Friday, 21 July 2017

This week at Valley Press, #64: 'Spread the word'



Dear readers,

As mentioned in last week’s newsletter by the lovely Harriet (there was no way she was going to let me get away with this one!) today you will be hearing from me, Emma, another Valley Press intern for July. Despite having to check whether, in her own words, her “irritating habit for ‘hilarious’ bracketed-off asides” was too much, Harriet has certainly set the intern newsletter-writing bar high (a dazzling 10/10, in Jamie’s own words… no pressure then!) And as you may already be able to tell, I’m afraid I will not be providing too much relief from that ‘witty bracket habit’ this week! Clearly, we both find ourselves too funny for our own good. Harriet, my partner in crime, has now completed her internship, leaving me to fend for myself (only joking). It’s a good job then, that the Valley Press team are so delightfully lovely, making me feel completely at home here in the office… at least, once I’d actually managed to find to find my way here. Stay tuned.

The commencement of my experience was an interesting one as I found myself all-too-nearly wandering into the former Valley Press office. Little did I know that the team had moved into a delightful new space – thank goodness I can only describe my experience as an upwards spiral from there on (phew!) Now that I’ve actually managed to make my way into the correct office, I’ve so far had a wonderfully exciting experience witnessing first-hand what really goes on in a publishing house – seeing all the individual cogs that fit together to make that Valley Press engine run!

To my surprise, I found that there were a lot more cogs than anticipated. I can’t help but recall being asked by Jamie in my interview back in April something along the lines of: “What do you think goes on between a book being proposed and that book turning into a physical ‘real life’ copy?” I responded rather naively that a bit of editing and formatting probably occurs along the way. It was therefore quite the surprise when on my first day I was presented with a page-and-a-half step-by-step ‘ticklist’ which has to be applied to every book Valley Press receives!  This publishing business is definitely quite an undertaking, yet it is pulled together spectacularly here by such a small team.

* * * * *

Now onto the important stuff: in traditional Valley Press fashion, I have a bit of exciting news to share (there always seems to be something exciting going on here!) The Valley Press Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry, edited by Miles Salter and Oz Hardwick, officially "launches" on 1st August in York. The evening will feature readings from contributors: Antony Dunn, Oz Hardwick, Amina Alyal, Miles Salter, Rob Miles, Dave Gough, Robert Powell and more...  tempting, right? As spectacular as that all sounds, I should probably mention the important bits: the event will take place at City Screen in York at 8pm. Entry is £4 and copies of this landmark anthology will be available for purchase during the evening. The marvellous Jamie and Jo are also going to be there – so spread the word – it’s all set to be a knock-your-socks-off evening.

In other exciting news (it just keeps on coming!), Kate Smith – pictured excitedly below, and who can blame her – has just signed the contract to have her novel The Negligents published by VP in June 2018. So don’t be negligent (yes, that was supposed to be funny), and make sure to look out for that!


A quick reminder that Nora Chassler's Edinburgh launch for Madame Bildungsroman’s Optimistic Worldview will be happening this evening (still plenty of spaces if you want to surprise us!) The evening is sure to be a stimulating one, with a chance to hear readings from Chassler’s edgy and eccentric work, quiz her about her enticing, eclectic thoughts then sit back, relax and enjoy some jazz!

I’ll end by saying that I’ve had the most wonderful and vibrant few weeks so far – as a steadfast book worm, finding myself completely immersed in this inviting world of brand new up-and-coming literature has been a dream, and it’s been great to be able to dip in and out of the wide variety of roles involved in the publishing process. What could be better?

You may be pleased to hear as I sign off that next week you will be hearing from another intern, Rebecca – perhaps she will be the one to finally offer you all some relief from the witty asides?

All the best,
Emma Goff-Leggett
Valley Press Intern

Friday, 14 July 2017

This week at Valley Press, #63: 'Only nice people'



Dear readers,

I’m Harriet, and today is my penultimate day as an intern at Valley Press, having been here for almost two weeks now. I’m very excited to be e-meeting you all, as Jamie assures me (and I’ve discovered for myself) that “only nice people” are associated with Valley Press! Jamie’s original plan for this week’s newsletter was that I would write it alongside Emma, another July intern, but it turns out that collaborative writing is harder than anticipated, as we discovered after having spent five minutes agreeing on “We are Harriet and Emma”. So, today you’re stuck with me, and you can look forward to hearing from a fresh new voice next week.

As cliché as it sounds, I’m going to begin by saying that I have had an amazing two weeks, and I’d like to thank Jamie, Jo, and Tess for making me feel at home within the team. Having found it so difficult to get any kind of work experience in publishing, I’m incredibly grateful to Valley Press for giving me such an enjoyable and hands-on introduction to the publishing world. There’s been lots going on around here, and I’m certain you’re all dying to hear exactly what I’ve been up to, so bear with me as I give you a brief snapshot of some of my most exciting endeavours.

You’re all undoubtedly very diligent with your newsletter-reading, so I’m sure you’ll know that Jamie has taken on seven exciting books translated from Chinese, the first of which is titled Mountain Stories and is already available to buy. Much to my surprise, I’ve been let loose on the final stages of the second of these fascinating books. Without giving too much away (Jo is keeping a careful eye on me from across the desk), I can tell you that you’re in for another treat with this next one! Although I study English Literature at university, I also take a French literature module, so I’m definitely an advocate for immersing oneself in a different way of thinking and living. I hope you all agree that Jamie and team have taken on a very admirable and worthwhile project.

I also had the pleasure of attending an author meeting with the lovely Caroline Hardaker and her editor Char March, where I watched in awe as together they carefully grafted away at Caroline’s debut poetry pamphlet, due to be published in October (see candid ‘creatives at work’ shot below!) Far from being a depressing session of hole-picking, we all left feeling inspired, refreshed, and ready to move forward with her beautiful collection (Jamie’s round of G&Ts helped too). In fact, I was so taken by Caroline and her poems that I have since made it my mission to find the perfect cover image for the book: it’s nice to think that I might make a genuine contribution to all the wonderful work going on here.


Speaking of wonderful work (see what I did there?), the team here have recently struck up a friendship with the literary folk of Marsden, who are hoping to put their village on the map as ‘Marsden the Poetry Village’. When they approached us to support them in their first project – to fill the village pubs with poetry books – of course we were more than happy to oblige. Pairing great poetry with great alcoholic (or otherwise) refreshment sounds like a no-brainer to me.

In other news, it seems Jamie has been spending his ‘email holiday’ imagining what it would be like to have fourteen other people who could answer all his emails for him. Only (half) joking. But following on from his ‘Small Press Publishing for Profit’ articles, he’s written a new piece fast-forwarding the Valley Press timeline and envisioning life with a team of fifteen. (Before the masses descend, I’d like to call first dibs on roles #2-#15, please and thank you.) How all the work gets done with a team a quarter of this size is beyond me, but I’m certainly glad Jamie has allowed himself to take a tiny step back for the next fortnight! Here he is at the British Grand Prix, presumably selected as the furthest possible pursuit from literary publishing...


Before I sign off, and before you think the intern role at Valley Press is nothing but glamour, I should probably mention that Emma and I spent a day distributing posters around Scarborough last week (I got incredibly sunburnt and Emma’s shoes rubbed – oh, the perils of being a publishing intern!) The posters were advertising the ‘Literary Lunch Hour’, a series of events running throughout August and September, which offers you the chance to spend an hour with your favourite Valley Press authors for just £5 (full info here). Sadly, I’ve been informed that lunch is not included, but why waste time eating when you could be nattering away with Nora Chassler or Antony Dunn?

Lastly, but not least(ly), don’t forget about Nora Chassler’s Edinburgh launch on Friday 21st for Madame Bildungsroman’s Optimistic Worldview, which is, in her own words, a “book of fragments, allegories, aphorisms and general oversharing”. There will also be live jazz and wine, as though that description isn’t tempting enough.

Thank you for sticking with me as I negotiated my way through Jamie’s ‘newsletter to-do list’ for this week. You’ll be relieved to know that you won’t have to put up with my irritating habit for ‘hilarious’ bracketed-off asides next week, as, like I said, you’ll be hearing from the other intern, Emma!

Thanks once again to Jamie et al, as well as all the other brilliant people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

Have a lovely week!

Harriet Clifford,
Valley Press intern

Friday, 7 July 2017

This week at Valley Press, #62: 'The Eagle'



Dear readers,

I must start by thanking everyone for the outpouring of kind words after our last email. I've included another Helen Cadbury poem at the end of this post, in a different genre; a childhood anecdote in fact (showing the great storytelling skill everyone's been talking about in the past week, along with a 'Twinkle' of humour).

After a few requests, I turned last week's poem, 'The Dance', into an image which can be easily shared on social media (find that here). The family have asked that donations in Helen's memory go to Accessible Arts and Media, York, a brilliant organisation which Helen chaired for a number of years – details here.

* * *

Elsewhere at Valley Press, Helen Burke's twenty-month wait to see her Collected Poems is almost at an end – hardback copies arrived in the VP office on Thursday (see picture above). An ebook is also available now. The hardback, after all this effort, is priced at £30... but we realise that is a touch steep, so for the next few weeks you can all have 20% off using the discount code BIRDIES.

In other new releases: Mountain Stories is "officially" published today, and should be appearing on bookshop shelves across the UK. For those who've already ordered, I hope you find it as intriguing and entertaining as we did. A sample can be found here, if you've not yet read anything from our new Chinese translation series. We're working on the second volume at the moment; I have the final manuscript in my hand.

This week also saw the release of our third audiobook publication. We invited Norah Hanson over to Scarborough to record her latest collection Sparks, using the brilliant studio/production setup at Tom Townsend's Village Records. We did take after take of each poem until they were perfect, and the results are available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes now for just a few pounds – less than a posh coffee! Give it a try.

If free entertainment is more your style, VP authors Sue Wilsea and Nora Chassler recently visited the Valley Press office, and graciously agreed to film video interviews, answering the questions from TV programme 'Inside the Actor's Studio'. (In the video, I credit them to James Lipton, but have since learned he borrowed them from a man called Pivot... who in turn lifted them from Proust. So more literary than you'd think.) You can see Sue's video here and Nora's here.

* * *

I'm about to embark on an email holiday for a few weeks, starting Sunday – I'll be keeping one eye on the workings of Valley Press though, and still doing the occasional meeting/event (so don't panic if we've got one booked!) The next few newsletters will be from enterprising interns and other VP staff, so look out for some lively new voices in your inbox. Enjoy those, and the poem below – see you in August.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher



The Wrong Label

by Helen Cadbury, from Forever, Now (published November 2017)

The Christmas I unwrapped an Eagle annual
there was Dan Dare, all black lines, strong jaw,
the Mekon, slime-green, repulsive, sucking me in.
Each comic strip a rush of danger, thrill of speed.

Minutes in to this new-found joy, a cry went up,
my brother sat with a Twinkle annual in his lap.
I fought my case, ruined Christmas with my argument,
and lost. These things happen, simple mistake.

I flicked the pages of Twinkle, where fat-faced
children smiled pink-lipped smiles, cherubic.
I was having none of it. I spent the afternoon
plotting how to make the Eagle mine.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Sad news from Valley Press

Dear readers,

It's for an extremely sad reason that you are hearing from Valley Press twice today. Helen Cadbury, an inspiring, remarkable woman and a magnificently talented novelist and poet, passed away this afternoon (Friday 30th June), surrounded by her family. Many of you will be aware of her battle with cancer, which she spoke about in the Yorkshire Post last year, but this still comes as an enormous shock. Helen was constantly filled with life and ideas, and was speaking only yesterday about launch plans for her forthcoming books.

Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time; the outpouring of love on social media shows how deeply she'll be missed. I've included one of Helen's wonderful poems below, please feel free to share it far and wide.

Best regards,
Jamie McGarry, Valley Press Publisher



The Dance


In the dream
I am younger,
the room is huge
and I dance
over a wooden floor.
I do it often. It’s what I do.
I have a huge room,
as high as a church,
to myself and I dance across
its beautiful wooden floor
again and again.

When I wake
the dance is still in me.
It lightens my limbs
moves me to the kitchen.
The coffee brews on the hob
and I dance back and forth
from the table
to the fridge
and I am young
again and again.

This week at Valley Press, #61: 'Tess of the Submission-villes'



Hello!

I’m Tess, Submissions Coordinator at Valley Press. I started here in April, following a hectic round of submissions in 2016. I spend most Saturdays at Valley Press HQ, and my job is to coordinate and ensure the smooth running of the submissions process. I have a 9-5 job during the week, and many people ask, ‘gosh isn’t that tiring?’, but I’ve found that a Saturday occupied in a lovely book-lined office, sifting through and reading new writing – sent to me from every corner of the UK (and further) – is a day well spent. It’s a great brain-break from my full time job and as a bona fide bookworm, I would most likely be spending my Saturday reading anyway, if I wasn’t at Valley Press. So in short, yes I am tired on a Saturday evening – but I find myself feeling creatively energised, inspired and eager to get back to the office the following week.

Submissions are now sent to me digitally, and we ask writers to fill out a submissions form. We don’t charge a submission fee, but we do ask that submitters purchase a book from the website. This funds the submissions department, and also means that writers get a lovely book with their submission, and don’t have to submit through an agent or a competition. This has allowed us to have an open submissions arrangement, instead of a window with a deadline, meaning we can make decisions and send responses to submitters much more quickly than we could previously; we aim to respond within 90 days, so submitters aren’t twiddling their thumbs for too many months.

A typical day at Valley Press for me is answering the myriad of queries that come through the website, ensuring that new manuscripts are carefully saved, and pushing them through our highly organised submission process. I am the first filter for new works, so I spend quite a large part of the day reading through submissions. This is my favourite aspect of my job; I feel privileged to read through works which have been so lovingly and passionately created, and I can’t imagine how it must feel to part ways with your manuscript and send it out, hopefully, into the world. I always think of Roland Barthes’s The Death of the Author at this stage: “we know that to give writing its future; it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author”. I imagine that sending your final draft, after you’ve made sure every comma is in its correct place, trusting someone else to interpret and appreciate your art to be a very big moment.

So, with this in mind, I make sure I have a big cup of tea, and ensure I pay utmost attention to each and every manuscript. I usually read around 20-30 pages of each, by this point I can usually decide if a submission will make it through to the next stage of the process. If I’m unsure about a submission, I get a second opinion from Jamie or Jo, as tastes vary so widely. The next phase of the process is the most exciting; Valley Press are lucky enough to have a ‘digital readers panel’ of about 30 volunteer readers, who provide us with feedback and let us know whether as readers, they would buy the book or not. This has proved to be a successful method; I always find it intriguing to see which manuscripts our readers do or don’t like. The group often unanimously agrees or disagrees, but often don’t have the reaction I think they’ll have, surprising me every week. I think it’s always good to be reminded how differently people react to art, and that we all have such individual taste.

I’m always keen to have as many different opinions as possible, so if partaking in the readers group is something you’re interested in (you don’t need any qualifications, just being someone who is interested in books and loves to read means you are plenty qualified), please contact me directly, and I will add you to our list!

Once the manuscripts have been looked over by all the eyes we have available to us, we are then in a position to make a final decision. Unfortunately, I have to send out quite a few rejection emails; we tend to take forward around 1 of every 100 submissions for publication, and sending rejections is never easy. However, every acceptance email I send makes up for it, and being the person who breaks the good news is a huge perk of the job. I recently received a reply from a writer who was standing in Sainsbury’s and informed me she was going to buy a bottle of fizz immediately she was so ‘over the moon’. This was a great ending to a day at Valley Press, and the celebratory mood was infectious enough to make me raise a glass of my own when I got home.

After I have broken the good news, I arrange a meeting between the prospective writer and Jamie – he aims to meet everyone in person to make sure that VP is the right match. If this meeting is a success, the book will be pushed through to production, from whereon the lovely Jo will take over. I haven’t yet seen a work that I have selected from the initial submission in it’s final, magnificent book form, but I am incredibly excited to see the first one, and it will be a pleasure knowing that I have had a small part to play in its creation.

Best wishes,
Tess Dennison, Submissions Coordinator

Friday, 23 June 2017

This week at Valley Press, #60: 'Better than never'



Dear readers,

A very late blog post this week, as it's been a packed Friday – full of important meetings, complex tasks and some exciting parcels; including the flyers/posters for our 'Literary Lunch Hour' events (viewable here), the 'machine proof' for Today the Birds Will Sing, and the paperbacks of Madame Bildungsroman's Optimistic Worldview (photos below).



Speaking of that mysterious character... Madame B is set to be officially 'launched' in Edinburgh, on Friday 21st July at the Lighthouse bookshop, all details here. Attendees have been promised a chance to 'quiz' the author, hear sections of the book performed live, and enjoy jazz music performed by non other than legendary local poet Don Paterson! It should be quite a night, I can tell you. (Entry is free.)

Before that, author Nora Chassler is coming to Scarborough on Wednesday 5th July to run a flash fiction workshop; that's in the evening from 6pm at Wardle & Jones, our go-to independent bookshop. (For those still living in the real world, 'flash fiction' is a trendy phrase for 'very short stories'.) Attendees will be writing these stories with guidance from Nora, who's aiming for a supportive and relaxed mood. It's just £5 to attend (with a drink included), get in touch with W&J to book a place.

The wonderful Wardle & Jones has just turned two years old, and if you visit today (Saturday 24th) there's 40% off all books and an all-day party atmosphere! To run an independent bookshop for any amount of time requires a superhuman love of books, infinite patience with readers, and more than a little visual-merchandising magic... so you can imagine what it takes to last two years. Huge congratulations to them.

Oh, and while I've got my congratulating hat on... same goes to Richard O'Brien, who won a prestigious Eric Gregory Award this week for his as-yet-unpublished debut collection of poetry. Long-time followers will remember we published his pamphlet A Bloody Mess in 2014 (with Dead Ink, back when they were only doing ebooks). It was obvious back then that Richard was a poet destined for great things; and he's still just getting warmed up...

Richard will be a familiar face for fans of the Emma Press, and we were inspired this week by a typically feisty blog from their founder Emma Wright (read it here) about starting her business. 'It's not fair that the poorer you are the safer you have to play it,' she writes, about job prospects for our generation... no-one does hopeful defiance like Emma!

Another great blog this week came from Helen Cadbury, discussing her forthcoming Valley Press collection, as well as her origins as a poet and the 'forensic' nature of that art form (connecting it to crime writing). Read that one here.

A great blog post you won't be reading this week, despite promises last time, is the one from our 'Submissions Coordinator' Tess. I've ended up saying too much myself – and as I write this, midnight is fast approaching! I'll hope to bring you that soon; in the meantime, thanks as ever for your time reading our newsetter, it's much appreciated.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Friday, 16 June 2017

This week at Valley Press, #59: 'Forever, Now'



Dear readers,

I'd like to start today's mailout by announcing a book we're publishing in five months' time; both author and publisher are far too excited to keep it under wraps. Forever, Now will be the first collection of poetry by celebrated crime writer Helen Cadbury – you can read more about the book here (including mini-reviews by Carole Bromley, Antony Dunn and James Nash) and a sample poem can be found here.

You might think it odd that, when introducing someone's poetry, I would mention their success in a very different literary genre... but in this case it can't be avoided, such is the stir Helen has caused since starting her career in crime (so to speak). I usually find that great novelists make great poets; they bring an economy with words (counter-intuitively), strong narratives and carefully-drawn characters, and those who've read Forever, Now so far have agreed that's very much the case here.

The front cover image was taken by Helen herself (we love to get authors involved in their design), and the title comes from Emily Dickinson's quote that 'forever is comprised of nows' – though begins to mean a lot more as you progress through the poems. You'll be hearing a lot more about this book in the coming months, but for now, consider yourselves well and truly introduced.

* * *

Second piece of news: after toying with the idea of running some lunchtime events in Scarborough this summer, I've now gone ahead and booked them. They'll be happening at Woodend, 1-2pm on a Thursday afternoon for six weeks. Here's what I've got lined up:
  • on August 10th, James Nash will be sharing his classic sonnets and some brand new ones, as well as discussing nine years of Valley Press history with myself.
  • on August 17th, Helen Burke will be celebrating the release of her Collected Poems, performing highlights from forty-eight years of writing.
  • on August 24th, a selection of Yorkshire Anthology contributors will be taking a trip through that marvellous volume, led by co-editor Oz Hardwick.
  • on August 31st, Nora Chassler will be taking you on a guided tour of Madame Bildungsroman's Optimistic Worldview (and what a view it is).
  • on September 7th, Cath Nichols will be launching her new collection of poetry This is Not a Stunt (more on that in a future newsletter).
  • on September 14th ... author to be confirmed, watch this space.
I hope some of that sounds tempting. It's £5 to attend, or £4 concession, and you can book the complete series of six for £25 (or £20 concession). Tickets can only be purchased from the Woodend reception, or by calling them on 01723 384500.

In the past I've often been heard to say, somewhat snootily, 'Valley Press is not an events company', and have stuck religiously to the view that publishing a new book is a noble cause that creates an everlasting achievement... while events are fun for an evening and then they're gone. Recently I've come to realise how narrow-minded this is, which brings us to today's third piece of news: the appointment of Vanessa Simmons to the new post of 'Events Manager' at Valley Press.

Vanessa spent nine years as the Events and Communications Officer at York St John University, and handily has a BA and an MA in Literature Studies, so really knows her way around the literary world. Her key missions are 1) to arrange many more events for VP authors, and 2) to improve the quality of existing events... she has some big ideas. In our first conversation about the role, we concluded that publishing a book was like installing a streetlamp, while running an event was like letting off some fireworks; and from now on, Valley Press will be doing both.

* * *

The last thing I wanted to mention is that the increasingly infamous Madame B has now leapt from the pages of her eponymous book and made it onto Twitter. You can 'follow' her unique worldview in 140-character form here, and of course the book (and its luxury hardback twin) can be found here.

Next week: a few words from Tess, our Submissions Coordinator, on how things have been going in that department since she swept in to work her magic...

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher