acquire new skills to match the specific roles – and specific books! One of the most important skills for this is flexibility. I am always adapting my writing tone and style to suit each project. I have also had to pick up finance and accounting skills, as I am self-employed. A course like that at Waterloo might have been useful for me to take – but I didn’t realize it at the time!
JLH: What do you most enjoy about your career right now?
LB: So many things! I enjoy the projects I work on – going to work is fun when you get to write about farm animals, sharks, astrology, journaling, knights and castles… All in a matter of weeks!
I also enjoy the variety of my work at the moment. I am working with people and publishers all across the UK, and further abroad. It’s an amazing experience that I feel very grateful to have.
JLH: We frequently hear people talk about their “five-year plan” or “ten-year plan.” Did you have one when we spoke to you last time? Do you have one now?
LB: I’m not sure that I did, to be honest. I knew I wanted to progress in my role at Parragon, which I did throughout my time there by setting goals with my managers and taking on additional responsibilities over time.
The move to freelance was something at the back of my mind for several years before I made the jump. I wouldn’t say it was part of a long-term plan, but it came along naturally after working at an in-house publisher for seven years, where I gained so much valuable experience. I then felt ready to work on different things and confident that I could find enough clients to make it work. Now I am happy with where I am, and my goals are to maintain and build my client base and earn a steady income.
JLH: As you look over your work, what are you most excited to share with our readers?
LB: Ooh, good question! Unfortunately publishing works quite far ahead, so there’s lots that I can’t share yet.
I am quite proud of The Colour of Happy. It was my first picture book sent out as a submission that got signed by a big publisher. It was so exciting to see my words come to life as they were paired with the artist, Angie Rozelaar, and a team of editors and designers who brought the book together. We had a book launch in London for it as well as a children’s bookshop event. Rights have been sold to three other countries, so you can also find it in Spanish, French, and Korean.
Thank you again to Laura! You can find more of her work at www.lauraannebaker.com.