Sunday, 31 July 2011

Mega Week: A VP News Roundup

Quiet periods on the blog usually mean the inverse is true for Valley Press, and this week has been no exception!  In fact I hardly know where to start.  I feel bullet points might help.

  • This week, the 2000th Valley Press book was sold, which has me most pleased!  Of course, the big publishing houses are disappointed if they sell less than 2000 copies of one book, but we all have to start somewhere.  In fact more than 100 books have been sold this week, through all sorts of avenues... thanks to anyone reading this who bought one, it's much appreciated.  The great thing about the grand sales total is that it can only go in one direction!  (So, yeah... no refunds.)

  • This week has seen the release of our latest publication, Steve Rudd's Pulse, which you can read all about here.  The book is being launched in Driffield, East Yorkshire, this Friday (5th), so if you happen to be in town do come along and see it.  Running to 312 pages, Pulse is the longest and most elaborate book published by VP so far, and it's also the first one which I've attempted to sell directly to the public through the VP website - I'm delighted with how that's gone so far. There's a few blog posts upcoming on the subject of Pulse, so stay tuned...

  • There have been a couple of VP events this week.  With some help from Felix Hodcroft and Catherine Boddy, I read the entirety of The Dead Snail Diaries in Scarborough Library, and I was delighted by how it went.  Perhaps the most ingenious idea - inspired by my inability to find a cheap projector for hire - was me re-creating the book's illustrations on a flip-chart, in the midst of the performance, in a style that some have compared to Rolf Harris (though this is probably an insult to poor Rolf.)  I had a great night anyway, thanks to everyone who turned up!  VP was also present at the 'Coastival Picnic', organised by one of Scarborough's foremost arts organisations - I was pleased to note the picnic took place behind 'Woodend', so actually in the valley which Valley Press is named after.  A photo of Valley in the valley can be seen above; as well as books I offered a poetry competition, where you had to re-write a classic poem to be on the subject of picnics.  A lot of fun (particularly when an assistant arrived with two bottles of wine). Roll on next year's picnic!

  • I can announce two events are upcoming in the near future.  Both on the 13th August, in fact!  There will be a VP book signing in the Scarborough branch of Waterstone's, featuring myself, Helen Burke, Jo Reed, and Steve Rudd - something (or perhaps someone) for everyone.  It will be between the hours of 1pm and 4pm, you can see a nice poster I made for it to your right.  Later that night, me and Steve will be appearing at Bridlington's Spotlight Theatre as part of a 'revue' of the local arts organisations.  Apparently this event has been sold out, so it's a case of either you already know about it and are going, or you don't so you can't!  I guess we'll see you there, if the first case is true.

  • Our call for short-story submissions is now closed. Thanks to everyone who sent in stuff - I'm sure Dan Formby (editor) is surrounded by them as we speak, sweating over what can and can't go in.  Look out for more news on that soon, especially if you submitted something.

  • Finally, you may have noticed a new book on the homepage... the next Valley Press publication will be The Border by Miles Cain, another first full-length collection by an exciting Yorkshire-based poet, by far my favourite sort of book!  Check out the cover, featuring a stunning photograph by John Illingworth, to your right.  Also coming up this Autumn (and in the exact same genre) are Love Letters & Children's Drawings by Hull poet Norah Hanson (who is in the process of planning three launch events!) and Phobia by Leeds-based poet (until recently) Jo Brandon, who I believe is still recovering from a move to London, where she's destined to hit the big time in short order.  Look out for lots more on those three in the months to come, and also news of a Leeds Writer's Circle anthology which I am due to start working on tomorrow.  Assuming this next week is a bit quieter!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Rudd's Reviews: Valley Press Edition

With his work on Pulse now (mostly) done, and the release just days away, I'm pleased to report Steve Rudd has dedicated some of his valuable time to reviewing some recent Valley Press releases.  He's promised to disperse them across the web, but also allowed me to stick them up here, for any interested parties!  So scroll down and get stuck in.


Read more about the book here.
Jo Reed's Stone Venus - Review by Steve Rudd

A lifetime in-the-writing, this sumptuous collection of thirty-eight poems delights the senses whilst fortifying one’s imagination. Proving herself to be an artiste in every sense of the word, North Yorkshire-based poet Jo has evidently - and wisely - invested eons of quality time into the crafting of the material which dominates her very first book of poetry.

From the reflective nature of opening masterwork ‘Embarkations’ (‘… an old life pours down steep stairs’), the reader is lured onto a journey of the most formidable and hypnotic order. Taking her audience figurative and geographical places not usually courted by fellow poets, Jo transports all those who are lucky enough to read her entrancing work. Whether she’s focusing on ‘fox-trots with Eros’ in ‘Piccadilly Circus’, or entering ‘bleak palaces on the arms of Poet Princes’ in the Egypt-anchored majesty of ‘Life Class’, you can be assured that Jo’s detail-laced writing is destined to move you on every level.

It’s clear to read that Jo’s experienced a remarkable life less ordinary. She’s lived all over England for a start, having been born in Durham, before spending time in Norfolk, Surrey and Lincolnshire. Currently calling the seaside resort of Scarborough ‘home’, she wields that ever-so-rare knack of pitting people into arresting scenarios, painting lavish pictures with words that seem to be very carefully chosen by default.

One may be reminded of Dorian Gray’s fate as they lap up ‘Vanity’ (‘… you bared lupine teeth into the smiling surfaces of silver teapots’), before the short but perfectly eloquent ‘Woman Drinker’ coquettishly threatens to stall readers in their tracks given its succinct brilliance, ‘A glass fan reflecting the glare of all who desired her’. ‘Suffolk Romance’, meanwhile, stops time ‘as green horizons wash velvet over the village’. As if to purposefully counter such ruralised innocence, ‘Two Crows’ (‘… entwined in anger’) promptly manages to startle, its descriptive focus utterly compelling in tone. ‘Hill Farm’ goes on to prove to be the most haunting poem on offer, the brief beauty of ‘Making Silk’ hankering after the collection’s ‘Most Magical’ title.

All poems sit beside one another as though their order evolved organically over time and through space. Not a single word is out of place, as reminded when the breathtaking power of ‘Violin Section, 1941’ proceeds to glue readers to their respective seats with ‘music perverted into an instrument of death’. As stark as relevant language allows, Jo never shies away from being brutal when she needs to be in order to heighten the emotional impact of her poems. Refusing to sentimentalise her work for the sake of doing so, her extraordinary poetry remains true as a direct result of her searing honesty. Far from being enslaved by the language that she so clearly adores, Jo uses the English language to her own ends, her energising mastery of wordplay guaranteed to delight readers of all ages.

Having recently completed an MA in Creative Writing, it’s heartening to see that her talents have been brought to the literary fore with this genuinely stunning collection from ‘Valley Press’. Reeling from the strength of material within, let’s hope Jo succeeds in collating supplementary material – old and new – for publication in the near future.


Read more about the book here.
Jamie McGarry's The Dead Snail Diaries - Review by Steve Rudd

The third book of poetry to be unveiled by Yorkshire-based poet Jamie McGarry, ‘The Dead Snail Diaries’ has Jamie attempt to absolve himself of the guilt inspired by accidentally crushing an innocent snail to death. In a surreal twist of fate, upon hearing the fateful crunch, Jamie stooped to find a tiny book: the snail’s diary. Recognising the strength of the scrawl within its belittled pages, Jamie conspired to adapt the snail’s writing into a legible format. ‘The Dead Snail Diaries’ is the stunning result.

Suffused with twenty-four exquisite poems that focus on every imaginable experience and emotion once endured and enjoyed by the late snail, the premise is too extraordinary to overlook. Coolly beginning where the snail’s life left off, the opening poem is craftily entitled, ‘The Haunting of Poet by Snail’. As hoped, it details ‘A tragic mix of slime and shrapnel’ in light of Jamie unwittingly becoming a killer… though he’d undoubtedly escape with a manslaughter charge were he to be summoned by a court of law. After all, shell-shocking accidents happen.

Hilariously portraying slugs as ‘beer-swilling’ and ‘hard-living’ in comparison, Jamie sets up a strain of sibling rivalry, the menacing nature of ‘The Hollow Snails’ startling with its apparent brutality: ‘You saw us from a window, between release and our demise.’ In ‘Snail Browner Than Ever’, affairs sway into existential territory, at least relatively-speaking: ‘The world grows ever upwards, without glancing at its feet.’ Jamie’s correct to so boldly commit such an observation to paper. It’s heartening to know that fellow scribes are equally as keen to comment upon the way in which some folk dismiss the art of paying attention to detail, unwilling to keep themselves grounded for fear of stagnating, perhaps.

Whether he’s focused on snails, or describing Hannah Hauxwell’s humble life in his debut collection of poetry, Jamie remains an objective observer whilst subjectively pandering to the entire gamut of emotions. Crucially, his tongue is forever lashing around his cheek, Jamie’s sharp wit triumphing in making his poetry as accessible as possible without sounding pretentious. Channelling offbeat bursts of humour into a staggering proportion of his poems, Jamie proves that he can be serious yet lighthearted in one fell swoop - very often in the same sentence.

‘Snail Goes Speed Dating’ speaks for itself in the most ironic manner. ‘Even mutual love at first sight cannot be consummated for several minutes,’ Jamie relates by way of the deceased snail’s most potent observation. Throughout, slugs tend to get the last laugh. For instance, ‘Slug’s Night Out’ pounds with the self-belief of a tough-as-nails slug psyched-up for a hedonistic night on the patio tiles. In spite of a slug committing suicide in lukewarm beer, the poem can’t fail in raising a smile. The same goes for the genius extolled in ‘The Snail Not Taken’ (‘I moved the one with regret in its eyes – and hoped it would make a difference’), for it’s a beautifully crafted poem partly inspired by Robert Frost’s most famous work, ‘The Road Not Taken’.

‘Snail’s Advice to His Son’ succeeds in being utterly charming from the get-go as a young snail receives wise words from Papa Snail, chewing on advice along the following lines: ‘Don’t take life too seriously, son, for few survive uncrushed.’ In its wake, the colossal ‘In Search of the Great Green Sea Snail’ muscles into the word-obsessed fray. Providing the multi-act backbone of the collection, it tells the epic story of an all-conquering snail. ‘A Snail at the Races’, meanwhile, chances upon arguably the most confident snail to ever have marked a trail in history, implying that he could ‘move’ as fast as Usain Bolt if the urge commanded his shell to shift at earth-shaking speed. Delighting in all nooks and crannies of Snail World, the problem of swimming with one ‘foot’ is also brought to the reader’s attention. ‘A Snail Says’ and ‘Slug Goes to Rehab’ foster further laughs.

Complemented by a grin-inducing range of illustrations throughout, ‘The Dead Snail Diaries’ perfectly showcases Jamie’s artistic talents from the first page to the last. Admirably acting as a marked deviation from previous work, the book is a joy not only to read, but also to look at. Quirkily designed with a plethora of loving touches, it represents the most endearing manifestation of Jamie’s sensational literary output to date.


You heard it here first, readers... 'sensational'!  Though I think when it comes to the obituary, 'grin-inducing' may be the one that sticks.  Don't forget to come to the Snail Reading on the 28th July, and Steve's launch on the 5th August!

Friday, 8 July 2011

A News Roundup (July/August Events)

A special post today to summarise some recent interesting developments in the Valley Press world... a couple of upcoming events, first:

The Dead Snail Diaries - Live!

Venue: Scarborough Library & Information Centre
Date: Thursday 28th July 2011
Time: 6pm-7.30pm

Ticket price: £3, available on the door

As I didn't have time to host a 'launch' for my Snail book when it was first released (too busy with everyone else... Mr. Selfless eh!), I've decided to do a one-off event at the end of July - a reading of the entire book, cover to cover, in Scarborough library.  It might be a bit much to listen to me talk about snails for that amount of time, so I'm in the process of recruiting guest readers to play the various characters.

It would be great to see you there - £3 is (hopefully) a very reasonable price for an evening's entertainment of this calibre, plus you get as much tea and coffee as you can drink, and (if you want) you can have £3 off a copy of the book.  Or buy one in advance and be an educated listener - all the info on the book is here, and there's a Facebook event here for you social-networking fiends.

Steve Rudd's 'Pulse' - The Book Launch

Venue: The Bell Hotel, Driffield
Date: Friday 5th August 2011
Time: 7.30pm onwards

Free entry

The next VP book is Steve Rudd's epic travel diary Pulse, which will be launched in his home town of Driffield on the 5th August.  It's free to come, and the books will be cheap too, so I don't know what could possibly put you off!  Precise details are still to be worked out (and I'm still hard at work producing the books), but the evening will definitely feature a Q&A with the author, readings from the book, and general milling around admiring the guy's hard work and adventurous spirit - all part of what makes book launches such pleasant ways to spend a summer evening.

Find out more about Pulse here, or see the FB event here.

As promised, there are just a couple of other things worth mentioning - Sabotage Reviews very kindly took it upon themselves to review our 2010 charity anthology The Day of Small Things, and they appear to like it - have a read here.  Also, James Mcloughlin was interviewed by James Nash on his latest podcast (July 2011), which you can listen to here - he appears about 4:45 in, if you're impatient!

Great to see so much positive 'Valley Press press' - long may it continue.