Monday, 26 September 2011

First Look - 'The Border' / 'Leeds Writers Circle Anthology 2011'

A series of coincidences has led to the next books from Valley Press being published in the same week, their launches held within 48 hours of each other - so it seems only fitting that I bring them to the attention of blog readers in the same post.

I first met Miles Cain in York, at a poetry open-mic event in February of this year, and was impressed (along with the rest of the audience) by his confident, flawless performance skills and the powerful, skillfully-constructed poems themselves.  I planned to sidle up to him at some point and suggest he might be in need of a publisher, such as myself, but he beat me to it - the decision was what you might call a 'no brainer', Miles' poetry was (and is) exactly what VP is about.

The first handout which Miles gave me that night (and the larger selection which followed over email) contained quite a high percentage of fun, whimsical poetry, though still highly crafted work.  I was a big fan of this, and the original title ('Significant Bothers'), but when Miles returned with a proposal for the collection, the comedy poems had been almost entirely thinned out.  After a lengthy discussion, some of them were put back in, and I believe we've now hit on a perfect combination of humour and seriousness - the kind peddled by the likes of Philip Larkin and Carol Ann Duffy, people who Miles very much deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as.

His collection, The Border, was sold for the first time at our Valley Press Reading on Thursday, an event which I hope to have video evidence of soon (you'll find it right here on the blog when I do).  This was also where I first announced the other book this post will discuss - much to the surprise of Deirdre McGarry, who appears in it but hadn't heard anything since submitting her poems for it in the Spring!  Before we talk about that though, I can't discuss The Border without thanking John Illingworth, who kindly donated the stunning photograph which appears on the cover (and made my job, as designer, laughably easy).  It is absolutely perfect, especially as cars (working or otherwise) appear throughout the book as a sort of running (or not-so-running) motif.  I also can't discuss the book without mentioning its launch, which will be held in York on Saturday 1st October - see this link for full details.

Moving on then.  Representatives of the Leeds Writers Circle contacted me in May, and we soon came to a mutually-beneficial agreement to publish an anthology of their members' work (both prose and poetry) by the 3rd October, when they had secured a plum slot on the Ilkley Literature Festival Fringe in which to launch it.  (See here for details of the event - hope you can make it.)  Edited primarily by Circle members Ian Harker and David Thom, I was astounded by the variety of work in the anthology - it contains something for every taste, and yet at the same time I failed to find a single section I didn't enjoy; difficult goals to achieve in the same volume.  I was also astounded by the sheer quality; it is an outstanding literary achievement, which again is difficult to achieve whilst also being as inclusive as possible.  All contributors should be very proud of the work they've produced for the book.

The writing in the collection is loosely themed around life in Leeds; both in the modern day, and in other decades/centuries, so is an essential purchase if you're a fan of that fair city - and of course, I highly advise you to pick one up even if you're not.  Prepare to be converted!  As for the cover, my brief was to create something 'a bit Faber-and-Faber' esque, so I looked to an era I've always curiously enjoyed - the 1990s Faber, exemplified in covers such as this one.  But of course I couldn't just rip them off, so I looked for a repeat-design pattern that fit the book's contents and reminded me of Leeds in general, eventually coming up with the leafy effort above.  There are plenty of trees in the book, but I can't explain why that design reminds me of Leeds - it must be something subconscious.

Should you be tempted to purchase The Border or the Anthology, I hope you enjoy them very much - ebooks are forthcoming, of course, shortly after the release dates, and there should be more news on these titles (and our final 2011 efforts) soon.  Until then, happy reading!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Symbiosis: The Prince of Pathos

Artists have symbiotic relationships with one another. We feed, we nourish off of each other. Many times one artist could not, would not exist if it weren't for the other.

One such relationship I've formed is with the late and great Charlie Chaplin, whom I refer to as "The Prince of Pathos," for he undeniably turns my stoic heart into an absolute puddle of humanistic mud whenever his Little Tramp graces the screen. The way he wears not only his heart on his sleeve, but his own contradiction as well--the short, tight waistcoat and big, baggy pants--that innocent heart and beguiling mind; the way he wanders around, lonely as a cloud: Chaplin created the quintessential moving picture of what it means to have inherited the artistic spirit. He is the one who best reminds me of the reason why we artists must exist: to remind our fellow human beings that we are each made of dirt, of clay; that we are fallible; and that this life is indeed meant to feel like one, long beautifully-tragic flaw.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Valley Press Reading 2011 - 22nd September

This post is one of the few with no content other than shameless advertising - I'm writing to let you know about the first ever Valley Press Reading, which will be held at Scarborough Public Library on the 22nd September 2011, with a relaxed 6pm start and an optimistic 7.30pm finish.  If my plans all come to fruition (and they have been known to) the reading will feature all eight authors I've published this year; they will be reading from their work, signing books (of course) and possibly answering a few questions.

Nigel Folds, artist behind Lonely Destiny, will be bringing some of the original artwork for the book (ensuring your eyes are as entertained as your ears), and the public will have their first chance to see (and buy?) copies of our seventeenth publication, Miles Cain's The Border (though of course it is available to pre-order here - expect the usual barrage of posts about that one shortly).

If you're a person with a Facebook, you can RSVP in the most convenient fashion on the event page here.  For a map to the venue, try here.  I'm afraid you do have to pay to come - £3 in fact, tickets on the door - but a lot of you already own all the books, and I gotta pay those room fees somehow!  Plus, think of all that great entertainment... to say nothing of the complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits.

I'm hoping this could be a regular thing, twice-yearly, especially if it goes as well as I think it will.  Also, I hear rumours the whole thing will be professionally filmed, so we'll be on our best behaviour (and this means international VP fans might get a look too, at some point).  Either way, wish us luck, and I'll see you there!