Friday, 22 September 2017

This week at Valley Press, #73: 'Them bones'

Dear readers,

This week I'm pleased to introduce you to a new face: Caroline Hardaker with her debut pamphlet Bone Ovation. Caroline submitted during our now-infamous 2016 submissions period, the one with the 20,000 leaflets that asked 'have you got a book in you?' She had, it turns out, and her book is the first of those 600 submissions to make it onto bookshelves. All three October publications are from that enormous pile, with a half-dozen more coming in 2018. (November's publications are special cases, more about them in due course).

Without any particular hooks or publicity angles to speak of, and as the work of a 'new' author, Bone Ovation soared to the top of the pile purely on the strength of Caroline's poetry. I won't say any more about it (for fear of over-doing expectations!) but I will let you see a couple of poems. Here goes:

The Rains

Each raindrop contains a soul
I’m told, and sleet is nought
but the urgent need of the dead to meet
their loved ones once more in the mortal world.
To stroke their skin, to leave a living trace;
a tear drop – a thin, translucent meridian.

My grandmother never used an umbrella
and would tip back her head and eat the rain.
She said it made her feel alive again.

The Woman is Like the Picasso

You’ll not know her, she looks to the side
all eyes
a spectrum of illicit shades
hair all quantum in sharp directions
but swooning around the face
a moon, in carven perfection,
radiating with flowering action
and reaction
a myriad of connections between
the dazzling colours she’s made.

See that fierce pride under bashful eyes?

Even Picasso couldn’t capture it.
He tried
through abstract and dreams
to channel by subconscious
a force too violent
a face too vibrant to lay down
and his mind filled with it
and fell
warped flat.
Her form so potent for creation
it was like painting the rain in clouds,
lightning waiting.

She is facing away, but she is looking.

Though not officially published until 5th October, we're selling Bone Ovation now – copies are here, we figured we may as well! It's already a fairly reasonable £6.99, and remember that newsletter subscribers get 10% off all our books forever; you lucky souls. If you'd like to read a few more poems (including a great one about feet), head here.

Now then: this coming week is a busy one, so you may want to get your diaries out. You'll remember that if you're in York on Saturday 30th, there's an Oz Hardwick launch event and in Hull there's John Wedgwood Clarke. Also in Hull that day (Thursday to Sunday in fact), Valley Press is taking part in a book fair organised by the BBC as part of their 'Contains Strong Language' festival. It's in Hull College, in the Horncastle Building. Myself and Jo Haywood are hoping to be there on Thursday, and I'll likely be back on Sunday if it's as exciting as I expect – but VP books will be there for the four days.

Also on Saturday 30th, this time in London, we'll be at the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair. I'll be manning the stall most of the day, except for a lunch break; and between 11.30 and 12, when seven of our Yorkshire Anthology poets will be sharing their poems with a packed audience in the Brockway Room. Do pop and see that if you're going to the PBF, and of course, come for a chat with me and Emma at our shared table.

Adding some extra excitement to the week (which is clearly needed), Thursday 28th is National Poetry Day, which means there'll be some kind of poetry event near you, for certain. NPD have taken our Yorkshire Anthology under their wing this year, listing it as an official recommendation (see their write-up here). Which was nice of them!

Finally, you can now see John Wedgwood Clarke's BBC programme Through the Lens of Larkin on iPlayer here; yet another way for you to celebrate poetry this week. If you're reading this as someone who doesn't like poetry (I hear such people do exist), I'd first say: give it a chance? And second, don't give up on us ... we have a mammoth non-fiction book coming before the year is out, and all kinds of novels next year. There's always another book around the corner at Valley Press!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Friday, 15 September 2017

This week at Valley Press, #72: 'Ghosts and Mirrors'

Dear readers,

This coming week sees another familiar face back with a new collection: Oz Hardwick and The House of Ghosts and Mirrors. The cover art, partially pictured above, is a photo of the exact spot where Oz was born, which should give you a clue about to what to expect from the new book – we're looking backwards only to find ourselves, figures from generations past, and a touch of both the infinite and the domestic. (And there's a few darkly funny bits, he's only human!)

Here's the opening poem, which asks a few questions that may linger, unanswered, within your mind for some time: (you have been warned)

The Pros and Cons of Immortality

Is it really so bad to begin with an ending?

Here I am, queueing for dreams
in a new world that hardens around me
like a scab on the wound of growing apart
from where I belong, what I know.

So, I ask again, is it really so bad
to be here, where walls crumble,
where your solitary love
is long gone and, surely, forgotten?

Because from here – half a century away,
and counting – even I forget
most of the time. But
that’s what hurts,
you tell me,
the long forgetting that hangs
in the air, its cold breath
dampening your sleepless face.

You forget everything
one heartbeat at a time
until you forget yourself.
But is that really so bad?

Antony Dunn says Oz's new collection is 'sad in the best way', which is a great turn of phrase (he's known for them I guess). By the way, you can now enjoy an hour in Antony's company via the video of our sixth "Literary Lunch Hour", which can be found here; we really get to the bottom of how he writes, what makes him tick, how his latest collection was assembled and many other crucial matters. I'm so glad we took the trouble to film these events; they stand as a great record of some truly magnificent writers.

Back on the subject of Oz, and speaking of events (this newsletter is a tricky one, keep up!), he is launching his new collection at York Explore on the 30th September, all details here. This is our day of being in four places at once: you'll remember John Wedgwood Clarke's book launch is also that day, and I'll tell you about the other two events in the next newsletter – you're spoiled for choice!

What's more, both those authors are leaping out from the printed page at the moment: John can be seen on TV screens shortly hosting Through the Lens of Larkin, which Yorks/Lincs residents can catch on BBC1 next Wednesday, the 20th September, at 7.30pm. The rest of you must wait until the 25th September on BBC4, also at 7.30 (and I'll share the iPlayer links here if I remember). It should be excellent, particularly if you have even the slightest interest in Philip Larkin.

Oz, meanwhile, has been working with musician Peter Byrom-Smith on an album setting some of his latest poems (also featured in the book) to music, which can be found here; one for all you opera fans I would say, and there's a great story behind it involving Oz's maternal grandfather.

You're up to date with Valley Press now, thanks as ever for sparing me some of your time. I'd like to end by saying we approve of the shortlist for this year's Booker Prize (we didn't have any eligible titles, so there's only good wishes!)  It includes a debut author from York, evidence (as if you needed any) that North Yorkshire is fast becoming the centre of the literary universe ... and Paul Auster, who after hanging out with Nora Chassler last month, is pretty much part of our gang. As are you, dear reader! It's quite the organisation we're running here...

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Friday, 8 September 2017

This week at Valley Press, #71: 'Of the Dump'

Dear readers,

The video of Cath Nichols' launch event can be found here, and it's essential viewing – moving, incisive, thought-provoking (much like the book), rather like having an in-depth conversation with a friend about some important, deeply-felt social issues. We also invited Wendy Pratt, author of this forthcoming collection, to be a sort of 'warm-up act' and read a few poems at the start, so there's a bonus for you. More on Wendy next month!

Next week, this series of events comes to a close when we spend an hour in the company of Antony Dunn. Antony will be appearing at the later time of 3-4pm, but in the same location as always; the Sitwell Library at Woodend, Scarborough, a.k.a. Valley Press HQ. There will of course be more events in future (Vanessa is working on approximately four zillion ideas), but probably not in this format, so enjoy it while you can!

* * *

This coming week sees the release of a new poetry collection by John Wedgwood Clarke, his first since Ghost Pot four years ago. The title is simply Landfill, and though not all of the poems are on that subject, the majority were inspired by a residency at the local tip here in Scarborough, which we optimistically call the "Resource Recovery Centre". Here's John explaining how this period of his writing life began:

"I’d driven past Seamer Carr on the bypass and always noticed the great flock of gulls circling over its summit and the slow lorries crawling over it. The lorries were like fishing boats or tractors with the way the gulls followed behind them. So while this might seem the least wild part of our ‘natural’ landscape, I also sensed it was a place of great ecological energy, a fertile and exciting place from which to view our culture and identify our behaviour as a species. Also, if there’s a fence around a place, I want to have a look behind it."

Reading the book will give you a better idea of how the poet relates "the dump" to the larger ecological / biological issues that have long fascinated him. Hanging round the public skips, watching people dispose of their rubbish was one thing, but the biggest "coup" was to access an open landfill cell, as described below:

"That took some persuasion. I was driven up in a land rover and only allowed ten minutes on the cell itself. It fell like I’d landed on the moon of waste. I bounced along over marshy fields of nappies and chicken carcasses and plastic water bottles. They’d had to fire off rockets to clear the gulls before we could step outside, so my visit was timed to the vast flock that wheeled away on a vast arc over the A59 before making its shit-laden return: the droppings were a key part of the hazard of being on the landfill cell – that and the enormous tractors with spiked wheels twice my height that had enormous, shining, bespattered blades that spread the rubbish out like butter."

We'll bring you the full text of this interview once you've all had time to digest the actual poems. I'd like to feature one here though, and I'm going to be inexplicably awkward and share one of the few poems in the book with no direct link to the theme (but you can still draw a line in the subtext). I think this is just an extraordinary bit of work.

Know Your Place

A Northern classroom after the war
and her hand’s in the air.
She wants to try for grammar school.
Oh, the teacher smiles, put it down. 

Next day, at the front, there’s a box,
gift-wrapped, and she’s called forward.
She likes ‘nice things’
but can’t think what she’s done.

As she reaches for the gift,
the teacher grabs her wrist and squeezes.
You must open it in front of the class. 
The clock cuts one moment from the next.

Should she save the wallpaper?
The outer layer reveals a lidded box.
Heat glazes her face as the class gazes
like sunlight through a magnifier

at her fingernails. Inside, she finds
another box, string-tied, the paper
fingernail creased. She picks at the knot
as she will always pick at the knot,

her nails bitten to the quick.
There’s only another, brown paper this time,
the paper of dispatch and back office,
of shop counter and bags

of seconds, minutes, hours, clocks and klaxons –
open it, it’s yours, the teacher urges.
Inside the box is nothing, and inside nothing
another box, in which she prays.

A launch event will be held on Saturday 30th September, in Hull, details of which you can find here. There are four separate Valley Press events that day, spread all over the country, a real sign of how busy we are at the moment! I'll share details of the other events next week. Oh, and you'll be able to catch John on BBC4 soon presenting a programme about Larkin's photography – details of that will be in a future newsletter too.

* * *

Before I get back to my publishing responsibilities, two other exciting pieces of news: we've just signed our first comic book artist, Si Smith, for a "graphic novel" (or, literary comic book) in March 2018. Very excited about that project, and getting into a whole new genre.

Also, we heard this week that Valley Press is a finalist in the Chamber Bridlington and Yorkshire Coast Business Awards, the scope of which apparently includes Hull, East Yorkshire and North Yorkshire. We're up for "Arts Business of 2017"... you can't vote though, it's judged by business experts, who are coming for a visit in a week or two.

The winners are announced at a black tie gala (!) at Bridlington Spa on the 20th October – and we're all going, of course – so look out for more news on that nearer the time. It seems newsletters are going to be increasingly packed this autumn; my poor keyboard is already praying for the return of an intern or two...

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Friday, 1 September 2017

This week at Valley Press, #70: 'Not a Stunt'

Dear readers,

This is Jamie – Jamie McGarry that is, "the original" – back at the helm of the newsletters to see you through what should be a busy autumn season. The start of September means the beginning of our new schedule, bringing you three new titles per month in September, October and November; and we'll need to maintain that pace going forward, to keep the now seven-strong VP team supplied with the posh biscuits that they deserve.

Our first September book is titled This Is Not a Stunt, and it's by Cath Nichols, from an original submission in May 2015. Like many poetry collections, simply listing the key themes – in this case, disability and gender identity – fails to do justice to the great swathe of human existence which is captured within the pages. Many of the joys, frustrations and monotonies of life are featured, but it was the short poem below that originally stopped my eye when reading through the 2015 manuscripts:


The pond made winter’s bed
from blackened sycamore leaves,

now green arms razzle through the waterline.

Marsh marigolds hold out their cups
shout, Look at me! Look at me,

don’t I do yellow exceptionally well?

I then saw this one, which sealed the deal:


Between the hours of two and four
our muscles slacken, heartbeats slow,
if needs we’ll slip our mortal coil
on this night tide: deep breaths, let go.

Between the hours of two and four
most people pass away if passing
in their sleep is what they’ll do.
Don’t be alarmed, this is the death

we’d all choose, asleep in bed.
The hours of two and three and four
are those when analgesics reign,
we slip with ease through that last door,

but other slippage has its place
between these hours, slip in, drift low.
Watch: this quietest ebb will even out
the balance sheet of loss, will pace

our bodies’ sighs and dreams. Balm pours
into our bones and loosens joints, so
most births take place at night
between the hours of two and four.

For those who enjoy the little extras that sometimes accompany poetry, you'll be glad to hear this collection features a lengthy poetic dedication, a notes section, and an afterword from the author (who becomes the ninth Valley Press author to appear on their own book cover; can you remember the others? If you can get all nine, there might be a prize.) You can read more about the book here, and remember to use your 10% newsletter discount if you decide to treat yourself to a copy.

In a handy coincidence, 'Stunt' author Cath Nichols is our next guest at Woodend for the 'Literary Lunch Hour'. These events were always considered something of an experiment, to be tweaked and amended as time went on... Thus the newly-branded poster below, dropping the original title and adding a prominent mention for new host Laura McGarry (something of a local celebrity). You can meet Cath and hear some poetry from 1pm next Thursday (7th), and the following week we are graced by the presence of Antony Dunn; but please note his event has moved to 3-4pm (because he's needed in Newcastle that morning for something exciting, and poetry-related, which we can't reveal until January).

If you missed the last event, with Laura chatting to Nora Chassler, it can be watched online here; they made a good double act! We're headed for the local tip in next week's newsletter (you'll see what I mean), but in the meantime, have a wonderful week, and don't ever stray too far from a decent book.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Women in Translation month with the Emma Press

It’s the final day of Women in Translation month! Founded by Israeli scientist Meytal Radzinski, this month is dedicated to female writers in translation who are, unfortunately, much rarer than male writers in translation. This is slowly starting to change and #WITmonth seems to gain more attention each year, proving that there are some fantastic titles and authors out there. Here are some top picks from the Emma Press team for titles by women in translation:

Sarah Hesketh, editor

Nic dwa razy/Nothing Twice: Selected Poems by Wisława Szymborska, translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh 

“In 2004-05 I lived in Warsaw working as a TEFL teacher. For my birthday that year a group of my teenage students very sweetly clubbed together to buy me this beautiful dual language edition of Szymborska's poetry. They knew that I was interested in poetry, and they said that Szymborska was 'the best Polish poetry.'

I love the humanity of Szymborska's voice – the combination of resignation and hope that runs through the best of her poems. It's a poetry that loves to celebrate 'commonplace miracles' and she's the poet I turn to instinctively when the bad things in the world seem too much.” 

Richard O’Brien, poet and editor

Secrets to the Wild Wood by Tonke Dragt, translated by Laura Watkinson 

“I picked up Tonke Dragt’s The Letter for the King on a whim a couple of years ago when thinking I should read more for children if I ever wanted to write for them, and I’m so glad I did. This is the sequel, Secrets to the Wild Wood, and both are translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson.

Both books are medieval fantasy with a rollicking plot, compelling jeopardy, and near-absurd levels of moral clarity, and the second gets bonus points for having more developed female characters. They are a refreshing blast of goodness and wholesomeness, despite featuring a number of evil men doing wicked things, and I wish there was more of this world for me to spend time in.”

Yen-Yen Lu, publicist

The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Allison Markin Powell 

“For this year’s Women in Translation month, I decided to read The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami, which had been on my to-read list for a while. It follows the life of a young woman who works in a thrift shop.

It’s not a story that’s particularly filled with lots of dramatic and exciting events but instead focuses on smaller details and interactions, which I loved. It made me feel nostalgic for a time and place I haven’t experienced, and also made me quite hungry for Japanese food (the book opens with a very descriptive lunch scene).”

Zosia Kuczyńska, poet 

Tutaj (Here) by Wisława Szymborska, translated by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh 

 “On the cover of the dual language edition of Tutaj (Here), Wisława Szymborska looks as though she’s never been more at home than where she is right now, ‘At ease’– a mood in which ‘people are good’ and ‘houses are constructed in the sweat of brows,/ and quickly inhabited’. At ‘Attention!’, however, ‘people are evil’, and ‘wastelands are created’.

Unlike those poets for whom to write about place is to conjure something eternal out of a given landscape, Szymborska makes place relative to the self, destabilising both with a quick, subversive wit. More than that, it’s a way of problematising the human tendency to equate who you are with where you are: if you are here, then ‘nowhere might extinguish you’.”

Friday, 25 August 2017

This week at Valley Press, #69: 'River in the Sky'

Dear readers,

As promised I (Jamie #2) have returned to newsletter duty, and there is a lot to report.

Undeterred by the torrential downpours on Wednesday, myself and Jamie (the Two Jamies?) bravely took to the rainy streets of York, armed with just one umbrella and one coat between us, for a series of top-secret meetings. I can’t tell you the details of these meetings, but one of them included poet Robert Powell, a book that is not entirely written yet, and a boat. Exciting things are happening at Valley Press! It was also during this meeting that Robert gazed romantically out of the window and calmly proclaimed: ‘the river is in the sky’. Poets, eh?

Yesterday saw the return of the Literary Lunch Hour, and this week was a celebration of the Valley Press Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry. Presented by co-editor Oz Hardwick, 15 of Yorkshire’s finest poets descended upon Scarborough as we saw readings from – pause for breath – Patrick Lodge, Sarah Wallis, Carole Bromley, Wendy Pratt, Ian Harrow, Anne Caldwell, Mike Farren, Pauline Kirk, Jane Sharp, Robert Powell, Yvie Holder, Amina Alyal and Rob Miles. This made for an extremely talented – if slightly crowded – room, and you can watch the entire event here.

Next week’s literary lunch hour will be with Nora Chassler, fresh from the Edinburgh festival with a new, subversive book: Madame Bildungsroman’s Optimistic Worldview. In the meantime Laura McGarry will be doing a ‘live-reading’ of the book – posting excerpts of it on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag ‘#readingwithLM’. Madame Bildungsroman is full of snappy philosophical wisdoms, presented in such a way that it almost comes across as Nietzsche’s Man Alone With Himself’s younger, easier to read sibling. If this sounds like your sort of thing, why don’t you buy a copy and join in the debate (which has already sparked a good-natured Facebook argument about racism in Sherlock Holmes)?

Continuing our recent theme of having more videos than books, Kate Fox (of The Glasto Code, Jagger’s Yurt and Tour de Force, among others) was featured on Good Morning Britain today, discussing the pressure on women to have children. If you fancy a change from all of the literature videos we’ve been giving you, you can watch Kate’s debate here.

As just about the last intern at Valley Press this summer, I feel I have a duty to thank Jamie and the team for being so welcoming and helpful (and a special mention to my friends at the post office – I will miss each and every one of you). It is a testament to Valley Press that despite the pressures of being an independent publishing company they are still doing their best to give experience to people like myself. Two weeks ago I arrived as a confused southerner in a strange land. Since then I have I have seen first-hand how books are created, bored you all with my adventures and found myself charmed by the northern grace of a town (and company) that I do not want to leave.

Sadly, I must depart tomorrow. Before I sign off, though, there is one last thing…

Readers, friends of Valley Press, lovers of literature: we need your help! Our ‘readers group’ is now recruiting new members to look at submissions, via email. If you join, every week (ish) you will be sent poetry and novels that Valley Press are considering publishing – totally free of charge! All you have to do is read through them – whichever ones you choose, and totally at your leisure – and then send us your thoughts. Seems like a pretty good deal, right? I know I will be signing up as soon as I leave tomorrow. To join, just email Submissions Coordinator Tess and let her know.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend, and rest assured that by the next newsletter the number of Jamies in the office will have returned to one.

Jamie Firby,
Valley Press Intern

Friday, 18 August 2017

This week at Valley Press, #68: 'A tale of two Jamies'

Dear readers,

I’m Jamie – the latest intern to descend upon Valley Press. As you can imagine, having the same name as the ‘boss’ causes some confusion in the office, so you can know me as ‘Other Jamie’, or ‘Jamie 2’.

This is my latest publishing adventure, following on from another internship with Penguin last month. It’s safe to say that being able to go to a picturesque beach at lunchtimes trumps rushing around the manic London tubes in a desperate attempt to make it to work on time, but I am thrilled and grateful to have been given publishing opportunities at opposite ends of the country.

Like interns before me, finding the Valley Press office on my first day was a struggle. After spending half an hour of Tuesday morning hopelessly trying to navigate myself around the sunny streets of Scarborough, I was rescued by the lovely Jo who took me up to the new office.

Since then working for Valley Press has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. Discovering first-hand – and at such close quarters – how a publishing company works is a truly illuminating experience, and even just three days into my placement I have learned so much about the many different facets of an exciting business. Thanks to Jamie and Jo I have already had a go at designing a front cover, tried writing a blurb – and become on very good terms with the staff at the Scarborough post office!

Enough of my own publishing endeavours and onto the important stuff: what’s been going on at Valley Press. Yesterday was the second Literary Lunch Hour, which this week was a celebration of the poetry of Helen Burke and the recent publication of her Collected Poems. Unfortunately, the poet herself was unable to attend the event and so poems were read by our own Jamie McGarry, as well as Valley Press poets Jo Reed, Norah Hanson, VP publicist Suzannah Evans, and a wonderfully dramatic reading from Felix Hodcroft. You can watch the video of this event here.

All of this hustle and bustle with staff and poets meant the Valley Press office was busy all day, at one point turning into some sort of human version of Noah’s Ark with two Jamies, two Jos and two Suzannahs. Next week, however, is set to be even busier as the poets of the Yorkshire Anthology are coming to read their own poems from the book, which will be hosted by co-editor Oz Hardwick. What better way to spend a lunchtime?

Earlier in the week, one of our authors Nora Chassler interviewed Paul Auster at the Edinburgh International Festival in front of an estimated 1200 people! Delivered in the edgy and enigmatic style her own books are known for, Nora and Paul discuss Auster’s latest book, 4321, an 800 page existential epic which has been longlisted for the Booker Prize! Phew, heavy stuff. You can find the whole interview here (it seems we have more videos than books to show you at the moment!)

One final piece of news: this Sunday, 20th August, Daniela Nunnari will be reading her poetry throughout the day at the Ryedale Book Festival – a tree-based literary event at the Yorkshire Arboretum in York. As well as reading from her book Red Tree, she will be running a lunchtime workshop. Details of the event are available here, so why not head down to what is sure to be a day filled with tree-themed fun?

As for me, I have to go now on another trip to visit my friends at the post office. All being well, I will be back again next Friday.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Jamie Firby,
Valley Press Intern

Friday, 11 August 2017

This week at Valley Press, #67: 'The Hours'

Dear readers,

For once, there's very little to say in this week's newsletter. All is quiet at Valley Press HQ, with most of the staff on holiday (sunning themselves near a volcano, etc). The highlight was our first 'Literary Lunch Hour', with the legendary James Nash sharing his classic sonnets, before teasing us with what may well be the title poem for the next volume of them, due in autumn 2018.

If you missed the event, you don't necessarily need to miss out; it was recorded and can be found on YouTube here. You'll hear my anecdote about the day I came up with the Valley Press name, and drew the first two covers (nine years ago this week), and James describe a discussion with a neurologist, who explained how writing sonnets had essentially re-wired James' brain into a sonnet-writing machine.

I will try not to go on about this series of events too much in the newsletter, as I realise the majority of you don't live anywhere near Scarborough; but I hope the videos can help everyone to feel included. Next week is a celebration of the poetry of Helen Burke, though I'm sorry to report it looks like the poet herself may not be able to attend. The event will go ahead regardless, with myself and some volunteers attempting to do justice to decades' worth of amazing writing. We will be pulling out all the stops; that's 1-2pm on Thursday, and the next four Thursdays after that (see below). Wish us luck!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Friday, 4 August 2017

This week at Valley Press, #66: 'Gripped'

Dear readers,

It's Jamie – I'm back, after a three week "holiday" which has (predictably?) resulted in an inbox with hundreds of unread messages. So let me start by apologising to anyone whose valuable words are languishing in there; I'll get through them in due course.

Let me continue by thanking Emma and Harriet for writing the last three newsletters; they really captured the VP tone, and added so much energy that I had to check the caffeine rating on the office coffee! Interns will be with us until mid-September, so expect more communications from them in the near future. (The latest one just started this morning, so I didn't think it would be fair to throw her into the deep end straight away!)

They are paid, by the way – we've done informal internships in the past, but now we're a serious company with a payroll (and considering how they're supposed to work extremely hard all day every day), I knew it was time to get the VP chequebook out. That being said, I imagine the emails with their bank details are somewhere in that inbox deluge... some patience may be required...

* * *

This week saw the final, definitive 'launch' of our Yorkshire Anthology, which is now available in all good bookshops (and many disreputable ones). If you missed out on the event, which also featured music from Miles and Oz's band, you can battle your way through my latest attempt at live-streaming (part 1 here, part 2 here). Lessons learned every time I try it!

You can read an interview with Miles Salter, who did most of the selecting and who originally had the idea for the anthology, in the York Press here. Of particular interest is Miles' concept for the cover, which I vetoed on about forty-six separate occasions – it was to feature 'an abandoned coal town, a half-eaten curry, a York back alley and a drunk reeling along a Hull street'. The jury is still out re: that one.

The Anthology poets will be coming to Scarborough on August 24th, as part of our new events series 'The Literary Lunch Hour' (to be rebranded next time, as people keep asking what's for lunch – the title refers to the time of day only!) Check out the poster below:

You'll notice the first event is this coming Thursday, the 10th August, and features Valley Press legend James Nash. The plan is for James to read some classic sonnets, a few of his Cinema Stories poems, and some brand new material from a new collection due in autumn 2018. As it's the first event, and there'll be some VP newbies in the crowd, we'll also be looking back on nine years of Valley Press history. In a recent conversation, me and James agreed to 'chat like it's an Olympic event', so enjoy that!

Other highlights this week included a blog from forthcoming VP poet Caroline Hardaker, offering more fascinating insights into the publishing process (read it here). One 'fun tip' she offers for submitters is to wait until the end of each submissions window, which means more time to revise your work and 'less time to grip your face in angst'. Agreed; we don't want anyone gripping their own face in such a fashion!

Elsewhere, Remembering Oluwale editor SJ Bradley (who has a new novel out, not with us, but you're still allowed to read it) has blogged about her experience working on the anthology, from first meeting to the famous awards triumph – a brilliant bit of writing in its own right, located here. Apparently she has the 'best anthology' trophy on her desk; must get an intern to steal that sometime...

Finally, Helen Burke was interviewed for close to an hour on Chapel FM, detailing her 'origin story', rather like a literary superhero – you can find that here. Hope to see as many of you as possible at her contribution to the Literary Lunch Hour on August 17th. Thanks for reading, hope this comes at the beginning of a great weekend!

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

Friday, 28 July 2017

This week at Valley Press, #65: 'Delightful jazz, etc.'

Dear readers,

I’m back again! (‘I’ being Emma, a Valley Press intern for July, just in case you missed our previous post.) Despite last week’s prediction that you would all be hearing from Rebecca this week, it was decided that since I was all-too-enthusiastic about writing this last week, I would once again be manning the blog-post deck today!

Straight on with the exciting stuff: Nora Chassler's launch took place last week, and Jamie live-streamed it so that all those who couldn’t be there could still get a glimpse of the action. It was as a result of this experimental video capture that a wave of jazz music descended on the office today – if anything, I can certainly say that the video makes for some soothing background noise!

Despite the streaming being in an experimental stage, one thing that Jamie was particularly excited about was taking a question from an internet viewer, and asking it to Nora during the live Q&A. Very futuristic stuff. Word of warning: you will be able to hear the delightful jazz music and the hum of the audience as clear as a bell – but you’ll definitely need to turn your speakers up to maximum volume to hear Nora’s contemplative words! (Oh, and skipping to three minutes in is also essential, unless you fancy watching Jamie’s camera-placement / fiddling / keeping-the-wireless-signal-intact endeavours.)

In related news, the hardback version of Chassler’s idiosyncratic musings is available now – signed and numbered. Only 100 copies will ever be printed, so don’t wait to get your hands on a coveted copy! These sought-after editions are normally £20, but they have been reduced to £15, when the discount code MADAME is applied (you lucky lot!)

Onto the third and final piece of news about Nora: world-famous author Paul Auster is coming to Edinburgh, and Nora will be interviewing him on stage in front of a possible 1200 people... yikes! Auster’s writing thought-provokingly combines absurdism and existentialism with the search for personal meaning – his work is permeated with themes which present some common ground with Nora’s original writing. Join Auster and Chassler at King’s Theatre on 14th August for this significant event to delve into his life and work.

Onto other marvellous matters: James Condon and a team of hyper-talented and creative individuals have fashioned a video, which is definitely one to check out if you want to be charmed by a coalescence of quirky animations and a montage of poems from the Valley Press Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry. If that doesn’t have you on the edge of your seats, all set to purchase a copy, I don’t know what will! The anthology officially launches on 1st August in York – take a glimpse at last week’s post for more details.

On a slightly deeper note: friends, fellow writers, neighbours and colleagues of Helen Cadbury are working to create a memorial to the inspiring author, poet and activist. A 'Friends of Helen Cadbury' group have joined up with the 'Friends of Glen Gardens' with the mutual ambition of raising funds for a poetry bench in a landscaped area, aspiring for this to be “a lasting memorial to our much-missed indefatigable friend.” Any donations would be deeply appreciated.

On a personal note, I have learnt so much during my time with Valley Press. It’s been a whirlwind of adventures: gaining new literary knowledge, reading up-and-coming unpublished literature, typesetting, embarking on numerous trips to the post office, and watching a certain staff member fall off their chair – it’s safe to say my Valley Press experience has been one-of-a-kind. So it’s over and out from me (I can assure you this time!) as I dally unwillingly out of the Valley Press office for the last time. But just before I sign off, I would like to thank both Jamie and Jo so much for having me. That’s all for today, thank you all for reading!

All the best,
Emma Goff-Leggett
Valley Press Intern

Friday, 21 July 2017

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

Dear readers,

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

All the best,
Emma Goff-Leggett
Valley Press Intern

Friday, 14 July 2017

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

Dear readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a lovely week!

Harriet Clifford,
Valley Press intern

Friday, 7 July 2017

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

Dear readers,

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher

The Wrong Label

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

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

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

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

Friday, 30 June 2017

Sad news from Valley Press

Dear readers,

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

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

Best regards,
Jamie McGarry, Valley Press Publisher

The Dance

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,
Tess Dennison, Submissions Coordinator