My Internship At Cassava Republic Press



We are very happy to have Ope Seriki interning with us for the next few weeks as she visits Nigeria from her base in the UK.  We thought you might be interested to hear how its been:

"I am back home in Nigeria for the summer holiday after not getting a single response from all the places I applied for an internship.  So you can imagine, how happy and excited I am to be doing an internship at Cassava Republic Press (CRP).   Just so you know, I am seventeen and hoping to finish my A-levels next year and go to university to study Philosophy or English literature and Theatre Studies.  This is my first work experience ever!

Today is week two of my internship so I thought I should write about my experience so far.  Working here has most definitely been an enlightening experience. When I began my internship, I didn’t really have any idea about what I’d be doing, even though I was hoping that it would be a summer of reading lots and lots of African novels – published and unpublished – and getting work experience.

My first task was to read the young adult novel ‘The Last Days at Forcados High School’, which CRP will be publishing soon. I found this to be a quick, easy and captivating read; it held my interest from the first page to the last. I began to think working here would be a walk-in-the-park…

That was until I was asked to create a marketing plan for the book (not what I expected). I had to figure out how to create a buzz around the book that would appeal to people in my age group and below. I had to imagine what it would be like trying to sell a book to me.  This part of the job was more difficult because it required more creativity and thinking than just sitting down and enjoying the luxury of reading an interesting and well written novel. I spent the entire day trying to come up with ideas about how to sell to ME! Eventually, I produced a so-so piece of work. Not bad for the first try, but I knew I could do better.

The next set of tasks I was given was to review the backlog of submissions, and believe me, there were hundreds.  Although, I had no clue what this would entail, I thought at the very least I’d be reading lots and lots of interesting books. The point of assessing the submissions is to see whether they are suitable or not for publication. When reviewing a submission, I had to consider a number of things: how original is the storyline? Is the manuscript well written? What kind of readers will it appeal too? Is the central conflict and main characters well introduced? Now, this doesn’t seem too difficult a task does it?  Well some of the authors make the task difficult: they don’t bother to write their names or the title of the manuscript.  It is as though they expect you to be a magician and guess their names and the title of their story. And then, there are the grammatical errors which interrupt my enjoyment of the stories.  Reviewing manuscripts is exhausting and can be really boring.  I wonder why so many people want to be a writer when they are struggling to write well.  My English teacher would have put a long red pen on some of the stories I had to read.

I don’t know about you, but when I pick up a book from a bookshop, I always think oh wow this is going to be an excellent book. I am rarely ever disappointed.  Of course, I do buy the occasional bad book, but most of the times even the bad books are well written and not full of grammatical mistakes.

Before interning at CRP, I’d always assumed that the book I buy is exactly how they were originally submitted to the publisher and all they had to do was put a nice cover and market the book.  Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Here, I was reading manuscripts in their raw state, the absolute beginning of the book’s journey.  A few had the potential to be bestsellers and I wanted to read more from the author. They were well-written stories, and a complete joy to read.  However, with the good comes the catastrophic. The disaster manuscripts had me questioning whether the writers were serious or not. One night, I read a manuscript that was so awful I just had to share it with my mum. The writing was not only horrible, but also between the first and fourth paragraphs, the writer had forgotten what she had already said. The story was so inconsistent I thought the author was having a laugh.

In one week, I read 48 manuscripts (this may seem a little to you, but trust me, it is a lot to go through in your first week, at your first work experience).  A fair amount of the manuscripts were based on past or current events Nigeria. They all portrayed some sort of African stereotype: the controlling, loud Igbo mother who is trying to force her daughter to marry some rich man, the difficulty of marrying someone from a different religion; rape, corruption, war and unrest, young people either leaving their village or their country.

Prior to these manuscripts, I had only read two books by an African writer, ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe which I didn’t enjoy very much and ‘Imagine This’ by Sade Adeniran, which I greatly enjoyed.  But what I do like about some of the good manuscripts I have read is the way the writers were able to take a serious issues affecting Nigeria, such as the unrest in Jos or the Biafran war, and make a humorous, empathetic and intriguing novel out of it.  None of these stories however compare to my favourite books of the moment, ‘Midnight’s Children’ by Salmon Rushdie and ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseni.

After a week of working here, I’ve definitely realised that publishers and editors have a much more difficult job than I had imagined. I’d even say that they have an almost unpleasant job… sometimes. Three things I have learnt so far: First, a lot of people are involved in producing a book, but only one person gets all the praise – the writer.  Second, in order to be a good writer, you have to read a lot (even the bad ones) and it feels like many of the writers I am reading here are just not readers. Third, I am also learning how to be more tolerant and patient because continuing to read some of the manuscripts is just agonising cruelty. But you can’t give an honest and reliable review without reading a fair portion of the submission.

This week, I hope I don’t have to read too many bad manuscripts and I get to do something else."

Comments

  • The novel was really captivating kudos to A.h Muhammed and #cassavarepublic#

    Posted by baathoul on February 22, 2015
  • The first day i saw the novel i tought it won’t be that interest then i went true it and i like it gained some others which i don’t understand before

    Posted by Kayode ogunlola on December 12, 2014
  • […] a good chuckle reading this post on the Cassava Republic blog by Ope Seriki about her experiences interning there. She says, […]

    Posted by Editing ain’t easy - EditIQ on July 19, 2012
  • Good post. 48 mss in a week? Those must be excerpts and thank goodness you were not editing. If I were you, I’d use the opportunity to play catch-up on my African lit smarts. The Rushdies can wait for when you return. Try Nwaubani’s I Did Not Come To You By Chance.

    Posted by Mike on August 14, 2012
  • I enjoyed your post, especially your comment that “My English teacher would have put a long red pen on some of the stories I had to read.”

    Best of luck with the rest of the internship – it sounds like you’re learning a lot!

    Posted by Emily on July 16, 2012
  • I want her job! :D

    Posted by Dupe O. on July 17, 2012

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