Sunday, 3 April 2016

This week at Valley Press: 'Polishing type'

Dear readers,

A fairly quiet week this one, which I must admit has come as something of a relief! We have three new books coming up in April, however – including the first two overseen by 'Associate Editor' Rosa Campbell – so things won't stay quiet for long.

So what has happened? The biggest news was that results of the 'Remember Oluwale' competition were announced, which also meant we got our first look at the book's contents (wow). I posted the third installment in my series of 'behind the scenes' articles about publishing, this one dealing with the issue of how to sell books – which it turns out, isn't that complicated. (Did you know you personally are part of my 'tribe'? Now you do!)

I can also reveal details of our first 'outreach' event for prospective 2017 Valley Press authors, which is happening during the Wenlock Poetry Festival. VP and our perennial allies The Emma Press will be 'publishers in residence' at the festival, which will see us literally taking up residence in Much Wenlock on the Saturday and Sunday (23rd/24th April) to answer any questions anyone might have, and offer some workshops. The actual festival programme is amazing too – but I promise to dutifully man my post and not sneak off to too many other events.

In the week to come, I'm looking forward to hearing Di Slaney discussing Reward for Winter on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour (that's 10am, Thursday 7th); not the first time a VP author has graced the national airwaves, but still a huge deal for this humble publisher. If you want to hear from Di before then, she did a great interview on BBC Radio Oxford a fortnight ago, starting 2 hours 8 minutes in here (after 'Take On Me'...)

Last week's newsletter included some poems, and the response to that was surprisingly strong – so I'd like to offer you another one to end this week. It's the title poem from Helen Burke's first collection (pictured in the header), which is actually a rather risky choice as I only have one copy of that book in stock ... so if you'd like it, move fast! (Or go for Helen's second book, which you can have half-price with the code HELEN2.)

I've chosen this poem simply because it's been stuck in my head during the week, particularly the penultimate line – hope you enjoy it.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

The Ruby Slippers

by Helen Burke

You come in to the shop with me and
we take my new false leg off and
look around for an assistant but
they all seem to be very busy breathing and
polishing the shoes in the window.
Which is strange because they don’t look the polishing type.
I have seen the pair I want.
They are red and exotic of course and
I would like to point to them but
a small elderly man comes out from the back-room
(where I think he has been in storage since 1940)
makes eye-contact with you and asks you what you would like.

You say you would like to be treated like a normal human being.
All the assistants stop polishing now, to listen.
Which is strange because they don’t look the listening type.
The man says he fought in a war for people like us
and where has it got him?
Then he accidentally knocks my wheelchair and has to make eye-contact
with me which is painful to him. Just like the war was.
Then, he wheels me to where they keep
the selection of trainers that nobody buys, and walks off back to 1940.

We were happy before we came in.
We had bought chocolates and Parma ham and
we were oh so happy.
Now, you are frothing at the mouth and I have fixed that smile on my face
like Harry Corbett, when he used to say –
‘Bye bye, everybody, bye bye.’
when Sooty had done something wrong and he was covered in flour and water.

Then, as if by magic – the ruby shoes get up and walk out of the window
and climb up onto my knee and apologise.

And all the assistants suddenly want to open doors for us and bow and scrape and help us get the hell out.
Which is strange because they don’t look the opening doors type.
So, we leave, with those ruby slippers clinging on to us for dear life and
I want to say: ‘Don’t you know – I’m fighting in a war for people like you.’

But, I don’t. And Kansas? It just gets further and further away.

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