Friday, 13 June 2014

Valley Press Friday Digest, #7

Last week on the blog, I promised to fill you in on my 'most difficult decision' of the year. I'll get to that, but first, some news on a new title:

  • I've had many ideas for anthologies over the last few years, including: an anthology of poets on the Yorkshire coast, an anthology of poets from a particular city, an anthology that was basically lots of pamphlets stuck together, themed anthologies (though I must now pay my dues to the true queen of this genre), an anthology comprised entirely of poems about snails, a very small and cheap anthology, and an anthology edited by VP author/poetic genius Felix Hodcroft. Any of these might still happen, but one has finally reached the point of being announceable - in fact, a combination of those last two ideas. A Pocketful of Windows, edited by Felix, will appear in late November 2014 and retail for just £3.99. I'll offer some suggestions as to the contents in the coming months, but in the meantime, here's the provisional cover:

  • The Bridlington Poetry Festival is now in full swing, and my tickets for all the Saturday events are safely stashed away... somewhere. (I'm hoping eventually, when challenged for a ticket to a Yorkshire coast poetry event, I'll be able to point to my face and say: 'this is my ticket'.) I'll report on how it went next week, but as this is my last chance to plug team VP, you'll find Mike Di Placido, Miles Salter and Patrick Lodge reading on Saturday night, 8.30-9.30pm (headlining?) They're joined by Wendy Pratt, one of the few Yorkshire coast poets who 'got away' - by the time I first discovered her, she'd been published elsewhere - but I do rate her very highly. Then on Sunday, John Wedgwood Clarke is joined on stage by Northern Irish poet Michael McKimm from 11am. All the other events will be great too - I  hope to see some of you there.

  • Oh, one more thing about Bridlington - Wendy Cope is reading, and on digging out my copy of her first collection Making Coca for Kingsley Amis, I realised I had purchased it second-hand (for 99p!) and in a strange twist of fate, it is already signed to someone called Julia, 26 years ago - shortly after the book was first released. I'm considering getting it signed again, to me; will this make the book into an interesting historical artefact? Here's my tweet, with photo:

  • While we're posting tweets: I was sitting on reception at Woodend over the weekend (as I occasionally do), and witnessed the events below:

  • Some news from the world of Love and Eskimo Snow: the book got its first review, which I have summarised on its homepage (strategically removing the bit where the reviewer said she thinks the title is a little weird!) Also, Sarah wrote this great article for Novelicious about where she writes - I especially liked the bit where she described the books in her writing room as having 'biceps'.
  • In Between is now officially 'out there' - I sent off the pre-orders yesterday. A lot of people have commented that they've seen the poems on the walls of the passageways/yards they describe; not a bad way of advertising really! I wonder what people who don't know about York Curiouser make of them? Here's a photo of John with one of the painted poems, taken by Alan Fleming:

  • Okay, so now we've got all the news out of the way - what was my 'most difficult decision', and, as teased in last week's post, how did I get out of it? It was brought on by the Poetry Book Society, who last month launched their search for the Next Generation Poets 2014 - looking for the twenty 'most exciting new poets' from the UK and Ireland, who have had their first collection published in the last ten years. No less than fifteen Valley Press poets were eligible, so when I heard about it, I automatically thought - oh, I'll enter everyone, then!
  • But, when I came to fill in the forms, I read the small print: a £20 entry fee applied per poet, meaning to enter everyone would cost £300. After picking my jaw up off the floor, I started to figure out what I should do - being an unsubsidised, entirely independent press has its advantages (I wouldn't have it any other way), but it does mean we have a certain lack of £20 notes to throw around (to say nothing of £300 cheques). They also wanted seven copies of a book by each poet, which in itself is not cheap. I wrote to the PBS asking about the charge, and it seemed they had applied it both to raise funds for the massive PR campaign that will follow the announcement of the winners, and to encourage presses to choose - 'we never thought anyone would want to enter all their writers', I was told, which left me wondering if I was just peculiar. If we equate the books we publish with our children: did the other editors have no problem choosing which of their 'children' was most eligible for 'best child of the last ten years'?

  • So, I tried for a few hours to decide who I should enter, and how much I could justify spending on this - how much I could physically afford, in fact, as I need to do a large, un-budgeted-for reprint of Eskimo Snow this month, to cover the WHSmith order I mentioned a few weeks back. Eventually I realised there was no way I could choose: all the books have their strengths and weaknesses, but I love them all regardless - and for those fifteen poets, this would be their only chance to make one of these 'Next Generation' lists. I didn't want to be responsible for standing between anyone and a chance to be selected.
  • Eventually, I came up with a solution, and here's what it was: I asked the poets to vote amongst themselves who they thought should be entered, with an understanding that I would fund entry for the writers who received the most votes. There was some grumbling, of course - 'passing the buck' was mentioned - but I was really pleased with this solution. Not only did it get me off trying to choose (and thus, to explain to anyone why I didn't choose them), but I also feel it replicates how the winners will eventually be chosen: a collection of people will read some poems, and some author bios, and vote for who they think is most suitable for the award. It won't be based on one person's thoughts, it will be decided by committee - and so it's only fitting that our entries were too. I won't be revealing who won the vote: that's not the point, and you'll find out anyway when they appear on that 'Next Generation' list - won't you? Fingers crossed!

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