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Silé Edwards, Literary Agent's Assistant at Curtis Brown Books

Silé speaks to The Publishing Profile about rediscovering childhood books and her role as a Literary Agent's Assistant at Curtis Brown.

Silé began her career in publishing with several internships across the industry whilst studying for a degree in English with Creative Writing at Goldsmiths University. After graduating she worked at the Publishers Association, supporting their campaigns and other Communications functions. She then moved to Curtis Brown as an assistant in the Book Department, where she works with a large and eclectic list of clients including Adam Kay, Deliciously Ella, Alys Fowler and Lucy Foley. You can find her on Twitter @sileloquies.

Helloooooo! I am Silé Edwards, cat-owner, game show enthusiast and lover of indulgent chocolate brownies. My current role is at Curtis Brown, as an assistant to Cathryn Summerhayes. My role has a wide scope but the main and essential function of it is to support clients and deals across her extremely eclectic list, and it involves a wide range of skills from Admin to Editing and Content Creation.

How did you get into publishing?

I did quite a few work experience placements and internships while I was studying for an English with Creative Writing Degree. My first internship was actually in a Literary Agency, and even then I knew I’d found my calling, but I had two years of the degree to go. I ended up doing another 3 placements (all in publishing houses!) before my first permanent job. As I finished off my final year of university, I was offered a position at the Publishers Association as their Communications Assistant and I was ‘in’!

Has your role in publishing widened your reading taste, and how has it changed your attitude to different genres of books?

My role has most definitely widened my reading taste. Being able to judge the quality of a submission based on the writing and not just my own personal taste is really important in my job - so I have trained myself to read everything! I still have personal preferences, but I am way more open to giving everything a fair try before deciding whether it is for me. My attitude to non-fiction books has done the biggest 180 since working in publishing. I always associated non-fiction with textbooks and fiction with escapism but since working on some truly exciting books and proposals it is now my favourite area. I love the range you find in non-fiction books, from emotive memoirs that read like novels to cookbooks that help you find skills you never knew you had – the potential is endless.

What reading formats do you prefer? Do you prefer hardbacks, paperbacks, eBooks, audiobooks, library books, or a mixture?

I used to prefer paperbacks, they’d slot nicely in my bag and I wouldn’t worry too much about reading them in the bath, but now I find myself reading using a whole mixture of formats. I read a lot of proofs, so trade paperbacks take up most of my shelf space, but I love a bargain, so I have downloaded my fair share of 99p eBooks to get me through holidays and long train journeys. E-readers are very very helpful for work-related reading too. I’m finding a new love of audio, especially for storytime with my daughter. Turning the pages of the physical book along to the CD version takes the pressure off because I don’t have to attempt doing any voices.

Library books will always have a special place in my heart, I would not have been able to read as widely as I did in my early years without them.

Is there a book that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of? Why is that?

I have mentioned how much I enjoyed working on Living the Dream by Isabelle Dupuy before, but I am also particularly proud of working on The Book About Getting Older by Dr Lucy Pollock. It’s exactly what I love about Non-Fiction: an expert in their field, explaining a topic that affects us all with warmth, wit and knowledge. When I read the proposal, I just knew it had to be a book and so seeing it develop from the excellent proposal to a brilliant book has been wonderful. Every stage of creating the book was special and every chapter Lucy has written is a real gem, I can’t wait for it to be out in the world.

What is your most-read genre? Do you have niche sub-genres that you are often attracted to?

At the moment my most-read genre is anything with pictures! Pictures and a good rhyming scheme to keep my infant suitably entertained.

I love reading thrillers, cosy crime and fluffy romantic comedies – I find them cathartic and sometimes I really need an escape from reality! Not sure if they count as a niche sub-genre but I love an unreliable narrator, especially a voice in a multi-perspective novel like Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham, The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley, Our House by Louise Candlish or Three Perfect Liars by Heidi Perks.

Where do you buy or access your books?

One of the nice things about working in publishing is being surrounded by books, so a lot of the time I read whatever is around me in the office. I have become very fond of my kindle because I can carry lots of books at once, and also pick up a really good read for 99p if I finish a book sooner than I was expecting to and still want something to read! When there is a specific book that I want, I try to get it from a bookshop – and if I end up browsing, that normally means I will pick up 2 or 3 other books too. More recently I have discovered the joys of ordering books online, and I mostly use to do that.

What childhood books have you kept on your shelves?

When I was about 6 months pregnant, I got my childhood books out of storage so my daughter would have a library from Day 1 (because priorities). There were too many to take but currently on the shelves are quite a few of Fred Crump, Jr.’s fairy-tale reimagining’s, Rastamouse, Guess How Much I Love You, Handa’s Surprise, Five Minutes Peace and a very very battered, coverless version of Tell me a Story Please which is a collection of 50 stories to read aloud that was the bane of my mum’s life when I was 6.

I still have all of my (extremely well-thumbed) Jacqueline Wilson and Malorie Blackman books, my two most read childhood authors. I also have a copy of The Wide Window, the third book in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and the only one I own because it was the only book from the series that the library was missing. Most of the books I enjoyed as a child, teen and young adult were library books, and so spent very limited time on my shelves – though there were several that I checked out repeatedly because I couldn’t get enough of them.

What is the oldest book on your shelf?

Oldest by date written is probably Homer’s Odyssey and oldest by how long I’ve owned a copy would be West Indian Folk Tales by Lucille Iremonger which was my mum’s first.

What’s the most beautiful book you own?

It’s between my stunning hardback copy of Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year Allie Esiri or Little Fish by Emily Rand – a gorgeous 360 pop-up book I got in the office Secret Santa!

What are your favourite books of 2020 so far?

In no particular order some of my favourite books that I read this year are:

The Silent House by Nell Pattison

Inferno: A Memoir by Catherine Cho

Outraged: Why Everyone is Shouting and No One is Talking by Ashley ‘Dotty’ Charles

All my Lies are True by Dorothy Koomson

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

A very late addition to this list is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett which I genuinely could not put down.

What are your most anticipated reads for the rest of 2020?

Again, no particular order but I am so excited to read:

Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola

I am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Braithwaite

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura

And If I Could Turn Back Time by Nicola Doherty which I comfort read every Christmas.

You can find Silé on Twitter @sileloquies.


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