Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Why I Published our Pamphlets (Part 2)

Our open call for poetry and prose pamphlet submissions ends this Sunday (13th December) and I've been thinking about what I can do to help people who are still deciding what to send us. I've already written about what we do when we process submissions, so I thought it might be useful to look at submissions from another angle and explain why I chose to publish all the pamphlets we've put out already.

You can read Part 1 here, and all the pamphlets are available to buy in our webshop (pamphlets make great Christmas presents and stocking fillers!).

* * *

Malkin, by Camille Ralphs (£5.00)

Series: The Emma Press Picks

Malkin, by Camille Ralphs
Why: Last year I hadn't worked out how to tether my netbook to my phone to access the internet, so I just downloaded all the Word docs and read them on my many train journeys, only matching them up to their covering letters later. Consequently, I was a little flummoxed by both the premise and language of Malkin: the poems take the form of monologues from those accused in the Pendle witch trials of 1612, and Camille uses unorthodox spelling for various reasons but partly to immerse the reader in the atmosphere of the period. But even though I didn't know who was speaking and why the spelling was as it was, I still had a powerful response to the visceral poems and knew I loved them.

Favourite lines: 'And after, well fed-up but famished, I knashed at th bare bakside 
of an apl csh csh - -/ nd an appl & 
another apple – and felt non the better for it, only old.'

AWOL, by John Fuller and Andrew Wynn Owen, illustrated by Emma Wright (£10.00)

Series: Art Squares

AWOL, by John Fuller and Andrew Wynn Owen
Why: One of my poetry bugbears is poems that don't seem to be written with any reader in mind. I don't need that reader to be me, but in the poems I publish I like to have a sense that a poem has been written with an audience in mind; that the poet wants to share something with a reader. I was drawn to the poems in AWOL because I can't get enough of both poets' joy in form and language, but also because they are letter-poems, written from a poet in his late seventies to a poet in his early twenties. I like the way John and Andrew's different perspectives on life sit together in the book, and I find the tenderness and mutual respect throughout very touching.

Favourite lines: 'We want, not days strung out like beads, 
But the whole present in our hands, 
Constant, as the past recedes. 

We’ve had enough of wonderlands: 
We want our share of wonder now. 
Who cares if no one understands?'

True Tales of the Countryside, by Deborah Alma (£6.50)

Series: The Emma Press Pamphlets

True Tales of the Countryside
Why: I think a good word to describe Deborah Alma’s poems might be ‘indomitable’. She writes about insecurity, fear and self-doubt, as well as sex, the countryside and ageing, but the underlying theme is strength. I love the directness of the emotions in True Tales of the Countryside, and reading the manuscript for the first time felt exhilarating. Little details from everyday life and love leapt out at me, perfectly observed and sometimes horribly familiar: the graffiti on the bus shelter, the sticky closeness of nature, the squashing down and clawing back of self in an abusive relationship. I thought True Tales would resonate with and give strength to a lot of readers.

Favourite lines: 'I am a mother, a field, a house. 
Without me, windows darken, 
no-one else knows how to put on lights 
 just to bring the house to life.'

If I Lay on my Back I Saw Nothing but Naked Women, by Jacqueline Saphra, illustrated by Mark Andrew Webber

Series: Art Squares

If I Lay on my Back I Saw Nothing but Naked Women
Why: This is the book which launched the Art Squares! Jacqueline’s sequence of prose poems was so compellingly strange and full of rich visual details that I knew the best way to present them had to be something that gave the text room to breathe. I liked the idea of creating a kind of picture book for adults, with plenty of white space around the text and illustrations that complemented the atmosphere of the poems. As a publisher, I think a lot about how to influence and enhance the reader’s experience, and I think the format of the Art Square encourages a slower, more contemplative reading experience, which might be how I think all poetry should be read.

Favourite lines: 'When I was a child I tied my mother and father together with bandages and put a song in their mouths. If I wound them up they sang an Afrikaans duet in perfect thirds.'

Myrtle, by Ruth Wiggins (£6.50)

Series: The Emma Press Pamphlets

Myrtle, by Ruth Wiggins
Why: This is another set of strength-giving poems, I think. There are ideas in Ruth’s poems which really stuck with me from the first read of her manuscript, and felt like a good, grown-up way of looking at life. She writes about sex and death with a mix of solemnity and mischief which I love, and which I wanted to share with other readers.

Favourite lines: 'This morning we mostly lay on the couch, 
impersonating cats, talking gibberish. 
This afternoon you fucked me, right out 
of my pyjamas and into yours.'

Rivers Wanted, by Rachel Piercey (£6.50)

Series: The Emma Press Pamphlets

Rivers Wanted, by Rachel Piercey
Why: Reading poetry can sometimes feel like a relief from being me, as I become immersed in another person’s world view. Rachel’s world view is full of sharp, disturbing observations, about animals, social interactions and courtship rituals, but I still find myself delighted whenever I read any of her poems, because they contain such unexpected ideas that I feel utterly transported.

Favourite lines: 'If you have always been 

on a train between two places, 
 put up your feet here. 
A hero has come to show you 

the revelatory stoniness of stones 
 and how, upturned, they disclose 
 an adjacent magic underneath.'

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Valley Press staff update – December 2015

Dear readers,

After five years of being 'Mr Valley Press', flying solo, things have finally got to the point where I literally cannot keep up – the train is running away, I'm racing behind.  So this week I've officially brought in some help, and thought I'd write a blog post to introduce the new faces to VP fans and authors, so it's not such a surprise when they get in touch.  (I'll introduce myself as well, in the third person, purely for reference purposes.)  Here then, is the entire organisation as it stands today:


Jamie McGarry
Publisher

Jamie started Valley Press as a hobby in 2008, and has run it as a business since January 2011 – more-or-less single-handedly, until the posting of this blog.  Jamie's particular skills are in the area of text/cover design, but his enthusiasm for new literature and willingness to learn has seen him through the first five years of VP relatively unscathed.


Laura McGarry
Executive Assistant

A teacher by trade, and Jamie's wife since December 2014, Laura has recently started helping out with VP's communication and organisation; i.e. sending emails, making phone calls, wrapping parcels, and keeping the calendar in order.  If you hear from Laura when you're expecting Jamie, consider it a compliment, and consider yourself lucky!


Rosa Campbell
Associate Editor

Rosa first came to Valley Press as an intern in 2013.  With a BA in Literature from St Andrews, and a MPhil in 'Literatures of the Americas' from Trinity College, Dublin, she is arguably the most qualified person ever to set foot in the VP office – and if that wasn't enough, she is also a social media whiz, and a more-than-competent designer, all skills she will be using in her new role.

Originally from Leeds, Rosa now lives in Liverpool; so I plan to say she's in charge of the 'West Coast office'.  Apparently (in her own words) she 'eats a lot of guacamole, points out nice dogs, and occasionally writes a poem', and is working towards a first collection.

I'm enormously excited (and frankly, relieved) to have some help on my never-ending publishing mission; it feels like a big step, and probably is!  By the way: look out for a new Valley Press 'instagram' (whatever that is) run by Rosa, and posts from both of my new colleagues appearing on VP's social media feeds soon.

All best,
Jamie

Monday, 30 November 2015

Two new books (and assorted news) from Valley Press

Dear readers,

Let me start by sharing a photo, taken last week by the great David Chalmers:


Yes, that’s every Valley Press book from the last five years, in one towering stack. It’s an odd feeling to see five years of work expressed so visually (precariously, even!) It makes me think ‘wow, we've really achieved something’, with perhaps a little bit of: ‘five years work, for one mid-sized stack of books?!’  But hey, what a stack.

Balancing at the top is our third publication for November, The Finest Years and Me by Mark Woodburn – sequel to Winston and Me, which long-term fans will remember VP publishing in 2012. Winston and Me saw plucky young scot Jamie Melville run away to join the army, in 1916, aged just fifteen years old. He ended up as an orderly to Colonel Winston Churchill, and they faced various battles in the trenches and outside them. (I won’t go into too much detail, rest assured it moves along at a pace – and is still available of course, see here.)

The sequel (pictured below) picks up the story twenty-five years later, in 1942, when Winston is Prime Minister, facing enemies ‘across the world, inside his own parliament, and within his very soul’ (to quote the blurb). With all this in mind, Winston’s family decide to call for Jamie, who has since relocated to Scarborough (very wisely), but soon finds himself in London and Washington D.C., involved in ‘high-end decision making, intrigue, treachery and betrayal’.


Both Mark’s books are meticulously researched; early readers were convinced the first was a genuine memoir. If you’re a fan of historical fiction and interested in the world wars, they come highly recommended. The Finest Years and Me is out now, but we’re officially launching it on Tuesday 8th December, at Blackwell’s in Edinburgh, from 6.30pm. It’s free to come along, of course, and you’ll get to see me interview Mark about the writing process and more. Should be fantastic! Click here to find out more information on this book and next week’s event.


The final Valley Press book for November, and 2015, is The Learned Goose by Jo Brandon – copies haven’t arrived here at time of writing, but they do exist, as evidenced by this photo kindly provided by Villi from Pulsio (one of our wonderful printers). Again, long-term fans will recognise the name; we published Jo’s debut pamphlet Phobia in 2012, and are very proud to now present her first full-length collection ... in a glorious, foiled-up, almost-square production.


It was partly this last-minute change of dimensions that led to me waiting for copies at 9pm on release day; but I think you'll agree, when you read it, that abandoning our usual B-format was an inspired move – with the new wider pages giving Jo’s wonderful lines room to stretch out, and allowing all the poems to appear in the shape she originally intended. I've had the privilege this year to work on some of the best poetry I've ever read, and ‘the Goose’ (as we've been calling it) is firmly in that category.

There’s a launch, of course! Head to the Heart Centre in Headingley, Leeds, on Friday 11th December from 6pm for a fantastic night of poetry, discussion (chaired by James Nash), and themed refreshments (apparently!) We'd be honoured if you RSVP’d to the event on Facebook here, and of course purchased the book.


Finally – I can report that as of 5pm today, submissions to Valley Press for 2016 have closed. I’ve just emailed the last few stragglers, so if you haven’t had confirmation from me (or Mrs. McGarry, who has been kindly assisting in my quest to clear the inbox) that your manuscript has been received, it may be lost – or there could be a problem with your email address, we’ve had quite a few error messages. If this applies to you, please get in touch and we’ll put it right.

I’ll be looking at this new batch of subs over the next month or so, and will be putting together another ‘focus group’ to come to Scarborough one day and help me go through them. If you‘d like to take part in that, please do drop me a message – it involves a good few hours of completely unpaid work, but everyone seemed to have a great time when we did it in July!

The submissions process for 2017 publications will start in February, with a slightly different format, as part of our big Arts Council project – so look forward to hearing about that. I’ll leave you to it now, but if I don’t manage a December newsletter (and I don’t see you at the two excellent launch events mentioned above), I hope you all have a brilliant festive season; huge thanks for your support in 2015.

All the best,
Jamie McGarry (VP Publisher)

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Why I Published our Pamphlets (Part 1)

Our open call for poetry and prose pamphlet submissions ends on Sunday 13th December and I've been thinking about what I can do to help people who are still deciding what to send us. I've already written about what we do when we process submissions, so I thought it might be useful to look at submissions from another angle and explain why I chose to publish all the pamphlets we've put out already.

You can read Part 2 here.

* * *

Oils, by Stephen Sexton (£6.50)

Series: The Emma Press Pamphlets

Oils, by Stephen Sexton
Why: These are definitely poems which grew on me each time I read them (we read manuscripts at least twice, if not three times, before even shortlisting them). I found it hard to get a handle on the poems initially, but then literally dozens of Stephen's nervy, melancholic thoughts – like 'I ask what it means when even / in my dream I'm a coward' – stuck in my head and I knew that these were special and I had to publish them.

Favourite lines: 'I can’t hold onto anything, Anne. Because it doesn’t exist, 
I’ll meet you in town. Borrow some wine from the woman 
next door, reach for glasses. Live, then show me what I got wrong.'


Captain Love and the Five Joaquins, by John Clegg (£5.00)

Series: The Emma Press Picks

Captain Love and the Five Joaquins
Why: The Pick is the original Emma Press pamphlet format and I always hoped that established poets would use it for their more experimental projects. Captain Love is a wonderful example of this, as John Clegg tells the frankly unbelievable (and yet true-ish) story of bounty hunter Harry Love, through a mixture of poems and prose. It's short, but by gum is it swashbuckling, packed with swordfights, tequila and... Zorro?!?

Favourite lines: 'Love isn’t safe. The lines across his palm, which Ezmerelda stared at for so long before confessing she could read no future there, have started to converge. One eye popped halfway open overnight and Love was busy with his needle in the morning. Nothing’s ready for the visit. Love must send to Fresno for his epaulettes. '

Raspberries for the Ferry, by Andrew Wynn Owen (£6.50)

Series: The Emma Press Pamphlets

Raspberries for the Ferry
Why: I do have a soft spot for formal poetry, and Andrew Wynn Owen's way with metre and rhyme is so infectiously playful that he had me at 'These luscious buds should be illegal / Reserved for emperor and eagle.' The language in his poems is rich, textured and colourful, which I love, and – more than that – his worldview in this pamphlet is exuberant and joyous, which makes it a pleasure to read and very easy to want to share with readers.

Favourite lines: 'I précis 

this shaky simile because I am 
so happy, life-hallowed, the carp that swim 
in the Arno know, the leaves by the dam 

rustle knowledge of it, and the pilgrim 
stops short to wish me well [...]'


Ikhda, by Ikhda, by Ikhda Ayuning Maharsi (£6.50 / £4.25)

Series: The Emma Press Pamphlets

Ikhda, by Ikhda
Why: Ikhda is a multi-lingual globetrotter, so she uses the English language in a rollicking way which feels instinctive and fresh. When I was reading her manuscript, I liked how her poems had a surreal quality and could be viciously satirical and angry but also innocent and tender. This pamphlet feels feminist to me on a very personal level, so it felt important to publish it.

Favourite lines: 'I smelled your distinctive 
typical smell 
from hundreds of kilometres, 
branches of trees swaying gently. 
I walked along silently 
looking for a stud 
to marry me once 
and feed my ren for years.'

The Held and the Lost, by Kristen Roberts (£5.00)

Series: The Emma Press Picks

The Held and the Lost
Why: Escapism is a large part of the appeal of reading for me; it feels like a weight is being lifted when I can immerse myself in someone else's way of seeing the world. I've never been to Australia, but from Kristen Roberts' poems I can imagine the wide gaping spaces, luscious vegetation and oppressive heat. There are so many finely-observed details in Kristen's poems that reading the manuscript felt like stepping out into a variety of distant bedrooms, backyards and beaches.

Favourite lines: 'You cook and we eat, fingers barbeque-blackened, 
lips soft with lamb fat. Your smile is eager, 
mine a dam defying rivulets of ageing, unpaid crimes. 
 We ignore the old conversations pressing at closed doors 
 and instead talk longingly of rain.'

The Emmores, by Richard O'Brien (£5.00)

Series: The Emma Press Picks

The Emmores, by Richard O'Brien
Why: Love poems were my point of entry into liking poetry as an adult, but before long I started feeling resentful of the treatment of the muse: either they would barely be present in the poem, sidelined by the poet's interest in the poet, or they would suffer a lot of assumptions being made about their feelings. What I like about The Emmores is the honesty of these love poems – Richard doesn't pretend that these are anything other than the hopeful declarations of someone whose main pulling power is his way with words.

Favourite lines: 'and if I could I’d call tornadoes down 
to wrench up rooves of Collyweston slate, 
disintegrate unyielding dry-stone walls 
and crazy-pave a path across the fields 
to your door.'

The Flower and the Plough, by Rachel Piercey (£5.00 / £3.50)

Series: The Emma Press Picks

The Flower and the Plough
Why: Back in 2012, these poems struck a deeply personal chord with me, and I was astonished that another person could express feelings that I felt intensely but couldn't articulate. It felt like these poems were about my failing relationship and increasingly conflicted ideas about romance, and I felt all the better for having read them.

Favourite lines: '[...] when you temper
 scraps into treasure

 I think it’s worth it,
 and when you
 spit out glass

though you only got sand
I think it’s worth it.'

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Poets on their Pamphlets: Ruth Wiggins on poetry and 2D vision

There's just over a month left in our annual call for poetry and prose pamphlet submissions (deadline: 13th December), so I've asked some more of our pamphlet poets to share an aspect of their pamphlet-creating experience on this blog, to join our Poets on their Pamphlets series. I hope that this will be inspiring to people who are thinking of sending us something or in the process of assembling their submission.

Ruth Wiggins
This week, Ruth Wiggins explains what it's like to see the world in just two dimensions and considers the effect this might have had on her poetry. We published Ruth's debut pamphlet, Myrtle, almost exactly a year ago and we have always found her worldview uniquely bracing and reassuring, so it's fascinating to get a further insight into the way she writes.

* * *

What It's Like, by Ruth Wiggins

Against Perspective 
At this vantage I am
m    a    s    s    i    v    e
here
I-can-bury-my-face-in-the-hillside
work the green with my fists
 like a suckling cat
guzzle up       g   r   o   u   n   d   w   a   t   e   r
draughts of sap 

I have a lazy eye, or as it's more correctly known, amblyopia. I can't see Magic Eye pictures and 3-D films are torture. It's quite common, but what people tend not to know is that it destroys depth perception. It doesn't affect my driving, but I have a sorry history of broken toes, ankles & crockery. When people ask what it is like to see the world in 2-D, I usually answer, 'It's like this!' (Holds flat of hand to face.) It is less like seeing the world, and more like colliding with it.

Perhaps inevitably, this has an impact on my poetry. Emma was very supportive when we were putting Myrtle together, and not least when I decided to open my pamphlet with a short, oddly-typeset piece called 'Against Perspective', a poem that had become something of a totem for the way I physically see the world.

What it's like... (photos by Ruth)
A friend once described my poetry as 'falling in', which fits because the world certainly feels that way. I find natural and urban landscapes equally absorbing. Things that move give me a sense of depth, which is great, but spiders are endlessly alarming. Tricky when the room you work in is spider city. I have always enjoyed photography, and tend to take wide aperture shots of something in close focus surrounded by a lot of edge blur, which feels like an extension of this.

When I look at the poems in Myrtle, I am struck by how many lines also bear out this wonky perspective: newly solid / with three dimensions of pink is some kind of wish-fulfilment; from which vantage point the ambush will spring, for 'ambush' read ANYTHING but particularly spiders; Curse the kindness of the rocks that jut, yet / will not wreck, demonstrates my need for trust in the solid universe; and Forces open the sky – any vista pretty much covers the impact of swooping birds. 

Although not a defining credo, I enjoy the precise aesthetic of the Imagist poets, largely because they have that same crashing-onto-the-retina effect. And I particularly enjoy poems that wormhole you into a physical world, such that you really arrive there. Poems that take you wading through the physical, in a way that is both sensual and abstract and which in turn pushes the brain to engage beyond the 'this is how it looked'.

Here are a few lines from Alice Oswald's tremendous poem 'Tithonus' that really encapsulate this idea of perception colliding with the universe –
the dawn // which is a wall of green // which is a small field sliding at / the speed of light // straight through the house and on / to the surface of the eye 
... and that is exactly what it's like.

* * *
Myrtle, by Ruth Wiggins, is available in paperback (£6.50) and ebook (£4.25). She keeps a blog at Mudpath.

Our open call for poetry and prose pamphlet submissions ends on 13th December 2015. Full details can be found here

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Two new books from Valley Press

Dear readers,

After all the excitement last month, October has been almost peaceful – but don't think I've been enjoying my good fortune on a beach somewhere, sipping cocktails! I've been preparing for a big November, which should see the publication of four new titles from Valley Press. I'll just tell you about the first two today, though, as they have launch events imminent (and you can have too much of a good thing).

We'll start with Ex Libris, which has the honour of being the first Valley Press hardback, and the first time the poetry of David Hughes has been collected in print. David taught English at St Peter's School in York for almost thirty years, whilst quietly getting on with some excellent writing – he had finished around two-hundred poems at the time of his death, in 2011. This collection has been meticulously edited by David's friend, fellow poet and former St Peter's student Antony Dunn, who should be a familiar name to many of you (from the Bridlington Poetry Festival, perhaps?)

It really is a fantastic book, but don't take my word for it – Brian Patten perfectly described Ex Libris as: 'A wonderful collection by a poet whose work has been saved from oblivion by an act of love'. Helen Mort has said: 'If you only discover one writer this year, make it David Hughes' ... so consider yourselves told!

You can read a sample of Ex Libris on the book's homepage, if the above has sufficiently piqued your interest. The launch event for this book will take place on Thursday November 5th, at St Peter's School, York; there'll be a fireworks display at 6pm, with drinks, food and Antony Dunn reading from the book at 6.30pm. This is a free event, but you are asked to RSVP to s.jenks@stpetersyork.org.uk if you'd like to attend. Here's a map to the venue. Hope to see some of you there!

The second November book will be Cinema Stories, by long-time Valley Press poets James Nash and Matthew Hedley Stoppard (who I'm sure need no introductions). For this volume, James and Matthew toured and researched the cinemas of Leeds – some abandoned, some re-purposed (there were seventy at one point) and some still proudly operational. They then wrote a book of poetry on that subject, and about the mysterious shared (yet personal) experience that is cinema-going ... the results are fascinating. As ever, you can read a sample on the book's homepage.

Cinema Stories is to be launched at the Leeds International Film Festival (no less!) on Tuesday 10th November, in an event at Leeds Town Hall from 7pm. The two authors will be reading from the book, and there'll be a few other treats as well (think, multimedia extravaganza). This time you will have to buy a ticket to attend; you can do so through the festival's website here.

That's all for today, I'll be in touch in a couple of weeks with news of the other two November titles – there's one more poetry collection, and one big chunky historical fiction novel, both by established Valley Press authors. Watch this space!

All the best,
Jamie McGarry (VP Publisher)

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Valley Press celebrates 'greatest ever week'

Dear readers,

It's been a remarkable week at Valley Press – you may want to sit down with a strong drink before reading this blog post.  Done that?  Right, on we go!

Back in July, for the first time in my publishing career, I decided to apply to Arts Council England for a grant to support the growth and development of Valley Press.  Many of my publishing heroes run their businesses with the aid of money distributed by ACE (which is originally from the National Lottery); I'd not previously felt there was any chance of me joining their ranks, but in July I decided it was time to find out for sure.  So I diligently spent a week or so filling out the form, and off it went.

This week I heard my application was successful, and I can now announce Valley Press will be recieving nearly £50,000 of Arts Council funding between today and May 2017.  I know – I didn't see it coming either!  Time to take a sip of that strong drink you sat down with, two paragraphs ago, and enjoy the official, compulsory logo, which you'll be seeing a lot of from now on:


A press release about this can be read here (two, even), and an article from The Bookseller (who broke the news simultaneously with the VP newsletter) here.  What I promised to do with the money was: publish at least twelve books in 2016, from familiar and new authors, and do an absolutely outstanding job on them; take those authors and others on a national tour (like the one we did in 2013, but bigger); construct a new website for Valley Press which works on mobiles and has a shopping basket; and carry out an extremely active search for new writing throughout 2016, to find truly undiscovered writers from every corner of society. So look out for more information on all of that over the next few months.

Moving on now; it was a lively week even before the grant news arrived.  The non-fiction books I told you about last month have gone from strength to strength – Tom Preston's second-person cancer memoir The Boy in the Mirror received a five star review in The Sun (see here), and Tom was interviewed for the most recent edition of The Sunday Times (clipping below, full article here for subscribers).
 

Kris Mole's epic travel adventure Gatecrashing Europe appeared in Brighton paper The Argus (see here), in rather photo-heavy style in the Daily Mail (see here – though approach with caution!) and perhaps most informatively in The Mirror. This kind of national press attention is unprecedented for VP books, really; hopefully a sign of things to come.

Still with me?  There are some great events coming up this week too.  Let me first tell you about three forthcoming readings in Scarborough – see the poster below for details.


There are still a couple of tickets left for Norah's reading, which is happening today (Thursday 24th). We'd love it to be a sell-out, and we'd love to see you there, so give Wardle & Jones a call!  (If you haven't heard of Scarborough's new independent bookshop, by the way, the proprietors wrote a post for this blog which is well worth a read.)

We also have a reading coming up at the weekend, in London, as part of the 'Free Verse' Poetry Book Fair.  Here comes the obligatory poster:


If you're going anywhere near Conway Hall on Saturday, this reading is a must – and there are lots of others on during the day, all free, including one with The Emma Press (outside in the square at 11am).  We have a stall too, come and say hello!  Possibly some congratulations in order...?

By way of a closing note, I'd like to acknowledge that I am just the centre of the web that is Valley Press – it's the wonderful authors who've worked with me over the last seven years, the legions of readers who've bought their books, and all the hard-working freelancers and interns who've actually built VP to the point where it deserved funding.  So a huge, huge thank you to everyone who has supported Valley Press so far.  I think you'll be sticking around to see what happens next!

All the best,
Jamie McGarry (VP Publisher)

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

'Poets on Bar Street' – and, meet Wardle & Jones

Today, I'm excited to bring you news of a new series of poetry readings in Scarborough, at recently-opened independent bookshop Wardle & Jones. Details of the readings can be found below, in the poster, and afterwards I thought I'd let W&J's proprietors share a few thoughts on the daunting process of opening a new bookshop. Wish them luck!  J.M.


We are Rachel and Karl – the two halves of Wardle & Jones. 

I am the Wardle half and it's my smile you'll usually see as you come through the door. I mainly read fiction, I also love children's books and am more likely to be found perusing our children's stock than reading a book aimed at grown ups. Karl, the Jones half, on the other hand much prefers non-fiction – history, politics, philosophy – he also loves Terry Pratchett.

We decided to open a book shop after lots of talking, thinking, research and training. It is the one thing Karl and I had always talked about doing together with true excitement. I was aiming to find my sparkle again after leaving a 12-year career as a project manager. It was definitely the right decision – my sparkle’s back and we love being in Scarborough.

We opened on 20 June 2015 after a frenetic five weeks of work from both family and some of the most conscientious trades people I've ever met. There was only one major hiccup when, 10 days before opening, we were told the material for the shelves and counter was not available. Not only would it not be delivered in the next three days as planned, it wasn’t going to be delivered at all! I began contacting local joiners and carpenters and by the end of the following day I'd managed to line up a two-man team. They were new to the area and needed to build a good reputation quickly, it was a fortuitous meeting for all concerned. They did a good quality job and we opened on time, phew!

We decided on books, coffee and cake as the right combination because we'd visited other places where this mixture worked well. Two of our favourite bookshops are Barter Books in Alnwick and Mr B's Book Emporium in Bath. Mr B's doesn't serve coffee and cake but they do have lots of space and comfy nooks to sit and enjoy the books. We wanted to give everyone a place to enjoy being around books in a safe, comfy environment where there was a reason to stay longer and have a proper look.

Our challenge was to fit that into a very small space – just 30m2; serving only cake was the solution. We knew we wanted to serve freshly ground coffee, that way book and coffee lovers alike would have a reason to visit, stay – well, only until closing – and return. So we made sure there was space for an espresso machine and grinder on our carefully designed counter (thanks to Mr Jones' hidden – until now – talent for technical drawings).

Almost 10 weeks in I am enjoying life more than I have for years. I’m excited every day about the people I might meet in the shop and the thoughts, opinions, ideas and memories they might share. But I am fearful of the future too, will we be able to sell enough books, coffee and cake to stay open? Business is at best steady and we certainly need to be selling more in the coming weeks, months and years to carry on for the foreseeable future, but we're hopeful. There are a number of as yet untapped income streams – we are just starting to put together an events calendar, we'd like to start supplying schools when the new school year starts and we have yet to run any joint events with local venues.

Finally, one thing I find useful as a bookseller is to remind myself the books in the shop aren't mine, they already belong to someone else. That way I find it easy to let people look, touch, feel and enjoy the books in their own way, so hopefully they're more likely to make them theirs before leaving.

You can read more about W&J here.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

New non-fiction from Valley Press

Dear readers,

Though Valley Press is officially a publisher of 'poetry, fiction and non-fiction', we've only rarely touched on that third category – until now. All being well, our next three books will be firmly located in the real world; so I'll give you a thorough briefing on one today, a bit of hype for the second ... and we'll leave the third for next time.

First, a quick story: in 2007, a man named Kris Mole flew one-way to Stockholm with a vow not to return home to England until he had visited every capital city in the mainland European Union. He set himself eight simple rules, most importantly that no money would be spent or handled during the journey, and no credit cards would be used either.

Thus, the great Euro Freebie Challenge began: twenty-three cities to be visited, 6000 miles to be covered, without spending a single penny – to raise money, in fact, for Cancer Research UK. Kris told the story of this trip as it happened in a series of blogs and articles for local and national newspapers; and of course in a book, which he sent to Valley Press.

That was back in 2011, just a few months after I'd decided to become a full-time publisher. This week – four years, two missed deadlines and a dozen editors later – I'm delighted to bring you the full story of Kris' journey, under the title Gatecrashing Europe. As usual, you can read a sample on the book's homepage, and Scarborough-based readers can meet the author on Saturday 15th August, as Kris is doing a book signing from 10am-2pm at our new independent bookshop Wardle & Jones, on Bar Street. (Thanks to proprietor Rachel Wardle for the photo above.)

Can't make the event?  If you order a copy of the book through our website before close-of-business on Friday 14th, I can still make sure Kris signs a personalised copy for you – if he's going to sit around signing books all day, we may as well make the most of it!  Just make sure you request a signature when you order, and let us know who you want it made out to.

The other book I want to mention today is Tom Preston's The Boy in the Mirror, which isn't due out until September 17th, but is already attracting some press attention. Book preview website NetGalley went so far as to call it one of 'the UK's top ten books for September 2015' in this blog post – and who am I to argue with the experts?

The book in question is an astonishingly original take on the 'cancer memoir'; the true story of a 21-year-old's battle with stage 4 advanced aggressive lymphoma, written in the second person, so the events in the book are happening to 'you'.

Those who responded to the request in my May newsletter for feedback on a short non-fiction book can now feel rather smug, having read this one first – and having helped myself and Tom perfect the manuscript, which was quite a challenge as you can imagine. If you missed out on that preview, the first couple of chapters can be read on the book's homepage now. I can promise you, you've never read anything quite like it before.

That's all for now – I've kept things refreshingly brief this time – but I'll be back in September with more news, more books, and more well-intentioned boasting. Enjoy your summer!

All the best,
Jamie McGarry (VP Publisher)

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Summer update from Valley Press

Dear readers,

We've had our fair share of joy and sadness at Valley Press since the last newsletter. I'll attempt to bring you up to date below - starting with our latest book, which needs to be put in some historical context...

When I met Nigel Gerrans in 2009, he had been writing poetry for 70 years, and I had just taken my first tentative steps into publishing - bringing out two books by myself with the words 'Valley Press' on them (to add a hint of professionalism). It was whilst talking to Nigel that I realised publishing other people might be an interesting and rewarding pursuit. Later that year I published his collection Tenebrae, and a couple of weeks ago I was delighted to re-publish those poems, with many others, in a new volume - It Is I Who Speak: Selected Poems.

Edited by the poet's long-time friend and collaborator Felix Hodcroft, this new publication collects the very best of Nigel's work across the decades; including some poems never seen anywhere else before, dug out of the archive and pieced together from various drafts and typescripts. It's been a real labour of love for all involved; a volume which we hope will be read and enjoyed for decades to come. Find out more and read a sample here.

Onto other news now, and there was a flurry of excitement at VP HQ last weekend, when our March novel Grandmother Divided by Monkey Equals Outer Space was recommended by William Boyd as a 'summer read' for 2015 in The Guardian. In case you can't quite make it out from the image, he said the following:

“Nora Chassler’s extraordinary Grandmother Divided by Monkey Equals Outer Space breaks all moulds. Set in 1980s New York, it is a triumphant vindication of the edgy, eccentric demotic as a compelling narrative voice.”

Not bad eh? Thanks to VP poet Mike Di Placido for supplying me with a copy of the paper, running home to get it after encountering me in the Post Office queue - whilst simultaneously purchasing and cooking some garlic bread. (I expect that's how Bloomsbury's press department handled this item too.)

The next thing I should mention is the reading group I organised via the last newsletter, which turned out to be a great idea; very useful indeed. The volunteers seemed to enjoy it - a little too much, even, as they were very nearly locked in Woodend overnight! I'll run another one at the end of the year, and allow a full day for the group to work through the envelopes and make its recommendations. Unless everyone pictured above wants to come back again (there are only five seats!) I'll need some new volunteers, so keep an eye out for that.

So, you may ask, what does this mean re: submissions? As of 6:57pm last night, I have settled the Valley Press publishing schedule for spring 2016 (in pencil - but a thick, black pencil that is hard to rub out). What this means is, if you submitted during our window that ended in June, and I haven't expressly emailed you by now saying you're in, you didn't make it.

I still plan to write to all the submitters individually, but as that's going to take several weeks, I thought a general announcement here would be helpful and not considered too rude. Huge thanks to everyone who sent their work in, it was by far the strongest six months of submissions we've ever received - absolutely top notch. I've been turning down bona fide TV stars, writers of bestsellers, people whose last four books were published by Random House ... it's beyond belief, really.

All of the above made me stop and think what a long way Valley Press has come, since the humblest of origins in 2008; and how it couldn't have happened without all the people who have helped out along the way. My week became a lot more poignant yesterday when I heard that Jenny Drewery - a lynch-pin of the Scarborough cultural scene, and the best proofreader ever to pick up a red pen - had passed away. Jenny worked frequently with Valley Press; if you've read pretty much anything we published between 2012 and 2014 you will have benefited from Jenny's invisible and meticulous work. She was also a wonderfully warm and encouraging personality, and will be much missed. Her friends and family have set up a page here where people can donate in her memory; I'd be delighted if any newsletter readers wanted to contribute.

There are just a couple more things I must mention in this newsletter (ridiculously long as it has already become): you have until 3pm on Wednesday 22nd July to listen to the radio version of Humfrey Coningsby on BBC iPlayer, which you can do here - well worth 45 minutes of anyone's time. Also, for the first time in four years I am doing a 'solo gig', in Covent Garden on Monday 20th July (this Monday!); all details available via The Emma Press. (N.B. I'm also reading at the event listed on Tuesday, and would love it if any VP fans dropped in.)

I think that's everything for now - thanks for reading, as ever, and look out for more news very soon.

All the best,
Jamie McGarry (VP Publisher)

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Eve Lacey on the 'Anthology of Sea' Submissions

Eve Lacey
Eve Lacey is currently editing an anthology of poems about the sea for the Emma Press. With just six days left in the call for submissions, we asked her to share some of her thoughts about reading the submissions and preparing to make the final selection. Submissions to The Emma Press Anthology of the Sea close on Sunday 21st June 2015 – read all the guidelines here.

* * *

One month since the call for submissions was released, and with only a week left until the deadline, my inbox has filled with sea. I read the poems more or less as they arrive, and sort them into groups to return to later. This involves spreadsheets and colour-coding, and I won't dwell too long on the individual poems until I have got a sense of the whole.

An anthology can be picked at in parts, but should also have a meaningful structure if read cover to cover in one sitting. In the early days of book-making, when parchment was a precious resource, Medieval readers created compendium texts of their favourite sections of verse, instruction and scripture, handpicked and hand-arranged, then bound together in a pocket library. From bestiaries to Bibles, anthologising is primarily concerned with weight: balancing one text against another, and condensing it all into one volume. Such assessment and consideration demands an economy of verse – like a poem writ large, each section must earn its place.

At this early stage the only question is whether I want to read a poem again, and again, and again. We have had submissions from the UK to Australia, from the Philippines and in translation from Portuguese. Perhaps unsurprisingly, writing on the sea frequently returns to the same motifs – the most common words have been flotsam and jetsam, but I've had lots of fathoming too – and similar sentiments recur with tidal regularity.

Next, I'll experiment with different orders and discover how the anthology should read as a whole. This is one of the most exciting parts, because it cannot be planned in advance. The trick is to find the balance between variety and thematic strength, and arrange poems so that they make more sense next to each other than they would alone.

I have learnt so much, in subject matter and form, from the submissions that have already arrived. But the theme is giant, and we want to do justice to its breadth. The poems arrive like messages in bottles, and we'll be collecting sea stories and castaway verse until the end of the week.

* * *

About the author: Eve Lacey is a writer and the editor of Furies (For Books' Sake, 2014), an anthology of contemporary women's poetry. She is also a librarian, a longlist judge for the Commonwealth Book and Short Story Prizes, and web editor for Thresholds: Poets in Residence at the University of Cambridge Museums. In 2012 she was awarded the David Almond Fellowship from Newcastle University and Seven Stories Museum to conduct archival research on disability in children's literature. Her work is published by the Emma Press, SALT, Textual Practice and The Next Review, and featured in Rebecca Goss's 'Heart Poem' series.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

News, books and opportunities from Valley Press

Dear readers,

It's been a couple of months since I was last in touch - how have you been? Right, now the small talk is out of the way, I'll get down to business ... I have a lot to tell you, but I'll start (as ever) with our latest publications.

Both of the books pictured here were released on the 24th April; so I'll introduce them in alphabetical order. First we have Jonathan Davidson's Humfrey Coningsby, a short collection of "poems, complaints, explanations and demands for satisfaction" inspired by the (continuing) life of a 16th century Shropshire Lord.

Twitter has been getting quite excited about Humfrey, with the words "brilliant", "wonderful" and "lovely" being used to describe it in one 24-hour period. Our own Kelley Swain nicely summarised it as: "Sir Harry Flashman meets Sir Geoffrey Hill. Superb, a must-read!" And your Coningsby experience doesn't have to end with the book; Jonathan has also written a radio drama on this subject, currently scheduled for broadcast on BBC Radio 4, Wednesday 24th June, from 2.15pm. Should be well worth a listen! Check out a sample of the book here to see what the fuss is about.

Then there's Life Class, the second collection by one of our most distinguished VP poets (and noted artist) Jo Reed. Jo designed her own cover for this book, basing it around a portrait of herself by renowned graphic designer Ken Vail, and the interior of the book is just as unique and intriguing. Never trivial, Jo's poetry deals in memory, myth and magic; often combining unvarnished reality with breathtaking flights of imagination. A Scarborough-based event around Life Class is in the works; keep an eye on the book's homepage for news on that, when we have it.

Onto other matters now: near this sentence you should see a picture of the VP/EP stall at the London Book Fair - we had a marvellous time and hope to go back next year. You can read Emma's charming summary of our experience here.
 
I'll be back in London this coming Wednesday (27th), for the official launch of Richard Barnett's Seahouses, which is taking place at Blackwell's Holborn from 6pm. Hope to see you London Valley Press fans there!


I know many newsletter subscribers are anxious to hear about the submissions process, so here we go: our search for great new writing to publish in spring 2016 is about to come to an end. The details are all here, in case you've missed them, and the deadline for us receiving your work is 5pm on Friday May 29th. If you've almost got something together, but can't make that, don't panic! I'll most likely open submissions for autumn 2016 that very same day (with the same requirements), so only rush if you need a decision soon.

I'd actually like to request some help with that decision: I'm looking for fans of literary publishing to meet me in Scarborough one day in June, to read through a selection of submissions and give me some feedback. If you're interested in attending this, reply to this email and let me know; we'll discuss exact dates and times once I have five or six volunteers. If you've submitted something in the last six months, I'm afraid you're not welcome at this meeting - but the rest of you are.

I'd also like a few volunteers to read a forthcoming VP title, due for publication in September - it's prose, non-fiction, on the short side at just 70 pages; I'm looking for general feedback and answers to a few specific questions, which I'll be asking after you've read it. Again, if you're interested in helping out, please reply to this email and let me know. (You won't have to come to Scarborough for this one.)

Finally, I'll end by directing you to a couple of wonderfully detailed and eloquent reviews of our March novel Grandmother Divided by Monkey Equals Outer Space; one from 'Scots Whay Hae' and one by R J Askew. I also loved this short blog about the book by our sales agency's director Sheila Bounford. And very finally (sorry for going on so long!), thanks to Jim Hinks, a remastered version of Dame Judi Dench reading Sue Wilsea's short story 'Paper Flowers' is now online here. Would be a great way to spend 20 minutes of your bank holiday! (In addition to all the minutes you've spent on this newsletter...)

All the best, and thanks for reading,
Jamie McGarry (VP Publisher)

Monday, 20 April 2015

Reasons I had a great London Book Fair

Why did I decide to exhibit at the London Book Fair this year? Unlike Jamie, it's never been on my bucket list, and, like Jamie, I don't have a huge amount of money to be splashing out on ventures which will definitely not lead to sales. The LBF isn't a book-selling fair but a trade fair, where publishers go to buy and sell international rights for books. There's networking too, and different countries representing their literary output, but the main business is securing book deals, which doesn't really apply to small poetry publishers.

Rachel, me and Jamie mid-roam at #LBF14
At the risk of sounding frivolous, I think the main reason I decided to fork out for a stand at the LBF was that I wanted my own table and chair. Without the offer of a stand on the Inpress Poetry Pavilion, I would have gone anyway and roamed around like I did last year, but I liked the idea of not having to sit cross-legged on the floor for meetings. As a small, new publisher, my rightful place at the LBF probably is as a bottom-feeder, but it's nice to try on a bit of grandeur once in a while. The other reason I decided to exhibit at the LBF was so I could tell people I'd done it, because I thought it might sound impressive.

So, from the moment I sat down in my chair last Tuesday and sent my first #LBF15 tweet, I'd achieved all my goals. I had low expectations about the fair and was prepared to spend a lot of time sitting quietly at my table or chatting to Jamie (who was sharing the stand with me, naturally), and I would have been perfectly happy with that. Over the course of the fair, though, there was a lot of discussion about how the brand-new Poetry Pavilion concept was doing and lots of people asked me if I was having a 'good fair'. I think I answered every time 'I'm having a great fair!', which was such an unexpectedly superlative reaction that I thought it would be good to share why.

Reasons I had a great London Book Fair 


ONE. Being part of the party. 

Me and Jamie with our table and chairs at #LBF15
Small poetry publishing often feels set apart from the rest of small press publishing, let alone from the big leaguers in the publishing world. I liked having a stand at the LBF because it felt like being part of a huge display of the health of the book industry. I like the optimism and passion on the small poetry publishing scene, but I also like to be reminded that some publishers are producing blockbusters and making deals which the Bookseller and even mainstream newspapers count as Real News. That'll be me, one day!

TWO. Publisher Skills 101. 

Never have I had to explain the concept of the Emma Press to so many people in such quick succession, and on such dwindling reserves of energy. Contrary to my fears, people did actually stop to chat at the Poetry Pavilion and I had to summarise the origins and aims of both the Emma Press and Valley Press (when Jamie wasn't around) to authors, bloggers, printers and other publishers.

I was also pleased to get a bit of practice in slapping down patronising people. Usually I'm taken too much by surprise to react, but at the LBF they came regularly enough that I was able to experiment with varying degrees of hostility.

A fine panorama of #LBF15 by Jamie


THREE. The Inpress Poetry Pavilion. 

The LBF isn't really geared towards unpublished authors, even though the Author HQ hosts talks from editors and agents and being part of the party is important for writers too. For an unsigned writer, I think the LBF is more like a sweets museum than a sweetshop (don't try extend this analogy too far, or at all), which is why the Poetry Pavilion was such a treat. As I sat on the little row of small poetry publishers, I thought about how this was a genuinely useful section of the fair for unpublished poets, where they could come and get to know the editors of some ambitious small presses which might actually be interested in publishing them. I hope the LBF decides to run with this in future years, because it's a valuable resource for unpublished poets and small presses alike.

FOUR. The talks. 

I went to most of the talks on the Poetry Pavilion, partly to take a break from explaining the Emma Press to people, and I'm delighted to report that Inpress did a fantastic job of whipping up a programme of readings and discussions at incredibly short notice. Again, I found myself musing on how genuinely useful these talks were, especially to young publishers. When else was I going to hear Michael Schmidt and Simon Thirsk weighing up the differences of Carcanet and Bloodaxe, and Jo Bell and Judith Palmer evaluating the Canal Laureate scheme and the value of arts partnerships?

I especially enjoyed the panel discussion on translating poetry from Susan Curtis-Kojakovic of Istros Books, with Damir Šodan, Ana Brnardić and Pedro Serrano, and felt quite enthused to start dabbling in translations myself. If you're a translator and think you have something which is just right for the Emma Press, get in touch!


FIVE. Hanging with my peeps.

What really made the fair for me was that several of my favourite – and soon-to-be favourite – small publishers had also decided to come along. I wouldn't say that my life as a publisher is particularly lonely, but I do miss the sociability of working at Orion, with all the tea breaks and chats across desks. The three days of the LBF were a great chance to have proper chats with Katherine from Ugly Duckling Presse, Jane from Nine Arches Press, Clive from Burning Eye Books, Mick and Sarah from Seren and Tom from Penned in the Margins, as well a rare catch-up in person with Jamie from Valley Press. I also got to meet Michael from Carcanet, Jenny from Candlestick Press and Shane from Wrecking Ball Press.

SIX. Pens.

It was a good excuse to get some promotional pens done.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

New books and news from Valley Press

Dear readers,

This month I'm proud to introduce two new books into the world, Seahouses by Richard Barnett and (deep breath) Grandmother Divided by Monkey Equals Outer Space by Nora Chassler. If you want to bail out of this blog post now, having visited those two links, you should feel free - I recently asked Mrs. McGarry if she reads these missives; she sighed and said 'well, they're a bit long aren't they'. So this is your point to escape ... otherwise, let's push on.

I'll start with GDMEOS, or Granny as I've been calling it for short. Set mainly in a small flat in New York, in 1982, this is a novel that has so far been called 'unabashedly literary' and 'a bit post-narrative' by those attempting to concisely explain it. The press release, posted here, offers a more thorough introduction, and there's a sample here.

A launch event for this book is coming up next week in Edinburgh; specifically, at the marvellous Word Power Books, on Monday 30th March, from 6.30pm. This is a 'drinking and mingling' type of launch, with minimal public speaking, but the author will read a few choice paragraphs from throughout the book to whet your appetite - and sign copies of course.

Then we have Seahouses, the debut collection of poetry by Richard Barnett (beautifully pictured here on a bench by our own Jo Brandon). You may have heard of Richard through his acclaimed non-fiction writing, or encountered his poetry in Pocket Horizon back in 2013; but if you'd like to get better acquainted, he recently recorded three Seahouses poems for a podcast, which you can find here. If you prefer poems on the page, where you can keep an eye on them, you can read the first 17 pages of the book on its homepage here.

This book has a launch event too, though you don't need to get your coat on just yet - the Seahouses launch is on Wednesday 27th May, from 6pm, at Blackwell's Holborn in London. Richard will be reading at 7pm, but before that, you've guessed it - drinking and mingling. The literary life is a tough one!

In other news, Valley Press is heading to the London Book Fair on the 15th and 16th April, and this year we really mean business - we're exhibiting, in a part of the fair which the organisers are calling 'the Poetry Pavilion'. The precise stand number, if you'd like to come and see us, is 3A74b; it's a shared one with our perennial allies The Emma Press (who you'll find 50cms to the right, at 3A74a). We're really looking forward to it - we've got our entry badges printed out and everything.

I'll end with a few bits of press: there was a full page on Oz Hardwick's The Ringmaster's Apprentice in the Yorkshire Post a couple of weeks ago; the wonderful Sabotage Reviews tackled Richard O'Brien's A Bloody Mess and (somewhat belatedly) Miles Salter's Animals; Cuckoo Reviews did justice to A Pocketful of Windows and A Bloody Mess; and Helen Mort was full of praise for Matthew Hedley Stoppard's A Family Behind Glass on Twitter last week. Oh, and as I write this very paragraph, Rodge Glass has just declared his love for the writing of Nora Chassler - and says Grandmother Divided by Monkey Equals Outer Space is a great title.

I'll see you next month for details of our two April books, and any news that might arise from the LBF. Looks like a busy spring for Valley Press this year!

All the best, and thanks for reading,
Jamie McGarry (VP Publisher)