Barbara Pym Literary Internship 2023

10th November 2023

The Barbara Pym Society is an international literary society devoted to the 20th century English novelist Barbara Pym. It was founded in 1994, following a literary weekend exploring Pym's work at St. Hilda's College.

The Barbara Pym Society made a generous gift to St Hilda’s with the intention of funding an internship. The internship is aimed at students interested in a career in the publishing industry, providing the successful candidate with a stimulating and varied introduction to the many aspects of publishing. The student is given the opportunity to support the agency in its annual preparations for the Frankfurt International Book Fair, screen submissions, and lead a small self-contained project that supports the agency’s operations. This year, Xanthe Richardson writes about her experience.

"This past September, I was lucky enough to be given the chance to undertake a two-week internship at Felicity Bryan Associates Literary Agency, a programme supported and spearheaded by the Barbara Pym Society and St Hilda’s College.

My main project at the agency was to work on the catalogue for the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest trade fair for books, which takes place in October every year.  I collected book jackets and reviews, researched authors for biographies, and wrote and edited synopses for the featured books. It was really interesting work – my to-read list grew longer after every day! – and it felt rewarding to be so involved in producing something tangible that the agency could use.

Though I had been interested in publishing and the book world for a long time (as many English students are!), there were so many things I was surprised by. The sheer volume and range of unsolicited manuscripts and proposals that agents receive, for one, each being read and appraised by the office in reader reports. It felt so exciting, seeing ‘behind the curtain’ on books that might not be published for years, or at all, and being introduced to so many new worlds and fresh ideas each day. From what I learnt sitting in on meetings between agents and publishers or literary scouts, I was also surprised both by how much came down to chance in the industry. Pitched in the wrong way, or even on the wrong day, a book could so easily lose its chance to be published.

Considering how intense this all sounds, the best surprise was how genuinely lovely and supportive everyone in the office were. Each agent kindly organised meetings with me throughout the two weeks to chat to me about their experiences of publishing, their specialisms, how excited they were about their authors and projects, and to advise me on my own plans and aspirations. Thanks to them, the world of publishing which had felt so intimidating was demystified, making me more confident in my abilities and encouraging me to pursue my interest in the book trade. I have learnt so much and I am so very grateful to the Barbara Pym Society for enabling me to gain this experience." - Xanthe Richardson