Following the completion of the second year of the Open Book: Australian Publishing Internship, we spoke with this year’s Open Book mentor, Camha Pham, to understand her role in the program.
Open Book aims to foster cultural and linguistic diversity in the publishing industry with a well-rounded introduction to Australian publishing. This year’s program expanded to facilitate three interns through the paid internship program, and each has now found work within the book industry.
Camha Pham is an accredited freelance editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry, across trade and educational publishing. Here Camha speaks about her experience working with the interns selected for this year’s program, and the importance of mentorships for culturally and linguistically diverse publishing professionals.
Can you tell us a bit about your role as part of this year’s Open Book internship?
I was involved in this year’s Open Book publishing internship program in a mentoring capacity. In this role, I had the privilege of working with three remarkable interns – Enchinea Close-Brown, Isabelle Webb and Keerthana Ravindran – all from different backgrounds and with a variety of professional experience, as they completed their internships.
This was an external role, which was integral as it allowed me to offer guidance and advice in an impartial manner through regular individual and group check-ins, allowing the interns the ability to voice any concerns within a safe space, to ensure that they were supported and prepared as possible as they did their placements.
During these check-ins, we discussed the interns’ individual career goals and ambitions, and explored issues that are particularly pertinent to the industry. I am truly astounded by how confidently the interns have navigated the publishing landscape within such a short time frame.
Why do you think mentorship opportunities are important for culturally and linguistically diverse publishing professionals?
Mentorships are valuable for publishing professionals regardless of background, and the benefits extend not only to emerging professionals but also mid-career practitioners.
Mentoring enables a layer of support to not only plan and discuss career goals and aspirations, but to also have a trusted figure to raise any issues or concerns with – someone who can not only advocate for the individual but also empower them.
I’ve heard of a mentor being referred to as a consultant, counsellor and cheerleader, and I think that is an apt framework. To have access to someone who has experience and expertise in the field, who can listen and offer feedback, and who can provide support along the way can be instrumental when figuring out how to navigate the industry.
Having a support network can be particularly pertinent for FNPOC publishing professionals who are often forced to navigate an additional layer of systemic issues such as microaggressions and cultural safety. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to raise issues or speak out on matters or try and instigate much-needed change in order to facilitate best practice, particularly if you feel like you are a lone voice. Having someone from a similar background/perspective to confide in (although this is not to suggest that all FNPOC are a monolith), who may have navigated similar situations, can go some way in ensuring that more FNPOC are set up to have a sustainable career in publishing.
From the point of view of being a mentor, I think it is an invaluable experience to be able to impart advice and share your perspectives with those who are just entering the industry. It’s certainly been one of the most professionally fulfilling things that I’ve done in my career.
What were some of the highlights and challenges from your experience working with the program this year?
The highlight was having the opportunity to work with three incredibly talented, compassionate and astute interns, who provide me with some hope for the future of Australian publishing.
It was wonderful to watch the interns grow in confidence and knowledge and to hear their unique insights about the industry. I think there is much to learn from individuals who have not come out of the traditional publishing route of postgraduate qualification, unpaid internship, etc. and I believe that this is an essential way to build on recent efforts to further diversify the publishing landscape as well as to encourage more innovative ways of thinking in what can be, at times, a stagnant industry.
A key challenge was hearing of some of the problems that continue to plague the publishing landscape: heavy workloads, working overtime, poor remuneration, etc. These are still very real issues that need to be addressed if the industry is to thrive and flourish, rather than carry on with the current burn-and-churn approach that will prove unsustainable in the long term. This is also something to consider when placing interns, or any newcomer to publishing, into this environment – and it can be a tricky balance. While they need to be aware of these existing challenges and prepared for what a career in publishing entails, they also need to come to their own conclusions in their own time.
There's lots of initiatives from publishing professionals to make the industry more inclusive and diverse – what are the things you think we could improve on further?
Honestly, I think this question is a bit redundant as it’s been asked and answered many times before by others far more insightful than me (see Radhiah Chowdhury’s report: It’s hard to be what you can’t see: Diversity Within Australian Publishing). It’s now a matter of committing and taking action.
About the 2023 interns
Enchinea Close-Brown is a First Nation creative based in Sydney. Currently studying a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Wollongong, with a major in international relations and creative writing. Enchinea intends to combine the creative and humanitarian aspects of her degree into a union of activism, which works towards positive change within the world. As an avid traveller who has undertaken trips throughout Europe and Asia, she believes that all voices need to be heard and all people seen in the stories that are published. As a proud Indigenous woman Enchinea knows the power of storytelling, the boundaries in which stories transcend, and the lives they change upon doing so.
Enchinea undertook placements at Allen & Unwin and HarperCollins, and has accepted a full-time position as Publications Coordinator at the Indigenous Literacy Foundation in Sydney.
Keerthana Ravindran moved to Melbourne from Sivakasi, India. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and is passionate about historical writing and historical fiction. She has worked as an editor and writer for her college magazines. Curious about all things books - ranging from printing to marketing, she finished her master’s in creative writing, publishing, and editing. She has completed two marketing internships in Melbourne and hopes to bring her previous experiences to sales and marketing in publishing.
Keerthana undertook placements at Oxford University Press and Scribe Publications, and has accepted a full-time position as Humanities & Social Sciences Development Editor at Cambridge University Press in Melbourne.
Isabelle Webb is a proud Palawa woman, originally from Hobart, and has a background in the Torres Strait as well. She has qualifications in event management, and has previously volunteered with local Tasmanian events such as the Twilight Market and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Children's Festival. She is a huge reader and writer, and loves posting reviews on GoodReads and sharing books with friends. She has always had an eager interest in book publishing, and has a special interest in marketing and editorial.
Isabelle undertook placements at Thames & Hudson and Hardie Grant, and has accepted a bookseller position at the Younger Sun Bookshop in Melbourne and will continue to hone her skills in editorial while looking for permanent positions in publishing.
You can read the perspectives of this year’s Open Book interns – Enchinea Close-Brown, Keerthana Ravindran and Isabelle Webb – in this interview with Books+Publishing.
More on Open Book
The APA is a partner of the Open Book program, which is supported by funding from Creative Australia and the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund, and program support from Writing NSW.
Find out more via the Open Book website. Publishers or individuals who are interested in supporting the program in 2024 or have further questions, can get in touch at [email protected].