Sunday, 29 May 2016

This week at Valley Press: 'Flight of the muse'

Dear readers,

This week has been all about The Naked Muse, which was released on Thursday, and made it to bookshop shelves across the country – including the one pictured above (by Kelley Swain herself) in the biography section of Blackwell's in Oxford.

The book got some serious exposure this week, the kind money can't buy. Readers of the i newspaper (the cheap, classy one) might have spotted this double-page spread, containing the first chapter, with illustrations:

This feature was also trailed on the front cover – the front cover! I never thought we'd make it to the front page of a national newspaper. What will I aim for now? The front page of two national newspapers, I suppose. Perhaps soon, everything we do in this tiny room in Scarborough will be of immense national interest...?

Kelley also spoke about the book on no less than eight radio stations during the week – don't worry, I'm not expecting you to listen to all those interviews (though I notice Ireland's Today FM has a cheery website, could be worth a try!) If you have any spare time, you should take a look at this long, in-depth feature by Teddy Jamieson (of The Herald in Scotland); that's really the last word on Kelley's modelling experience, brilliant journalism.

I must thank Ana McLaughlin of Sarah Harrison PR, who has been working for us this year (but will soon be going on maternity leave); she's responsible for all of the above. Ana is one of those people who is a true pleasure to work with, but is also so talented and effective that you'd still hire them if they were the most unpleasant person ever to walk the Earth. (I struggle with big compliments – that was meant to be one!) Big thanks Ana, anyway; we really appreciate all you've done.

This Wednesday sees the long-awaited launch event for The Naked Muse, which will also feature a reading from Malene Engelund and 'rising star' David Nash. It's happening at the Peckham Pelican (in London, see map here), from 7pm on the 1st June. You are promised pizza, and some very special guests from the art world.

Also launched this week is our anthology inspired by David Oluwale, which is for sale now, first copies dispatched on Friday. There is an event, in Leeds on the evening of Friday 3rd, but it's not one I'm heavily promoting as we're expecting to fill the venue just with the organisers, contributors, and guests of both. I can probably sneak you in though – drop me a return email and I'll pull the necessary strings!

While we're in Leeds (which we seem to be regularly!), Saturday 4th June sees the first 'Northern Short Story Festival', which looks like a brilliant day – check out the programme here if you're interested. Of course, I'm involved (I get everywhere), and our own Michael Stewart will also be giving a reading.

I think that's it for this week – except to say, you now have only two days to submit to our Yorkshire anthology, and also to give 'a big shout-out' to my mother, an avid reader of this newsletter, who turned 60 on Thursday. I think you'll agree she's very lucky – not many mothers can claim their son writes to them every week!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Sunday, 22 May 2016

This week at Valley Press: 'Looking back'

Dear readers,

I had a great time on Tuesday night discussing the history of Valley Press on Chapel FM, with four VP authors (as pictured above by Marcos Avlonitis). If you missed it live, and could do with something to listen to, you can hear or download the programme here – there are some brilliant readings of poems from Some Things Matter, Cinema Stories, A Family Behind GlassQuick, The Learned Goose and an as-yet-unreleased book by Helen Burke (who was there in spirit).

This is going to be quite a 'retrospective' newsletter, particularly after that hour of 'looking back' on the radio – so you might like to read an article about Reward for Winter first, perhaps the most thoughtful engagement with that book so far. "I would dearly love to see this collection on some poetry prize lists, it deserves to be," says the reviewer. Judges take note!

Now back to the past. Felix Hodcroft's collection Life After Life After Death was first published in May 2010, when I was still a student, then reissued in 2011 in a somewhat tidier edition. It's been reprinted again this week, a few millimetres taller and wider, using all the design skills I've picked up in the last five years. It's looking great; this is a book I've loved re-visiting, and of course (with lots of copies now sitting around in VPHQ) I must encourage you to do so too...

You can buy the book here, and save £3 by entering discount code LALAD at the checkout. I've put a sample poem on the site, 'We Fought', which like much of the book is a perceptive and utterly honest character piece; I'll end this newsletter with another one, on the (only slightly) less harrowing subject of baked potatoes.

If you've been following our work for a while, you'll have read a lot of great poems, which will be handy for my next request. Once upon a time, I planned for the 50th Valley Press book to be an anthology of the preceding 49, but before I could get round to it, we sped on past the 60th and 70th ... now we may hit 100 before the end of the year, and I'd like to use the already-registered 'VP50' title before that happens.

I'm now thinking that VP50 should be a collection of the best (or at least, most popular) poems from all the books that have preceded it; and to decide what those are, I'll need your help. If you have the time, please reply to this email and let me know your favourite poems published by Valley Press – I'll start a list, figure out what order they should go in, and keep you updated on that project as the weeks go by.

See you next week – enjoy the potatoes.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Jackets ‘n’ Skins

by Felix Hodcroft

Vinegar-soaked chips were for waltzing her home after ten or twelve pints…
Skewering roasties with her parents’ posh Sunday cutlery…
And tender charlottes drizzled with pepper and oil
for dinner parties on the patio…

But what are baked potatoes for?

His Gran had served them charred crisp,
fluffy inside and golden with butter and love –
and cheese and beans too, if she’d won on the horses.

He finds himself lately, frequently baking potatoes,
late home from the office to a cold, silent house.
Softened up in the microwave
then into the oven and blasted into submission –
but never as tasty as
he recalls or expects,
nor as comforting ate on your own without grandma’s –
or for that matter anyone’s –
eyes dancing eat it all up, it’ll
warm you all the way down!

See, he’d always wanted everything now!
Grabbed stuff, dolloped on loads and
then ate it too fast.
Burnt lips and, afterwards, indigestion.
And an empty plate in an empty house to stare at
all evening long.

Walks a lot, now, for hours and miles, through the rain.
One day, steps through the fog and the anthracite smoke
into a small café with a greasy plasticate menu
with spuds in their skins.
Wouldn’t have chosen it had there been
anything else even remotely to savour.
A long wait, he
wouldn’t have put up with but
where else? What else? And anyway,
why the hell not?
His mind drifting back to the charlottes and roasties and chips,
to how life was before.
His hunger dully stirring.

Then she brought it out to his table, steaming and bubbling and soaked and scented with
butter and salt, cheese and sauce.
She said here, get that down you, then, love and
cheer up, it’s what proves God exists, this –
and wants us to be replete
if we can’t be happy!

d’you know what?
She was right.
Even him
and right down to the very last mouthful.
Could have eaten another.
But knew how important it was that he didn’t.
At any rate, not today.
He had the whole of the rest of his life
to work up an appetite

Sunday, 15 May 2016

This week at Valley Press: 'Love the Words'

Dear readers,

This week I want to tell you about a special event, both live and on the radio, that's happening on Tuesday night (17th). Not a huge amount of notice, I know, but things have been rather hectic round here! We've now survived our 'five books, five weeks' mission, which concluded with the life-affirming launch of Peter Spafford's Quick, as pictured above (though I had to crop out Peter's attempt at a 'smug author' grin. He's not really smug, but he should be – the book, and his readings, were first-class.)

I should apologise to the authors of the 70 unreplied-to emails currently in my inbox, which have accumulated over this five-week period – I will get to them soon! This week is looking pretty full too, and Rosa's gone on a well-deserved holiday ... but I'll set aside a day for email clearing before the end of the month. (Has it come to this?)

Anyway, regarding Tuesday; the good people of Chapel FM (aka ELFM) have organised an event celebrating Valley Press and our authors. It's happening at their re-purposed chapel in Seacroft, Leeds (map here), from 7.30 to 8.45, and everyone is very welcome – this is one of our 'outreach events', so I'll have those elusive submissions forms in hand, giving them out to all comers. They are broadcasting it live through their website, too, so anyone who fancies hearing me, James Nash, Jo Brandon, Matthew Hedley Stoppard and Peter Spafford discuss publishing matters (and read poems) will get their chance.

The flyer they produced for this event was so lovely, I'm going to include it below:

I'll share a 'listen again' link for that broadcast next week. I have one for you today, too – Kelley Swain has been gracing the airwaves for another in-depth chat about The Naked Muse, this time with Jo Good on BBC Radio London. You can listen here, from 8 minutes 30 in if you want to hear a great soul song first, or skip to 12 minutes to go straight to Kelley's appearance. It's another fascinating discussion.

Also worth a look this week: John Foggin's extended rumination on Reward for Winter, with loads of sample poems – ideal if you haven't quite made up your mind about that particular literary gem. You know what: have 20% off Reward for Winter until next Sunday, you deserve it! Use code RFW20 at the checkout.

That's all for now. Next week: I'll highlight a true Valley Press classic, from all the way back in 2010, which is currently being re-printed – and we'll engage in a bit of interesting democracy regarding a summer title. Watch this space!

All best,

Sunday, 8 May 2016

This week at Valley Press: 'Quick and the late'

Dear readers,

I'm writing to you a bit later than usual this week, as I've been out enjoying some unusually warm weather – not a bad excuse! We'll start with a word from Associate Editor Rosa Campbell, who has been busy (again):

This week I’m very very excited to announce the release of Quick, the first collection of poems by Peter Spafford, a professional writer for more than twenty years, and a giant of the Leeds literary scene. Peter’s plays have been performed throughout the country and on the radio, and he is currently Director of Spoken Word at East Leeds FM as well as being a founder member of the band Schwa (look out for Threshold, their touring performance).

Somehow, on top of all that, he’s also managed to write a truly wonderful poetry collection. Exhibiting a bold playfulness with language and a stunning lightness of touch, the poems in Quick explore topics as diverse as the Yorkshire landscape, the joys and despairs of parenthood, and the surreal escapades of a horse in Tesco. They are rich, funny, and often breathtakingly poignant. And, uh, not to get overexcited, but Andrew McMillan – winner of the Guardian First Book Award 2015 for the incredible Physical – loves this book (see the front cover for proof!)

According to Ralph Dartford of A Firm of Poets, ‘these poems demand to be read aloud, as well as in solitude,’ so count yourselves lucky, because this Friday you have an opportunity to hear Peter himself read from Quick! We’re celebrating the launch at HEART in Headingley, Leeds, along with guest poet Anne Caldwell (of Cinnamon Press) – and you’re all invited! It’s going to be an unmissable evening. Full details are available here. Hope to see you there!

Having just re-read the collection myself, I can confirm it is as great as everyone says. Peter has felt like part of the Valley Press team for several years now – as he welcomed an endless stream of VP authors onto his radio show – and it's great to welcome him officially to 'the family' this week.

Talking of radio shows, I hope you all tuned in to hear Kelley Swain on 'Start the Week' last Monday? If not, we have the answer here on the BBC iPlayer – discussion of her forthcoming book The Naked Muse begins 28 minutes in, but it's all worth listening to if you're a fan of the arts (most of them get a mention).

My favourite bit of discussion was when Kelley was asked the difference between nude and naked; to paraphrase, she suggested that when you're posing for a painting without wearing any clothes, you are nude ... if you're having a cup of tea afterwards and still haven't put your clothes on, you're just naked. (But 'The Nude Muse' doesn't have the same ring to it, I think we can agree.)

It's been a while since I've given you money off a Valley Press book in these newsletters, so it's time to put that right; albeit in a somewhat unusual fashion. When we printed Malene Engelund's The Wild Gods, we received hundreds of perfect copies, but also ten where the 'textblock' was inserted the wrong way round (so the cover is upside-down). These have sat on my shelf since then, but this week I'd like to offer you the chance to buy one, at 30% off the usual price – so if you add the book to your basket, and use the code WONKYGODS at checkout, you'll receive one of these ultra-limited-edition copies. Move fast though, there really are only ten!

I'm going to end this week by promoting a book we didn't publish – such things do exist, it turns out. The brilliant poetry organisation Live Canon invited 154 modern poets to write 154 new poems, each responding to one of Shakespeare's sonnets, and have now published the results in a book. A dozen of the 154 were poets from our own stable, and it's filled with other familiar names, doing great work – don't spend all your poetry-buying dollars on 154, but you have my permission to spend some. (That may not happen again, so make the most of it.)

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Sunday, 1 May 2016

This week at Valley Press: 'Thoughtful, weird, and naked'

Dear readers,

We've had two launches this week – they ranged from the intimate and thoughtful to the wild, weird and wonderful (you'll soon figure out which was which). Joanna Ezekiel has written a lovely blog entry telling the story of her launch, including photos; it was a great evening of literature, charmingly introduced by Rosa (another first for our 'Associate Editor'). Details of Joanna's book can be found here – her poems bringing the characters of Pride and Prejudice into the 21st century went down particularly well live.

Mark Waddell's launch, on the other hand, was introduced by a man dressed as a Mexican wrestler, and featured various acts including a belly-dancer and a man singing/shouting about worms while a lady tap-danced beside him. By the time Mark was escorted onto the stage (as depicted in the header image), this had happened:

As the last book was sold, I felt a strange mixture of pride and embarrassment... In terms of book sales at a single event, yesterday now holds the record at 99 (93 of which were Mark's book – I'd brought my usual 80). I rarely give out figures, but I think this one deserves a nod of respect. You can hear a little more about Mark (specifically, his hobby of putting poetry on a sign outside his house) in a segment from US radio station NPR here, and get your own copy of his book (before they all go!) here.

In other radio news, long-time Valley Press author Kelley Swain is appearing on BBC Radio 4's 'Start the Week' tomorrow (9am), discussing artistic matters with Grayson Perry and Emma Rice. One of those matters will be her new book, a memoir of life modelling titled The Naked Muse – officially released on May 26th, but hurried into print last week so there would be copies around for this broadcast (thus, I'm counting it in my 'five weeks, five books' mission).

I'll talk more about The Naked Muse in a future newsletter (and provide a 'listen again' link next week), but for now I'll just say that the experience of reading it is rather like listening to a very thoughtful, educated friend tell you about an extraordinary job they once had. I've put an excerpt on the site today so you can see what I mean; you'll love it.

The 'Tour de Yorkshire' is about to come through my village, which reminds me to give another plug to our call for Yorkshire poetry, for the still-untitled anthology due in October – we're taking submissions for that until the end of this month. If you've got something suitable, details of how to submit can be found here. Also, if you've been caught up in all the Tour excitement, don't forget Kate Fox's Tour de Force, written and published during the original 'grand depart' (a fact I amazed someone with in Wenlock).

That's all for now. Next week, another new book – what else?

All best,