The World Book Day CEO contributes to our Q&A series
Describe your current job
World Book Day's vision is to offer every child the opportunity to read and love books - so my job is all about making that happen! At the moment plans for World Book Day in 2020 are well under way. I'm working on how World Book Day can develop as a charity and offer more ways to bring the transformative power of reading for pleasure to all children and young people, particularly those who aren't currently engaged with the world of books.
What was your first job in the book industry?
After a few weeks of work experience at Pan Macmillan I went to Fourth Estate as Publicity Assistant. It was when they were in the offices on Salem Road. There were books everywhere, authors were in all of the time… It was everything I'd imagined publishing would be. Bliss.
Who has been the most influential person in your career?
It's hard to single out an individual… Joanna Prior [now Penguin MD] was the first person to employ me in publishing and was a model of perceptiveness and poise. It was an education to work with Althea Efunshile, deputy chief executive of Arts Council England. She's a brave and intelligent leader.
How has the industry changed since your first job?
So much! In my day as a publicist (waves walking stick and shakes grey head) online book bloggers were only just becoming a thing and authors didn't have twitter profiles. Social media has transformed the way that authors and readers can connect.
What's the biggest challenge in your job?
It's early days, just four months in, so at the moment the challenge is to understand how this extraordinary celebration of books and reading fits together while thinking about how it will be an even more effective charity in the future.
What's the best piece of book-related advice you've ever been given?
There are plenty of books in the world, don't waste time reading something that isn't speaking to you. I "give up" on books very rarely - but it can be liberating just to put something aside and move on to the next exciting read.
What are the most interesting things you're seeing at the moment in the industry?
Recently I went to meet Round Table books in Brixton Village. They are connecting to local families with a range of books that really celebrate underrepresented authors, illustrators and stories. This kind of work to improve diversity in publishing, and to improve the fact that only 1% of children's books in the UK have a BAME main character, is inspiring.
What do you think might be the next big thing?
Whatever it is, I've got a feeling it'll be connected with improving that 1%.
What do you most like doing when you're not working?
Reading. Or walking - usually with my dog, and ideally with my teenage daughter, because that's when we have the best chats.
What is the best book you've read in the last year?
Both Song of Achilles and Circe by Madeleine Miller have been recent and stand out favourites, but books are "best" for different reasons.
What are you reading now?
Mythos by Stephen Fry. Because Madeline Miller will write another one soon and I will be ready…
How do you like to read: on screen, on paper, or do you listen to audiobooks?
Paper please. I read on screen sometimes, if a book is just too heavy to carry around all day. I enjoy the occasional audiobook, but prefer the New Yorker "Writer's Voice" podcast. Books will always be my preference.