A PhD in Creative Writing could be your passport into an academic-related profession. Simon Everett has an editorial role in academic publishing, specialising in the Humanities. He’s also founder of Muscaliet Press, a small independent publishing press dedicated to finding new literary talent.
Since graduating from Essex, where has your journey taken you?
I studied for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Essex and was fortunate to receive a Consortium for the Humanities and Arts Southeast England (CHASE) Doctoral Studentship. Throughout my PhD there was an emphasis on building skills sets that could be transferred to different professions, both in and outside of academia, post-PhD. Alongside the invaluable experience of teaching undergraduate modules in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies (LiFTS), I volunteered as Layout Editor for the CHASE Brief Encounters Postgraduate Journal, where I was first introduced to academic open access publishing.
With financial help from CHASE, and with a combination of my studies in Creative Writing and an interest in publishing, I was able to establish a small independent creative writing publishing press in 2017. To date, Muscaliet Press has published 21 books and pamphlets, and has held readings and attended publishing events across the region. Through my press, I was also delighted to deliver a publishing project to LiFTS students from 2019-21, teaching the basics of print publication. This resulted in the student-led editorial teams publishing two editions of the department's student creative writing anthology, Creel.
As a direct result of my growing publishing skills, and familiarity with not only print publication processes but also the workflows in academic publishing, in late 2021 I was delighted to join the Open Library of Humanities (OLH) as Editorial Officer, overseeing the editorial and workflow processes for 30 open access journals. I am currently able to balance working for the OLH and for Muscaliet Press, and I find both publishing paths equally rewarding! I feel that an early interest in publishing—of two kinds, commercial and academic—has allowed me to pursue a fulfilling academic-related profession that makes use of all my interrelated skill sets.
Why did you decide to study at Essex?
I decided to study at Essex because my supervisor, Phil Terry, is a leading figure in innovative and experimental translation in creative writing, which was the subject of what would become my thesis.
What did you enjoy most about your studies?
I think Essex, and especially LiFTS, has an interdisciplinary approach to sharing research within the department. I really enjoyed being able to hear from those researching and teaching Film Studies, for instance, or Journalism. It was often very productive for my own research.
Researching a PhD means that you are very invested in your own fairly narrow research for long periods of time. I did, however, enjoy teaching a module on close reading skills. Even as a tutor for the module, I still had to think critically about what it means to close read a text, and this was also very useful as a means of developing the editorial skills that I would rely on heavily in the future.
What is your favourite memory of your time studying at Essex?
No specific memory but meeting with fellow PhD students in my cohort in the common room, or SU bar, will always be a fond memory. Having that group of friends and colleagues is vital when undertaking a PhD.
How did you find your current job?
I saw the role advertised with Birkbeck, University of London. If you are a PhD student, you need to monitor other university websites and their job listings!
Please describe a typical day in your current job:
Typically, I would see which articles in the journal publishing workflow have had tasks completed on them, for instance I would check to see if author revisions are complete to a satisfactory standard, or I might send a copyedited article to typesetting. Often there will be a copyedit of an article for me to undertake. Then, once urgent workflow tasks and journal user/editor queries are answered, I might document policy changes for the organisation, or work on a similar long-term task such as indexing our journals.
What words of advice would you give to new students?
Look outside your subject area if you can—even if occasionally. Make the time to listen to and to absorb other disciplines and grow other skills in areas that interest you. They will be useful in the future.
Do you have any current challenges?
Mainly, editorial decisions of all kinds can be tricky, especially in academic publishing. The outcome of peer review reports for an article, for instance, can be difficult to adjudicate on. I also occasionally must deliver live training sessions in the use of the journal software, and this can be challenging, especially done online and with different moving parts to the workflow. Even with practise, there are many things that can go wrong!
What’s your next step? What are you working towards in your career?
At the moment, I am learning about open access publishing much more as I become more familiar with my role. I hope that, in the coming few years, I will be able to bring together my academic teaching skills with open access and print publishing.
Would you say your degree is relevant to what you are doing now?
Extremely. This role requires an intimate understanding of academia and the field of the Humanities, along with a good knowledge and practical understanding of publishing workflows. I didn't think I would end up in a role like this initially, as I wanted to lecture in creative writing, but I find the role rewarding, and in some ways less stressful.
How did your time at Essex prepare you for the workplace? Did you have support from our careers centre? Did you undertake a placement or work experience while studying?
When I established my publishing press, I sought help from the Business Startup Centre, and they were very good at providing all the necessary advice to begin trading as a self-employed sole trader. I also found that their mentoring scheme was helpful in providing me with a contact I could speak to about commercial publishing.