Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Emma Press Newsletter #38: End-of-year newsflash

#38: End-of-year newsflash

Hello everyone,
The Emma Press won at the Michael Marks Awards last week! Unbelievably, the judges gave us the £5000 Publishers' Award, commenting:
'The Emma Press has grown steadily in the few years since they were first shortlisted. As well as having a remarkable list of poets they pay close attention to every aspect of the pamphlets they publish. This is a vibrant, thoughtful press bringing a great energy and sense of endeavour to their work.'
We are quite beside ourselves with joy about this recognition of all our hard work and the calibre of the poets we publish. The financial boost is also very welcome, and I'm looking forward to going out for a fancy dinner with Rachel to celebrate.
The announcement took place at the British Library. There was an official photographer in attendance, so I thought I'd do a little photo story about the evening for you, below. [All images © Tony Grant.]
The shortlisted publishers had to give a 3-minute speech before the winner was announced, and I took the opportunity to talk about diversity in publishing. I've posted in on the blog, so you can read it if you'd like to get the full experience of the evening. Also on the blog, you can also read Jamie-from-Valley-Press's lovely reaction to the news.

Here's Rachel and me at the photocall right at the start of the evening. The photographer said 'Not you again!' when he saw us, which was sweet.

After the drinks reception up on the 3rd floor, we moved down to the exhibition space for the dinner. It's huge and there were over 100 people there.

At the dinner, I was sat next to Michael McGregor, the director of the Wordsworth Trust. He was lovely to talk to, so I managed to forget my nerves about my speech during the dinner. Then the speeches began and before long it was my turn. I was worried about how it would be received, but the audience was very supportive and even burst into applause after the second paragraph! I always worry about speaking too quietly, so I tried my best to project. Rachel told me afterwards that the microphone was clearly very sensitive, as my speech had emerged at a deafening volume from the speakers.

I'd got myself so worked up about giving the speech that I was really relieved when it was over and I could sit down. Then, they announced that we were the winners and it was utterly astonishing. Rachel went up with me to collect the cheque from Lady Marks, which was good because it was a long walk round to the stage from where we were sitting and it was nice to have the company.

I looked pretty serious during my speech, because I wanted to deliver it with the appropriate amount of gravitas, but this all crumbled after we won. I hadn't prepared a speech in case we won, so I just said thank you and got off the stage as quickly as possible.

Here we are making our way back to our seats. I think my continued shock and confusion is quite apparent!

With all that over, we could sit back and enjoy the readings from the shortlisted poets. For the first time, one of the poets was ours: Camille Ralphs, reading from Malkin. She gave a stunning, spine-chilling performance and we felt incredibly proud of her. It was a lovely end to the evening, as it meant that everyone in the room got to see the kind of work we publish.

Submissions Update

Open calls for submissions

None currently. We'll open our next call for submissions in early 2017, once we have replied to all the 2016 submissions. I will give newsletter subscribers a sneak preview of some of next year's subjects in January.

Closed calls for submissions

* Rachel and I have made our selection for POEMS ABOUT AUNTS and we will be sending out our responses from now until Friday. If you can't find your response by the end of Friday, feel free to drop us an email in the new year and we'll forward it on to you again.
* Our call for POEMS ABOUT ANIMALS closed on Sunday 4th December 2016 and we are no longer accepting entries. Anja and Liane will be sending our their responses in the new year and everyone will have heard by the end of January 2017.
* Our call for poems about British and Irish KINGS AND QUEENS closed on 13th November and we are no longer accepting entries. We aim to send our responses by the end of February 2017.
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.
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. Ooh, and HAPPY CHRISTMAS! 
Best wishes,

Emma Wright
Publisher at the Emma Press

Sunday, 18 December 2016

This week at Valley Press, #39: 'Reading material'

Dear readers,

Yesterday our 'reading group' gathered at Woodend to look at all the submissions you sent in during 2016. The header image above shows only one sixth of the envelopes we received – whoah. I don't know exactly how many there are, but it must be several hundred. Thanks so much for taking the time, buying the stamp (and book, if you didn't just stumble upon an entry form!), and trusting us with your precious creations; having now looked at each one myself, I can report there wasn't a single entry that would have embarrassed us if we published it. No time-wasters. Just a lot of very sincere and talented writers, from which I must choose a half-dozen to take forward into book form.

I am some way towards having a shortlist, but not quite there yet – at time of writing I haven't contacted a single person to let them know the result. I will be, though; you'll definitely hear from me before too long (within a month?) Sending positive emails and talking to excited prospective authors may be the best part of the job, while telling the other 99% they didn't make it may be the worst ... so naturally I'm hoping Mrs McGarry will help with that second part. (She gets all the glamorous tasks.)

This week saw the launch of Guests of Time, at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. I didn't attend personally, but it looks like an amazing venue – where else do you get the backdrop pictured below? (That's Kelley Swain in the foreground, photo by Amo Spooner. Almost a 'second presidential debate' vibe going on...)

A few people have commented that they're interested in the book, which includes poems from Kelley, John Barnie, Steven Matthews and various historical figures – but find the £24.99 price a bit off-putting. 'Hey Jamie, why is it so pricey?' they cry. Well, it's a hardback (with ribbon marker and all the trimmings), featuring 18 fantastic, creative, full-colour photographs printed on the best paper I could find; and it's a limited edition, I've only printed 200 and won't be doing any more to that standard. Plus, I've just re-activated the code that gets you £5 off, until the end of the year – just enter OXFORD at the basket.

I like to think we price fairly here at VP: Norah Hanson's Sparks, also launched this week (at the same time we were reading the submissions), is only £7.99, as it's a paperback containing nothing more than black words on cream paper ... in a format I plan to keep reprinting until the cows come home! Norah's debut collection, produced in my first year of professional publishing, has been reprinted seven times, so there's a lot to live up to.

Talking of printing: I've now taken legal advice in the infamous case of the Antony Dunn hardbacks (where I was led repeatedly astray, paid the offending company in full, but still haven't got them). In an official letter, I gave the printers a firm deadline of Wednesday, or else, so let's hope they meet that ... giving us a slim chance to find an open post office and get them to patient pre-orderers before the sun sets on 2016. (By the way: please place all Christmas orders by Wednesday lunchtime, folks.)

I'm going to finish this week's newsletter, and indeed the year's correspondence, with some very good news – on Tuesday, The Emma Press won the Michael Marks Award for best pamphlet publisher (after being shortlisted repeatedly in the past). You'll know me and Emma share this blog, and you can read the inspirational speech she gave on winning here; you may not know that she's one of my all-time heroes, not just in publishing but in the world generally. I don't know anyone who works harder, and stays so kind and positive (an old word would be 'chipper'), whilst doing more good for the literary community.

People say 'oh that Jamie McGarry, he's so enthusiastic about publishing' – and I am, of course – but compared to Emma I'm a cynical old grump. She's a legend! Tributes have been pouring in on Twitter, and hopefully this will be the moment when the Emma Press slips into the mainstream artistic consciousness of the UK. Check out her books, if by some miracle this is the first you're hearing of her. (We love Rachel Piercey too, of course.)

Next Sunday is Christmas Day, it turns out, so I'll be firmly off-duty ... but I might find a little something to pop on the blog. Other than that, I'll be taking a short break in the new year, but will be back before long for another amazing, exhausting programme of potentially award-winning new literature. I've got a good feeling about 2017!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Emma's speech at the 2016 Michael Marks Awards

The Emma Press won the Publishers' Award at the 2016 Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets! The announcement was made at a special dinner held at the British Library on Tuesday 13th December, and I'm still reeling from the shock. It's thrilling to get this kind of recognition this early on, and it means a huge amount to me to have our pamphlet programme highlighted in this way.

The life of a very small press publisher can be quite a solitary one, so I relished the opportunity to spend an evening amongst my industry peers. All the shortlisted publishers had to give a 3-minute presentation about their presses before the winner was announced, so I took the opportunity to talk about something I don't often address publicly but which I think about all the time, as it informs everything I do: diversity in publishing.

You can read the full speech below, and you can see our full range of poetry pamphlets in our webshop.

Emma Wright delivering her speech at the British Library (© Tony Grant)

Emma's speech at the Michael Marks Awards

I'm Emma Wright and I started the Emma Press just over four years ago, after quitting my job at Orion Publishing Group. I never thought I would start my own company, let alone a publishing house, but then – in 2012 – I got tired.

I got tired of seeing men's surnames in the names of the imprints I was working on, and I got tired of looking around the publishing industry and seeing women pretty much everywhere other than at the very top. And I was tired of waiting for other women of colour to rise up the ranks and show me that it was possible, and that this wasn't exclusively a white man's club.

I needed representation in a way that's hard to understand when you're already represented everywhere. I was tired of waiting, so I moved back to my parents' house in Reading, I quit my job and I decided to try and be part of the change.

And now I'm here. I've published 33 poetry books, with 17 more due out next year. I've run two Arts Council-supported poetry tours and, though it's always a financial struggle running an unfunded press full time, my developing sense as an entrepreneur has allowed me to keep the press – and myself – afloat in my new home city of Birmingham.

Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright, after the awards dinner
I've worked with my good friend and brilliant poet and editor Rachel Piercey to champion writers we believe in and produce books which appeal to readers beyond the usual poetry book-buying audiences. We work hard to develop our authors and bring them opportunities, and we're especially proud of our three pamphlet series: the Picks, which are themed and have black and white illustrations; the Pamphlets, which include introductions from other poets as another way in for the reader; and the Art Squares, which are lavishly produced, with full-colour illustrations.

And it's hard. Of course it's hard. I'm running an unfunded poetry publisher, putting books out into a wider cultural conversation that is dominated by vocal, entitled white men, voicing their opinions often without a clue about the toxic state they're contributing to. It's dispiriting, but I'm hopeful that things are changing. Other people are tired too, and I'm seeing more movement now to tackle publishing's lack of diversity.

So, recognition like this means a lot. It's wonderful to be here tonight amongst other poetry-lovers, celebrating the poetry pamphlet, and I want to thank the Michael Marks Awards team for drawing attention to this small but vital part of the poetry ecosystem. Being here tonight, I'm feeling positive about the future.

* * *

The Emma Press Newsletter #37: The Thankful Edition

#37: The Thankful Edition

Hello everyone,
Since the last newsletter I've done three festive markets in Birmingham, met up with or Skyped eight of our twelve new pamphlet authors, and turned thirty.
I spent most of my birthday on my own, at one of the festive markets. This wasn't what I'd expected or hoped for my thirtieth birthday, but it wasn't the worst way to mark the end of my twenties. I am starting to feel proud of myself and my achievements, and my book table at events is a reminder of how I am strong and I get stuff done.
I feel lucky to have the support and trust of my tiny editorial team and all the authors who want to be part of what we do. I also feel thankful to be part of the Birmingham Originals Etsy team, run by my heroes Kirsty and Adrienne at Frilly Industries. Their Winter Makers Market last weekend in the old Municipal Bank building was an astounding success and a tribute to what can be achieved by having a vision and being determined and hard-working as well as really nice.
I loved taking part in the Winter Makers Market and being amongst a community of makers. I felt more at home there than I ever do at gatherings of poetry publishers, and I felt spurred on to take part in the #MeetTheMakerWeek challenge on Instagram, sharing some of the backstory and inner workings of the Emma Press. You can read my posts here
If you're a long-time subscriber, you might notice that the newsletter format has changed a bit. I had some problems with the delivery of my last couple of newletters (you can read the November one here), so I've upgraded to Mailchimp, with all its mind-boggling functionality. Let me know if you spot anything going wrong, such as images not displaying properly.

* * *

E & R & C at the MMAs

The Emma Press has been shortlisted in the Michael Marks Awards for the third year running, so I'll be going along to the awards dinner next Tuesday with my lovely co-editor Rachel Piercey. Excitingly, we'll be joined for the first time by one of our pamphlet poets: Camille Ralphs, author of shortlisted pamphlet Malkin.
You can read what the judges said about us on the Wordsworth Trust website, and you can read Camille's fascinating 'How I Did It' article about one of her poems over on the Poetry School website.

* * *

Perfect Xmas presents

I'm not one to give people the hard sell, but my old Prince's Trust mentor Geeta will be reading this and she'll want to know why I haven't mentioned Christmas presents yet. So, I will casually mention that my webshop is hereand I think poetry books make wonderful gifts.
Moon Juice is a particularly good stocking filler – aimed at children aged 8+ but a delight for all ages really. You can read a glowing review on Playing By The Book, along with an interview with author Kate Wakeling.

* * *

Submissions Update

Open calls for submissions

None currently. We'll launch our next call for submissions in early 2017, once we've replied to all the 2016 submissions. I'll give you all a sneak preview of some of next year's subjects in the January newsletter.

Closed calls for submissions

* Our call for POEMS ABOUT ANIMALS closed on Sunday 4th December 2016 and we are no longer accepting entries. I am Skyping the editors next week and will let you know the ETA for responses in January.
* Our call for poems about British and Irish KINGS AND QUEENSclosed on 13th November and we are no longer accepting entries. We are currently aiming to send our responses by early February.
* Our call for poems for POEMS ABOUT AUNTS ended on 29th May and we are no longer accepting entries. Rachel and I are a little behind on these but we are meeting up to discuss the submissions next week and we will have sent out all the responses by 22nd December 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.

And finally...

* Ticket sales are now open for VERVE, Birmingham's first festival for poetry and spoken word, taking place 16-19th February 2017. You can book places in the various workshops and readings here.
* Congratulations to Rachel Long, winner of the Poetry School diary poems competition! Congratulations also to Cynthia Miller, Ben Bransfield and Marvin Thompson, who have been selected for Primers Volume 2
Rachel Piercey, main editor person at the Emma Press, is teaching a Poetry School course called To Sea in the Sieve: Writing Poems for Children, starting 25th January 2017. You can find all the booking info here.
* Have you made a recommendation for the Ted Hughes Awards yet? They're open till 9th January 2017 and you can read this helpful guide to the kinds of new work in poetry you can recommend.
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
Publisher at the Emma Press

Thursday, 8 December 2016

This week at Valley Press, #38: 'Sparks'

Dear readers,

What day is it...?

I'm kidding (just). Having been knocked off my feet by a bug at the weekend, I couldn't manage even the smallest apology for a newsletter, so please accept this mid-week special to cover last weekend and the one coming. We'll have one more of these to see out the year, on the 18th, then I may take a short break. There are submissions to read!

The great news today is that our last book of the year is at the printers: we've finally finished 2016, which has encompassed no less than twenty new titles. It's been a longer journey than expected, on a bumpy road, with a few wrong turns, but we've reached the destination safely and with our dignity intact. Any missed stops (like Helen's big book, and the Yorkshire anthology) can be painlessly slotted into next year's adventure.

Our final 2016 book is the third collection by long-time Valley Press poet Norah Hanson, titled Sparks. A lot of you will have got to know Norah and her work over the past five years, to the extent that I really only need to say 'Norah has a new book out' to do my job of selling a heap of copies – but maybe I should try a little harder than that. Her work is wise, funny and always important (but never self-important): there aren't any riddles and literary exercises, just language at its most purposeful, whether that purpose is to make you laugh, cry, think, or all three.

Her first two books are some of our best-sellers, and – in my expert opinion as fan and publisher – this new collection is even better than those two. But don't take my word for it; you can read advice for 'growing old disgracefully' on the website now, and read the whole book for £7.99 ... or less, entering discount code ZAP at the checkout. Plus, there's a launch: visit Hull's Artlink centre at 1.30pm on Saturday 17th December for readings, a hot drink and a mince pie. Can't say fairer than that!

* * * * *

In other news: there's a nice little interview with Di Slaney on the web here, which fans of Reward for Winter will appreciate. Paul Sutherland is reading from his New and Selected Poems in York on December 14th, as part of the legendary 'Speaker's Corner' event – from 7.30pm at the Golden Ball, Cromwell Road. That's one of his first UK readings since the book came out, having been in Canada for a month or two.

On a less positive note, we still haven't got those Antony Dunn hardbacks, despite now having paid the printer in full just to get the matter over with. The latest excuse is that their office is 'closed for maintenance'; very suspect. Worst part is, they actually had me believing they were about to arrive, again – how many times am I going to fall for that?

I think the time to be coy has passed: the name of this printer, now a full month late with delivery, is D&M Heritage Ltd. I suppose they must occasionally complete a job to stay in business, but on this one occasion I have worked with them, they have provided the most abysmal service at every stage. If they'd been paid by an enemy of mine to specifically wind me up, I can't think of anything else they could have done. Please avoid them in future if you're someone who prints books.

And... breathe. Lots to look forward to. Tomorrow, there should be a fairly big full-colour ad for Valley Press books in the TLS (let me know if you spot it!), and even more exciting, I'm heading to a recording studio with Andy Seed to capture Poems for Pensioners in the form of sound, for an audiobook edition (hopefully something we'll be doing more of in future).

Thanks for reading, have a great weekend (I never get to say that!), and I'll be in touch on the 18th – by which point we should have our shortlist for 2017 publications...

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher