Sunday, 19 March 2017

This week at Valley Press, #46: 'Off the hook'

Dear readers,

The highlight of this week was our 'don't call it a launch' launch event for the Yorkshire Anthology. Due to the vagaries of my Arts Council project, and the selling schedule of the book trade, the anthology won't be in shops until August 1st – but we needed to 'launch' it in March. And launch it we did, in style! Although the event featured no less than twenty poets reading consecutively, everyone seemed to agree that the hour flew by.

I got an emergency print run to cover the event, and those copies are already pretty much gone: I'll get some more of course, but pre-orderers please note, you may need a wait a little longer for yours to arrive. The scene was captured by anthology contributor David Coldwell, who as you can see was sat with the other readers behind the microphone. The figure at the mic here is me; one of the better photos of me, actually...

This was also the week of my final meeting with Helen Burke about her new book. Slightly magical things tend to happen when you're with Helen, and this was no exception: Helen last saw her late father at 4.20pm on the 13th March 1999, and every year on that day, at that time, he finds some way to drop into her life. This is described to some extent in her poem 'The Last Time'.

Sure enough, as we headed towards the end of the meeting, with all other questions settled, there was one poem out of the hundreds in the book which I didn't have a 'note' for (Helen's books always have a notes section, offering background information on the poems). The poem without a note was 'The Last Time', and as I brought it up on the screen so Helen could dictate the story above, it was 4.20pm on the 13th March. Thought that was worth a mention here.

I won't share the poem now, will save it for another time, but here's an illustration by Helen that might make it into the book – though won't be quite as colourful.

While I was on my way to see Helen, Antony Dunn's 'Animal Rescue' (from Take This One to Bed) went on the Guardian's website as 'Poem of the Week'. You can read the poem, and Carol Rumens's elegant examination of it here – a highly recommended article. It's always wonderful to see a Valley Press poem getting such careful consideration, and the publicity is not too shabby either!

Someone reminded me this week that I never told you the end of the saga about the limited edition hardbacks for Antony's book. When I wrote the last newsletter before Christmas, two months after they were originally due for delivery, I'd given the offending printer a deadline of 5pm on the 21st December to hand over the books – or I'd never accept them, and would be demanding my money back.

After a tense day watching the clock, they were eventually delivered by the printing firm's managing director, personally, just minutes before the deadline. So all's well that ends well (sort of), and there are now only a couple of dozen hardbacks left; you can purchase one here for just £10. They look like this:

The final bit of news this week is perhaps the most significant, long-term; so brace yourself! On my way to Leeds on Saturday I took a good long look at my diary, my to-do list, and my inbox (all bulging), and realised I've reached a point that has been steadily creeping up for months – it is now physically impossible for me to keep up with the basic running of Valley Press.

For a long time, things worked like this: when I replied to an email or completed a task, another one would arrive immediately in its place – which is a somewhat sustainable situation. But for the past few weeks, as I sent a reply or finished something, two new items arrived in the 'in tray'... which meant the situation got ugly, fast.

I'm urgently working on finding more staff to join me in the Scarborough office, but in the short term, the majority of Valley Press emails are going to stay unanswered, and non-critical tasks remain undone. I simply don't have a choice; I've done fifteen days' worth of work in the last two weeks, but there's no way I can keep that up. So please try your best to let me off the hook, and I'll make sure normal service is resumed as quickly as possible.

I probably need a holiday ... but in the meantime, at least I have a trip to Birmingham to look forward to! A quick reminder about that: on Wednesday 22nd, from 6.30pm at The Woodsman, you can hear VP authors Tom Preston, Di Slaney and Michael Stewart read from their recent publications, and you can meet a rather tired (but hopeful) young publisher. See you there; and if not, in your inbox next week.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

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