Before entering the Whitireia Publishing Programme in 2008, I was working as a writer and editor at TML Publishing in Christchurch — a small publishing house that produced advertisement-driven travel and lifestyle guides. While working, I found that my heart lay with books, not publications with a short shelf life, and I quit my corporate job to take the online, full-time version of the Publishing Programme while working part-time as a book buyer.
I loved doing this course! It was a huge change of pace from my BA degree — a lot more practical and hands-on. I could see very clearly how each skill could be applied in the real world and, on finishing the course, I felt very well-equipped. I rave about the course to anyone who is even vaguely interested. It's the best pathway into the industry available in New Zealand, I think.
It's not the kind of course you can coast through — which is a really good thing! Every assignment was a challenge, and I felt like each one had a purpose and taught me something really valuable. There was no 'busy work,' which I really liked. If you decide to take on the publishing course, be prepared to work. Hard. I particularly enjoyed learning about the production process, and I learned to appreciate the design and marketing aspects, with which I had never really been involved.
I met so many wonderful people — even while doing the course online. The tutors Paula Wagemaker and Coral Atkinson, in particular, inspired me, and Coral remains a friend and mentor to this day. The online option is a really excellent one if your family, work or financial commitments make it impossible for you to be on campus, and I highly recommend it.
On completing the publishing course, I took a slightly unconventional route. For me, the course solidified my desire to take a chance on my dream and enter the industry as an author, armed with my better knowledge of how the whole system worked. I completed an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Canterbury and wrote the novel that became my first published work as an adult. The Whitireia course gave me an excellent grounding in the practicalities and processes of the book world, which proved invaluable when I signed with my agent and publisher. I felt like I had a much better handle on the concrete aspects of the industry.
So far, two of my novels have been released in the UK and around the world: The Cry of the Go-Away Bird and The White Shadow, both published by Harvill Secker, a division of Random House. I am currently working on a third.
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