Thursday, 31 August 2017

Women in Translation month with the Emma Press

It’s the final day of Women in Translation month! Founded by Israeli scientist Meytal Radzinski, this month is dedicated to female writers in translation who are, unfortunately, much rarer than male writers in translation. This is slowly starting to change and #WITmonth seems to gain more attention each year, proving that there are some fantastic titles and authors out there. Here are some top picks from the Emma Press team for titles by women in translation:

Sarah Hesketh, editor

Nic dwa razy/Nothing Twice: Selected Poems by Wisława Szymborska, translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh 

“In 2004-05 I lived in Warsaw working as a TEFL teacher. For my birthday that year a group of my teenage students very sweetly clubbed together to buy me this beautiful dual language edition of Szymborska's poetry. They knew that I was interested in poetry, and they said that Szymborska was 'the best Polish poetry.'

I love the humanity of Szymborska's voice – the combination of resignation and hope that runs through the best of her poems. It's a poetry that loves to celebrate 'commonplace miracles' and she's the poet I turn to instinctively when the bad things in the world seem too much.” 

Richard O’Brien, poet and editor

Secrets to the Wild Wood by Tonke Dragt, translated by Laura Watkinson 

“I picked up Tonke Dragt’s The Letter for the King on a whim a couple of years ago when thinking I should read more for children if I ever wanted to write for them, and I’m so glad I did. This is the sequel, Secrets to the Wild Wood, and both are translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson.

Both books are medieval fantasy with a rollicking plot, compelling jeopardy, and near-absurd levels of moral clarity, and the second gets bonus points for having more developed female characters. They are a refreshing blast of goodness and wholesomeness, despite featuring a number of evil men doing wicked things, and I wish there was more of this world for me to spend time in.”

Yen-Yen Lu, publicist

The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Allison Markin Powell 

“For this year’s Women in Translation month, I decided to read The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami, which had been on my to-read list for a while. It follows the life of a young woman who works in a thrift shop.

It’s not a story that’s particularly filled with lots of dramatic and exciting events but instead focuses on smaller details and interactions, which I loved. It made me feel nostalgic for a time and place I haven’t experienced, and also made me quite hungry for Japanese food (the book opens with a very descriptive lunch scene).”

Zosia Kuczyńska, poet 

Tutaj (Here) by Wisława Szymborska, translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh 

 “On the cover of the dual language edition of Tutaj (Here), Wisława Szymborska looks as though she’s never been more at home than where she is right now, ‘At ease’– a mood in which ‘people are good’ and ‘houses are constructed in the sweat of brows,/ and quickly inhabited’. At ‘Attention!’, however, ‘people are evil’, and ‘wastelands are created’.

Unlike those poets for whom to write about place is to conjure something eternal out of a given landscape, Szymborska makes place relative to the self, destabilising both with a quick, subversive wit. More than that, it’s a way of problematising the human tendency to equate who you are with where you are: if you are here, then ‘nowhere might extinguish you’.”

Friday, 25 August 2017

This week at Valley Press, #69: 'River in the Sky'

Dear readers,

As promised I (Jamie #2) have returned to newsletter duty, and there is a lot to report.

Undeterred by the torrential downpours on Wednesday, myself and Jamie (the Two Jamies?) bravely took to the rainy streets of York, armed with just one umbrella and one coat between us, for a series of top-secret meetings. I can’t tell you the details of these meetings, but one of them included poet Robert Powell, a book that is not entirely written yet, and a boat. Exciting things are happening at Valley Press! It was also during this meeting that Robert gazed romantically out of the window and calmly proclaimed: ‘the river is in the sky’. Poets, eh?

Yesterday saw the return of the Literary Lunch Hour, and this week was a celebration of the Valley Press Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry. Presented by co-editor Oz Hardwick, 15 of Yorkshire’s finest poets descended upon Scarborough as we saw readings from – pause for breath – Patrick Lodge, Sarah Wallis, Carole Bromley, Wendy Pratt, Ian Harrow, Anne Caldwell, Mike Farren, Pauline Kirk, Jane Sharp, Robert Powell, Yvie Holder, Amina Alyal and Rob Miles. This made for an extremely talented – if slightly crowded – room, and you can watch the entire event here.

Next week’s literary lunch hour will be with Nora Chassler, fresh from the Edinburgh festival with a new, subversive book: Madame Bildungsroman’s Optimistic Worldview. In the meantime Laura McGarry will be doing a ‘live-reading’ of the book – posting excerpts of it on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag ‘#readingwithLM’. Madame Bildungsroman is full of snappy philosophical wisdoms, presented in such a way that it almost comes across as Nietzsche’s Man Alone With Himself’s younger, easier to read sibling. If this sounds like your sort of thing, why don’t you buy a copy and join in the debate (which has already sparked a good-natured Facebook argument about racism in Sherlock Holmes)?

Continuing our recent theme of having more videos than books, Kate Fox (of The Glasto Code, Jagger’s Yurt and Tour de Force, among others) was featured on Good Morning Britain today, discussing the pressure on women to have children. If you fancy a change from all of the literature videos we’ve been giving you, you can watch Kate’s debate here.

As just about the last intern at Valley Press this summer, I feel I have a duty to thank Jamie and the team for being so welcoming and helpful (and a special mention to my friends at the post office – I will miss each and every one of you). It is a testament to Valley Press that despite the pressures of being an independent publishing company they are still doing their best to give experience to people like myself. Two weeks ago I arrived as a confused southerner in a strange land. Since then I have I have seen first-hand how books are created, bored you all with my adventures and found myself charmed by the northern grace of a town (and company) that I do not want to leave.

Sadly, I must depart tomorrow. Before I sign off, though, there is one last thing…

Readers, friends of Valley Press, lovers of literature: we need your help! Our ‘readers group’ is now recruiting new members to look at submissions, via email. If you join, every week (ish) you will be sent poetry and novels that Valley Press are considering publishing – totally free of charge! All you have to do is read through them – whichever ones you choose, and totally at your leisure – and then send us your thoughts. Seems like a pretty good deal, right? I know I will be signing up as soon as I leave tomorrow. To join, just email Submissions Coordinator Tess and let her know.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend, and rest assured that by the next newsletter the number of Jamies in the office will have returned to one.

Jamie Firby,
Valley Press Intern

Friday, 18 August 2017

This week at Valley Press, #68: 'A tale of two Jamies'

Dear readers,

I’m Jamie – the latest intern to descend upon Valley Press. As you can imagine, having the same name as the ‘boss’ causes some confusion in the office, so you can know me as ‘Other Jamie’, or ‘Jamie 2’.

This is my latest publishing adventure, following on from another internship with Penguin last month. It’s safe to say that being able to go to a picturesque beach at lunchtimes trumps rushing around the manic London tubes in a desperate attempt to make it to work on time, but I am thrilled and grateful to have been given publishing opportunities at opposite ends of the country.

Like interns before me, finding the Valley Press office on my first day was a struggle. After spending half an hour of Tuesday morning hopelessly trying to navigate myself around the sunny streets of Scarborough, I was rescued by the lovely Jo who took me up to the new office.

Since then working for Valley Press has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. Discovering first-hand – and at such close quarters – how a publishing company works is a truly illuminating experience, and even just three days into my placement I have learned so much about the many different facets of an exciting business. Thanks to Jamie and Jo I have already had a go at designing a front cover, tried writing a blurb – and become on very good terms with the staff at the Scarborough post office!

Enough of my own publishing endeavours and onto the important stuff: what’s been going on at Valley Press. Yesterday was the second Literary Lunch Hour, which this week was a celebration of the poetry of Helen Burke and the recent publication of her Collected Poems. Unfortunately, the poet herself was unable to attend the event and so poems were read by our own Jamie McGarry, as well as Valley Press poets Jo Reed, Norah Hanson, VP publicist Suzannah Evans, and a wonderfully dramatic reading from Felix Hodcroft. You can watch the video of this event here.

All of this hustle and bustle with staff and poets meant the Valley Press office was busy all day, at one point turning into some sort of human version of Noah’s Ark with two Jamies, two Jos and two Suzannahs. Next week, however, is set to be even busier as the poets of the Yorkshire Anthology are coming to read their own poems from the book, which will be hosted by co-editor Oz Hardwick. What better way to spend a lunchtime?

Earlier in the week, one of our authors Nora Chassler interviewed Paul Auster at the Edinburgh International Festival in front of an estimated 1200 people! Delivered in the edgy and enigmatic style her own books are known for, Nora and Paul discuss Auster’s latest book, 4321, an 800 page existential epic which has been longlisted for the Booker Prize! Phew, heavy stuff. You can find the whole interview here (it seems we have more videos than books to show you at the moment!)

One final piece of news: this Sunday, 20th August, Daniela Nunnari will be reading her poetry throughout the day at the Ryedale Book Festival – a tree-based literary event at the Yorkshire Arboretum in York. As well as reading from her book Red Tree, she will be running a lunchtime workshop. Details of the event are available here, so why not head down to what is sure to be a day filled with tree-themed fun?

As for me, I have to go now on another trip to visit my friends at the post office. All being well, I will be back again next Friday.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Jamie Firby,
Valley Press Intern

Friday, 11 August 2017

This week at Valley Press, #67: 'The Hours'

Dear readers,

For once, there's very little to say in this week's newsletter. All is quiet at Valley Press HQ, with most of the staff on holiday (sunning themselves near a volcano, etc). The highlight was our first 'Literary Lunch Hour', with the legendary James Nash sharing his classic sonnets, before teasing us with what may well be the title poem for the next volume of them, due in autumn 2018.

If you missed the event, you don't necessarily need to miss out; it was recorded and can be found on YouTube here. You'll hear my anecdote about the day I came up with the Valley Press name, and drew the first two covers (nine years ago this week), and James describe a discussion with a neurologist, who explained how writing sonnets had essentially re-wired James' brain into a sonnet-writing machine.

I will try not to go on about this series of events too much in the newsletter, as I realise the majority of you don't live anywhere near Scarborough; but I hope the videos can help everyone to feel included. Next week is a celebration of the poetry of Helen Burke, though I'm sorry to report it looks like the poet herself may not be able to attend. The event will go ahead regardless, with myself and some volunteers attempting to do justice to decades' worth of amazing writing. We will be pulling out all the stops; that's 1-2pm on Thursday, and the next four Thursdays after that (see below). Wish us luck!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Friday, 4 August 2017

This week at Valley Press, #66: 'Gripped'

Dear readers,

It's Jamie – I'm back, after a three week "holiday" which has (predictably?) resulted in an inbox with hundreds of unread messages. So let me start by apologising to anyone whose valuable words are languishing in there; I'll get through them in due course.

Let me continue by thanking Emma and Harriet for writing the last three newsletters; they really captured the VP tone, and added so much energy that I had to check the caffeine rating on the office coffee! Interns will be with us until mid-September, so expect more communications from them in the near future. (The latest one just started this morning, so I didn't think it would be fair to throw her into the deep end straight away!)

They are paid, by the way – we've done informal internships in the past, but now we're a serious company with a payroll (and considering how they're supposed to work extremely hard all day every day), I knew it was time to get the VP chequebook out. That being said, I imagine the emails with their bank details are somewhere in that inbox deluge... some patience may be required...

* * *

This week saw the final, definitive 'launch' of our Yorkshire Anthology, which is now available in all good bookshops (and many disreputable ones). If you missed out on the event, which also featured music from Miles and Oz's band, you can battle your way through my latest attempt at live-streaming (part 1 here, part 2 here). Lessons learned every time I try it!

You can read an interview with Miles Salter, who did most of the selecting and who originally had the idea for the anthology, in the York Press here. Of particular interest is Miles' concept for the cover, which I vetoed on about forty-six separate occasions – it was to feature 'an abandoned coal town, a half-eaten curry, a York back alley and a drunk reeling along a Hull street'. The jury is still out re: that one.

The Anthology poets will be coming to Scarborough on August 24th, as part of our new events series 'The Literary Lunch Hour' (to be rebranded next time, as people keep asking what's for lunch – the title refers to the time of day only!) Check out the poster below:

You'll notice the first event is this coming Thursday, the 10th August, and features Valley Press legend James Nash. The plan is for James to read some classic sonnets, a few of his Cinema Stories poems, and some brand new material from a new collection due in autumn 2018. As it's the first event, and there'll be some VP newbies in the crowd, we'll also be looking back on nine years of Valley Press history. In a recent conversation, me and James agreed to 'chat like it's an Olympic event', so enjoy that!

Other highlights this week included a blog from forthcoming VP poet Caroline Hardaker, offering more fascinating insights into the publishing process (read it here). One 'fun tip' she offers for submitters is to wait until the end of each submissions window, which means more time to revise your work and 'less time to grip your face in angst'. Agreed; we don't want anyone gripping their own face in such a fashion!

Elsewhere, Remembering Oluwale editor SJ Bradley (who has a new novel out, not with us, but you're still allowed to read it) has blogged about her experience working on the anthology, from first meeting to the famous awards triumph – a brilliant bit of writing in its own right, located here. Apparently she has the 'best anthology' trophy on her desk; must get an intern to steal that sometime...

Finally, Helen Burke was interviewed for close to an hour on Chapel FM, detailing her 'origin story', rather like a literary superhero – you can find that here. Hope to see as many of you as possible at her contribution to the Literary Lunch Hour on August 17th. Thanks for reading, hope this comes at the beginning of a great weekend!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher