Sunday, 26 February 2017

This week at Valley Press, #43: 'Fully booked'

Dear readers,

Depending on your perspective, I have some good or bad news to start with – as of Friday, I've filled our 2017 'list'. The whiteboard at VP HQ is bulging with exciting forthcoming titles, scheduled between now and November, and I'm looking forward to telling you all about them in the months to come.

However, as I still have a bag of really excellent 2016 submissions that I haven't said 'yes' or 'no' to yet, I've decided to keep the current process going until we've filled the first half of 2018. So if you haven't heard from us, don't give up hope just yet (but don't get too excited either, probably only 1 in 6 of those left in the bag will get an offer of publication).

This means I'll need the email reading group to continue the phenomenal work they've been doing so far – if you'd like to join that, it's definitely not too late, just let me know. It's time I set a hard deadline for this saga to conclude, so here goes: everyone who sent a manuscript to Valley Press in 2016 (and remembered to enclose the official form) will hear from us with a final decision by 31st March. Thanks for your patience!

* * * * 

Looking beyond the next week (when I seem to have eight days worth of work to do), I'm pleased to announce an upcoming Valley Press event happening in Birmingham, on March 22nd. I'll be there with my book stall, and there will be readings from Tom Preston, Di Slaney and Michael Stewart, three fantastic writers at the top of their game.

The event starts at 6.30pm, and the venue is The Woodman, which I'm told is a short walk from major train stations. I don't believe you can book tickets in advance (I'll let you know), but you should be okay just turning up as things stand. It's been organised by the English department at Birmingham City University (hence the image above), so many thanks to them for supporting such a distant enterprise! Hope to see some of you there.

* * * * 

Finally, I promised to share a poem from our next publication, the highly-anticipated Helen Burke Collected Poems, now due at the end of March (along with the subs replies, and the Yorkshire anthology ... no pressure then!) This poem hasn't been published by Valley Press before, but does have a special place in history: it was the first poem I ever read by Helen, way back in 2009. So I'll leave you in her capable hands, and see you next week.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Recipe for a Poet

by Helen Burke, from Today the Birds Will Sing: Collected Poems

First, take an unusual childhood.
By the age of three, you should be at least be sporting a wooden leg.
By the age of four, you should be dressed completely in wigs,
pseudo-chess pieces and old sailors’ clothes,
preferably without the old sailor being attached.
An eye-glass would also be good.

Your mother should be, unwittingly, a great beauty,
able to paint upside-down in the nude, and take in lodgers
who were once either aristocrats or murderers.
Both would be ideal.
Your father, the seemingly saner one,
should be a Russian Prince, with a liking for cheroots,
balalaikas, and looking mystically out of windows clutching a book.
The book must never be identified. This is crucial.

Don’t panic. You’re halfway there already.

Next, you should have a half-mad sister, who
makes love to passing tradesmen on the dining room table –
well, any table really –
wearing only wellington boots and fishnet tights.
She is called Esmeralda, but only answers to Gert.
Your older brother, well, let’s face it, he can be anything
from an accountant to a taxidermist to a line dancer
(though this last is pushing it).
Older brothers are often irrelevant and he will almost certainly outlive you,
so you are allowed to dislike him. Heartily.

Now, we come to you.
You must die young, and be mad, bad and brilliant.
You should practise some incredibly deep last words, like:
‘Je ne regrette rien’, ‘Et tu, Brutus’ or
‘Okay, I’ll see the doctor now.’
You may have 486 lovers – all of whom will speak well of you,
despite the fact that you treat them like lemmings.
In fact, lemmings have it easy, compared to them.

In your teens, if you make it that far,
you should have a completely committed breakdown.
And I don’t mean one of those half-hearted affairs,
involving therapy and pleasant chit-chat with other loonies,
sorry, doctors. No. No.
No. I mean really throw yourself in at the deep end.
Pamper yourself. Show the others how it’s done.
You must go completely and superbly bonkers.
Here are a few tips, if you’re stuck.

Grow an extra nipple.
Change your hairstyle to resemble an anteater’s.
Wear a cat as an accessory.
Give one of your eyebrows a separate mailing address.
Call yourself by the name of an undiscovered galaxy.
Take to riding a horse in full armour –
even if it’s only to pop down to the local Co-op
for a loaf of bread and a couple of muesli yoghurts.
It’s this sort of attention to detail that people notice.
This is what makes the difference between the fourteen-liner
and the card-carrying sonnet scribbler.

Now we come to death.
You should be travelling somewhere distant
(this could even be out-of-body if you’re short of cash).
Either you receive a sudden snake or anteater bite
(blame it on the hairstyle) –
or your plane’s wind-mobile should fuzz, fur or clog
causing you to make a sudden, unprecipitated, unexpected
and painful crash-landing. Peru is quite popular.
Or Basingstoke. Although obviously pack more sensibly
for Basingstoke.
At any rate, the tribe where you pull up were not anticipating visitors,
and catching them rather on the hop, as you do
(and in the absence of their own Co-op)
they invite you to stay for dinner.
Unfortunately for you, young poet, you are dinner.

And this is how poets are made.

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