Sunday, 25 September 2016

This week at Valley Press: A very special edition

Dear readers,

In a change from your scheduled newsletter...

This morning we welcomed George McGarry into the world – that's him in the middle there! Mother and baby are doing absolutely fine (and daddy); George is being so well-behaved, we're going to make the most of that while it lasts...

Hopefully Jamie will make it back to the laptop next Sunday to tell you about that extra-long book he mentioned last week (it's already printed, thank goodness!) In the meantime, thanks for all your support – we'll see you soon.

All best,
Jamie & Laura

Sunday, 18 September 2016

This week at Valley Press, #27: 'Surprise!'

Dear readers,

Yesterday was Poetry Book Fair day, the single most important date on the British poetic calendar as far as I'm concerned. For the first time in five years I didn't attend, in case a full-term Mrs McGarry should need swift transport to the hospital (she didn't!) – but VP was ably represented by the always dynamic and charming Rosa Campbell, pictured here behind the stall with our best pal Emma from The Emma Press:

Huge thanks to Rosa for stepping in, and doing (reports suggest) a marvellous job. Thanks to the organisers too, Chrissy and Joey; they do extraordinary work putting it all together, I can't imagine the effort that must be involved in wrangling that many poetry publishers. We're an eccentric lot!

Last week, I promised that anyone who attended the Fair would receive a 'significant Valley Press surprise' – were you intrigued? Lurking in the 'goody bags' given to visitors on their arrival was a brand new anthology, VP50, which included fifty classic Valley Press poems; one for each poetry book we've published so far. You may have actually chosen these, if you replied to my request back in May for your VP favourites. They include all of our 'greatest hits' (like James Nash's first sonnet), and some 'deep cuts', like Kate Fox's poem honouring Billy Bragg's beard, from her Glastonbury project.

In total, we gave away five hundred copies of this anthology – our biggest publicity stunt ever. This means that five hundred people could have sat on their trains/buses home on Saturday night, learning (maybe for the first time) about all the wonderful poets and poetry we've published over the last eight years. I am bursting with pride!

The anthology is now available to buy; though after our generosity yesterday, it seems a little steep to charge you the full £10.99 RRP (even though it is an extremely classy, shiny production – that's the front cover in this week's header image). Please accept 50% off VP50 all this week, by adding the code FIFT at checkout. More information and buying links for the book can be found here.

I'd like to end with a plug for our autumn tour – I know, another surprise! – in which Valley Press poets are headed to the Swindon (Sept 29th), Manchester (October 11th) and Sheffield (October 17th) literature festivals. Click the city names for more information and links to book tickets. We'd love to have your support, and of course it's a chance to grab those all-important submissions forms!

I'll give those gigs another mention in the coming weeks; got to make sure the venues are packed to the rafters (then they might have us back). For now, enjoy your anthology if you were lucky enough to get one, and I'll be back next week with another new book, this one including no less than 380 pages of high quality poetry...

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Sunday, 11 September 2016

This week at Valley Press, #26: 'Lucky Dip'

Dear readers,

A confession: I've known the author of our next publication since before Valley Press was even a twinkle in my eye. Catharine Boddy has been writing and reading poetry in the Scarborough area for decades, as well as teaching full-time; so it's perhaps no surprise that last week, when I told a local resident I was publishing her first book, they reacted with astonishment: 'you mean she doesn't already have one?!' So it's long overdue. Probably my fault!

The book is titled Lucky Dip, and it's our first collection of poetry aimed at children. Primary school children, to be specific, and I've had a lot of help on this one from Mrs McGarry as to what they might conceivably enjoy reading (and even what font to use – she's finally turned into a publisher!)

Some of the poems are funny, like this one titled 'A little problem' (with accompanying note saying it is 'a poem to read to parents at the check-in desk'):

Mum, I’ve something to tell you
as we stand here in this queue.
I should have said this yesterday,
I’m not sure what to do.
I was looking at my passport,
I thought I’d have a laugh,
but it wasn’t very funny
when I dropped it in the bath!
I put it in the microwave
to try to dry it out
before I put it in my case –
Mum, promise you won’t shout.
I really meant to pick it up
but you know I got up late
then forgot to pack my iPad;
I was really in a state.
So I thought I ought to mention it,
I thought you ought to know,
without my passport
I don’t think we can go…
today… anyway…

Others are more thoughtful, even sad, like this one titled 'Puzzled':

Our jigsaw is incomplete.
We’ve lost a piece and
it will never be the same again.
It was whole.
We fitted together well.
Together we were strong.
But now my mum and I
must fit together as best we can
around the gap,
although there will always be
a piece missing.

... and both types of poem are mixed up together, hence the book's title. If you've got a young person in your life, Lucky Dip would be a great purchase, particularly priced at just £4.99. (It's illustrated too, by the great John Taylor, who also did the energetic cover drawing seen at the top of this week's post.)

At the other end of the poetry age spectrum, I see last week's book has found its audience:

(Picture from York Press.) Andy will be signing Poems for Pensioners in York Waterstones on Saturday 22nd October, so note that date in your diary if you'd like a scribbled-in copy – you can also hear him on the radio here if you'd like some back-story and a small chuckle (3 hours 15 mins into the programme).

Next Saturday is the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair in London, 10-4.30 in Conway Hall. Valley Press has attended this marvellous event religiously for the past five years, and 2016 will be no different – except you'll see Rosa behind the stall rather than me, as with baby McGarry due within weeks, I felt I should avoid any long-distance trips! Please do say 'hello' to Rosa if you're there, and perhaps even pick up a book?

Also: all attendees of the Fair should expect a significant Valley Press surprise – that's right, you heard it here first! What could it be? Read next week's post to find out...

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Sunday, 4 September 2016

This week at Valley Press, #25: 'No wonder!'

Dear readers,

Our first new publication of the autumn is due this week: Poems for Pensioners by Andy Seed. Cover star Bert, above, is clearly keen to get his hands on a copy, and he's far from the only one!

It would be fair to say this is not one of the most brooding, contemplative, cutting-edge poetry titles we've ever brought you – but it may be the funniest, and occasionally, the most sweetly nostalgic. Below is a short poem titled 'Always Read the Label'. This one is something of a litmus test; if you laugh at this, Poems for Pensioners is probably up your street...

No wonder
you’re still
on the
toilet, Dilys;
the pills
that were blue?
You were
supposed to
take two
every twenty-four hours,
not twenty-four
every two.

Despite (or possibly because of) this toilet humour, Andy Seed is an award-winning author, most recently claiming the 2015 Blue Peter Book Award for the charmingly-titled Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff, published by Bloomsbury and illustrated by Scott Garrett, who also lends his artistic skills to Poems for Pensioners. You might say we've 'reunited the award-winning team' ... gosh, it's fun to use the phrase 'award-winning'!

I've got high hopes for this book, and I think you'll be hearing a lot more about it in the run-up to Christmas. In the meantime, you can read a longer 'pensioner poem' on the website here, and I'll end with a series of verses that come under the title 'Epitaphs':

Here is Tim,
Who went
To the gym;
Alas, discovered
It didn’t
Suit him.

Here lies Iris,
Former nurse;
Along the M6
She reversed.

Rest in peace
‘Windy’ Ron
(It’s much more peaceful
Now you’re gone).

Here lies the body
Of Mary Dinnings,
Who spent all of
Her bingo winnings
On Pink Champagne,
Carefully picked;
It came in the bucket
Which Mary kicked.

In memory
Of Eric, engineer;
Souped up
His stairlift;
Oh dear.

Here is buried
Godfrey Hunt –
Put his teeth in
Back to front.

Here lies
Henrietta Speke;
Didn’t feed
Her cats
One week.

Sacred to the memory
Of whatsis name.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher