Whenever I think we've reached our peak, in terms of events, projects and activities, Valley Press finds a new way to get even busier and send its poor overworked publisher running back to his desk. Not today though; I'm resting up after a bad cold to see if I can make it to yet another glitzy award ceremony in Scarborough this evening. (I'm up for 'Young Entrepreneur' against two bakers, which is a bit of a conflict as I love food and books equally, and am keen to support anything that encourages more baking...)
Today's newsletter is a textbook example of what working on several projects at once looks like, which is also a key topic in this week's 'Friday Morning Meeting' podcast (they're going to be fortnightly, if that hasn't been made apparent before). Towards the end, in what's probably my favourite part, we deconstruct the 'eggs in one basket' idiom – how many baskets/eggs are ideal? Would an egg and spoon race be preferable? We also compare managing a publisher to playing Tetris... it's not all metaphors though, don't worry!
If that's not enough snazzy, 21st-century digital media for you, I also have three videos from Wendy Pratt's Gifts the Mole Gave Me launch event to share. As you can see from the header image, it was held in our favourite room at VP HQ, and attracted a sizable and enthusiastic crowd (hooray!) Wendy had two brilliant support acts, so you have three poetry videos to watch if you feel inclined: Caroline Hardaker, Oz Hardwick and then Wendy herself. (Enjoy some positive heckling 1min 40sec into Caroline's video, courtesy of perhaps the keenest newsletter reader of all, who also gets some decent airtime in the podcast. You know who you are!)
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There are two books I need to give a serious plug to this week, and the first is Quantum Theory for Cats, which you may recall is being launched at Waterstones York, Friday 1st December from 7pm. This is a debut pamphlet from Ian Stuart, who cites Stevie Smith and Robert Frost as his main influences. Like those literary heavyweights, he champions the art of 'complex simplicity'; the poetry can be witty and wry, but remains serious about its interest in the human experience.
Time I wheeled out a poem. This is one of the more understated pieces, but one that lingered with me long after I first read it:
‘Do you remember, years ago,’ he said,
‘we met up in some bookshop. I was with
my sister. She was quite impressed with you –
said you had a gentleness, an air
of understanding – and a lovely voice.’
‘That’s nice,’ I said, yet knowing as I spoke
I had no memory of that day at all.
It wasn’t me they’d met.
The conversation ended, but he stayed,
my doppelganger – kindly, gentle, calm –
the kind of man I once hoped I’d become.
I look for him each morning in the mirror
and sometimes catch a glimpse,
but then he’s gone.
Ian's pamphlet was the one book this year where I decided to handle every stage of production myself, harking back to days long gone by. I didn't draw the cat on the cover though, that was the work of – fun VP trivia alert! – Ben Hardaker, husband of Caroline Hardaker, our most recent pamphlet author (and in fact Caroline did some of the shading on the final article). Quite the supportive little community we have here!
The next book in our schedule, while also filed under 'poetry', couldn't be more different. Verse Matters is our second big 2017 anthology, and has involved two distinguished editors, cover design by rising star Mandy Barker (of Sail Creative), typesetting by internationally famed text-wrangler Gerry Cambridge, and includes new material from the following writers:
Liz Berry, Bashar Farahat, River Wolton, Shirin Teifouri, Rachel Bower, Sai Murray, Malika Booker, Helen Mort, Vicki Morris, Char March, Mimi Mesfin, Jacob Blakesey, Hannah Copley, S J Bradley, Nick Allen, Wendy Pratt, Jo Irwin, Charlotte Ansell, Warda Yassin, Louise Clines, Catherine Ayres, Ethel Maqeda, Katherine Henderson, Sez Thomasin, Beth Davies, Hollie McNish, Laurie Bolger, Shelley Roche Jacques, Kate Garrett, Debjani Chatterjee, Amy Kinsman, Carol Eades and Suzannah Evans.
Some very familiar names in there, and some exciting 'emerging talent' too. It's all inspired by the legendary Verse Matters spoken word night in Sheffield, and we'll be heading to that fair city on the 14th December to enjoy a launch event, featuring many of the writers mentioned above. Details of that are here.
It seems worth adding that, thanks to the generosity of the editors, all royalties from the book will be split between ASSIST Sheffield and the Cathedral Archer Project in Sheffield, two great causes worth looking up. More on this book next month.
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If all that hasn't quite satisfied your appetite for literary engagement (you really are insatiable), there's also an in-depth review of John Wedgwood Clarke's Landfill on the Manchester Review, with Ian Pople giving that book the serious attention it deserves. Time to hang up my keyboard now, but I'll be back (inevitably) next week, to start the countdown to you-know-what. Plus, there's still time to squeeze in one extra book this year, that I haven't told anyone about yet...
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher