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Penguin Random House host colourful March masterclass

Our March masterclass was hosted by the UK’s largest publishing house, Penguin Random House, at their beautiful offices on the Strand overlooking the Thames.

First up was former actress, Morwenna Loughman, who spoke about her role as a non-fiction editor at Ebury. She said “being an editor is incredibly proactive and you have to make a conscious effort to find new ideas and authors.” She went on to say that not all books stem from an author, but may just come from a great editorial idea, such as the Avocado Cookbook, Chips with Everything and The Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

When asked about her least favourite book she has commissioned, she diplomatically said, “there will always be a market, no matter what the book!”

Zainab Juma, Creative Manager, Consumer and Digital Development, took to the stage next. She spoke about the challenge of representing the breadth of the different imprints at the company within the Penguin brand, which is primarily associated with classics; having published many of the most influential books of the Twentieth century.

Zainab talked about her team’s role in bringing in different and younger audiences to Penguin, ensuring the brand is relevant and in keeping with the founder’s revolutionary vision for the company. She said they tried not to talk about books as being worthy, because books should be enjoyable, no matter for what purpose they are being read. She spoke about exciting campaigns their team had devised, such as Penguin Pride centred around Pride and their #AskPenguin initiative.

Zainab told how she was destined to work for a publishing company, having grown up in her Grandfather’s bookshop. She is convinced that “if someone could bottle the smell of paperbacks, they would make a fortune”.

Finally, former Creative Access intern and HR Advisor at Penguin Random House, Manisha Matharu, took to the floor. She said “Creative Access gave me an incredible start and helped me forge networks that are stronger than ever today.” She spoke about her situations where she has been the only person of colour in a room and urged our interns to share their experiences with each other. She also cited initiatives that Penguin Random House are running to improve diversity of both the books being published and the people being employed by the company, including Write Now which finds, mentors and then publishes books by authors from under-represented backgrounds.

Manisha then interviewed two successful Scheme applicants, Aimee (a former forensic psychologist) and Aisling (previously a freelance poet), who both outlined their highlights of working for Penguin Random House so far and talked about the benefits of having anonymous applications for the programme.

Thank you so much to all at Penguin Random House for hosting such a great masterclass and for so generously giving a brilliant selection of books to our grateful interns!