14 Miranda Harrison describes a visit to The Society of Young Publishers
The two options were SYP, Society of Young Publishers and Women in Publishing. Getting to know other people in publishing, getting to meet people my own age who are also thinking about their careers is how I thought of it.
At the Good Book Guide I wasn’t in a traditional publishing company I was in a magazine company. So I was aware that I wasn’t able to observe within our company of what people were doing. It was a different sort of company. And I guess also in those pre-internet days, fresh from Uni, you did think that you had to meet people. To find out information. It was about conversation, you found out things by talking to people. So that’s the thinking behind needing to find people to talk to.
So the first thing I did, one of the first things I did, was I pitched up at an SYP meeting. I went along and I’ve never felt so unwelcome in all my life. This was 1990, 1991, so clearly I hope things are very different now. I went and it was all terribly, terribly OK Yah! And it was people very drunk, very spiked. We all get very drunk but they were very drunk in a sort of Hooray Henry way. Braying drunk. And there was absolutely no conversation about publishing at all.
I spoke to people randomly and I said ‘Who’s the chairman?’ and it was a chairman. ‘Who’s the chairman?’ And I was introduced to this man and I think he was called Jason or something like that. And I said ‘Oh I’ve just started working in publishing, you know I’d like to find out more.’ He looked a bit ‘Ha! You’ve come to the wrong place, darling. We don’t talk about publishing here!’ I mean, you know he looked at me as if I was an idiot. [Laughs] It was unbelievably patronising and I just couldn’t wait to get out of there. I was so, so disappointed.
But I cannot remember how I first heard about WiP. There was always a little advert in The Bookseller, saying second Wednesday of the month, or whatever it was, meeting at and it was in Bedford Square, at the Publishers’ Association. So I went along [laughs] and was greeted with open arms. It was very, very, very packed. It was this big, huge big meeting room and people were on chairs, sitting on the floor, in rows, there were far more people than chairs – which of course was amazing considering how it started. And I remember realising that there was clearly a committee going on.
I’ve no idea what the speakers were that night – it was a speaker night – but I just remember that I walked in and the first thing they did was they asked me who I was and they wrote my name and they stuck it on a label, so we were all named so immediately there was a kind of ice-breaker. So you could say ‘Oh, hello Susie, I see you work at Macmillan.’ And you could just talk to people and it broke all the ice.