1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m Natalie! I’m currently doing an internship at Margaret River Press as part of my university degree. I’m studying a double major of Professional Writing & Publishing and Japanese—which is a bit of a mouthful, so I usually stick to telling people one or the other. I grew up with my head buried in a book, and can confidently say I’ve mastered the skill of reading at the same time as walking through busy pathways without bumping into anyone or anything!
I currently live in Perth, but I can’t see myself living in one place forever. One of my dreams is to live in Japan—for how long, who knows!
2. What are/were you studying at university and what’s next?
I mentioned my double major above! It’s a bit of a strange mixture, but I love both subjects and couldn’t choose between them. Unfortunately, I think this means that when I graduate and start job searching for real, I’ll really have to set my heart on one or the other…
I’m looking to join the JET Programme (which sends native English speakers to Japan to teach English) at the end of this year. If I’m successful, in 2019 I’ll be able to go live in Japan for a full year or maybe even more. I’m passionate about languages and I hope to inspire kids’ interest in all the possibilities that learning another language opens up for you.
As for actually choosing between a career in Japanese or in the publishing industry, I think that no matter which I choose, I wouldn’t be able to completely abandon the other.
3. Do you have a favourite book or favourite authors?
I enjoy a wide range of authors, but my ultimate biases will always be Tamora Pierce, Emily Rodda and Alison Croggon. Their stories shaped my childhood and inspired my love for reading and writing fantasy. Whenever I pick up one of their books now, it reminds me why I wanted to become an author when I was a kid, and why I’d still love to—being completely transported away into a fictional world with all sorts of magic and impossibilities and adventure is an experience I want to be able to create for someone else.
I recently bought Alison’s Pellinor series off eBay and am rereading it for the first time in many years…it’s more fantastic than I remember. She’s absolutely phenomenal at world-building!
4. What did a typical day involve as an intern at Margaret River Press?
We’ll be publishing two books, one in October and one in December, so a lot of time is dedicated to promoting those online. This is done through both posting on social media, as well as researching libraries, bookshops, websites etc. that we can send press releases to so they put the book on their shelves, review it or anything along those lines.
I’m (mostly) in charge of social media, so I schedule posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which consist of things like advertising our Short Story Competition or posting graphics created on Canva that promote the upcoming books. I also take a lot of pictures for Instagram (however, I feel Logan is the resident Instagram professional!). A strangely challenging part of this is coming up with short and snappy captions for my posts. Sometimes I tend to ramble on without getting to the point.
I also have the fun task of organising entries for the Short Story Competition, and even peeking at the manuscripts submitted for potential publication by MRP! There’s some fantastic gems in there, and hopefully I’ll be able to see them on the shelves in the future.
5. Is there a particular area of publishing you’re looking to head into or another type of work?
I sort of looked at this in my ‘what’s next’ answer! This is a question I get asked all the time—after I’m first asked what I’m studying at university. I’m still constantly torn between a career in Japanese or a career in the publishing industry. In terms of the specific area of publishing, I love the work I’m doing at the moment as an intern in managing social media, carrying out the marketing schedules, helping organise certain MRP events and competitions…I think that as long as my career path involves me in one or the other, I’ll be content.
And here is a short piece written by Natalie herself…
The importance of rediscovery
Opening that new book. The pages are crisp beneath fingertips. A nice cream colour, not a bland white that hurts the eyes. The words, printed in a neat serif font.
The first page is masterfully written. Reach page 14.
Look up. The words dissolve.
Focus. The self-scolding is sharp.
Gaze wanders down the page. Thoughts of plans made for tomorrow are suddenly louder and horribly distracting. Drag eyes back to the top paragraph.
The words. Read the words!
My attention span has become remarkably short over the past few years. It’s a secret shame I’ve held close to my heart, refusing to acknowledge, because to confront it would mean to fully understand that I’ve lost touch with what used to be part of my identity.
When I was younger I was a voracious reader and writer. I would be curled up on the couch for hours, or staying up until the wee hours of the morning with a torch tucked between my chin and shoulder, or even, I confess, sitting on the toilet for far longer than necessary, thumbing through a well-worn paperback.
Somewhere along the way this obsession, this drive, faded. I was growing up and—it’s cliche to say this, but—technology was growing up alongside me. Laptops were integrated into my school’s classroom in 2012, and more of my friends were getting smartphones. Wasting time online became easier—it became the norm. Again, it’s cliche to blame technology, but cliches are cliches because of the unshakeable truths that created them.
In primary school I was a loner at recess and lunchtime. Books, fantasy especially, gave me the worlds I needed. Teachers would express surprise (and a little bit of concern) that I was able to navigate the busy paths to and from classrooms while lost in a story. I never tripped once, not even while going down the stairs.
Rarely would my mind drift, but today when I pick up a book I lose focus worryingly easily. I am able to finish it, but it takes much, much longer, no matter how exciting its contents. I’ve spent too much time on the internet, too much time unwriting my brain and recoding it with the instant gratification of social media and short, snappy articles. Open a new tab: open a new idea. Fourteen tabs open in one go.
The realisation hit me one afternoon as I tried to brainstorm a hypothetical story idea for a class assignment of writing a query letter to a publisher. The idea had to be similar to a book already published, for the purpose of this letter. Half-formed characters flitted in my head, going nowhere. Plot ideas came up and fell apart in a matter of seconds. The loose tangled strings would not pull taut.
If someone asked me to list my hobbies, “reading” would be my knee-jerk response. It has been my whole life. For dreams, “being a writer” was at the top of the list. But for how long has that been a lie?
That one Stephen King quote used to resonate with me personally. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” That’s ok, I told myself, I read heaps. No issues there. I’m set.
The empty Word document and even emptier notebook let me know I was, in fact, not set.
The dark blue lines on the notebook were almost accusing in their starkness. You’re a blank slate, they told me. No inspiration, no passion. Part of you has died.
I closed the notebook and tried to put the assignment out of my mind. I am a reader, I tried to tell myself. I need to wait for inspiration.
But deadlines wait for nobody, and the due date for my assignment was creeping up.
Time to face the discordant music, the broken words. Time to face the weak and silly ideas.
A book already published, a book already published. What genre did you surround yourself with when you were small? What authors did you want to be like? What made you you?
It came to me. My first, and still most beloved authors (Tamora Pierce, Alison Croggon, Emily Rodda)—they were what I’d always wanted to be…what I still want to be. They were creators of myth and legend, crafting rich and almost tangible worlds to wander through.
In my subconsciousness, a small spark was rekindled.
Out of curiosity, I took a look on eBay for Alison Croggon’s Pellinor series, something that I had buried myself in when I first found them in my early teens, and then for some reason never revisited. The second result was the complete quartet, a little battered but in good condition.
$40. A week’s wait in shipping. I ordered without hesitation.
Take a deep breath. Close the laptop, push it away, rest my eyes. Something needed to change. I didn’t want part of my identity to only be an echo of my childhood dreams. It had to be solid, real, a definite truth.
Rediscovery is one of the greatest adventures.
The weight of my one of my childhood favourites, a special edition of Emily Rodda’s The Belt of Deltora, is hefty in my hands. There’s a familiar world waiting behind the cover, characters waiting to guide me down a winding path I took long ago and remind me of what I’ve forgotten.
And as I read, I’ll be waiting for that fateful knock on the door.