Almost exactly two years ago, I quit a job that I hated and had the very good fortune to fall directly into a work experience position at Slightly Foxed. I wrote about it at the time, but for some reason never published the post! Seeing as it’s their tenth anniversary this year, I thought I’d finally share my experience…
In the last two weeks of February (2012) my reading habits changed drastically. This is because, instead of reading The Tiger’s Wife, I spent all of my reading time devouring as many back issues of Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly as I possibly could.
If you are a book lover and have not yet heard of this wonderful quarterly magazine, I suggest you stop everything and visit their website at once.
Co-editors Gail Pirkis and Hazel Wood first came up with the idea of Slightly Foxed as a backlash to what the world of publishing had become. Having worked as book editors for years, they had all the experience and contacts they needed to make a start. At times they thought the idea was crazy, but encouraged by their literary friends, they made a go at starting something completely different from anything on offer today. And they have never looked back. In fact, things have only ever improved.
Slightly Foxed is regularly described by it’s customers as more of a friendly companion than a magazine. I saw many postcards and letters from happy customers wanting to renew subscriptions or simply telling the team how much they enjoyed a certain book recommended in the magazine.
Everything at Slightly Foxed is done to the highest quality. There is no cutting corners or half heartedness here! And the team are happy to put the extra effort in to make everything perfect, because they are the type of people that love what they do and believe it should be done well. I remember someone saying “It has to be lovely, make sure it’s lovely!” And everything is lovely, from the people that work there, to the magazine itself (beautifully printed on cream paper with tasteful illustrations), to the office where they work.
Before my work experience at Slightly Foxed, I would never have imagined a magazine to be run from such a peaceful and informal environment. Their headquarters actually doubles up as Gail’s home apartment in Clerkenwell (note: they have since moved to Hoxton Square). The living room is where the computers are kept, the spare room has become the post room and the hallway has been taken over by back issues and the Slightly Foxed editions. Big decisions are made over a bottle of wine and nibbles around the kitchen table. On a sunny day you can have lunch on the large balcony, which has a fantastic view of St. Paul’s, and if you ever have a spare moment, there are always the office dogs to play with!
During my two weeks of work experience, two thousand copies of Mango and Mimosa by Suzanne St. Albans arrived, along with a few boxes of the spring issue. It was a very exciting day and I felt privileged to be able to have a sneaky peek of the latest issue. After the arrival of these boxes, I was never short of things to do. Either I was preparing the spring issues to be sent out to new customers (all lovingly tied up in ribbon) or I was sorting out the Mango and Mimosa hardbacks. By my last afternoon, I had checked and bubble-wrapped exactly one thousand of these beautiful editions and arranged them as neatly as possible so they were ready to be sent out to the eagerly awaiting customers.
Another job I had was to take Chudleigh out for a walk!
If I wasn’t exploring the local area and bookshops in my lunch hour, I could be found sitting in the living room, browsing the books on the coffee table. And usually, there would be Chudleigh or Coco to keep me company and beg for food.
What I love about Slightly Foxed is that although it is a fresh and new idea, the books that are written about are not usually fresh and new themselves. In fact, many of the contributors prefer to discuss old favourites; Famous, out of print, under appreciated, a life changing read, or simply one that you keep on your shelf and can’t bear to get rid of. The reason people love Slightly Foxed, is because it is full of passion and the love of literature. You may not find criticism or high brow evaluations, but you will definitely find nostalgia and quirkiness. Each issue you are sure to add at least one or two books to your To Read list.
The contributors are an eclectic mix but one thing they all have in common is a deep love of books. You can flick through the pages of back issues, and find quotes upon quotes to prove this! Here’s just one example…
“You must have had the experience of finding yourself so absorbed by the world conjured up in a book that you read it ever more slowly – battling the urgent desire to find out what happens next – because you can’t bear to get to the end.”
Issue 30 – Elizabeth Ingles
My favourite essays are often about books that people have memories of reading as a child. For example in issue 29 Rohan Candappa introduces us to The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, an adventure story about a young boy called Milo who is transported through a magical tollbooth to the Kingdom of Wisdom. One of the cities he visits is Dictionopolis, which has a words and letters market – doesn’t it sound simply wonderful? In fact, after reading Rohan Candappa’s essay, my uncle went out and bought a copy for his grandson the very next day!
“…if a rainbow ever fell to earth and became a book it would be The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) by Norton Juster. It is a thing of light, and wonder, and beauty.”
Issue 29 – Rohan Candappa