Our wonderful Publicity and Marketing intern, Aoife Harrison, wrote a blog post about her experience at The O’Brien Press.
Four months seems a relatively short space of time but, even including several Christmas seasons in retail, I think these were among the busiest four months of my life! In preparation for this blog post, I compiled a list of all my personal highlights during my internship and the events, books and general escapades I’d been involved in since I started…it was a long list.
Topping the charts, so to speak, was Culture Night 2017, which was one of my favourite experiences at The O’Brien Press. For Culture Night, The O’Brien Press offered people the unique opportunity to pitch directly to Ireland’s leading children’s publisher. Meet with a staff member at the office for a ten-minute, one-to-one pitch. It was guaranteed to be an exciting and busy night. It helped that I had spent the better part of that morning involved in the launch of Judi Curtin’s 25th book, Stand By Me, a children’s book set partly in the 1960s. The staff of Eason, O’Connell Street, were amazing and incredibly helpful. They didn’t even bat an eyelid when Ruth and I arrived at the store an hour early, laden down with yet more bags (despite the several boxes we’d sent them the day before) and proceeded to decorate their newly renovated shop with strings of paper records, blow-up flower-power guitars and multi-coloured fabric flowers strewn over every available flat surface. The school group, when they arrived, were suitably impressed with our recreation of the book cover on the stage next to Judi and I only got the mildest of funny looks before they decided I must be in costume (I was!)
After tidying the shop (and ourselves) up, we raced back to the office to help with the preparations for O’Brien Press’ Pitch Perfect Culture Night event. The excitement in the air was palpable as staff raced up and down flights of stairs. Soon, before we’d even begun to steady our nerves, though thankfully after we’d taken down the photos of cats in wedding attire (your secret is safe with me Geraldine!), the doorbell rang. It was like Opening Night of a new production, but instead of being the actors huddled in the wings, we were the audience. We just happened to be providing the stage! Our first guests arrived and the next few hours were a whirl of handshakes, book chats, quick changes, muffled knocks and sheer exhilaration. The night was a huge success and we had so many exciting manuscripts to look forward to reading in the following weeks.
I expected life in the office to settle into a routine after that, but I was slowly learning that the energetic staff at OBP rarely paused to take a breath. One of the most memorable office events was the day we dressed up as inspiring women (or #BoldGirls in anticipation of Children’s Books Ireland’s new campaign) in aid of Trick or Treat for Temple Street. We had long (work-related, of course) discussions about costume possibilities. Amidst Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo and Countess Markievicz, I worried that my anonymous suffragette would be a little lost and lacklustre. I needn’t have worried.
The day started off normally, interrupted by the occasional burst of delighted squeals whenever somebody else revealed their costume. But then we all congregated downstairs for coffee and cake…suddenly I found myself chained to the railings outside the office, shouting ‘VOTES FOR WOMEN’ on the streets of Rathgar. I wasn’t alone though; my fellow suffragette Emma helpfully provided the chain and joined her voice with mine!
To look at our photos, you would think we spent the majority of our time in one fancy dress theme or another since the previous week had seen us dressed in all our glam-est 80s gear for the Red Rover 80s-themed table-quiz book launch. (Red Rover, Red Rover! Games from an Irish Childhood by Kunak McGann is a retro book about the games people played in the 80s – and still play now!) Our trial run of the quiz questions one lunchtime was met by enthusiasm from all, though admittedly with more success for some than for others (Elena still maintains a lack of fair questions – despite being born a decade too late to ever truly excel in 80s trivia!) But the Red Rover launch itself was a roaring success and we thoroughly enjoyed getting in the 80s spirit.
Weeks passed and the staff took more events in our stride. In singles or pairs we trekked around the country accompanying country music star, Philomena Begley, to signings and media events. This in itself caused much excitement as the popular singer always had hordes of fans ready to greet her in every location. But the next big highlight for me was the Irish Book Awards, simply because it gave me an excuse to celebrate some of my favourite OBP books of the season. Both A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea and Stand By Me claimed prizes on the night, though I will always have a special affection for Socks for Mr Wolf too – I think it was the sock I knitted for the Children’s Book Launch that solidified its place in my heart!
The Children’s Book Launch was the first BIG event I tackled with O’Brien Press and I was equal parts anxiety and anticipation. The Children’s Book Launch was a launch for all of the Autumn Children’s Books and was a huge celebration. One of my particular tasks was to come up with book-themed snacks for the guests. It seems a small thing in hindsight, but at the time I desperately wanted these snacks to be perfect! It seemed a simple idea to have a buffet of sweets, one themed for each Autumn book title. But (as I discovered trawling the shops in a panic the evening before), finding chocolate coins in September is more challenging than you’d expect. As is finding a way of representing a ‘mutant river’ that still looks both edible and appetising! Despite my fears (and mildly escalating panic), the event went off without a hitch and the sweet buffet went down a treat.
I wasn’t exaggerating about the long list I started with and I had to shorten it considerably to include only my favourite things. Though that meant removing the parts where I talked about how welcoming everyone was and how at ease they made me feel from the very beginning; how terrifying my first meeting was (and exhilarating to survive without saying anything too stupid!); how generous everyone was with their time and how willing they were to share their experience and expertise. I learned so much and my time spent here was so worthwhile. So, finally, thank you to everyone at The O’Brien Press – I’ve never met such a hard-working, dedicated bunch of people (with, it has to be said, a flair for costume design)!
Aoife Harrison, December 2017