Let me start by sharing a photo, taken last week by the great David Chalmers:
Yes, that’s every Valley Press book from the last five years, in one towering stack. It’s an odd feeling to see five years of work expressed so visually (precariously, even!) It makes me think ‘wow, we've really achieved something’, with perhaps a little bit of: ‘five years work, for one mid-sized stack of books?!’ But hey, what a stack.
Balancing at the top is our third publication for November, The Finest Years and Me by Mark Woodburn – sequel to Winston and Me, which long-term fans will remember VP publishing in 2012. Winston and Me saw plucky young scot Jamie Melville run away to join the army, in 1916, aged just fifteen years old. He ended up as an orderly to Colonel Winston Churchill, and they faced various battles in the trenches and outside them. (I won’t go into too much detail, rest assured it moves along at a pace – and is still available of course, see here.)
The sequel (pictured below) picks up the story twenty-five years later, in 1942, when Winston is Prime Minister, facing enemies ‘across the world, inside his own parliament, and within his very soul’ (to quote the blurb). With all this in mind, Winston’s family decide to call for Jamie, who has since relocated to Scarborough (very wisely), but soon finds himself in London and Washington D.C., involved in ‘high-end decision making, intrigue, treachery and betrayal’.
Both Mark’s books are meticulously researched; early readers were convinced the first was a genuine memoir. If you’re a fan of historical fiction and interested in the world wars, they come highly recommended. The Finest Years and Me is out now, but we’re officially launching it on Tuesday 8th December, at Blackwell’s in Edinburgh, from 6.30pm. It’s free to come along, of course, and you’ll get to see me interview Mark about the writing process and more. Should be fantastic! Click here to find out more information on this book and next week’s event.
The final Valley Press book for November, and 2015, is The Learned Goose by Jo Brandon – copies haven’t arrived here at time of writing, but they do exist, as evidenced by this photo kindly provided by Villi from Pulsio (one of our wonderful printers). Again, long-term fans will recognise the name; we published Jo’s debut pamphlet Phobia in 2012, and are very proud to now present her first full-length collection ... in a glorious, foiled-up, almost-square production.
It was partly this last-minute change of dimensions that led to me waiting for copies at 9pm on release day; but I think you'll agree, when you read it, that abandoning our usual B-format was an inspired move – with the new wider pages giving Jo’s wonderful lines room to stretch out, and allowing all the poems to appear in the shape she originally intended. I've had the privilege this year to work on some of the best poetry I've ever read, and ‘the Goose’ (as we've been calling it) is firmly in that category.
There’s a launch, of course! Head to the Heart Centre in Headingley, Leeds, on Friday 11th December from 6pm for a fantastic night of poetry, discussion (chaired by James Nash), and themed refreshments (apparently!) We'd be honoured if you RSVP’d to the event on Facebook here, and of course purchased the book.
Finally – I can report that as of 5pm today, submissions to Valley Press for 2016 have closed. I’ve just emailed the last few stragglers, so if you haven’t had confirmation from me (or Mrs. McGarry, who has been kindly assisting in my quest to clear the inbox) that your manuscript has been received, it may be lost – or there could be a problem with your email address, we’ve had quite a few error messages. If this applies to you, please get in touch and we’ll put it right.
I’ll be looking at this new batch of subs over the next month or so, and will be putting together another ‘focus group’ to come to Scarborough one day and help me go through them. If you‘d like to take part in that, please do drop me a message – it involves a good few hours of completely unpaid work, but everyone seemed to have a great time when we did it in July!
The submissions process for 2017 publications will start in February, with a slightly different format, as part of our big Arts Council project – so look forward to hearing about that. I’ll leave you to it now, but if I don’t manage a December newsletter (and I don’t see you at the two excellent launch events mentioned above), I hope you all have a brilliant festive season; huge thanks for your support in 2015.
All the best,
Jamie McGarry (VP Publisher)