Poetry in Good Hands

Emma Wright from The Emma Press will be speaking at Reading & Being Read: Birmingham at the Ikon Gallery on 27 June.

Emma Wright from The Emma Press will be speaking at Reading & Being Read: Birmingham at the Ikon Gallery on 27 June.

Recent winner of the 2016 Michael Marks Award for Poetry Pamphlets, The Emma Press publishes a range of poetry anthologies, pamphlets and e-books.  Here’s Emma’s acceptance speech (reproduced with permission), and you can find out more about the Award and the thriving small press publishing scene in Birmingham on The Emma Press website here.

Emma Wright delivering her speech at the British Library (© Tony Grant)

Emma’s speech at the Michael Marks Awards

I’m Emma Wright and I started the Emma Press just over four years ago, after quitting my job at Orion Publishing Group. I never thought I would start my own company, let alone a publishing house, but then – in 2012 – I got tired.

I got tired of seeing men’s surnames in the names of the imprints I was working on, and I got tired of looking around the publishing industry and seeing women pretty much everywhere other than at the very top. And I was tired of waiting for other women of colour to rise up the ranks and show me that it was possible, and that this wasn’t exclusively a white man’s club.

I needed representation in a way that’s hard to understand when you’re already represented everywhere. I was tired of waiting, so I moved back to my parents’ house in Reading, I quit my job and I decided to try and be part of the change.

And now I’m here. I’ve published 33 poetry books, with 17 more due out next year. I’ve run two Arts Council-supported poetry tours and, though it’s always a financial struggle running an unfunded press full time, my developing sense as an entrepreneur has allowed me to keep the press – and myself – afloat in my new home city of Birmingham.

Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright, after the awards dinner

I’ve worked with my good friend and brilliant poet and editor Rachel Piercey to champion writers we believe in and produce books which appeal to readers beyond the usual poetry book-buying audiences. We work hard to develop our authors and bring them opportunities, and we’re especially proud of our three pamphlet series: the Picks, which are themed and have black and white illustrations; the Pamphlets, which include introductions from other poets as another way in for the reader; and the Art Squares, which are lavishly produced, with full-colour illustrations.

And it’s hard. Of course it’s hard. I’m running an unfunded poetry publisher, putting books out into a wider cultural conversation that is dominated by vocal, entitled white men, voicing their opinions often without a clue about the toxic state they’re contributing to. It’s dispiriting, but I’m hopeful that things are changing. Other people are tired too, and I’m seeing more movement now to tackle publishing’s lack of diversity.

So, recognition like this means a lot. It’s wonderful to be here tonight amongst other poetry-lovers, celebrating the poetry pamphlet, and I want to thank the Michael Marks Awards team for drawing attention to this small but vital part of the poetry ecosystem. Being here tonight, I’m feeling positive about the future.

* * *

 

Reading & Being Read: Birmingham

Reading & Being Read Birmingham with The Emma Press and Alan Mahar, former Publishing Director with Tindal Street Press.

Reading and Being Read heads to Birmingham for our final Arts Council funded event of 2017.

LOOKING FOR SOMETHING NEW TO READ…?

READING AND BEING READ

Emma Wright, Editor of The Emma Press 

Alan Mahar, former Editor at Tindal Street Press

IKON GALLERY

1 Oozells Square

Brindleyplace

Birmingham

B1 2HS

Tuesday 27 June, 6-9pm

Tickets £3 before 12 June / £5 after

FREE tickets for Midlands-based MA and PhD students – Register here

Twitter hashtag: #ReadingBeingRead

The last few years has seen an explosion of new small presses and independent publishers around the country, publishing new and exciting fiction and poetry. If you are a keen reader and want to know more about the difference being a small press makes to how they work and what they publish, come along to hear from local independent press The Emma Press, and former small-press editor Alan Mahar.

Join us for this informal discussion on challenges related to small press publishing. A roundtable conversation with Alan Mahar, former editor of Tindal Street Press, and Emma Wright, editor of The Emma Press will be followed by readings from authors Alan Beard, Gaynor Arnold and others published by The Emma Press and the former Tindal Street Press.

READING AND BEING READ: BIRMINGHAM

Sheep & Skulls: Valerie Laws

Valerie Laws and Sheila Wakefield from Red Squirrel Press will be speaking at Reading & Being Read Newcastle on Saturday 18 February, 11-4pm.

Valerie Laws and Sheila Wakefield from Red Squirrel Press will be speaking at Reading & Being Read Newcastle on Saturday 18 February, 11-4pm.

Valerie Laws is a Northumbrian poet, crime novelist, science-poetry installation artist, playwright and mathematician/physicist. Her thirteen published books represent several genres and publishers.

From Red Squirrel Press, they include two crime novels The Rotting Spot (‘a darkly intriguing debut’ Val McDermid) and The Operator (‘gripping from the very first scene’ Ann Cleeves) set in the north east and two of her four full-length poetry collections: The Facebook of the Dead, and All That Lives, which arose from funded residencies with pathologists, neuroscientists and anatomists researching the science of dying and the ageing brain.

Valerie devises new poetic forms for installations and commissions including the infamous Arts Council–funded Quantum Sheep, in which haiku were spray-painted onto live sheep. She featured in BBC2’s Why Poetry Matters with Griff Rhys Jones and performs worldwide live and in the media. She has had twelve plays commissioned for stage and BBC radio. She has won numerous prizes and awards, including a Wellcome Trust Arts Award and two Northern Writers’ Awards.

To find out more visit valerielaws.com

author-photo-valerie-laws
Valerie Laws

 

Red Squirrel Press is an independent publisher based in Northumberland, founded by poet and Editor Sheila Wakefield in April 2006, has published over 160 titles to date which includes poetry, crime fiction, literary fiction and non-fiction. Red Squirrel Press has never had Arts Council England or any other funding and was shortlisted for the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award in 2010 and 2015. Postbox Press, the literary fiction imprint of Red Squirrel Press was introduced in 2015.
Red Squirrel Press publications for sale will include
Breath, Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman (poetry) and Ren and the Blue Hands (Young Adult novel) by Ellen Phethean.
The Tyne & Wear Poems by Ian Davidson.
The Operator (crime fiction) by Valerie Laws.
My Wild Northumbria (non-fiction) by Mike Pratt.

 

For tickets and more information please click below:

 

READING AND BEING READ

NEWCASTLE CITY LIBRARY

33 New Bridge Street West

Newcastle upon Tyne

NE1 8AX

11am to 4pm, Saturday 18 February 2017

Tickets £5 / NE Students register for FREE

Twitter hashtag: #ReadingBeingRead

Ren and the Blue Hands

With prescient relevance to the current state of international politics and its personal and emotional impact on individual lives, this novel would make an apt read for young adult readers at this time.

Ren and the Blue Hands by Ellen Phethean: Postbox Press (Red Squirrel Press) 2016

This YA historical fantasy novel is set in an alternative sixteenth century, based on the real-life conflict of the European dying industry’s resistance to imported Indian indigo.  The plot offers intrigue and romance set amidst the conflict of global markets and politics – following the life of young Ren, a Lady’s maid who gets tangled up in the crisis against her will.  The novel is well-researched and then transformed into its own unique fictional world through Ellen Phethean‘s strong imagination.

ren-and-the-blue-hands

Should a country protect itself with walls and rules, and live in isolation from the rest of the world, never changing?  Or is it better to share knowledge and goods, increasing wealth and trade?

With prescient relevance to the current state of international politics and its personal and emotional impact on individual lives, this novel would make an apt read for young adult readers at this time – encouraging an awareness of the complexities of global relations and an understanding of the variety of responses available to us.  Seeing the world, as we do in this novel, through the particular eyes of Ren gives us a perspective on the details of living at a time of unprecedented political upheaval.  Ren’s perspective can open up the possibilities of a life on the cusp of uncertainty in ways which will speak to YA readers.  Her humanity and the novel’s central love story will particularly appeal to early-teenage girls with a sense for a good mix of personal morality and daring adventure.

Ellen Phethean will be at Reading and Being Read Newcastle on Saturday 18th February, 11am-4pm at Newcastle Library.  Tickets are still available at £5 each, and Newcastle-based students can register for free.  Click here for more details.

Ellen Phethean & Red Squirrel Press

Ellen Phethean and Sheila Wakefield from Red Squirrel Press will be speaking at Reading & Being Read Newcastle on Saturday 18 February, 11-4pm

Ellen Phethean and Sheila Wakefield from Red Squirrel Press will be speaking at Reading & Being Read Newcastle on Saturday 18 February, 11-4pm.
Ellen Phethean is a novelist, poet, playwright, editor and co-founder of Diamond Twig Press. Her first full poetry collection, Breath, published by Flambard in 2009 and reissued by Red Squirrel Press in 2014, was shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award in 2010. Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman (Red Squirrel Press, 2014), her second poetry collection, was a New Writing North ‘Read Regional’ selection in 2015. Ellen’s Young Adult novel, Ren and the Blue Hands (Postbox Press, literary fiction imprint of Red Squirrel Press) was published in November 2016, an early draft was longlisted for the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition is 2012. She also teaches creative writing and runs workshops.
author-photo-ellen-phethean
Ellen Phethean
Red Squirrel Press is an independent publisher based in Northumberland, founded by poet and Editor Sheila Wakefield in April 2006, has published over 160 titles to date which includes poetry, crime fiction, literary fiction and non-fiction. Red Squirrel Press has never had Arts Council England or any other funding and was shortlisted for the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award in 2010 and 2015. Postbox Press, the literary fiction imprint of Red Squirrel Press was introduced in 2015.
Red Squirrel Press publications for sale will include
Breath, Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman (poetry) and Ren and the Blue Hands (Young Adult novel) by Ellen Phethean.
The Tyne & Wear Poems by Ian Davidson.
The Operator (crime fiction) by Valerie Laws.
My Wild Northumbria (non-fiction) by Mike Pratt.

 

For tickets and more information please click below:

 

READING AND BEING READ

NEWCASTLE CITY LIBRARY

33 New Bridge Street West

Newcastle upon Tyne

NE1 8AX

11am to 4pm, Saturday 18 February 2017

Tickets £3 before 4 February / £5 after

Twitter hashtag: #ReadingBeingRead

Reading & Being Read : Newcastle

Our Reading and Being Read event is on the road again in 2017. Next stop, Newcastle City Library 18 February.

Our Reading and Being Read event is on the road again in 2017.  Next stop, Newcastle City Library 18 February.

LOOKING FOR SOMETHING NEW TO READ…?

READING AND BEING READ

with Ellen Phethean, Valerie LawsRed Squirrel Press, Myrmidon Books

NEWCASTLE CITY LIBRARY

33 New Bridge Street West

Newcastle upon Tyne

NE1 8AX

11am to 4pm, Saturday 18 February 2017

Tickets £3 before 4 February / £5 after

FREE tickets for Newcastle-based MA and PhD students – Register here

Twitter hashtag: #ReadingBeingRead

The last few years has seen an explosion of new small presses and independent publishers around the country, publishing new and exciting fiction and poetry. If you are a keen reader and want to know more about the difference being a small press makes to how they work and what they publish, come along to hear from two local independent presses, Myrmidon Books and Red Squirrel Press, and writers Ellen Phethean and Valerie Laws.

Small presses are often able to give much more attention to the physical characteristics of the book, and the day will include discussion of this. If you think it’s fine to judge a book by its cover – and typeface, paper and page layout! – this is the event for you.

READING AND BEING READ: NEWCASTLE

Reading & Being Read Manchester

Reading & Being Read Manchester welcomed writers, readers, publishers, students, academics and interested members of the public to a full day programme of talks, readings and workshops on aspects of small press publishing.

The Contemporary Small Press’s latest event, Reading & Being Read Manchester, was held at Manchester Central Library on Saturday 12 November 2016.  Organised by Dr. Leigh Wilson and Dr. Georgina Colby, Institute of Modern and Contemporary Culture, University of Westminster, and supported using public funding from Arts Council England, the event welcomed writers, readers, publishers, students, academics and interested members of the public to a full day programme of talks, readings and workshops on aspects of small press publishing.

Leigh Wilson introduced the event, contextualising the themes of the day and saying that ‘small presses are producing some of the most exciting work in contemporary literary publishing’.

Short fiction is a genre still largely overlooked by mainstream commercial publishing, yet Manchester-based small publisher Comma Press is passionate about the development and publication of the short story form.  ‘Something happens in good short stories that’s quite unique to them as a form; the imaginary worlds they create are coloured slightly differently to those of the novel.  Their protagonists are more independent and intriguing.  The realities they depict [are] more arbitrary, accidental and amoral.  Comma believes British publishing is missing out on something in its neglect of the short story, and to make up for it we are currently the most prolific hard copy publisher of short stories in the country.’

Ra Page, founding editor of Comma Press, spoke about the vitality and anarchic potential inherent to literary short fiction:  ‘Literature is about providing alternative narratives to what we’ve been told.  The purpose of literature is to increase sales resistance.’  As a less-commercially-profitable product than the long-form novel, the short story has the potential to both provide an alternative narrative and to offer resistance to the commercial sales imperative of the bestseller.  In this way, and in the sense that the short story is ‘a very smuggle-able form’ in its ability to cross national borders undetected, Page suggests that ‘publishing short fiction can be an act of resistance.’  In recognition that the ‘history of the short story is not confined to one place or country’, Comma Press publishes a wide range of international short fiction in translation – crossing international borders and suggesting alternatives to dominant national narratives.

Writer Michelle Green, whose short story collection Jebel Marra focusing on the ongoing conflict in Darfur was published by Comma Press in 2015, agreed that ‘the space of the short story to do things that are not in service of commercialism feels really urgent right now.’  She also makes the case for short fiction providing alternative narratives, structures, perspectives – a form that resonates with the fractured lives of war and conflict, and with the daily struggle of life with a disability: ‘short fiction as a form is a great place for experiment and shift, and it does not assume resolution.  It does not tend towards the triumph over struggle, the big budget achievements.  It takes life in pieces, and in the world of the story, that one piece is all.  This, to me, feels familiar.  I recognise it.’  She summarises the difference between long-form and short-form fiction by saying, ‘short stories are not tiny novels that are waiting for water.’  Michelle read her tender and beautiful story Winter Song from Jebel Marra – the first live reading of this story that she has given.

comma-press-edit
Ra Page & Michelle Green

Perhaps even less commercially profitable than the short story, contemporary poetry is also being passionately published by the small presses rather than the big publishing houses.  Manchester-based poetry press If P Then Q publishes contemporary experimental poetry that’s designed to be friendly, welcoming, and encourage people to read.  James Davies, founding editor of If P Then Q, showed a collection of early matchbox poems he had made with the intention of being affordable, accessible and experimental.  Davies acknowledges that small poetry presses like If P Then Q publish books that wouldn’t otherwise have been published, bringing the work of new and experimental writers to a wider reading public through their reading networks and live-performance events.

The relationship between live performance and the written word on the page is a productive one for If P Then Q.  Poet Holly Pester was initially spotted by James at a performance and he subsequently published her first book, Hoofs, with the press.  For Pester, this relationship ‘opened up new opportunities for publishing poetry as live performance scores, which maintained the trace of the live utterance.  Maintaining the playfulness of live performance was an important part of publishing my first book with If P Then Q.’  Holly says, ‘the shape of the poem on the page and aural shape of the poem in my voice relate to each other in a not necessarily harmonious or analogous way, but they have to set each other off, nervously.’  James notes that ‘editing is an important part of the collaborative process between writers and publishers,’ recalling how Hoofs was shaped collaboratively to include elements of the live performance that they both wanted to ensure were included in the book, even though they weren’t part of the original manuscript.

Holly read extracts from Hoofs, a work she completed six years ago, remarking on its ‘uncannily resonant, playful approach to apocalyptic thinking.’

zimZalla’s Tom Jenks broadened the discussion after lunch to introduce ‘avant-objects’ which move poetry ‘beyond the book’.  zimZalla publishes a range of poetry objects that deviate in a variety of ways from the standard book form – from Sue Birchenough’s Takeaway Britain in a burger box to Stephen Emmerson’s aleatory text board game, A never ending poem read with dice that goes on to explore the possibilities of human intervention within the context & illusion of chance.  Jenks says he is interested in ‘reclaiming the physical: the handmade, tactile, imperfect objects; limited in number, locally produced.’  He says, ‘there is a sensuous quality to physical objects that you don’t get digitally, just the pleasure of picking something up and handling it.  zimZalla publications are designed to surprise and delight.’

Tom led an afternoon workshop in collaborative experimental poetry creation.  Working in groups, with improvised phrases and cut-up paper, an experiment in Mobius strip poetry was conducted – the results placed into test-tubes to become unique avant-poetry-objects for everyone to take away.  All leftover phrases were collected into a glass jar and labelled with the zimZalla seal of approval as a collective poetry object.  The experience of live-poetry-object-making was a lively and enjoyable part of the day, getting everyone involved with this tactile and collaborative process of writing poetry.

After the workshop, Sally-Shakti Willow read from The Unfinished Dream published by Sad PressThe Unfinished Dream experiments with a creative writing style drawn from Ernst Bloch’s utopian function of art and literature, predicated on an experience of non-alienation between writer and reader/artist and audience – an experimental form with cross over points between text and image, book and performance.  Publishing with a small poetry press enabled the book to be created to specific dimensions as an A4 chapbook, allowing space for the text and images to be re-presented in their original size – all parts of the book are recombined from a series of handmade originals in A4 exercise books, the aesthetic deliberately evoking the scribbled and doodled pages of a school exercise book to reflect the unfinished nature of the utopian project.

chapbooks-from-sad-press
The Unfinished Dream

The next Reading & Being Read event will be held at Newcastle Library on 18 February 2017.  Details and full line-up will be announced soon!

Reading and Being Read events are supported using public funding by the Arts Council England.

Print