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Sara O'Connor (MA Children's Literature 2001)

Biography

After graduating from Reading with an MA in Children's Literature, I started my children’s book publishing career in New York in time to watch TWILIGHT being acquired. I followed my heart back to England and continued in publishing, working on series like the best-selling RAINBOW MAGIC fairies books. I have managed the Enid Blyton publishing program at Hodder and was the Digital and Editorial Director for the innovative children's fiction publisher Hot Key Books, alongside the two people responsibly for publishing HARRY POTTER in the UK, that published the award-winning MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardner and the best-selling WE WERE LIARS by E Lockhart. I am also the co-creator of Undiscovered Voices, launching twenty-six children’s authors’ careers and the co-founder of www.bookboundretreat.com, for aspiring children’s book writers.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Reading?

After growing up in the US, family connections encouraged my to find a university in England to do a master's at. Reading had the best children's literature program by far, and so I applied.

What was the best bit about living and studying in Reading?

The wonderful people I met on the course, several of whom I am still in touch with today.

What top tips would you give to students who are beginning their studies?

- Keep an open mind.
- Ask lots of questions.
- Enjoy the time you have!

What are you up to now? How did you get there?

After learning to love learning at Reading, I am now retraining as a web developer, with future plans to build software that makes a difference to an author’s success, to make children’s books more exciting for readers and to make publishing more efficient. How did I get here? By taking a deep breath, leaping out of my comfort zone and holding true to a vision.

What would be your top tips for students interested in working in this sector?

- Do the job you want to do, before you apply so that you have something to show.
- Read A LOT of books.
- Research the company you are applying to thoroughly.

How has the University of Reading and the Careers Centre helped in your chosen career path?

My course at Reading helped me immensely with my editing - teaching me to look at the words that are on the page and examine them for what they are.

What are your top tips for students graduating this year? What should they be doing to secure the job they want?

Do projects online or in real life that will show potential employers that you can deliver results. Produce a magazine, self-publish a book, build an online community, create a life-sized model... do something worth talking about.

What does the University mean to you and what is your favourite memory?

My favourite memory of Reading is the tea party picnic the children's literature MA had in the park.

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