Tuesday, 30 April 2019

The Emma Press at Andersen Press: Weeks Three and Four

As part of the development of the Emma Press’ children’s publishing programme (funded by Arts Council England), Yen-Yen Lu will be undertaking a six-week work placement at Andersen Press to learn more about children’s publishing on a larger scale and writing a weekly blog on her findings! 

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been involved with a variety of admin tasks across the marketing, editorial, and rights departments at Andersen. Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, the popular children’s book character and a series which shaped my early reading experiences, is published by Andersen Press. It’s coming up to Elmer Day (25th May) and it’s also the 30th anniversary of Elmer so everyone in the office has been busy preparing for it. I have been sending out Party Packs, featuring stickers, colouring pages, and other DIY activities around Elmer, to schools, bookshops and libraries so that they can hold their own events for Elmer Day. The Elmer Day website also includes an event map and a page to upload information about events for people to find.

For the past year, the Emma Press has been working with the Reading Agency to help promote some of our children’s titles, particularly The Dog Who Found Sorrow and the Bicki-Books. We have created activity packs to send to schools and libraries similar to the Elmer Day packs, for reading groups and clubs to run their own sessions focused on the books. This included posters, stickers, and various DIY acitivities. We also have some of our titles featured in their newsletters, social media, and occasionally run giveaways.
Our promotions help us to connect with children in schools and libraries across the UK. It’s always really interesting to see feedback from directly from children (as opposed to adult reviewers), as they are our target audience for these books. It’s also useful for us to see how our translated books are received in the UK. The responses from children are usually very creative and sincere and as the team worked hard on creating the activities, for example, discussion ideas, writing exercises, and origami activities, it’s lovely to see some of the results. 

As a smaller publisher, it’s helpful to have the Reading Agency’s network to promote the books. However, I wondered if it would be possible to run a promotion independently, similar to the Elmer Day events. While the Emma Press children’s books don’t have a 30 year legacy (yet), it might be an idea to have a similar promotion (with bookshops and libraries to run their own book events) as a way to introduce our translated children’s list to children in the UK. Generally, the translated books we’ve published are very well-known (and loved) in their original languages and we already run various children’s events, usually with author visits, at bookshops, festivals, and libraries. Particularly with our recent ACE grant to develop our children’s publishing programme and partnerships with local libraries, it might be possible to take this further and be more involved.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Kathy Pimlott on place, poetry, and Elastic Glue

Kathy Pimlott talks about her new poetry pamphlet, Elastic Glue… 

The poems in Elastic Glue are mostly about ownership of place. One of these places is Covent Garden where I, an incomer, have lived for 40+ years, in the corner called Seven Dials.

Most people think of the area as a tourist honeypot of dinky shops, bars and restaurants, with some very expensive flats for short-term lets or foreign investors – and that’s true. But it’s not the whole picture. It’s also home to successive generations of people who worked in the wholesale market, the theatres, the print and their ancillary trades. When two of these mass employers moved out, leaving the area ripe for redevelopment, the residents, who mostly lived in dilapidated social housing, didn’t just quietly submit to ‘relocation’, they stayed to fight a prolonged and complicated community-led battle with developers – both the benign-but-misguided and the opportunistic.

They were successful. Covent Garden was not flattened. The community was not ‘decanted’. Most importantly, a substantial quantity of new social housing was built. But the success was double-edged as the area became an increasingly desirable proposition for profit. The struggle now is to maintain a foot-hold in this heavily-marketed prime real estate and a sense of normality, surrounded as we are by pop-ups and fairylights and bedevilled by late night revellers and crack dealers.

The other place which crops up is an allotment site. I’m very struck by the changes in profile of allotmenteers over the years we’ve had plots and the little England-ness of the activity – how a sense of ownership here comes through an intense and strenuous physical relationship with land and productivity.

The poems are full of people – there’s Lenin and Renzo Piano, the Consultant Placemaker, Chicken Jim, the biodynamic hippy, the Fred Collinses and, amid them, me, owning myself – from a child in the school hall in my knickers and vest, stumbling towards feminism, as a heedless squatter, through to a ruby wedding anniversary. It’s a political pamphlet but channelled through the personal – as I’m a child of my times.

I write about what catches and noodles around in my mind. I still work within community activism, for a small Trust involved in public realm projects in Seven Dials, so engagement with who ‘owns’ the area is always on my mind. Though these are now quite old poems for me, I do like them still. I think they ‘stand up’. And they still make me laugh.

The title of the pamphlet comes from an old enamel sign on what used to be the ironmongers and is now a ‘vintage’ clothes shop. Seven successive generations of Fred Collinses had the business, through to the 1990s, when ill-health forced sale. I think of that continuity as a flexible but tenacious elastic glue which binds a community together – how accumulated place-based memories are as powerful a form of ownership as a freehold.

There are a couple of poems in my first pamphlet, Goose Fair Night, about Nottingham, where I was born and grew up – but they’re a personal history. I use place in other poems as a way to access ideas I want to have a play with or memories I want to tease out. Elastic Glue is definitely further removed from my personal history – though that’s there too, of course. I think, stylistically, the poems are a bit braver, less restricted by what’s of the moment – there’s a ballad!

In theory I set aside a couple of mornings a week for poetry – that might be writing from scratch and /or editing or it might be poetry admin, like submissions. If I’m writing new work or editing, I can usually keep at it for four hours or so at a stretch, interspersed with putting on another load of washing or a quick hoover round – dedicated writing time is the best spur to doing housework. I write new work in bursts – starting by hand and then moving to the screen once I’ve built up momentum, a certain hard-to-define weight. I keep a poetry diary where I write, last thing at night, about readings I’ve been to, the two poetry workshopping groups I’m part of, what I’ve been reading, what acceptances or rejections I’ve had and my notional plans – this sometimes turns into proto first drafts as does my sporadic non-poetry diary in which I moan about life, work and people. And I aim to read some poetry every day, leaving books and magazines lying around to ambush and encourage me.

I’m currently working on another pamphlet. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the poems are confessional but I’m thinking through what passes for an accumulated wisdom of age and trying to set it out. It includes poems about egg and chips, advice to daughters, adjusting to daylight saving, Keats, the Mersey Sound poets and Sammy Davis Jnr. Pending, I have notes waiting for my focused attention on crimes I have committed and an anecdote about a flying pig, which I think might be about the balance between expectation and resignation. I’m looking forward to that – but first, I find I must clean the bathroom.

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You can find out more about Elastic Glue and order your copy (£6.50) here.

Follow Kathy on Twitter @kathy_pimlott and find her website here.

Monday, 15 April 2019

The Emma Press at Andersen Press: Week Two

As part of the development of the Emma Press’ children’s publishing programme (funded by Arts Council England), Yen-Yen Lu will be undertaking a six-week work placement at Andersen Press to learn more about children’s publishing on a larger scale and writing a weekly blog on her findings! 

Last week, I had an interesting day at Andersen Press reading through the fiction slush pile. While it is a dream for me to spend the entire day reading, I also felt slightly guilty knowing that some of the submissions would have to be rejected. As a writer myself, I can understand that it can be disheartening to have your work rejected, especially when you’ve put a lot of work into not only writing but also summoning up the courage to send your work in at all. However, it can also be reassuring, at least, to know that this particular publisher wouldn’t be right for your work (or vice versa) and you can move on to submitting elsewhere or working on something new. I once met a writer who said they were aiming for forty rejection letters in one year and I found it strangely inspiring (I’ve only had a couple this year, but fingers crossed).

Andersen Press are one of the few larger publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts (as opposed to manuscripts from agents). The fiction submissions guidelines ask for a physical copy of the synopsis and the first three chapters of a manuscript to be sent in the post along with a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). The last time we had a call for pamphlet submissions at the Emma Press, the guidelines asked for six pages of a manuscript to be emailed as a PDF or word document instead. I read through most of those submissions on my laptop but this time I found that reading through physical copies of a manuscript felt a bit easier, though part of me was slightly concerned for the environment. Fortunately, old envelopes and the manuscripts that authors didn’t want back are usually recycled. 

The covering letter is important because this is a chance to tell the editor about your work and who you are, as well as being somewhat representative of your skill and style as a writer. Normally, the covering letter would focus on your writing experience and your work, such as influences on the work or what the work might be similar to. Some authors also include a synopsis of the work in the covering letter. I found that some authors also talked a lot about themselves outside of their writing, for instance, about their family history, their pets, and their other hobbies. While it can be useful to include a short biography, it might not be a good idea to focus your covering letter on what your childhood was like and who your favourite musicians are. The exception would be if it is something relevant to your work e.g. you are writing about someone growing up in Newcastle in the 1980s and you are someone who grew up in Newcastle in the 1980s.

It is also helpful for an author to read the submissions guidelines. This might sound incredibly obvious and maybe slightly patronising but unfortunately, during my experience at the Emma Press and Andersen Press, I have still received submissions that deviate from the guidelines and that can hurt the chances of the work being published. This was particularly the case for receiving genres that the press didn’t publish or weren’t right for a particular editor. For example, during the Emma Press’ call for submissions, each of the editors specified which genres they were interested in reading and even though I’d specified that I was interested in fiction, I still received a lot of poetry submissions. Although all of these submissions were still read by the whole team, it would have been much more straightforward for the editors and the authors if the submissions were directed to someone who specialised in that genre. 

Andersen Press accept picture book and fiction submissions and their guidelines can be read here. The Emma Press are currently running a call for picture books, closing on the 20th April (this Saturday!) and their guidelines can be read here. You can also take a look at their current picture book list on the Emma Press website.  

Friday, 5 April 2019

The Emma Press at Andersen Press: Week One

As part of the development of the Emma Press’ children’s publishing programme (funded by Arts Council England), Yen-Yen Lu will be undertaking a six-week work placement at Andersen Press to learn more about children’s publishing on a larger scale and writing a weekly blog on her findings! 

Andersen Press is based in the Penguin Random House building, though they are independent. I knew this before I arrived but I still had a few moments of panic as I waited in the reception, thinking “oh God I’m in the completely wrong place and now I’m going to be extremely late”. Luckily, this moment passed when Sarah, Head of Marketing, came down to meet me and we headed to the office. I met the rest of the team, including Paul and Alice in the Publicity department, who I’d be working with that day.

We spent the day preparing copies of a new book to send out to schools, libraries, bookshops, and literary organisations, along with a letter and info sheet, as part of their publicity campaign for the book. This was something that I’d had some experience with at the Emma Press when I emailed various places about whether they might like a review copy or if they’d be interested in stocking the book or having an event with the author at their school or library. However, at Andersen Press, I learned that they usually send copies of the book directly to people, rather than emailing first. Emma and I had recently been discussing this strategy so I asked a bit more about their process and how they decide which places to send the book to. I learned that they use different lists for different types of books, depending on what kind of book it was and who it might appeal to.

I found this interesting and thought it could definitely be something to take back to the Emma Press. We similarly put together a publicity plan for each book, but having curated lists ready seemed much more efficient and would be quite straightforward to put together as we already had lists of contacts. I particularly wondered if this could be something to do with Once Upon a Time in Birmingham and future titles about Birmingham, sending copies directly to schools, libraries, and stockists based in Birmingham.

Alice and I discussed some of the pros and cons to both emailing first and sending books directly. On one hand, people could be quite annoyed with getting books out of the blue and perhaps they would have a more positive response if they’d been contacted about the book beforehand. However, it seemed that having curated lists for specific types of books would make it more likely that the person receiving the book would be interested in buying copies of the book. 

It seemed to me that it would definitely be an advantage to sending books out directly. It was the best way to get a feel for the book compared to an email, and a lot more efficient in the long run. Next week, I’m hoping to find out more about how Andersen track the results of their campaign!