Friday, 22 December 2017

This week at Valley Press, #86: 'Our 2017'

Dear readers,

It's that time of year when we can easily find ourselves looking backwards... 'another journey round the sun, and what have I achieved?' is the phrase spoken on many a wintry, late December street corner. So I suppose we may as well embrace it fully, with a brief run through everything that's happened at Valley Press this year, in case you missed any highlights (and then we'll end by looking forwards, another fine tradition).

I was astonished to find, flicking back twelve months, that in December 2016 I was the only employee of Valley Press; a 'sole trader' in every sense. I was more or less on paternity leave too; just keeping things ticking over. Then, after my traditional end-of-year pondering (which also led to me first going into full-time publishing in January 2011), I emerged into 2017 set on starting 'Valley Press Ltd.' and staffing up as thoroughly as possible.

I was soon joined by Jo Haywood and Tess Dennison (pictured above on the left, at our Christmas party), with Jo taking on... well, just about everything, in her role as 'Assistant Publisher', and Tess running the submissions department like she'd been doing it all her life. We heard from Tess in this newsletter in late June, you may recall, by which point we had Vanessa Simmons on our team (pictured above on the right). Starting as 'Events Manager', Vanessa's role will be expanded next year to encompass 'Education' projects, connecting VP and our authors with schools and universities – look forward to that.

Staff-wise, I mustn't forget the contributions from our various publicists throughout the year, most notably Suzannah Evans (who has now moved on to greener pastures), and of course the phalanx of interns who joined us during the summer months (twelve in all, many of whom graced this newsletter with guest posts). A month ago we were joined by Sasha Hawkes, a veteran of the London publishing industry, with a decade of experience at places such as Scholastic, Quadrille and Nick Hern...  she'll be taking care of the 'bread and butter' of publishing in the production department (as 'Production Editor').

All these new people needed an office, and after a temporary stint above a curry house (which I may have glossed over at the time), my 'dream office' in the building that's always received the Valley Press post, Woodend, became available and we made ourselves at home there from the start of June. I can't imagine life without it now (or without the team). The new office has plenty of room in it, which is handy as it meant we could find a spot for the Yorkshire Coast 'Culture/Arts Business of 2017' trophy, and mine for Scarborough's 'Young Entrepreneur of the Year' (thought I'd slip those in).

But did we manage to publish any books? Well, not until the summer actually – we try to work a few months ahead of schedule, so having spent the autumn parenting and the winter building the new team, I'd failed to line up anything between January and June. But when we got going, my goodness did we get going! There have been 15 new titles published by Valley Press since July, not bad considering we managed 20 in the whole of 2016 (with Arts Council money, and Rosa and Laura backing me up).

Those 2017 titles started with Helen Burke's Collected Poems, the product of 45 years of writing and 30 months of publishing – then moved on through our first Chinese translation, Nora Chassler's inimitable feast of 'fragments', our definitive anthology of Yorkshire Poetry, and new collections from Cath Nichols, John Wedgwood Clarke, Oz Hardwick, and Wendy Pratt. There were tears when we lost Helen Cadbury, months before the launch of her poetry debut Forever, Now; but what a privilege it was to publish that magnificent book.

One title I didn't mention in this year's newsletters was Paul Sutherland's New and Selected Poems, which originally came out in September 2016 (just as my 'paternity leave' started, earlier than expected) – so in November, we gave it a fresh cover (by local design agency Fitzpatrick Design) and re-launched it to a world of eager readers. Antony Owen made it a 'choice of 2017' in a recent edition of the Morning Star, saying Paul 'shows us his strength not only of character but of his lyrical writing quality.' Agreed!

We also published debut pamphlets by Caroline Hardaker and Ian Stuart, and were proud to put those wonderful new poets on the shelves. Then we were well and truly Britpopped while working on a comprehensive guide to that musical era, before receiving an education in why Verse Matters from Rachel Bower and Helen Mort, and meeting the Prideaux Angels just a week ago. Not a bad year's work! Well done to all involved.

And 2018? It'll be bigger and better; you should expect nothing less than a deluge of fascinating, unexpected literature bursting forth from our corner office in the heart of Scarborough, as we lead up to our tenth birthday in October. I can also reveal exclusively, right here right now (as a reward for anyone who has read all the way to the end) ... our second 'Grants for the Arts' bid was accepted by Arts Council England, and we will be receiving £40,000 worth of funding for our publishing efforts over the next twelve months.

What can I say to that?! Perhaps just: I promise we'll use it wisely, and I hope you can agree it's in safe hands. See you next year, lots of love, and thanks for reading.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

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