Sunday, 23 October 2016

This week at Valley Press, #32: 'Cover version'

Dear readers,

A nice brief post this week, for a change! First, I want to mention that Antony Dunn's Take This One To Bed – with its instantly-iconic cover photograph, as featured above – will be with us soon. At the moment you are spoilt for choice: you can buy a first-edition paperback, signed by Antony, for £10, or a limited-edition hardback, signed and numbered, for £20. (Alternatively, should you not want to handle any paper or card whatsoever, there's a Kindle version for £3.99.)

At some point in the next few weeks, those signed books are likely to disappear, so you may want to get in now if you want one. If you've never encountered Antony's poetry, and are wondering what all the fuss is about, you can read nine poems from the new book here – hardly ever do you get such a generous preview!

There are launch events coming: Friday 11th November in Leeds, at Yorkshire Dance (St Peter’s Buildings, St Peter’s Square, LS9 8AH), then Friday 18th November in York, at the Friargate Theatre (Lower Friargate, YO1 9SL). In both cases, the bar will open at 7pm, there'll be a brief reading at 7.30pm, and then lots of milling around with interesting people; surely there's no better way to spend a winter evening?

The second thing I want to mention comes courtesy of Twitter. Kris Mole, author of our 2015 travel hit Gatecrashing Europe, posted on Tuesday: 'Mind blown. Got sent this epic pic from a reader ... in Mostar, same spot as front cover.'

I have to say, I never thought I'd see that! Even more impressive, the reader pictured (named Lewis Lloyd) is actually from Scarborough; he met Kris when he came over for a book signing in August '15, so that copy has travelled all the way from VP HQ. Got to respect the effort involved! (We can't condone smoking, obviously; I've explained to baby George that holding a cigarette is only appropriate when reconstructing classic book covers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I think he understood.)

Speaking of George – because I can, and because his one-month birthday is coming up, let's end with a picture of him in his best 'book launch' outfit:

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Sunday, 16 October 2016

This week at Valley Press, #31: 'Raw Material'

Dear readers,

I want to begin this newsletter by taking you into the near future; to the start of November in fact. With the eyes of the world watching, events will take place (for the first time since 2012) that could decide the path of the free world for decades to come...

I'm talking, of course, about the release of another Valley Press book, with accompanying book launches (what did you think I meant?) After four years, legendary Hull-based writer Sue Wilsea is back with a new collection of her darkly witty short stories, titled Raw Material. If you've read her work before, there's no need for me to sell it to you; one reviewer said her last collection Staying Afloat was 'probably the best collection of short stories I have ever read by a living author' (though Sue wouldn't let me put that on the cover of the new book!)

I can't sugar-coat things theme-wise: there are a lot of stories about death in this book, and the others are mainly concerned with difficult relationships (in some cases, both); but despite that you will laugh, a lot, and your heart will ache at times when Sue points out a tiny detail (like the changing appearance of someone's hands over time). I don't know anyone else who can tell so much story in such few words.

One story, this one about difficult relationships after a death (for a change), is up on our site for you to read now, and you can pre-order the book here. There are two launch events planned, both following a new show by 'The Hull to Scarborough Line' (Sue's literary duo act with Felix Hodcroft) – they are at Kardomah94, in Hull, on November 2nd (main show 7pm, book launch 8pm), then heading to the Scarborough Art Gallery on November 6th (main show 3pm, book launch 4pm). Should be spectacular; I'll hope to see you then.

In other news this week: it's Sunday night, you've tuned your TV to BBC1, and you're settling down to watch a programme about a tousle-haired literary hero from Cornwall. That's right: Valley Press poet John Wedgwood Clarke has finally been given his own TV programme (again, what did you think I meant?) Here's a promotional still, with Dr Clarke looking authoritative yet approachable:

The programme, part of a series titled Books That Made Britain, was shown earlier today, but you can catch it for the next 29 days on the BBC's iPlayer service here. It's brilliant for anyone who wants to brush-up on the literary history of the Yorkshire coast.

Heading inland slightly, Robert Powell (another of our distinguished poets) has been involved in a very interesting project titled 'A Small Box of River'. Elaborating on some of the themes of his VP collection All, he's produced an exhibition and book with artist Jake Attree, which you can see at the Lotte Inch Gallery in York from the 20th October to the 15th November. There are a few events on as part of the exhibition too; you can find details of them on the gallery's newsletter here. After York, it moves to Salts Mill in Saltaire until Christmas, so you've plenty of chances to see it.

That's enough for this week – thanks for reading, as ever, and thanks to everyone who came to our gig in Manchester on Tuesday. Just because I can, here are Matthew Hedley Stoppard and Jo Brandon on their way to the event, about to enjoy an apple:

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Sunday, 9 October 2016

This week at Valley Press, #30: 'Take two'

Dear readers,

No new book this week, as we head into what was intended to be my paternity leave – little George had other plans, of course! Instead, I want to give you a really special offer, and flag up some books that would make excellent Christmas presents (if you're one of those exceptionally organised people who are already planning for the holidays).

Obviously, if there's anyone in your life who is a fan of contemporary poetry, you are spoilt for choice – in particular, our new anthology VP50 features a wide range of modern writers, and is of course shiny and gold (very festive). There are a few poetry titles with cross-genre appeal: Reward for Winter would be a classy choice for anyone interested in smallholding, animals in general, or chickens in particular (a third of the book is entirely devoted to a biography of a chicken). That book is similarly shiny, actually, but with silver foil; I feel a theme is developing. 'Silver and gold'.

Two of our recent poetry titles have especially broad appeal, within particular age brackets: Poems for Pensioners (55 plus?) is a humour book first and foremost, ideal for anyone who 'likes a chuckle' (as opposed to those who loathe chuckles? I apologise ... it's marketing speak, a whole language on its own!) Then there's Lucky Dip, which has already found an army of primary school age fans – I met some of them yesterday at the launch. After the event, we recorded a video of Catharine reading four poems from the book, which you can watch here if you like.

Beyond poetry, The Naked Muse would be a good choice for any fans of art; and going back to last year, there's Cinema Stories for film buffs, and Gatecrashing Europe for wise-cracking, free-spirited travel enthusiasts. And loads more, of course!

So what about the special offer? For the next seven days, if you enter the voucher code GIVEMETWO, you'll get 5% off any book you buy – but more significantly, I'll post you two copies of each book in the order. So you order a copy of Mr Jolly (for example); two will arrive. You order Mr Jolly and The Learned Goose: you get two of each. Make sense? It's not too revolutionary – I guess they call it 'buy one get one free'!

This applies to any book we've published to date. (I might do it again later in the year, so keep an eye out.) Now I've typed it up, I suppose it's not that useful an offer for Christmas; unless you know a pair of people with similar tastes, to whom you can give the same present...? Oh well. Let's just go with it!

I'm hoping to see some of you this Tuesday (the 11th) at the Manchester Literature Festival; details of our event are here. Did I mention it's free to attend? There's Sheffield on the 17th too, for which there is a very small fee. I won't mention those again – next week, I hope to have another new book to tell you about. There are six titles in various stages of production, all due out before the end of November; I'll take my pick!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Sunday, 2 October 2016

This week at Valley Press, #29: 'New and Selected'

Dear readers,

It's been a busy first week in the world for baby George. Just reading the hundreds of lovely emails he received after last Sunday's newsletter was quite tiring enough – but afterwards, before he went for his fifth sleep of the day, he asked me to thank you all for your kind words. We were touched!

As for me, I'd like to apologise to the authors of the other two-hundred emails I received this week, about important publishing stuff, all of which I've had to ignore. I think we may be getting into the beginnings of a routine now, a week after D-day, so perhaps this time next week I'll be back to full speed? Let's remember, I've lost my 'executive assistant' too – thanks in advance for your understanding!

I know you read these newsletters for the cutting-edge literature, and vital news from 'one of Yorkshire's leading publishers' (I'll be milking that quote until George is in high school), so I'll get back to that stuff straight away; no more baby-related frivolity. What's that? Oh ... go on then, one more picture!

Somehow, Valley Press managed to release a new book this week – the latest project from our Associate Editor Rosa Campbell, who has just started studying for her PhD up in St Andrews (so she might be quiet for a while). As hinted in the last two newsletters, this is a monumental 380-page poetry collection which took no less than forty-five years to write; it's the New and Selected Poems of Paul Sutherland.

VP followers will know Paul best as the author of 2012's Journeying, one of our most popular poetry titles, or perhaps for his many years of work on the journal Dream Catcher. He's been writing and publishing consistently since 1970, and (as I discovered in the last four years) has not slowed down at all – by spring 2014 he had offered me two excellent short collections, and it was that May when I realised I wouldn't be able to keep up, and suggested we do a big book bringing all Paul's best work into print at once.

There's so much content in this book (and this is going to be a long post!) that I'm going to struggle to describe it concisely; so will quote from Rosa's excellent blurb:

"[The book] charts the poet’s life from his Canadian roots to immigration to the UK, from agnosticism to Christianity to Sufi Islam, and from natural wonderment to a greater understanding of the world around us. The collection is in turn heartfelt, philosophical, and beautifully lyrical, as Sutherland lays bare for the reader his experiences and perspectives – at once particular and universal. Completely unique, this is an unflinching and forensic exploration of a life lived through language."

The book retails for £20, which is quite a serious price; but we think that's exceptionally good value for such a comprehensive collection. Plus, as you're a newsletter reader, you get special treatment: 20% off all this week with the code PSUTH. You can buy the book here, and make sure you click through anyway to see the extraordinary cover image; a dramatic photo of Paul by Abigail Smith.

Elsewhere this week, far away from nappies and baby-gros, Jonathan, Kelley and Malene started our autumn tour by taking Valley Press to Swindon – the performance was nicely reviewed here, well worth reading that if you couldn't make it. We'll be in Manchester and Sheffield soon; that's the 11th and 17th respectively, follow the links for times and booking.

There's also a Lucky Dip launch event coming up at our Scarborough HQ in Woodend, at which you might actually get to meet baby George – that's 10.30am on Saturday 8th (so before the next newsletter). Maybe I'll see you there, or at one of the tour events? In the meantime, thanks for reading, have a great week, and look out for next week's newsletter which will have a brilliant offer for early Christmas shoppers.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

P.S. Thanks to the in-laws for entertaining George and Laura while I wrote this!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

This week at Valley Press: A very special edition

Dear readers,

In a change from your scheduled newsletter...

This morning we welcomed George McGarry into the world – that's him in the middle there! Mother and baby are doing absolutely fine (and daddy); George is being so well-behaved, we're going to make the most of that while it lasts...

Hopefully Jamie will make it back to the laptop next Sunday to tell you about that extra-long book he mentioned last week (it's already printed, thank goodness!) In the meantime, thanks for all your support – we'll see you soon.

All best,
Jamie & Laura

Sunday, 18 September 2016

This week at Valley Press, #27: 'Surprise!'

Dear readers,

Yesterday was Poetry Book Fair day, the single most important date on the British poetic calendar as far as I'm concerned. For the first time in five years I didn't attend, in case a full-term Mrs McGarry should need swift transport to the hospital (she didn't!) – but VP was ably represented by the always dynamic and charming Rosa Campbell, pictured here behind the stall with our best pal Emma from The Emma Press:

Huge thanks to Rosa for stepping in, and doing (reports suggest) a marvellous job. Thanks to the organisers too, Chrissy and Joey; they do extraordinary work putting it all together, I can't imagine the effort that must be involved in wrangling that many poetry publishers. We're an eccentric lot!

Last week, I promised that anyone who attended the Fair would receive a 'significant Valley Press surprise' – were you intrigued? Lurking in the 'goody bags' given to visitors on their arrival was a brand new anthology, VP50, which included fifty classic Valley Press poems; one for each poetry book we've published so far. You may have actually chosen these, if you replied to my request back in May for your VP favourites. They include all of our 'greatest hits' (like James Nash's first sonnet), and some 'deep cuts', like Kate Fox's poem honouring Billy Bragg's beard, from her Glastonbury project.

In total, we gave away five hundred copies of this anthology – our biggest publicity stunt ever. This means that five hundred people could have sat on their trains/buses home on Saturday night, learning (maybe for the first time) about all the wonderful poets and poetry we've published over the last eight years. I am bursting with pride!

The anthology is now available to buy; though after our generosity yesterday, it seems a little steep to charge you the full £10.99 RRP (even though it is an extremely classy, shiny production – that's the front cover in this week's header image). Please accept 50% off VP50 all this week, by adding the code FIFT at checkout. More information and buying links for the book can be found here.

I'd like to end with a plug for our autumn tour – I know, another surprise! – in which Valley Press poets are headed to the Swindon (Sept 29th), Manchester (October 11th) and Sheffield (October 17th) literature festivals. Click the city names for more information and links to book tickets. We'd love to have your support, and of course it's a chance to grab those all-important submissions forms!

I'll give those gigs another mention in the coming weeks; got to make sure the venues are packed to the rafters (then they might have us back). For now, enjoy your anthology if you were lucky enough to get one, and I'll be back next week with another new book, this one including no less than 380 pages of high quality poetry...

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Sunday, 11 September 2016

This week at Valley Press, #26: 'Lucky Dip'

Dear readers,

A confession: I've known the author of our next publication since before Valley Press was even a twinkle in my eye. Catharine Boddy has been writing and reading poetry in the Scarborough area for decades, as well as teaching full-time; so it's perhaps no surprise that last week, when I told a local resident I was publishing her first book, they reacted with astonishment: 'you mean she doesn't already have one?!' So it's long overdue. Probably my fault!

The book is titled Lucky Dip, and it's our first collection of poetry aimed at children. Primary school children, to be specific, and I've had a lot of help on this one from Mrs McGarry as to what they might conceivably enjoy reading (and even what font to use – she's finally turned into a publisher!)

Some of the poems are funny, like this one titled 'A little problem' (with accompanying note saying it is 'a poem to read to parents at the check-in desk'):

Mum, I’ve something to tell you
as we stand here in this queue.
I should have said this yesterday,
I’m not sure what to do.
I was looking at my passport,
I thought I’d have a laugh,
but it wasn’t very funny
when I dropped it in the bath!
I put it in the microwave
to try to dry it out
before I put it in my case –
Mum, promise you won’t shout.
I really meant to pick it up
but you know I got up late
then forgot to pack my iPad;
I was really in a state.
So I thought I ought to mention it,
I thought you ought to know,
without my passport
I don’t think we can go…
today… anyway…

Others are more thoughtful, even sad, like this one titled 'Puzzled':

Our jigsaw is incomplete.
We’ve lost a piece and
it will never be the same again.
It was whole.
We fitted together well.
Together we were strong.
But now my mum and I
must fit together as best we can
around the gap,
although there will always be
a piece missing.

... and both types of poem are mixed up together, hence the book's title. If you've got a young person in your life, Lucky Dip would be a great purchase, particularly priced at just £4.99. (It's illustrated too, by the great John Taylor, who also did the energetic cover drawing seen at the top of this week's post.)

At the other end of the poetry age spectrum, I see last week's book has found its audience:

(Picture from York Press.) Andy will be signing Poems for Pensioners in York Waterstones on Saturday 22nd October, so note that date in your diary if you'd like a scribbled-in copy – you can also hear him on the radio here if you'd like some back-story and a small chuckle (3 hours 15 mins into the programme).

Next Saturday is the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair in London, 10-4.30 in Conway Hall. Valley Press has attended this marvellous event religiously for the past five years, and 2016 will be no different – except you'll see Rosa behind the stall rather than me, as with baby McGarry due within weeks, I felt I should avoid any long-distance trips! Please do say 'hello' to Rosa if you're there, and perhaps even pick up a book?

Also: all attendees of the Fair should expect a significant Valley Press surprise – that's right, you heard it here first! What could it be? Read next week's post to find out...

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher