Sunday, 27 November 2016

This week at Valley Press, #37: 'The Birds Will Sing'

Dear readers,

This time last week, Valley Press had three new books still forthcoming in 2016 – Guests of Time, another poetry collection I've just finished editing, and a book I've previously described as 'the most complicated book I've ever tried to put together'. Now, I only have those first two, as – after much soul-searching – myself and the author have agreed to put release of the 'complicated book' back until mid-February. With one proviso: that I tell you about it today, and kick-off pre-orders!

The book in question has taken no less than forty-seven years to write, with the first poems in it dating from 1969, and the last ones from 2016. If this sounds familiar, it's probably because the thought process was a lot like the one that originated Paul Sutherland's New and Selected – we could have brought out another slim volume by Paul, but what about the forty years of work not currently available? So it was that we came to be publishing Today the Birds Will Sing, the collected poems of veteran Valley Press poet Helen Burke.

My blurb for the book says Helen's poems have appeared 'in pamphlets, on greetings cards, on pieces of origami, on radio, on tape, on CD, on the side of stray dogs and in a million other places' – this is only a very slight exaggeration. Since she first put pen to paper, Helen's poems have escaped into the world by any means they could; the 'origami' publishing happened repeatedly, thanks to Jan Keough's wonderful operation, and when I first met Helen in 2011 there were enough pamphlets in existence to sink a small dinghy.

That's what made it so complex: picture me on my living-room floor, surrounded by all these publications (and pieces of paper), trying to figure out if I've seen a particular poem somewhere else – and what was different about it then! – then passing them to the long-suffering Mrs McGarry to be typed up. But the truth is, I've enjoyed every second of my 'marination' in the world of Burke; there's no bigger fan of her poems (sometimes zany, sometimes poignant, usually both) than me, and I think the day I hold a finished copy of this book will be one of the proudest of my whole career.

I'll share a few poems with you in the new year; for now, I'll just say that the book is beginning its life as a hardback, priced at £30. As ever, we're not money-grabbing monsters, so you can have £6 off if you pre-order with the voucher code BIRDIES, and we are planning a paperback edition to follow later in 2017. (Still no Antony hardbacks by the way, if you're following that saga – but I have now seen one, so the end may be in sight).
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Two more things to say today: first, the last subs forms for our 2017 call have now been posted – so the only way you can reliably get them, and get your work into us for the November 30th deadline, is to actually go into VPHQ and collect/fill in/drop off. But don't panic if this is the first you've heard of it – submissions will be open again in February, after I've worked through the current pile and decided the 2017 books.

So now the subs forms are done with, what will you get (besides the book!) if you buy something from us in December? I've got something special in mind, of course – watch this space – but part of it will be a voucher for money off books in January (always a criminally quiet month for booksellers).

Finally, congratulations are due to Richard Askew, the lead designer of our website, who this week was named Scarborough's 'Young Entrepreneur of the Year'. This is a seriously smart and dedicated dude; I've seen him run into the office at 10pm on a Sunday when there was a small glitch with our shopping basket – so very well deserved.

Next week's newsletter will be all about that other remaining book (it's another cracker, and fairly seasonal); after that, we're on the home straight, headed for the holidays!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Sunday, 20 November 2016

This week at Valley Press, #36: 'Heroes and villains'

Dear readers,

We held another great launch for Take This One to Bed this week, on Friday at the marvellous Friargate Theatre in York. I'm opening with this because, during the course of the evening, a dozen people I didn't previously know told me they love these newsletters – apparently they read them 'religiously', and one person said 'it's the only group email I get that's actually worth opening'. I was so touched, as I always am when someone writes back and says they enjoy my weekly ramblings. In just thirty-six editions, these have gone from being a rather dubious experiment to pretty much the beating heart of Valley Press. Here's to the next thirty-six!

A successful night was just what I needed to take away the sting of there being still no hardbacks to show at the event – that's the special edition of Antony's book with the golden fish on the front, if you've not been keeping up. Rather like the recent political news, printing these hardbacks has been a saga where I continually think 'this is bad, but at least it can't get any worse'; only to be hit with some new jaw-dropping development.

I don't want to whinge, of course, but those of you who pre-ordered the hardbacks do deserve some kind of explanation. The concise version of the story is as follows: about eight weeks ago, as none of my usual printers were quite suited to doing 100 luxury hardbacks, I thought I'd try someone new – a specialist Yorkshire-based company (I'm not going to name them just yet) who were up for the job and offered a reasonable price. As I write this, long after the deadline I gave for delivery, I am down several hundred pounds without a single copy to show for it. Delays are one thing, but there's been no explanation, and they've teased me by constantly suggesting the books are about to arrive – you may remember last week, they were 'just waiting for the glue to dry'.

'As least we still have the paperbacks!' George points out, helpfully. I'll keep you updated.

In brighter news, I've finished production on one of the year's remaining books, Guests of Time – an anthology that emerged from a three-poet residency at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. You may be wondering how this Oxford-based project came to be published in Yorkshire; I think it's mainly thanks to one of the three poets, our very own Kelley Swain, putting in a good word on our behalf. Or, could be a sign of the publishing industry moving ever-more northwards...

This is something totally new for us: a high-end, full-colour hardback, featuring eighteen outstanding photos of the museum and its exhibits, along with plenty of poems old and new (some of them with extraordinary layouts). I'm looking forward to sharing some content with you in the next few weeks, but for now you can see a tiny preview here. This is the most expensive Valley Press book ever, priced at £24.99 – but to make that a little more manageable, anyone who pre-orders the book this week and uses the voucher code OXFORD can have £5 off. Don't say I don't treat you right!

A couple more things to mention: Michael Stewart, author of the fantastic short-story collection Mr Jolly, was on BBC1's Countryfile today talking about the Brontës (in the house where four of them were born), with regard to a trail of commemorative stones he is organising. Catch it on iPlayer here, ten-ish minutes in, if you're interested. Elsewhere, Felix Hodcroft has written an article titled 'Seven Things You Need to Know About Poetry'; well worth a look, you'll definitely learn something (I did).

To finish on a note of justice being done – Antony mentioned the offending hardback printer during the York event, and they got an actual, lengthy 'booooo!' from the audience. I guess we are heading into pantomime season!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Friday, 18 November 2016

The Emma Press Newsletter #36: Fingers crossed!

Hello everyone,

I'm proud to say that the Emma Press has been shortlisted in the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet Awards for the third year in a row. Not only that, but we've got a pamphlet in the running for the very first time: Malkin, by Camille Ralphs. You can read the judges' comments over on the Wordsworth Trust website and see all the other estimable publishers and pamphlets in the shortlists. The results will be announced at the awards dinner at the British Library on 13th December – wish us luck!

There's lots more good news in this newsletter, so read on to find out about our latest anthology, our new pamphlet authors, some general book news and dates for your diary, and our call for animal poems.

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Hot off the press: Anthology of the Sea (£10)

Our last book of 2016 has hit the shelves! We were delighted to celebrate the publication of The Emma Press Anthology of the Sea: Poems for a Voyage Out a few weeks ago.

Editor Eve Lacey has assembled a truly excellent selection of poems and we were lucky enough to see some of the poets perform at the launch party in King's Cross. You can see some photos here.

You can read more about The Emma Press Anthology of the Sea here and buy the paperback (£10) in our webshop. I will do the ebook soon too, I promise. Excitingly, we've already had our first review, on the LiteratureWorks website.

* * * *

Meet our twelve new pamphlet authors

We're finally able to announce our new pamphlet authors, chosen from last year's call for submissions. And they are... Andrew Wynn Owen, Emma Simon, Jack Nicholls, Leanne Radojkovich, Jan Carson, Padraig Regan, Zosia Kuczyńska, Carol Rumens, Rakhshan Rizwan, Simon Turner, Julia Bird and Malachi O’Doherty. 2017 will be a great year, for pamphlets, at least! You can read more about the authors here.

Latvian success 

A couple of newsletters ago, I mentioned that I was trying to understand foreign rights deals and translation funding bids. I'm happy to inform you that my deals and bids were successful and we'll be publishing two Latvian translations next year: The Noisy Classrom (Skaļā klase), a collection of children’s poems by Ieva Samauska, illustrated by Vivianna Maria Staņislavska, and The Secret Box, three stories from Pirmā reize, a collection of short stories for adults by Daina Tabūna. You can read more about it on the actual Bookseller and you can read about the 'Support for Foreign Publisher Publishing Latvian Literature' programme here. You can also read about it in Russian here.

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General book news: Mums and Moons 

Some of you may have noticed that The Emma Press Anthology of Motherhood has been out of print for a while. This is because I wanted to update the cover design and illustrations, as our house style has changed a bit since 2014. This time, I've done five new drawings, which you can preview here – and you can see the new cover design to the left. The books have just come back from the printer and you can order your copies here.

Moon Juice at the Oxford Lieder Festival 

Some poems from Kate Wakeling's collection of poems for children, Moon Juice, have been set to music by composer Frances Cheryl-Hoad and were performed at Oxford Lieder Festival a couple of weeks ago. Rachel and I went along and we were completely blown away by it. Seeing all the reactions of the audience made me think that Moon Juice should be recommended for the Ted Hughes Award, as it really is an outstanding piece of work. Wink.

Kate went into BBC Radio Oxfordshire ahead of the concert, to talk about her poems and read a couple out loud. You can listen to her interview here, from 1.07.10.

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Dates for the diary: competitions, courses & events 

* Fri 25th-Sat 26th November, BIRMINGHAM. We've got a table at Ikon Gallery's first Winter Craft Market – details here.

* Fri 2nd-Sun 4th December, BIRMINGHAM. You may have spotted that I'm keeping it very local this winter, as a treat to myself. But why leave Birmingham, when there's so much good stuff on? I'm especially looking forward to having a stall at this: the Winter Makers Market in the old Municipal Bank building. Details here.

* Mon 5th Dec. Women writers are invited to send their poetry and prose on the subject of 'Guilt' to Mslexia by 5th December. Winning entries will be published in their March 2017 issue. Details here.

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Open calls for submissions 

* There's just over 2 weeks left to send us your POEMS ABOUT ANIMALS, for The Emma Press Bestiary, an adults' anthology which will be guest-edited by Anja Konig and Liane Strauss. You can read the press release here and the guidelines here. The deadline is Sunday 4th December 2016.

Closed calls for submissions 

* Our call for poems about British and Irish KINGS AND QUEENS closed on 13th November and we are no longer accepting entries. I'll let you know an ETA for responses in the December newsletter.

* Our call for LOVE POEMS ended on 10th April and we have now sent out all the responses to everyone who submitted. If you can't find a response, even in your spam folder, let me know and I'll forward the email on to you again!

* Our call for poems for THE EMMA PRESS ANTHOLOGY OF AUNTS ended on 29th May and we are no longer accepting entries. The current ETA for responses is the end of November 2016.

This is a complete update on all of our calls for submissions, and we do send responses to everyone's submissions individually. In the meantime, just keep an eye on our newsletters for news of our progress and read our blog to find out what we do when we process submissions.

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And finally... 

* You can see some photos from our launch party for Watcher of the Skies: Poems about Space and Aliens, taken by poet John Canfield, here.

* There's a new writing magazine brewing over in Belfast: The Tangerine. Read all about it in the Irish Times and check out the Kickstarter campaign here.

* I hope everyone who went had a nice time at Poetry in Aldeburgh last weekend! The poet-in-residence Ben Rogers diligently did about a million interviews, including ones with Jacqueline Saphra, Emily Berry and Geraldine Clarkson. Get this man in residence in more places!

* 'These are poems how I like them to be' – Nadia Kingsley from Fairacre Press has written a lovely piece about Deborah Alma's pamphlet True Tales of the Countryside. You can read it here.

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That's all for now. Do forward this newsletter onto your friends if you think they might enjoy it, or encourage them to sign up themselves here.

Best wishes,

Emma Wright

Sunday, 13 November 2016

This week at Valley Press, #35: 'By request'

Dear readers,

Unusually, this week I've found myself beset with suggestions on what to talk about in the newsletter. I've had requests to discuss the political elephant in the room (who packed and left for the circus, etc), the war poets (as it's Remembrance Sunday here in the UK), baby George (of course!), Antony's first launch (more appropriate), where the hardbacks are, what books are still to come this year, and – as we make a last promotional push for this year's submissions process – why we made you fill in the now-infamous paper forms.

Guess what? I've decided I actually will touch on everything above; this is one time when all the people can have what they want! So let's get started.
* * * * *

I've always been determined to keep politics and Valley Press separate; I want VP to be a place where every single person can come together to be creative, enjoy the fruits of other people's creativity, and maybe learn something – no matter what their opinions or values. If 2016 has taught me anything, it's that this bitterly divided world really needs places like that (metaphorical or otherwise), and I need to keep it up.

This has led to me holding (and indeed biting) my tongue on the issues of the day for a good five years or so, to the point where I apparently seem totally disengaged. I'm okay with that! But just once, here are some opinions of mine (that shouldn't be too controversial or surprising):
  1. I think our society has a deeply flawed attitude to/understanding of money and work.
  2. I think this is both a cause and and effect of our education system, which I've seen from many sides and appears to also be profoundly flawed.
  3. Because of points 1 and 2, but worsened in this century by accelerating technological changes (think, automation), it is getting easier for people with money to make money, and harder for everyone else.
  4. 'Everyone else' is therefore frustrated, to put it incredibly mildly. (I am too, but I have a cushy life and a new son to take my mind off things – I also have no idea how to change points 1, 2 or 3.)
  5. Some people thought Brexit and Trump would shake up this status quo, so voted for them. No-one knows what the future holds, right now; could be bad, could be good, but it's coming either way. We'll find out together.
* * * * *

Antony's Leeds launch was a success, of course, boosted by a great introduction from Faber and Faber's poetry editor Matthew Hollis (spot him in the header image; and James Nash, Peter Spafford and Matthew Hedley Stoppard if you're feeling ambitious). He reminded us of 'the Dymock poets', a group that assembled in the years before WW1 and was dismantled by it (that's your war poets mention); and went on to describe a trip he and Antony took to the village of Dymock, walking the paths walked by Edward Thomas and Robert Frost. Matthew described being there in the exact moments poems about this experience were written; readers of Antony's new collection can enjoy these from page 35.

More prosaically, Matthew also mentioned doing an event with Simon Armitage recently, who apparently leaned over and whispered: 'Antony Dunn is a good poet'. We'll take that as a review!

The night was only slightly dampened (for me) by the absence of our luxury Antony Dunn hardbacks, which I'm still waiting to actually see. The six-week saga of these missing books, which began with me telling the printer 'they must be ready by the 10th November', is worth a lengthy essay one day (which will make you laugh or cry), but for now I'll say the last straw, the ultimate delay, was due to 'the glue not being dry'. Oh, I also had to send them the front cover illustration three times – and eventually say, almost shouting: 'I don't know how else to put this across. The fish goes at the front in the middle.'
* * * * *

Let's calm things down (briefly) by looking at baby George, now seven weeks old:

Despite me being almost as tired as George looks, there are still three books coming from Valley Press this year – according to the spreadsheet anyway. I'm confident you'll see two, at least; the third, being the most complicated book I've ever tried to put together, is somewhat unpredictable (but completely worth it). I can't really tell you about any of them today, but keep an eye on the next two newsletters for details.

That leaves me with only one last issue to mention: why did we make you fill in paper forms to submit your work this year? We've always done paper submissions, mainly as I like to discuss them with real people in a real room, and don't like paying for printer ink; but the form was a new invention for 2016 – and funded by the Arts Council. You could (and still can) get them by buying a book from our site, or attending an event (such as Antony's next launch reading, at York's Friargate Theatre this Friday, 18th, from 7pm.)

This policy has led to hundreds of emails during the year from prospective authors grumbling furiously, most of which have been valiantly dealt with by Laura. They don't like jumping through hoops, which is fair enough; but my thinking was, if you've made your way to our website, you're either a convert to the Valley Press cause (in which case buying a book will be a natural next step), or you don't like the look of us, in which case you won't be wanting to submit your precious work. It makes sense!

The reason the form exists in the first place is actually to reach the general public: people who'd never dream, in a million years, of searching online for 'publishers welcoming unsolicited submissions'. That's why it says on the front of the form, 'have you got a book in you?', instead of something mundane and typical like 'The Valley Press Writing Prize, 2016, Entry Form'. I've been spreading the forms as far as I can all year: supermarkets, cinemas, theatres, hospital waiting rooms, and even if they touch just one person who didn't previously think they could be published, and get them to pick up a pen and write something for us, the whole thing has been a success.

That brings us back to politics: we can't just talk to 'our own kind' any more, can't get stuck in bubbles of common beliefs and interests if we're going to fix the world's problems. That's my last point today – hopefully I can go back to holding my tongue for five years!

Thanks for reading, as ever; see you next week.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Sunday, 6 November 2016

This week at Valley Press, #34: 'Mind the gap'

Dear readers,

Felix and Sue's 'Hull to Scarborough Line' has been going for six years now, and they treated both ends of the line to performances of their new show Mind the Gap this week. If you've not seen H2SL, it's hard to describe exactly what it is: not a play, not a 'reading', but a live event that falls somewhere in between the two. Absolutely brilliant, of course, without fail – there's a reason they pack rooms with 50+ people at a time for a 'literary event' (see header image).

I was able to capture the first seven minutes of tonight's show in video form, and put it on YouTube here; sorry it's not better-filmed, I always forget my camera and end up using the phone! The Hull event had a two-man technical team supplying sound effects and bona-fide station announcements; in Scarborough, we do things a little more modestly, replacing the technical team with a man in a hat (the unmistakable David Lewis). I hope you like it anyway, and remember you can pick up Sue's new book here if you want some great short stories.

I don't have too much else to tell you this week, but I can report I've found plenty of female readers for my submissions 'reading group' – so could really use a couple of men, if any are out there! To recap: I'm needing volunteers to spend a day in Scarborough (now narrowed to the 16th or 17th December) briefly looking at the submissions we've received this year, so I know which potential books real readers might be interested in. People who've done it before have really seemed to enjoy the experience, and I can promise you biscuits and a few free books! If you're interested, reply to this newsletter and let me know. (More ladies are welcome too, the more the merrier!)

Leeds residents have a chance to see Antony Dunn at Yorkshire Dance this Friday, the 11th (St Peter’s Buildings, St Peter’s Square, LS9 8AH); no tickets, you can just turn up at 7pm and enjoy a fantastic reading and some chat. I'm hoping to have the hardbacks by then ... if history's slowest printer finally puts ink on paper (that's a story for another time).

John Wedgwood Clarke's TV programme about the literary history of the Yorkshire Coast is on BBC4 next Sunday (13th Nov), 7.30pm – not last week, as I mistakenly said in the previous newsletter. Definitely worth a watch.

Finally, earlier in the week, I was sorting some old boxes of books and came across this:

I remember writing that when I moved into the Woodend office in 2013, when I had different interns in every fortnight (an exhausting time!) They would inevitably stumble upon the box in the course of their duties, and it turned into a fascinating social experiment ... some laughed it off, some were genuinely concerned and made a point of sitting away from it.

What was in it? We'll never know; I can't remember, and I can't afford to take the risk of opening it ... I've got a wife, a mother, all kinds of in-laws, several bartenders and a six-week-old depending on me! Theories on a postcard, please.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher