BRANCHING OUT Arden Jones

Branching Out can mean all sorts of things for writers and, so far, we have explored how children's authors have diversified into other areas of writing and creativity. This month Words & Pictures editor Tracy Curran talks to Arden Jones. Arden writes for children and recently began a career within the publishing industry...  



Hi Arden, you write for children and you work at The Good Literary Agency (TGLA). Which came first for you?


The writing for children part. I’ve always written, (mostly short stories & poetry), but I began writing for children in 2020 after discovering the wonderful picture book The Girl and the Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini. That was a life-changing moment for me.


Arden Jones writes for children and also works at a literary agency


What, for you, is the appeal of doing both?

Knowing how challenging the journey of a writer can be I think the biggest appeal for me is being able to use what I’ve learned as a writer to help others, especially at the querying stage. I know how they feel. I know how hard it is to put your work out there and feel like you’re being judged. I want to find authors and champion them in the industry.


Another appeal is learning more about the publishing industry. As a writer I think it’s such a tough industry. Not just to succeed in but to understand. So coming from a writer's perspective, being directly involved with a literary agency and with publishers helps me to understand the process of publication and beyond. Plus I get to meet so many lovely agents and editors and grow my network of friends.


 
Have you found that working for a literacy agency informs your writing in any way? Or do you keep both completely separate?

I can keep both entirely separate. I think it helps because my main focus on writing is currently children’s young fiction, (mostly chapter books for ages 5+), and at TGLA we only represent children’s books from middle grade onwards. I do also write YA but am taking a break from that at the moment due to some personal challenges and because of the edits and writing I need to do for my chapter book series.


However there are many times when I’m reading at work and it’s so good. Like amazingly good and I’m there thinking, ‘I’m an awful writer. I’m never writing my YA again.’ 😉


 
What have been the highlights and the challenges of juggling both? Do you find one role harder than the other?

On a personal level, for me, the biggest challenge and highlight is time. I work full time, I’m a writer and I’m a mum and carer for my adult daughter who has autism and a disability called Williams Syndrome. Luckily I work remotely and I’m still able to do school-runs and work around my children. I am so grateful for the understanding and flexibility TGLA gives me.


The highlights of both are that I get to do two jobs which I love and, I still find this hard to say, but jobs that I’m ‘good’ at. I’ve never really believed I’m good enough to have a career let alone one in an industry I’ve always loved and found solace in. Succeeding is totally alien to me.


As to which role I find harder I think it’s writing. But again it’s because of time. When I have deadlines to meet I’m up at 5am getting on with it. I’m much more of a morning person.


Emotionally the hardest thing about working at a literary agency is the rejections. Oh my goodness, my heart breaks when I’m sending rejections to people when I know a ‘yes’ would mean the world to them. And when I’ve found an author whose work I am in love with yet it’s not quite right for the agents, that’s another type of hard. There have been a handful of times where, if I was able to take on the author myself, I would have done so at the drop of a hat. But I will always be there cheering them on from the sidelines. One day, when I’m able to grow my own client list, I’ll be knocking on their door. Well, popping up in their inbox anyway.



What advice would you have for anyone interested in working within the publishing industry?

Believe in yourself. It’s such a competitive industry with not many openings in comparison to applicants. If you believe you will be good at the job you are going for it will come across in your application and in interviews.


Research. Get to know which books and authors agencies and publishers represent. Learn about different publishing imprints and roles within publishing.


Be open. There are so many departments in publishing and editorial is the most in-demand. But all parts work so closely together that applying for, say, a sales internship will still give you so much valuable experience for when you one day become an editor.


Use social media. Follow publishers/literary agents/publishing recruitment agencies on social media. They often post jobs on their profiles. As well as looking at the careers section on agents/publishers' websites, if they have one, check out the Bookseller jobs, Creative Access, International Publishers Guild jobs board, LinkedIn.


Apply for internships and work experience anywhere you can. But don’t work for free  the publishing industry should now pay the living wage for work experience and internships.


 
What is your ultimate goal in terms of branching out? Do you have a big picture of where you would like this journey to take you?

I do! I want to become a literary agent. Ideally my dream would be to stay at TGLA and be their children’s literary agent representing PB’s to YA. I love the work we do there and the team are wonderful. I feel I have found my people and leaving there would be very difficult. However my role is meant to be temporary so come November I may be elsewhere on my journey. But whatever happens I’m ready and willing to take the next step in order to fulfil my dreams.*


*Good news! Since this interview took place, Arden has been promoted to Literary Agency Assistant at TGLA. Congratulations and thanks so much for your time, Arden!


*Header image: in-house collaboration by Ell Rose & Tita Berredo

Other image supplied by Arden Jones



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Tracy Curran is the Production Editor for Words & Pictures and enjoys writing picture books, young fiction and lower middle-grade novels. Known as Little Cornish Writer you can find her on InstagramTwitter and Facebook

She also enjoys reviewing children's books on her blog The Breadcrumb Forest.


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Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures.
Find their work at https://fourfooteleven.com
Follow them on Instagram and Twitter
Contact them at illustrators@britishscbwi.org


Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter or www.titaberredo.com
Contact her atilluscoordinator@britishscbwi.org.


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