Our alumna, Bea Fitzgerald, on moving from a degree in English literature to a career in publishing

Are you wondering which careers might follow a degree in English literature? Bea Fitzgerald graduated from the University of Reading with a first-class degree in English literature in 2017, and has recently embarked on a career in publishing. Here, she talks here about her time at Reading and on how she chose her career path…

What’s your current role, and what do you enjoy most about it?
I’m a Marketing Assistant at the publishing company, Scholastic. I work on lots of different business areas but mainly education and that includes the thing we’re best known for – Scholastic Book Fairs. My favourite part is probably book fair social media because I get to see schools sharing pictures and stories of their Book Fairs and aside from being really cute, I love seeing kids that would never get taken to a book shop get books from their school. The constant free books floating around the office are also a big plus.

In what ways did your degree in English help to prepare you for the career you have now?
I loved my English degree and if I could do it again (though preferably without the assessment) I definitely would. The best part was going to seminars and study groups and just talking about books. Most of my best essay ideas came from just talking to my course friends about books and my favourite parts of them. In a nutshell, marketing in publishing is getting paid to talk about books – just in various forms like social media, emails, posters, events and hundred of other ways. My degree encouraged to embrace my passion for books and let me ramble on excitedly about the topics that interested me which was the perfect lead into my job. Between second and third year I got an internship at Mills & Boon – a placement I got because I’d worked on the archives down at the London Road campus.

What advice would you give someone thinking about studying English at university?
I was the first in my family to go to uni and my parents were really not keen on me doing English. Law had a direct career path in a way English didn’t but doing any subject you love keeps your options open. I was always going to study law at uni until my school started talking us through personal statements and I found myself planning it for English. All their “talk about what you love!” just didn’t apply to law the same way. If you have a subject, like English, that excites you then go for it – you’ll never get as a high a grade in something you aren’t passionate about and as stressful as uni sometimes was I never lost interest in my subject. I even still enjoy the books I studied for my dissertation! Study the subject you enjoy and figure the rest out later – especially with all the help available at the uni.

Do you have any tips on how to get into a career in publishing?
Publishing is one of the most competitive industries out there. It can be quite demoralising job hunting in it because each entry level role has so many applicants. The good thing is that the industry is awakening to this problem and encouraging applicants from different backgrounds with transferable skills. My back up plan was always to get any marketing job and then to move across. It’s hard to get in but once you are it is so, so worth it. It’s also full of some of the nicest people I’ve ever met! I’d recommend joining the Society of Young Publishers if you want to get into publishing and going to some of the events (everything from lectures to pub quizzes). The website is https://thesyp.org.uk/.

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We wish Jean Call a long and happy retirement

We all know that a friendly, professional support team is as vital to a department as dedicated teachers and lively, questioning students. The Department of English Literature at Reading is very fortunate in our support team, and so we are a little sad in wishing one of our longest-serving members a long and happy retirement.

In her twenty-seven years with us, Jean Call has adjusted to endless changes in what we do and how we do it, and at every point she has been a tremendous asset. Generations of nervous first-years have received authoritative advice on how to change a module or submit an essay; generations of forgetful academics have also been reminded of how our systems work. Many thousands of marks and scripts have been processed with great care and accuracy. In many of our most vital tasks, Jeans has enabled the Department to function.

Behind the scenes, Jean has held things together in ways that were never in the job description. On open days and visit days, many of them on Saturday, Jean set things up in advance and was the last to leave at the end of the day. And we now know that the reason our department tea-towels and dishcloths are so fiercely white is because Jean took them home for a proper boil-wash. When students turned up to the department in distress, Jean would not let them wander off until a plan of care was put in place. She looked after ‘my Part 1s’ (as she always called them) as people that she cared about on a human level.

We have also caught glimpses of her creative side: the knitted nativity scene, the prize-winning ‘Pudsey’ cake, and (combining two talents!) the knitted birthday cake. She has built-in spirit-level vision that is invaluable to anyone putting up posters. Jean also allowed us to know of a family tragedy in an inspiring way, by inviting us to become involved in the Ollie Young foundation, whether by buying cakes or by running marathons barefoot.

In many important ways, and in all sorts of less visible but lovely ways, Jean has been an essential part of us. All of us, staff and students, will miss her.

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Modernist Periodicals Reading Group

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Sarah MacDougall, ‘Rediscovering the Whitechapel Girl’

A free public lecture as part of the exhibition, ‘Colours more than sentences’: Illustrated editions of The Ballad of Reading Gaol. 

Clare Winsten (1894-1989) was the sole female member of the ‘Whitechapel Boys’, a group of artists and poets who emerged from the Anglo-Jewish communities of East London in the early 20th century. In 1968 she drew a series of illustrations for an unpublished edition of The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Three of these are currently on display at the Berkshire Record Office as part of an exhibition of illustrated Ballads.
Art historian Sarah MacDougall (Eva Frankfurther Research Fellow and Curator of the Ben Uri Gallery), will be sharing her new research on Clare Winsten.

Thursday 19 April at 6pm

Admission is free, but please book by email to arch@reading.gov.uk.

Berkshire Record Office, 9 Coley Avenue, Reading RG1 6AF

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Archives & Texts Seminars: Guest lecture

Dr Rod Rosenquist (Northampton) will speak in “Autobiography, Authorial Celebrity and Sales: Gertrude Stein and Wyndham Lewis in the Archives”




5pm-6pm, Thursday 19th April, Edith Morley building, 257.

All welcome

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RUSU Award for Diverse and Inclusive Teaching

The Department of English Literature is pleased to announce that Dr Maddi Davies has won the ‘RUSU Excellence Award for Diverse and Inclusive Teaching’.

Maddi writes, ‘Thank you to all our students who nominated me for this award; I’m truly touched by what you wrote about my teaching. I hope that some of you will help me celebrate by coming along to the presentation of the award at the RUSU Teaching and Learning Partnership Showcase which is taking place in the Meadow Suite on Tuesday 24th April between 12-2pm. As I said last year at the RUSU presentations, good teaching is produced by excellent students so I feel as though this award belongs to all of us.’

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The Business of a woman’s life

Female authorship, celebrity, and fandom in the long 19th century

An interdisciplinary conference.

University of Reading, 26th March 2018.

Plenary speaker:   Prof. Alexis Easley, University of St. Thomas

Sponsored by the British Association for Victorian Studies and the University of Reading.

Papers on everything from the digital afterlives of Jane Austen and Marie Corelli’s fan mail.

For full details, programme and registration information, go to www.authorshipcelebrityfandom.wordpress.com

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Rural Riders and Radicals: the DEL-MERL visiting speakers series

22nd March, 12-1pm, Museum of English Rural Life.

Jos Smith, Vibrant localism: the story of Common Ground

Jos will introduce the work of Common Ground and explore the group’s relationship to rural England, in which ideas of the local are re-energised through a close engagement with the arts.

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GCMS Seminar

Thursday, 15th March at 4.30 pm in Edith Morley 124

Victoria Flood (University of Birmingham)

‘Fairy Narratives from the Welsh March: Re-localisations of the Melusine Legend’

Drinks and nibbles to follow in G27L

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Teachout: Wednesday March 7th, Rising Sun Arts Centre. 11-7 All welcome.

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