The Prospect Behind Us
Part 2, page 2

And so it went on until, around 1982, we fell into a new pattern of having a series of helpers, whom we came to think of as apprentices, since they planned to enter publishing and we were the chosen point of entry. No one would have chosen us for financial reasons, since the pay we offered was deplorably low; but what we could give was hands-on training in all aspects of publishing - editing, design, production, dealing with authors, publicity, repping, the lot. It's very hard to gain that sort of wide experience in one's first year in a conventional publishing house.

This aspect was, for us, one of the great pleasures of the whole operation. Our apprentices were all young, mostly fresh from Oxford or Cambridge. Their presence in the household acted as a leaven, raising spirits, enlarging views of the world, speeding up the pace of everything.

Tom Elliott, in 1982, was the first apprentice. He could make it by bicycle from Chelsea to Hatchards in Piccadilly in 12 minutes. Hatchards once kept a customer waiting in their shop for one of our books while he performed this feat. When the time came for him to move on, he introduced his friend (and future wife) Carolyn Smith, who stayed with us nearly two years (1983 and part 1984) before departing for the Folio Society. She was followed by Candida Brazil (part 1984 and 1985), whose delicate sense of style foreshadowed a career which has now taken her to the Yale University Press and who was succeeded in her turn by Idonea Muggeridge (1986). Idonea masterminded our biggest launch party (for Patience Gray's Honey from a Weed). Catherine Fairweather (1987), an even livelier version of the lively schoolgirl whom we had known in Laos in the mid 1970s, came next. Finally, Kate Scarborough (1988 and 1989), stayed longer than any of her predecessors and broke new ground when we sent her to the USA to explore the market there and set up a new distribution agent, and again when she went, twice, to the Frankfurt Book Fair on our behalf.

After Kate's departure we had no similar arrangement, but were not without help. Over the next few years Helen Saberi, author of our Afghan book, Noshe Djan, took time out from working with me on the Oxford Companion to Food to deal with certain vital PB functions, especially royalty payments. The opera singer Russell Harris, lowering his voice, carried out tasks which called for expertise on computers. So did Daniel Owen, the baseball-capped younger son of Sri Owen, our Indonesian author.


The Prospect Behind Us - Part 2, page 3

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