Delving into work experience at Penguin Random House is surprisingly wild and full of colour. The walls may be white and the lights fluorescent, but the overall impression as you exit the lift on the seventh floor is starkly different to work experience in The Sunday Times office. In trays brim with colourful folders and the end of each desk row is sunshine yellow. The appropriately named Pulp Shelf (where all the old and unloved books go to die and be made back into pulp), is piled haphazardly with colourful copies of elderly publications. Even a computer screen rarely is left bare: staff members have taken to decorating them with felt flowers and hungry caterpillars.
The work, too, is a wild mixture. I have to mail out press releases and copies of new books to bloggers and journalists. I read Malorie Blackman’s fan mail and forward information about press events to Jaqueline Wilson’s agent. I am able to meet Tom Fletcher and Brooklyn Beckham to help them sign copies of their new books. I spend hours sorting through Monster bookmarks and posters. As I distribute the post, I spy Peter Rabbit and the famously eponymous Penguin. I venture out into the elements in search of Dear Zoo displays in local Waterstones stores. I swim through the puddles of Wonderland with Alice, discuss riddles with the Mad Hatter and smoke with a righteous caterpillar. After lunch, I laze in the wind by the river Willows with Toad and search for Magic in the Secret Garden. My days become increasingly surreal and wonderful.
As the weeks go on, I settle further into life in the publishing jungle. I have met all the animal imprints: mingled with Puffins, Pelicans and even met a couple of friendly Ladybirds. The locals are great too; the staff welcome me into their world and accept me as one of their own. Appreciating how tiring the elements here can be, they encourage me to take regular breaks. This marketing jungle, being a children-centred, arts environment is, true to gender stereotypes, full of women. I wonder whether this is what makes me feel so comfortable.
As my journey through this new world comes to a close, I feel that I am a different person to the one I was only two weeks ago. I am larger, braver and more adaptable. I can walk through the office avenues of colour and swarm in the throng of morning commuters. I have navigated the complex, new environs of Gratis and Biblio. I sure as hell know how to tackle a jiffy bag.
I think that I have settled in to this brave new world; the jungle is not so enormous or dangerous as it initially seemed and much more thrilling. Perhaps I can really see myself staying here.