Herzliche Grüße aus Frankfurt am Main, Deutschland!
Ngā mihi maioha ki a koutou mai i Frankfurt, Tiamana!
Greetings from Frankfurt, Germany!
I am now in to my third week here in Frankfurt on a work placement with Fischer Verlage, one of the biggest publishing houses in Germany. The placement is an initiative that has been established through the collaborative efforts of PANZ and the Frankfurt Book Fair and funding from Creative New Zealand. My first couple of weeks here have been an extreme learning curve to say the least – with a slope so steep in fact, I have at times wondered if I was going to fall off the proverbial slope just from pure sensory overload!
I arrived here in Germany thrilled and excited for lots of reasons: it is my first time in Europe, the fact that Frankfurt is so close to some of the countries that are on my bucket list to visit, and my love for European shoes are but a few. However, it was the opportunity for personal growth and professional development, and the chance to gather knowledge and information to benefit my team at Huia Publishers and the wider New Zealand publishing industry that really had the butterflies in my belly doing the loop-di-loop.
To be honest, before embarking on this trip I also felt slightly terrified. It’s my first time travelling alone, I didn’t know any German language whatsoever before I left New Zealand, nor did I know a single soul in Germany. The thought of looming loneliness and cultural isolation threatened to bring the whole trip to a halt even before it had started. Thank goodness I had the sense to pop on my big-girl-knickers, have a drink of concrete and listen to my husband’s advice to ‘Suck it up!’ For it has indeed turned in to an unforgettable experience, beyond anything I could have ever imagined – and I’m only halfway through the trip!
There is a rich history of literature in Germany and the staff here at Fischer are extremely proud of the contribution that German writers make to the literary world. I have been placed in the Rights Department here at Fischer for the duration of my placement. This has given me the chance to learn about Fischer Verlage as a publishing house: their programmes, their practices, and their vision. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with staff from a number of different teams and everyone has been extremely generous with their time, knowledge and kindness. I have also been able to start building my understanding of the German publishing industry and what it looks like at its various levels.
I have visited libraries and interviewed librarians, hunted out bookshops, read a couple of books by German writers that have been translated in to English, attended readings with authors, pestered staff here at Fischer with a million and one questions, and taken every opportunity available to me to learn about what makes Fischer Verlage ‘tick’.
While I have tried to make myself an open receptacle to capture all of this learning, I am conscious that an important part of this placement is to not only ‘take’, but to ‘give’. Fortunately the work that I am doing here in the Rights Department has made this possible. The tasks I have been given to date have included proofing their English language autumn catalogue (which is due for release in time for the Frankfurt Book Fair), preparing English language information sheets for their upcoming titles (and yes, they have a lot!), and helping the Rights Department research potential clients in preparation for the fair. All of these tasks have also been a great learning opportunity for me to see how Fischer works and about the international publishing scene. So I’m glad to be making a positive contribution to the Fischer work programme, even though it feels like a pittance in exchange for the wealth of knowledge I am gaining from the staff here.
While there are limits to the meetings and conversations I can participate in due to the language barrier, I am doing everything I can to learn, learn, learn – and retain! With three weeks to go, I know that there will be lots more to soak up before I come home, particularly as Fischer moves in to hyper-drive in preparation for the looming Frankfurt Book Fair. Despite the pressure of this impending event (that is the single most important entry in the calendars of all Fischer staff), the team here continue to make time for me and are happy to answer my multitude of questions.
I look forward to whatever the next two-and-a-half weeks has in store, and to returning to New Zealand a little wiser, a little more worldly, a lot more brave, and ready to share what I have learned.
Für jetzt auf Wiedersehen
Farewell for now!
Pania Tahau-Hodges is in Frankfurt as part of the Frankfurt Book Fair legacy project publisher exchange 2015 funded by Creative New Zealand.