In conversation with

Camilla Ackley

Assistant Editor at Ebury Books

Camilla Ackley Ebury Books

Introduction

Introduction

When you blur the boundaries between literary pursuits and social media content, you can find yourself pulled between authentic storytelling and flashy click bait. Camilla Ackley – influencer, self-confessed ‘arty Scandi book nerd’ and now Assistant Editor at Ebury Books – is definitely the former.

Happen upon her Instagram page and you’ll find a constantly updated feed of books she is reading – from the latest fiction bestsellers to feminist poetry collections, savvy business manuals to old literary classics.

As for work, by day she is reading manuscripts, debating book covers and pitching to authors in her new role at Ebury Books; by night she is writing and editing her own digital platform, Into The Fold, which she calls a “universal online diary” celebrating women and all their stories.

We caught up with Camilla to talk books, social media, women’s media and bridging the gap between analogue and digital storytelling.

Question and Answer

Have you always been such a prolific reader? What were the books you grew up on?

I used to speed through books during my school holidays. When I was growing up, I mainly read fantasy novels because they were the sort of books my older brothers read, so they were automatically handed down to me. But I soon learned to love them in their own right, and could get through an entire fantasy series in a two week holiday. Anything with an element of fantasy had me – from The Spiderwick Chronicles to the Magyk series. I gravitate towards literary fiction and memoirs now, but I still come back to fantasy occasionally; it’s the ultimate form of escapism. I’m also pretty sure I read every single Jacqueline Wilson book in the school library. Her novels always managed to discuss incredibly difficult situations in a sensitive way that didn’t seem intimidating to a younger audience.

You have a really fun and engaging way of writing and talking about books on Instagram – do you see social media as a storytelling platform?

I’m glad it comes across that way – I think sometimes the way people discuss books, especially literary fiction and non-fiction, can make them seem inaccessible when they really aren’t. Stories are the last thing I think anyone should be snobbish about. Instagram has become a kind of global public diary. I think about teenagers crafting and sharing different aspects of their identities and lives through various public and private ‘finsta’ accounts – they are telling their own story, crafting an online character. I think social media is brilliant because of the way it allows anyone to tell their stories, whether that’s a marginalised group, an activist or a poet. There is space for everyone and that’s incredibly powerful.

“Digital media has the power to start a discussion immediately, and there are certain issues that just can't wait. An article can reach more obscure parts of the world, and is more accessible than a book for a lot of people.”

You’re an assistant editor at Ebury Books – what does your day look like and what does the role entail?

I work across narrative and illustrated non-fiction (Ebury are the specialist non-fiction division of Penguin Random House) which is incredibly exciting because each day is quite different. My job involves everything from briefing and choosing covers, working with designers, going to shoots, editing text, managing freelancers, meeting with and pitching to current and potential authors, spotting gaps in the market we could fill and figuring out how to fill that space right down to deciding what sort of paper should be used inside the book. It’s an incredibly creative and exciting place to be, and I love working with brands and authors to bring something to life.

You also founded the online editorial platform Into The Fold – what pushed you to start that and what kind of content is it hosting?

I ran a fashion blog from about 2009-2015 but once I got to university, I realised blogging wasn’t quite where I wanted to be at the time. I wanted to do something less focused on me, and more outward looking. I had been feeling quite exhausted with mainstream women’s publications (Man Repeller and Rookie, both US-based, felt like the only genuine online spaces) and the way that they often spent so much time telling women who they should be rather than celebrating what they are, and what they’ve achieved. We publish a variety of categories but the focus is always the same; an honest look at what it’s like to be a woman or non-binary person today. We celebrate triumphs, explore hardships and hopefully shed new light on things like mental health, women’s health, culture, relationships and more. We pitch ourselves as a universal online diary because we want our readers to see something of themselves and their potential in what we publish. Luckily women’s media is more honest and open now, but I like to think we still stand out as a champion of stories.

You work for a book publisher, run an online magazine and have a pretty large social media presence. So if you had to choose: digital or analogue?

I’m a sucker for a real, hard copy of a book (probably not a surprise given my job…) and I think that books have the power (and length) to create incredible change. That being said, a book is like a baby – they take about 9 months to make. Digital media has the power to start a discussion immediately, and there are certain issues that just can’t wait. An article can reach more obscure parts of the world, and is more accessible than a book for a lot of people. It’s part of the reason we keep Into The Fold free and online. If forced to make a choice, I’d say digital but I’m going to be cheeky and include audiobooks and ebooks in that category because I just couldn’t choose a world without books.

Which narrative themes stood out for you in 2019 and why?

I gravitate towards stories by and about women. I love reading about women (and female identifying people in general) triumphing, but also just existing as they are, flaws and all, without being typecast or written as one-dimensional. Humans are complex and flawed, and I think for a long time female characters weren’t allowed to be or certainly weren’t written that way in a lot of literature (and TV/ movies for that matter). This year I want to make an effort to read more writing from and about the LGBTQ+ community too.

"I love reading about women (and female identifying people in general) triumphing, but also just existing as they are, flaws and all, without being typecast or written as one-dimensional."

Which writers do you look to for great stories?

Jeanette Winterson, Sloane Crosley, David Sedaris, Otessa Moshfegh, Madeline Miller, Sally Rooney, Deborah Levy, Charly Cox, Maggie O’Farrell, Ian McEwan and Diana Evans.

The Storylist

Camilla's Storylist

Books

  1. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  2. Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
  3. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  4. The Opposite Of Loneliness by Marinna Keegan

Magazines

  1. Monocle
  2. The New Yorker
  3. The Gentlewoman
  4. XXY
  5. Elle

Newsletters

  1. The Roundup by Women Who
  2. Sunday Duvet Reading by Olivia Purvis
  3. The Hyphen by Emma Gannon

Podcasts

  1. Literary Friction
  2. Off Menu
  3. Dear Joan And Jericha
  4. No Such Thing As A Fish
  5. The Guilty Feminist

Digital Platforms

  1. The Insecure Girl's Club
  2. Women Who
  3. Aurelia

Websites

  1. Man Repeller
  2. The Guardian
  3. Gal-dem
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