Our advisory board

Sara O'Connor

Sara O’Connor

Sara O’Connor worked in children’s book publishing for 13 years. Then, in 2015, she became a software developer. Within the world of books, she helped to publish over 200 books for young readers and wrote four, working for companies such as Little Brown Book for Young Readers, Working Partners, Hodder Children’s Book and Hot Key Books. She co-founded the Undiscovered Voices project, which has launched the careers of over 50 children’s book creators.

As a web developer, she has built software to manage data, workflow and finances for publishers, consumer goods manufacturers and small businesses. She loves efficient systems, iterative workflows, automating admin and data precision. And she loves getting young people excited about stories and technology.

As side projects, she co-founded Book Pen Pals, building the website to connect children’s book authors and illustrators with classrooms, and won a grant from the IET and iMechE to teach primary school children to use 3D software by creating their own characters (read more about it here).

Jonathan Todd

Jonathan Todd

Jonathan is an economist with nearly two decades of consultancy experience. He is Chief Economist at BOP Consulting, a research and strategy consultancy specialising in culture and the creative industries. Jonathan leads BOP’s work on economic impact assessment and culture-led regeneration. He has built economic cases that have unlocked over £100m of capital investment through the HM Treasury Green Book process. He has assessed the economic impact assessments of totemic cultural assets, e.g.: Edinburgh Festivals; Barbican; Mamma Mia!

He holds degrees from three universities, including a M.Phil in Political Thought and Intellectual History from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University. He is an RSA Fellow and has been named by City AM among the UK’s 100 most influential economists.

He lives in the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, with his wife and two children. Here he co-founded the neighbourhood bar and kitchen, 1000 Trades. The bar was named as the best place to drink in the UK in the Observer Food Monthly Awards 2019.

Paul Marr

Paul is the IT Director of a UK-wide accountancy practice and has over 30 years experience with information technology, which includes working in IT outsourcing, education and publishing prior to taking up his current role.

He is passionate about the customer experience and is always looking for ways that technology can be used to make clients feel more loved and wanted. He’s also a champion of work/life balance and is working on reducing the carbon footprint of the IT installations he manages.

When not at work he’s kept in line by his long-suffering wife, children and granddaughter. He has recently developed a habit of foaming at the mouth when anyone mentions Peppa Pig.

Rakhshan Rizwan

Rakhshan Rizwan

Rakhshan currently works as an Acquisitions Editor in the STEM Textbook team at Elsevier. Before that, she worked as an Acquisitions Editor in trade for Rockridge Press, focusing on adult mental health titles and STEM children’s books. In this role, she was signing roughly 120 projects per year, project managing titles, and driving improvements in social media marketing and author representation. Prior to that experience she worked as a Postdoctoral researcher and Lecturer at Utrecht University (the Netherlands), where she earned her PhD in Comparative Literature; and as a Research Fellow at Tilburg Law School (the Netherlands), where she collaborated with other researchers and presented research. She has also been awarded her MA in British, American, and Postcolonial Studies from Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität (Germany), and BA in Literature and New Media from Jacobs University (Germany).

Prior to joining the our Board, Rakhshan published with The Emma Press Paisley (2017), My Sneezes are Perfect (2021) and Europe, Love Me Back (2022). She is also the author of Kashmiri Life Narratives: Human Rights, Pleasure, and the Local Cosmopolitan (Routledge, 2020), and her writing has appeared in Aaduna, Nimrod, Postcolonial Text and Blue Lyra Review, among others. She is on the editorial team of the children’s poetry journal Tyger Tyger Magazine. She is from Lahore, Pakistan, has lived in Germany and the Netherlands, and currently lives in the Bay Area of North California, US.

Former board members

Adrienne Frances (EP board 2020-2021)

Adrienne is a community arts activist and arts administrator who is now training to be a social worker!

Ian Grant photograph credit Jez Smith

Ian Grant (EP board 2020-2021)

Ian Grant has worked in the publishing and media industries since 1971, managing and investing in SMEs. He was Publishing Director of Dorling Kindersley Ltd (now a division of Penguin Random House), a partner in Two-Can Publishing Ltd, grown over 12 years from start-up to sale to a UK TV company. Following the sale, Ian became Managing Director of the EMEA division of Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc.   He now chairs Time Productions, a film and theatre production company. 

He chaired Arts Council-funded Inpress and the Poetry Book Society, sits on the board of the charitable Foundation of the Worshipful Company of Stationers, holds a financial management qualification of the ACCA, is a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. 

Photo credit: Jez Smith.

Sandy Mahal

Sandeep Mahal

Passionate about empowering young people to build a better world with words, Sandeep is responsible for providing creative and strategic leadership and effective management of Nottingham’s UNESCO designation and charitable company. She drives the city’s vision where everyone is reading and writing their way to a better life. She is also Chair of the UNESCO Cities of Literature Network. 

Sandeep previously spent ten years in public libraries in Sandwell, working as Race Equality Librarian, and later as Outreach Services Librarian. In addition to libraries, she has many years of experience in the UK publishing environment, transforming the way UK publishers collaborated with the UK public library network. She has staged all kinds of events with authors from Zadie Smith and Jarvis Cocker to Adele Parks and Neil Gaiman. In 2013, Sandeep was seconded as a Clore Fellow to The Space – a commissioning agency supporting greater digital access to the arts, co-funded by Arts Council England and the BBC. 

Photo credit: Shawn Ryan.


  • The Emma Press

    The Emma Press is an independent publisher specialising in poetry, short fiction and children’s books. We are trying to make publishing and literature as welcoming and accessible as possible.

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