Friday, 2 February 2018

This week at Valley Press, #89: 'Grafters'

Dear readers,

Jamie here! We had a great response to Wendy's newsletter two weeks ago (this is a fortnightly bulletin now, remember), and in fact even Mrs McGarry – when pushed – was forced to admit it was a small improvement on the usual communications. That being said, I'm not ready to disappear behind the gates of my chocolate factory just yet, so you can still expect to hear from me occasionally throughout 2018.

I've re-taken the wheel today as I wanted to describe my excitement at hearing Norah Hanson's poem 'Grafters' (from Sparks) on Radio 4's 'Poetry Please' last Sunday. It was chosen by a new-ish friend of ours, Hollie McNish, and you can hear Hollie read the poem, with an introductory discussion, on the iPlayer here. Jump to 5 mins 45 secs to just hear Norah's part (but if you do, you'll miss Seamus Heaney's 'Digging', among other treats).

Hollie's introduction pretty much hits the nail on the head as to why Norah's poetry is important (the first reason: it's great, but there are others given too). That poem is beautiful, and Norah did a great version of it for the Sparks audiobook, which I've uploaded here (or grab the whole audiobook here if you feel inclined, only £3.40). For once though, it wasn't the words or the performance that had me watery-eyed when I listened ... bear with me while I give you a bit of back-story.

There are a very small group of older poets, published in the first years of Valley Press, who took a chance on me when I had almost no idea what I was doing – in my first year of full-time publishing, for example, I was more-or-less running around like a headless chicken. I should have been laughed out of the industry, but instead these authors were patient, let me make mistakes, and gave me the benefit of the doubt. (Hopefully, decent-looking books were their reward!)

Without them, there would be no Valley Press today, and it's a concrete fact that without publishing Love Letters & Children's Drawings (Norah's first collection) in November 2011, VP wouldn't have made it past that Christmas. Because of this history, to hear Norah's poetry make it onto national radio, with McGough, Heaney, McNish et al (even though it only amounts to a minute of airtime) is genuinely one of the top ten moments of my career so far. Here's hoping it brings her a whole new readership. Tell your friends!

* * *

The other big excitement this week was the announcement that Antony Dunn's Take This One to Bed has been selected for New Writing North's tenth annual 'Read Regional' campaign. This means a large-scale stocking-up of the book by libraries in the north of England, a series of events in the region, and Antony writing a new introduction to the book, which you can read here (a great bit of writing in itself). A list of the events can also be found on that link, which includes visits to Hartlepool, Morpeth, Darlington, Newcastle, Leeds, Stockport, Bradford and Hull. A great time to catch this poet in action!

There was also a new episode of 'The Friday Morning Meeting', which (as you'll hopefully recall) is a publishing podcast I've been recording with Emma Wright from the Emma Press. You can hear the new show here, find the whole archive here, and in theory you can now 'subscribe' to the podcast via iTunes here (do let me know if that works). We're becoming quite proud of these programmes, I don't mind telling you – and the EP team are also proud of their new Anthology of Love, which looks absolutely fantastic, and features a handful of VP poets to boot. I've ordered my copy! It's definitely the best book published since our last newsletter (especially with our 'hairy' book, which I unwisely teased at the start of the year, still in production).

On that note, it's back to work now for me and the rest of the team. The submissions backlog is now down to 87 (from 296 when I originally paused subs), so great progress made there... we'll soon be able to open our doors again to new work (keep writing!) Wendy will be writing to you again in a couple of weeks' time, when our first graphic novel is expected to arrive on the shelves – so as ever, watch this space.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

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