Friday, 28 April 2017

This week at Valley Press, #52: 'Mountain Stories'




Dear readers,

A book launch was held this week in the city of Xi'an, in the Shaanxi province, Northwest China. Word on the street is that esteemed local writer Ye Guangqin has work coming out with an English publishing house ... apparently (it is whispered) these publishers have close ties to Her Majesty the Queen, are responsible for some of greatest works of literature ever to be laid down on the printed page, and arrange all this from a castle on the English coast (while famous cyclists pass underneath, for their entertainment).

The name of this prestigious organisation? Valley Press, of course.


The green speck on the above picture is a stack of Mountain Stories, our next-but-one publication, due to hit bookshelves in July. (The next project is still Helen Burke's book, which is currently in the middle of typesetting – Jo claimed on Thursday that we're 'getting close' to finishing, which I was happy to hear! More on that next week.)

So how did the work of an acclaimed Chinese author travel all the way from Xi'an to Scarborough, and how did the resulting books make the five thousand mile journey in the opposite direction; from a shelf in our humble office to that grand table in Northwest University? The answer to the second is: by plane, I guess, and the first is a long story of chance encounters and deeply engaged literary people at both ends (particular thanks due to Robin Gilbank and Professor Hu Zongfeng, pictured above with the author and other key staff at the university.)

You may not have heard the word Shaanxi before, or be particularly familiar with the bestselling Chinese-language authors who call that province their home, but you're about to be: in an unprecedented arrangement, we've signed an agreement to publish a whole series of titles from the region's finest authors, in 2018 and beyond. Translated with great care by the team in Xi'an, then edited and proof-read by native English scholars, these books offer an astonishingly fresh literary experience for UK readers. I'm excited; it's something genuinely new for us all to get to grips with.

What kind of writing should you expect? I've put up a sample from Mountain Stories here; one of my favourite extracts, describing the author's struggles to film a TV drama in a remote Chinese village. If you've read and enjoyed that, and want to know more about the book and the author, all the details are on our website here (and you can buy, of course! Remember to apply your 10% subscriber's discount code, TENFOREVER).

If you are fluent in Chinese, you can read their side of the story here (Google translate isn't much help!), but otherwise I think that's enough info for the time being. More later in the year. In other news this week: Norah Hanson will be reading in Scarborough on May 18th, details to be confirmed – keep that evening free if interested – and there's some truly fascinating anecdotes about Aunts from Emma Press writers on our blog, in honour of their latest anthology. You can't say we don't give you anything to read!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

All about Aunts: Part One

The Emma Press Anthology of Aunts will be launching in a couple of weeks! The anthology focuses on exploring the role of aunts, it seemed fitting to asked some of our poets to write on their own experience of aunts; the aunts that they have known, their role as an aunt, and influences on their poems.

* * *

Anita’s aunt Freda

Anita S. Pulier 


My father’s unmarried older sister Aunt Freda was completely devoted to my parents and us three kids.

I took her for granted. At every holiday and birthday she was there. If any one of us needed something she was ready to help. Of course, she had her odd ways and pronounced idiosyncracies... to me they were endearing.

 On her death bed she confessed to me that in all the years I had assumed she was alone she had had a secret lover, the owner of the large meat distributor where she had been the office manager.

He became the butcher in my poem “The Butcher’s Diamond” which is the title of my first full length book that Finishing Line Press is publishing this year.

Gill McEvoy 


My outstanding memory of this aunt is this: one day when this aunt was staying with us my mother demanded I take Aunt Vi out walking just so my mother could get on with cooking lunch (Auntie Vi was doing her usual bit of talking away about the insubstantial and my mother was a pragmatic soul who simply wanted to get things done). I took my aunt on my favourite walk, over two Gloucestershire hills and up through a wood to a dry-stone wall, beyond which you would always get the most spectacular view of the Severn Plain, with Wales hazy in the distance. As it was uphill to the wall, the view sprang itself on you with a suddenness that took most people by surprise, and no-one, but no-one, had ever failed to gasp at the sheer magnificence of it. Almost everyone I’d taken there would linger for some time to admire and exclaim. But not Auntie Vi. She didn’t even see it. I was truly taken aback for my aunt, having lectured the whole way, reached the wall, climbed over it without breaking stride, carried on down the far side and was still jabbering on and on when we reached home again. She then talked right through lunch, about how cabbages have souls and we shouldn’t cut them, while all the time cheerfully shovelling rabbit pie and buttered cabbage into her yapping mouth. I never took her on another walk!


Anna’s nephew Isaac

Anna Woodford 


One of the best conversations in my life was with someone who couldn’t speak. It was on a car’s back seat somewhere in 2007 with my new nephew Isaac. Being completely clueless on the baby front at that point, I was trying to get him to say words (unlikely at a couple of months old and, looking back, I was obviously sabotaging his nap time but my brother and sister-in-law who were in the front of the car were either too kind or sleep-deprived to say so).

Isaac’s new word was ‘Ah-ba’. I tried him with ‘Aunty’ and ‘Anna’ (egotiscal, much?!) but he kept smiling delightfully and repeating ‘Ah-ba’. In what Oprah might call an ‘A’ha’ moment, I realised he was actually the one teaching me* – to relax and not to rush on to the next thing and to enjoy the experience of communicating without words. My poem ‘Travelling with Isaac’ came from this experience.

*It was one of many things I learnt from my nephew Isaac – although these days, it’s more likely to be the offside rule.


Charlotte Eichler 


The poem ‘Survivors’ is inspired by early memories of visiting my father’s family in Sheffield. My grandfather, Bertold Eichler, came to England from Czechoslovakia in 1939. He was Jewish and had been politically active in smuggling people out of Germany. A local policeman warned Bertold that his name was on a Gestapo list, so he escaped across Poland in an empty petrol tanker. His immediate family died in concentration camps, but one of his close friends, Edith Rosenberg, survived Auschwitz, was reunited with her husband, Otto, and settled in a flat in London.

Edith was a sculptor, and the ‘curled-up figures’ of the poem refer to the dark wooden sculptures of tortured bodies that she made, and which lined her dining room in glass cases. That dining room also had a large, patterned rug hanging on the wall – a Slavic fashion that struck me as strange when I was a child. My brother and I, on family visits to Sheffield and London, would make up strange games to entertain ourselves, including making a bee graveyard in the gardens of my grandma’s block of flats. My memories of our visits to my great-aunts, my widowed Yorkshire grandma, and to Edith and Otto are some of my earliest, and rather confused, so the flat of the poem is a combination of several different places. ‘Survivors’ tries to capture some of the atmosphere of that time for us, as small children who had no idea, yet, about our family’s recent past.

Mary Anne’s mother and her sisters

Mary Anne Clark 


To me, each of my aunts has a different set of memories, associations, and attributes, and I have learned different things about life from each of them. But they have at the same time a single unified identity - ‘the aunties’. They are a matriarchal herd, a stampede of women with their mother, my Nan, who died two years ago, at the head.

This picture is of my mum (front, second from right) and her four older sisters. It is by my aunt, Celia Paul (back, reflected in the mirror while painting). They are all wearing identical white smocks, which makes them look almost indistinguishable to a casual glancer, but which emphasises the differences in their faces and postures to someone who looks more closely. To someone who knows them, they are immediately recognisable as their individual selves. I think I could tell them apart just by their feet.


Hilaire 


Auntie Hil was my favourite aunt. I was so fond of her that I decided, in grade one, that I wanted to be called by my middle name – her name – and wouldn’t answer to the first name my parents had chosen for me. Auntie Hil was cheery and had a lively sense of humour; the sort of person people would strike up a conversation with on the bus or in the street. She often retold these encounters, laced with her infectious laughter. This openness and lack of reserve was alien to me. In my immediate family, introversion was the default mode. She showed me a different way of interacting with the world.

But her most profound, and early, influence on me was as a writer. She was always writing, mostly novels but also poetry, and she never gave up sending her work out, though she had little success. Her example set me on the writing path. After I left Australia and moved to London in my early twenties we occasionally corresponded, and she would end her letters wishing me ‘all power to your writing elbow’.

Auntie Hil died in January 2005, aged just 64. A few months later my niece Ana was born, my parents’ first and only grandchild. Becoming an aunt has given me a new role in the family, one I relish, and was the inspiration for my poem in the anthology.

Rob and his family


Rob Hamberger


Rob and his family After my father left when I was six years old, my childhood and adolescence was surrounded by women: my maternal grandmother Jane, my mother and her three sisters – Suzie, Nettie and Hannah – their half-sisters Alice and Harriet and their cousin Anna. They peopled my landscape, tall as standing stones. Playing with my brothers and cousins on the front-room carpet in my Nan’s flat, women’s voices lilted their continual accompaniment to our games, sharing jokes and stories with each other; another comment chucked into the criss-crossing mêlée of words; laughter suddenly blossoming over my head. Laughter I never fully understood, though I wanted to share it because it made me happy.

Aunt Anna had a great sense of style. When she had a new passport photo taken for our trip to old wartime friends in Holland she sounded delighted as she showed it to us: “It makes me look like a French tart!” She worked for the London Underground at Bethnal Green Tube station. I associate her with singing, especially at the crowded Boxing Day parties in our Whitechapel flat. I catch her singing down the years with my mother. They sway together with drinks in their hands, Aunt Anna balancing a fag between her fingers:
Call round any old time
Make yourself at home – 
My poem came from a workshop led by Naomi Foyle, where she asked us to celebrate a relative. The words flowed easily, as if they’d always been on the brink of being written.

* * *
The Emma Press Anthology of Aunts is available to pre-order now on our website. We will be launching the book in London on the 10th May. Find out more on our events page.

Friday, 21 April 2017

This week at Valley Press, #51: 'Ten per cent'



Dear readers,

Sorry to use a coin in the header again – sometimes finding an appropriate, creative image for what I've got to say is beyond me! (Particularly last thing on a Friday afternoon.) Ten per cent of what, anyway?

Some work is being done on our website, behind the scenes, and as part of that we discussed the reward which newsletter subscribers receive for ploughing through these missives each week. The current system is a touch vague, and doesn't really work as a reward or an incentive, so a new offer has been agreed on: from today onwards, subscribers of the newsletter are entitled to 10% off any purchase through the Valley Press website. Not bad eh? The web guys are working on a system to make that apply automatically, but in the meantime you can use the code TENFOREVER to get your 10% off (named after the period of time we intend this offer to apply).

* * *

In other exciting news: we followed through on our promise in the last newsletter, and submissions for new books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction are once again open at Valley Press. It feels good! Based on overwhelming feedback from last year, the 'form' is now filled out online – you just need to go here and follow the instructions. Please excuse any teething problems with this system; it's very new.

Also, please note we're going entirely paperless with subs from now on. A4 envelopes were wonderful when we had 100 coming in a year, but with 600 (and presumably more in future) the logistics just get too difficult. We actually lost a few envelopes, it turns out – which were posted recorded delivery – so hoping that won't happen again with the new spreadsheet/email system (and the diligent efforts of Tess each Saturday).

Last week I requested more volunteers for our submissions reading group (which I'm thinking of re-dubbing the 'editorial board' in future, sounds more prestigious). Thankfully, there was a big response – you people really are wonderful. Many readers sent CVs and details of their qualifications; wonderful, but definitely not necessary! If you buy and read books, you're qualified. All I need is a brief message, and you're in.

* * *

Finally, I learned earlier today that one of our 2013 interns (and her colleagues... and future generations of UK children) are desperately in need of your help. Stephanie Cox and co. have been working on a petition to make mental health education compulsory in primary and secondary schools; and when I say working, I mean time, expense, effort and sacrifice for months – only to have the rug pulled from under them this week, with their deadline reduced by two months due to the snap election.

They now need to get to 100,000 signatures by May 3rd, if they want the issue to reach parliament; so if you're a UK citizen, please consider signing the petition here, and sharing the link of course. This isn't going to become a regular thing, but I felt this was a particularly good cause that had been particularly screwed by the system.

Next week: details of our China project, at last.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Friday, 14 April 2017

This week at Valley Press, #50: 'Long weekend'



Dear readers,

Happy holidays to all who are starting a 'long weekend'. I'm off today for Good Friday (except for the time it takes to write this newsletter!), but back in tomorrow for our Submissions Coordinator's first day at work. We're hoping to re-open to unsolicited submissions before the end of the month, and the plan is for them to be open permanently going forwards, with a 90-day turnaround (so writers can have an answer within three months of us receiving their sample).

It won't be easy, but it's what should happen in an ideal world, so that's what we'll be aiming for. With our time under the warming sun of the Arts Council at an end (for now anyway), we'll be funding this by requiring submitters to purchase a book – so if you're keen to send us your work, start saving your pennies and eyeing up the backlist!

We'll need more volunteer readers (over email), so the next question is: if you're considering volunteering, but haven't yet, what would seal the deal? The occasional free book maybe? It's not as arduous as it might seem; I'm only expecting the readers to start reading each manuscript. If they don't love it, they can give up straight away, and let us know ... though I'm pleased to say, that hasn't happened much with the work we've been sending out in recent months.

With so much quality writing coming in, I need a second, third and thirtieth opinion to know for certain what Valley Press should pursue – hence this request. I can't thank the current batch enough for helping me with the 2016 manuscripts (still plenty to go!), but if we're to do this job on the timescale mentioned above, it's going to take a community of literature lovers the like of which has never been assembled...

That's almost all I need to say this week, but if you'd like to read a couple of seasonal poems, be sure to dig out my newsletter from last Easter, featuring Di Slaney and Nigel Gerrans. Oh, and I can report Helen's book has finally progressed to typesetting, and there's a nice new review for Antony Dunn here.

This was the fiftieth 'Week at Valley Press' email roundup – hope you'll stick around for the next fifty!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Friday, 7 April 2017

This week at Valley Press, #49: 'Remembering'



Dear readers,

You may recall a book we published last year, titled Remembering Oluwale (with a title like that, how could you forget?) It's returned to the spotlight recently in various ways. One of the contributors won the 'Pitch and Pen' event we took part in during March, and is heading for a solo publication (the slow way – she still needs to write most of the book!) That encouraged me to re-read the anthology, and it's still as compelling a year on.

We're working on another anthology titled Verse Matters, due in November (eye-wateringly brilliant stuff, couldn't be more excited about that one), and during the first meeting today I heard that the editors were encouraged to offer it to Valley Press because of our great work on Remembering Oluwale. Particularly the design; so a big shout-out to Rosa Campbell, if she's reading. (She's very busy with her PhD at present.)

RO's editor SJ Bradley has been working tirelessly to get the book the attention it deserves, and this recently paid off in the form of a shortlisting for the Saboteur Awards. Unlike the typical literary awards, this one won't be decided in a secluded boardroom somewhere; it's a public vote, open until April 30th. Hustling for votes makes me feel a little queasy, but if you do feel compelled to give your opinions on literary matters, you can vote in all the award categories via their website here.

(I also heard SJ is gearing up to edit another 'prize anthology', this one exclusively for short stories – more details later in the year. That's probably a secret though, so shh!)

I'm constantly astonished at how a single project can send out ripples in all directions that don't become obvious until many months, or even years, later; that's been a big lesson from 2017 so far. The Chinese project I've been hinting at (which I will explain soon, I promise) originated from someone attending one of our very first book launches in 2011 – over the years, word spread from that room in Scarborough library to the foothills of the Qinling Mountains, in the middle of China.

That's all I've got to say this week, though after all this it would be remiss of me not to offer you 20% off Remembering Oluwale; use code REMEM at the checkout to claim that. Oh, and I also enjoyed reading this blog post by one of the 'winners' of our 2016 submissions process, Caroline Hardaker, who has a pamphlet coming out in early October. It's a rare insight into what happens after we say 'yes'; something I'm hoping to do a lot more in the near future.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Friday, 31 March 2017

This week at Valley Press, #48: 'Hello!'



Dear readers,

I started the email version of this post by welcoming new subscribers – we've just added all the people who submitted manuscripts in 2016, who indicated they'd be happy to receive emails from us. Hello! We've spent the last four months reading your work and processing those submissions, but as of today, we believe we've sent everyone at least one email letting them know the outcome, good or bad.

So it almost goes without saying: if you still haven't heard from us, please get in touch, as something has obviously gone slightly wrong. If we've called in a full digital manuscript and you're waiting to hear the outcome, you'll need to be patient a little longer; there are still around twenty that I need to read through myself, and as usual I'll need the skills of the digital reading group to back me up. More volunteers would be very welcome.

Here's a photo of the team who finally got the job done: Mrs McGarry in the foreground, our first 2017 intern Luke Taylor in the middle, and 'Assistant Publisher' Jo Haywood in the distance (it was the first day at work for her and Luke). Thanks to all three for fantastic work on this mission, under some pressure!


It all went smoothly, except when four 'subs forms' slid between piles, resulting in those authors getting both good and bad news within minutes of each other – what can I say, we like to keep you on your toes!

In other news, tomorrow is the first day of business for "Valley Press Ltd." after my six years of self-employment. Nothing particularly will change, but with the new staff (and the clearing of the subs pile) it does feel a little like a fresh start, and surprisingly motivating. A new bank account without a single transaction, an unmarked diary for all the staff to use ... a chance to do everything right, from day one. What could be better?

Also this weekend, our friends at Chapel FM have a 'Writing on Air' festival in progress; all kinds of stuff going on (consult their website for details), but VP followers will particularly appreciate Helen Burke's show (noon on Saturday 1st) and Oz Hardwick's (12.30 on Sunday 2nd) (with nods to their collaborators Phil Pattinson and John Tuffen.)

Work continues on Helen's book of course, the next VP publication, and on the many other exciting titles we've got lined up for you in the rest of 2017. Don't go anywhere!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Friday, 24 March 2017

This week at Valley Press, #47: 'Friday Feeling'

Dear readers,

It's Friday – so what is the Valley Press newsletter, traditionally posted on a Sunday evening, doing here? I've decided to move it, permanently; to dedicate some time on a Friday afternoon instead of trying to piece it together outside working hours, over the weekend. You can still read on Sunday if you like!

Last week I confessed the volume of incoming tasks and emails at VP had far exceeded what I could keep up with, and declared they would go undone and unreplied to until I could find some help. So that's been my focus this week, and I'm pleased to report I've found them (or actually, they found me): an 'Assistant Publisher' to share the production and admin work, and a 'Submissions Coordinator' to keep manuscripts moving smoothly, once we re-open to new authors next month.

I'll introduce them to you in future newsletters, once they get their feet under the table and up to speed with the work (which will take a little while, I would think). Make no mistake, this is very good news – a huge relief, in fact! – and is part of the reason I felt able to move the newsletter to a Friday. I honestly think the era of constant delays, missed deadlines and muddling through could be coming to an end. Hooray!

(On a related note: if you're wondering about last year's subs, I'm still hoping to have sent at least one email to everyone by the end of March. We'll continue reading full manuscripts until we've done them all justice.)

* * * * *

More brilliant news came in this week: both of the short story collections we published last year have been longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize (pretty much the only award for books of this type). Michael Stewart's Mr Jolly and Sue Wilsea's Raw Material will be up against collections from the likes of Susan Hill and Mark Haddon, with the shortlist announced in June and the overall winner in August. The winning author receives £10,000 (and probably sells quite a few books), so wish them luck!

If you'd like to read our entries and judge for yourself, you can have 20% off either (or both) by entering the code STORIED in your 'basket' when shopping on the Valley Press website. Follow the links in the paragraph above to reach the relevant book pages, and click 'preview' once you're there to read some intriguing sample stories.

* * * * *

Mr Jolly got an airing in Birmingham this week, along with The Boy in the Mirror and Reward for Winter, as Michael, Tom and Di put on an amazing show for some lucky BCU students, lecturers and literature fans in general. I was genuinely blown away by their sets (and the student open-mic was good too!) I don't think I'm ever prouder than at a reading, seeing VP books getting out there into the world.

Here's a photo of the authors, taken just before the event started... as you can see, they meant business. (Confession: I was originally in this photo too, but I didn't get the memo and was grinning widely – looking, as everyone who's seen it has agreed, like a competition winner who borrowed his dad's smart shirt.)


I'll end by recommending a blog post from The Emma Press's Yen-Yen Lu, giving general advice for writers submitting their work; anyone who does that (or is just thinking about it) will gain something from this short article. I've also just heard about a great night of feminist poetry taking place in Oxford on April 8th, featuring our own Kelley Swain and Rowena Knight – details here. Otherwise, that's a full lid; see you next Friday!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

An open letter to writers submitting their work

Particularly to those writers who are hesitant to submit their writing to magazines, websites, or even, for example, the Emma Press calls for submissions. I’ve recently started submitting my work for publication as well and while I don’t claim to know everything that you are feeling, there are some general things that I understand.

First, the frustration of writing to a theme. Some writers might find it useful to have a theme or subject to focus on, while others might find it limiting. At first, seeing what the theme is, it will seem difficult to come up with even one idea. “Customs and rituals”? “The colour red”? “Escape”?!. You start wondering what on earth any of these mean. Sometimes you think of some associations with the theme: “the colour red – like anger, or blood? Should I write an angry and bloody story?” Or you might think about what it means to you – “I had a red shirt that once belonged to an ex – is there a poem in that?”

And then, once you start thinking of some ideas, there might be some doubts about whether they are “good enough”. You start wondering whether they’re right for this theme, if you’re able to write something good from these ideas, if you can even write at all. It’s difficult having all these doubts but it’s important to work through it to get to the actual writing process (which, unfortunately, is also full of challenges). For me, I try to freewrite the beginnings of some ideas to see if any of them work for me. Normally, I’ll be able to choose one that I don’t hate and then develop it into something I actually kind of like. This process might not work for you but finding something to get you writing in the first place is usually helpful. Another thing I like to do is imagine Project Runway’s Tim Gunn telling me to “make it work!” But that is really… just me. You don’t have to do that.

Then comes the time to send your work in and with it, the fear of rejection. Once you’ve submitted it, your work will be read and judged and, for whatever reason, might be rejected. It’s scary for some people, but it’s also not the worst thing that could happen. It can be disappointing if your work isn’t accepted, but the other possibility is that it is successful and you do get published. It is worth finding out. Probably the worst feeling, however, is when the deadline has gone by and you haven’t submitted anything. It is always worth trying. Even if your work is not accepted in one instance, there will be more opportunities to try again, and learn, develop, improve, and all those other clichés.

With this in mind, I hope that all of those hesitant writers might feel more encouraged/less disheartened and get their work in for the Emma Press’ current call for poems about customs and rituals in Britain – good luck!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

This week at Valley Press, #46: 'Off the hook'

Dear readers,

The highlight of this week was our 'don't call it a launch' launch event for the Yorkshire Anthology. Due to the vagaries of my Arts Council project, and the selling schedule of the book trade, the anthology won't be in shops until August 1st – but we needed to 'launch' it in March. And launch it we did, in style! Although the event featured no less than twenty poets reading consecutively, everyone seemed to agree that the hour flew by.

I got an emergency print run to cover the event, and those copies are already pretty much gone: I'll get some more of course, but pre-orderers please note, you may need a wait a little longer for yours to arrive. The scene was captured by anthology contributor David Coldwell, who as you can see was sat with the other readers behind the microphone. The figure at the mic here is me; one of the better photos of me, actually...


This was also the week of my final meeting with Helen Burke about her new book. Slightly magical things tend to happen when you're with Helen, and this was no exception: Helen last saw her late father at 4.20pm on the 13th March 1999, and every year on that day, at that time, he finds some way to drop into her life. This is described to some extent in her poem 'The Last Time'.

Sure enough, as we headed towards the end of the meeting, with all other questions settled, there was one poem out of the hundreds in the book which I didn't have a 'note' for (Helen's books always have a notes section, offering background information on the poems). The poem without a note was 'The Last Time', and as I brought it up on the screen so Helen could dictate the story above, it was 4.20pm on the 13th March. Thought that was worth a mention here.

I won't share the poem now, will save it for another time, but here's an illustration by Helen that might make it into the book – though won't be quite as colourful.


While I was on my way to see Helen, Antony Dunn's 'Animal Rescue' (from Take This One to Bed) went on the Guardian's website as 'Poem of the Week'. You can read the poem, and Carol Rumens's elegant examination of it here – a highly recommended article. It's always wonderful to see a Valley Press poem getting such careful consideration, and the publicity is not too shabby either!

Someone reminded me this week that I never told you the end of the saga about the limited edition hardbacks for Antony's book. When I wrote the last newsletter before Christmas, two months after they were originally due for delivery, I'd given the offending printer a deadline of 5pm on the 21st December to hand over the books – or I'd never accept them, and would be demanding my money back.

After a tense day watching the clock, they were eventually delivered by the printing firm's managing director, personally, just minutes before the deadline. So all's well that ends well (sort of), and there are now only a couple of dozen hardbacks left; you can purchase one here for just £10. They look like this:


The final bit of news this week is perhaps the most significant, long-term; so brace yourself! On my way to Leeds on Saturday I took a good long look at my diary, my to-do list, and my inbox (all bulging), and realised I've reached a point that has been steadily creeping up for months – it is now physically impossible for me to keep up with the basic running of Valley Press.

For a long time, things worked like this: when I replied to an email or completed a task, another one would arrive immediately in its place – which is a somewhat sustainable situation. But for the past few weeks, as I sent a reply or finished something, two new items arrived in the 'in tray'... which meant the situation got ugly, fast.

I'm urgently working on finding more staff to join me in the Scarborough office, but in the short term, the majority of Valley Press emails are going to stay unanswered, and non-critical tasks remain undone. I simply don't have a choice; I've done fifteen days' worth of work in the last two weeks, but there's no way I can keep that up. So please try your best to let me off the hook, and I'll make sure normal service is resumed as quickly as possible.

I probably need a holiday ... but in the meantime, at least I have a trip to Birmingham to look forward to! A quick reminder about that: on Wednesday 22nd, from 6.30pm at The Woodsman, you can hear VP authors Tom Preston, Di Slaney and Michael Stewart read from their recent publications, and you can meet a rather tired (but hopeful) young publisher. See you there; and if not, in your inbox next week.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Sunday, 12 March 2017

This week at Valley Press, #45: 'Turning point'



Dear readers,

It's 6.30pm, and I'm only just sitting down to write the newsletter – so let's keep it short this week!

The Yorkshire Anthology is finished; I have the print-ready files sat here, ready to go to the printer first thing in the morning. It's been quite a journey, I can tell you, with 66 contributors needing to check the proofs! I think by now, we're all looking forward to showing it off to the reading public.

Also tomorrow, I have what should be my final meeting with Helen Burke regarding her Collected Poems, to dot the 'i's and cross the 't's (and I almost mean that literally). I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, as far as last year's publishing programme is concerned – regular readers will remember both of these books were originally scheduled for 2016 – so naturally, the future is sneaking up on me too; I also have meetings with prospective new authors and interns next week.

Next Saturday (18th), we have a special event at Headingley Literature Festival to 'preview' the Yorkshire Anthology (which won't be in shops until the summer, but will miraculously be there next Saturday!) Here are the readers, in order of appearance:

James Nash, Yvie Holder, Hannah Stone, Nick Toczek, Cora Greenhill, Char March, Anne Caldwell, Sarah Wallis, Michael Brown, Becky Cherriman, Patrick Lodge, Bethany Rivers, Doreen Gurrey, Mike Farren, Julia Deakin, Jo Brandon, Neil Clarkson, Marie Naughton, David Coldwell, Matthew Hedley Stoppard, Ian Parks

What a selection! The event runs from 7.30pm at the New Headingley Club, Leeds, and tickets are £4. You really should consider booking ahead – it's filling up, and not just with the readers! Hope to see some of you there; that's all for today. (Except for a sea view, which I'll sneak in below – taken just before I scurried to the office to type this.)

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher


Sunday, 5 March 2017

This week at Valley Press, #44: 'Putting in the hours'



Dear readers,

A lot of small steps forward this week – but maybe that's the best way to get somewhere? I remember, from a little book of Chinese philosophy: 'the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step'. (Valley Press will embark on its own Chinese journey this year; but that's a subject for another newsletter.)

I'm also reminded of the '10,000 hours' theory, which was all the rage when I registered as self-employed, back in January 2011. Gladwell wrote that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice would make you a world-class expert in any skill, so I did a calculation of how long I would need to stick with my new career in publishing before I had it all sussed out. If I worked to a standard full-time schedule, I could have it wrapped up by March 2017...

Sadly, the theory has now been mostly disproved, even without my own example (which may be the final nail in the coffin). I logged into some new software this week, designed to streamline data at a publishing house, and found 98% of the services it offered were a complete mystery to me. So I'm still not a world-class expert – maybe in another 10,000? – but you could argue that the Valley Press that exists today was built from those hours, one hour at a time. Or, to borrow another bit of philosophy, Grimm interpreted by Steven Moffat: 'that's a hell of a bird'.

* * * * 

So what were this week's 'small steps'? One of them was registering the company 'Valley Press Ltd.', which is the beginning of a new chapter for us (and a ton of admin); though it won't make much difference to the day-to-day running of things. Another was sending out page proofs for our Yorkshire Anthology to the contributors – I hope you all enjoyed having a sneak preview! I was stunned to see that within 24 hours, 43 of the 66 contributors had already got back to me with feedback; who says poets aren't organised?

Elsewhere, myself and the 'digital reading team' made it through a few more manuscripts submitted in 2016. I've found this process so helpful, it's the best idea I've had in months; the volunteers have been phenomenal, tackling each manuscript faster and with more insight than I could possibly have imagined. Next time we take submissions (which I'm hoping will be in April), I'm going to formalise this pseudo-committee and arrange some sort of reward for them. They deserve it!

What else? I took on another new team member; Martha Sprackland, formerly of Cake magazine and Faber & Faber, will be editing a series of poetry manuscripts for us in the coming months – you'll see the first fruits of her labour in September. I also quietly changed our 'FAQ' section to indicate we are now considering applications for internships, for the first time since 2013. People must have been watching that like a hawk, I've already had ten CVs! (It's tough to get publishing experience in this part of the world; I always wanted to offer regular internships, but haven't had the time or facilities in recent years.)

On top of all this, I did an interview for the excellent blog 'Book and Brew', which you can read here. As usual, it's pretty frank stuff; I always end up saying far more than I intend to when I do interviews. I think possibly I confuse it for therapy...? Anyway, enjoy that, if you fancy a bit more of my waffle this week; otherwise, see you next Sunday.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Happy World Book Day from the Emma Press!

In celebration of World Book Day, here are a few words (and some wonderfully bad selfies) from the Emma Press with some of our favourite books.

Emma Wright, publisher - The Folded Clock, by Heidi Julavits


"I was given this as a birthday present and I was hooked after the first couple of pages. It starts with the author explaining how she discovered her childhood diaries and was disappointed by how dull they were; she then goes on to keep a diary of sorts in her current life as a fortysomething woman. As someone who gave up writing her own childhood diary due to a horrible suspicion that her adult self would find it both tedious and shaming, I was on board with this premise from the start and I have found every entry so far extremely funny and relatable." 

Elīna Brasliņa, illustrator - Invisible Cities (Les villes invisibles) by Italo Calvino


"I bought a French edition of "Invisible cities" during an Erasmus semester in Nancy and would often take it to the Pépinière Park, delighting, arguably in equal measure, in Italo Calvino's poetic prose and the fact of reading it to the accompaniment of crying peacocks. I believe it was my favourite book for some time afterward. Now, almost eight years later, I'm working on illustrations for the Latvian edition and am both exhilarated and awestruck."

 James Trevelyan, poet - Transition by Luke Kennard


"I've just finished reading Luke Kennard's incredible novel The Transition and can't stop telling people about it. I think it should be compulsory reading for any renter-generation Millennial like me. Painfully close to the bone at times, it builds a Black Mirror-esque dystopia where young couples are forced to live with older, more successful couples to receive mentoring and advice on their way to home-ownership, fruitful start-ups and a better life. It's darkly funny and generally terrifying throughout, you can't help wondering when the government will actually set this scheme up... and then if you might be desperate enough to enroll." 


Deborah Alma, poet - Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson


"Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping is her first novel published in 1981 and I remember reading it back then and thinking, yes, this is the real thing. A work of beauty and grace and flawless. Wise, eccentric, poetic. I love it!"


Rachel Piercey, editor - How To Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis


"I have just finished Samantha Ellis's wonderful How to be a Heroine, where she revisits her favourite childhood and teenage books to ponder how they have shaped her life and what she makes of them now, as an adult. There are so many old friends here - Anne of Green Gables, Flora Poste, Elizabeth Bennet, the March sisters... I didn't want the book to end! Here I am with my hair in pigtails in homage to Anne-with-an-e Shirley, one of the great literary heroines of my life."


Emma Simon, poet - Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
 

"I love Angela Carter, her myth-making and wild language and Nights At The Circus is one of my favourites. It tells the story of Fevvers, a winged trapeze artist in19th century London. No-one is quite sure if she is a fake or not. It's an extravagant book, full of stories and surprises. I think I'd like any book set in circus -- the fictional ones are always far superior to the real thing." 


Andrew Wynn Owen, poet -Acastos: Two Platonic Dialogues by Iris Murdoch

"My chosen book for World Book Day is Iris Murdoch's Acastos: Two Platonic Dialogues. It's full of interesting thoughts about art and life. An extract:

CALLISTOS
Of course we are philosophers and Plato is a poet so we must make allowances --

[...]

PLATO
I'm very sorry, but really, you're all so unserious about art, as if it were a sort of side issue. As if one could say there's the navy and the silvermines and the war and the latest news about Alcibiades and this and that and then of course there's art and -- But art is -- in a way it's almost everything -- you don't see how deep art is, and how awful it is!

CALLISTOS
I think your poems are rather nice.'" 


Yen-Yen Lu, publicist - Les Misérables by Victor Hugo


"I have chosen Les Misérables, sometimes nicknamed The Brick because the dimensions and weight of the entire book (I am holding an abridged edition) are about the same as...a brick. I read this partly for bragging rights but also because I love stories that are timeless and truthful in the way Les Misérables is. As Victor Hugo writes in the preface: ‘As long as ignorance and misery endure on earth, books such as this cannot but be useful.’"


  
Have a wonderful World Book Day!