Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Pete Orford's Blog

Currently featured in Exclusively Independent is Charles Dickens On Travel by Pete Orford (Hesperus Press). This is a fantastic title enabling Dickens' travel writing to be approachable and easily digested. Through Pete's thorough research, the reader is given a rare glimpse into Dickens' writing - as a young man.

The beauty of Dickens’ travel writing is that it offers an immediacy to the modern reader. Though culture has changed, many of the sights he describes have endured. I took Pictures from Italy with me on holiday and all the sights Dickens sees are still there – the coliseum, the leaning tower of Pisa, Juliet’s balcony in Verona, and often his opinions of them hold as much relevance now as they do then. Suddenly he steps away from the context of the nineteenth century and becomes a very distinguished contemporary travel guide.

Editing this collection was a great indulgence as I ‘worked’ long hours reading Dickens’ many essays, and with so much to choose from the process of selection became rather arbitrary at times. For instance, I wanted to try to get as many different locations in there as I could, so limited myself to just the one passage from America and Italy. But I also wanted to show how travel was as much about the passenger as it is about the location, which is why I picked two accounts of a trip to France written by Dickens as a thirty-nine year old and a fifty-one year old, to show how the same sights can be read differently at various points in our life, how wonder turn to weariness when the exotic becomes familiar.

This idea of one person’s holiday being another person’s routine journey is complemented by Dickens’ capacity through all his works for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary; Sketches by Boz is a testament to how he could look at the everyday and find scenes of drama, amusement and profoundness within. So in his account of London transport, or his tale of Mr Booley the panorama enthusiast, Dickens teaches us that the thrills of travel are available on our doorstep: the notion of holidaying becomes a matter of not where you go, but how you choose to perceive what you see. It certainly gave me food for thought, and I take time now on daily commutes to appreciate the landscape and the scenery just as a tourist – or Dickens – would.

I guess one of the things I wanted to do in working on these volumes for Hesperus was to sidestep the intimidation that some people feel about Dickens or other writers burdened with the ‘classic’ label. We too often forget why these writers were so popular in the first place, and become too obsessed with critical readings of passages that were intended, first and foremost, to entertain. Closely connected to this, and something which I touch upon in the introduction, is the mental image we have of Dickens – the bearded, austere fellow from the back of the ten pound note. But this is Dickens at the end of his career, whereas the majority of his novels were written by a young man in his twenties and thirties. In the majority of his writings there is gleeful and reckless ribbing of the established system that directly contradicts the restrictive connotations of his posthumous categorising as a literary monument. So if there’s one thing I hope the book achieves, or promotes, it’s the accessibility of Dickens.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Search Press Blog

Firstly, congratulations to Search Press who have been awarded the Neilson Innovation of the Year Award for the Ready to Paint series - a fantastic achievement for Search Press!

One of their titles, How to Draw and Paint Dragons by Tom Kidd, is included in the current cycle of Exclusively Independent. As you can see from the image, the book is packed with striking pictures, the perfect gift for a creative friend!

From conception to finished picture, this book provides a comprehensive approach to the art of drawing and illustrating the dragon and its environment.

Here are some recent reviews for the title:

Enter a land of fantasy with Tom Kidd's wonderful drawings. Learn to draw all the details of a dragon from the eyes to the skin, from movement to anatomy. Detailed, magical and fascinating, this is a world in which you can let your imagination run riot. All the information you need plus some dragon templates to start you off. -

How to Draw and Paint Dragons by Tom Kidd, is much more than one of those children's 'how to draw' books. I was expecting a sort of; draw an oval, a smaller oval and three triangles kind of affair but this isn't a children's book. Anyone who has even a vague interest in fantasy and dragons would, I'm sure, enjoy the book simply for the amazing examples of artists work and the almost encyclopaedic information about dragons. The author encourages the reader to build up a repertoire of studies of natural landscapes and observed animal and bird drawings and photos which might inform a fantastical dragon picture. There is huge detail about building up texture, the fall of light and compositional tricks to give perspective or dynamism. Honestly the chapters read like my 'A' level art syllabus but all with reference to dragons. There are line drawings at the back of the book which can be scanned or traced for the reader to practice their skills and would mean that even if a reader was young and perhaps unable to complete some of the more demanding artistic exercises they could still enjoy colouring in and placing their own dragons in a landscape of their own imagining. -

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Peirene Press Blog

Beside the Sea by French author Veronique Olmi was published in February 2010. It is the first title of a new independent publishing house, Peirene Press, who specializes in the translation of contemporary European fiction. The book received glowing reviews in The Guardian where Nicholas Lezard called it a “mesmerising portrait” that “ought to be read”and Chris Schueler in The Independent states that Olmi “makes understandable and even sympathetic a character from whom most people would recoil.” The book was reprinted after only three weeks.

Meike Ziervogel, publisher of Peirene Press, has written the following blog entry about publishing Beside the Sea:

What has Marmite got to do with Beside the Sea?

I hate Marmite. It’s horrible. It’s a joke not a spread, and the smell is most off-putting. When my husband eats it I don’t go near him. I also blame him and his Marmite obsession for the failing taste buds of our children. He force fed them the stuff at an early tender age and now they think they love it. But they can’t – they are half German after all. However I fear the damage has been done. My poor darling children are scarred for life.

A friend of mine leads a reading group. It consists of seven women, all mothers with children between 6 and 20 years old, some working full time, some part time. They read Beside the Sea and kindly invited me along to their discussion. My friend and one other woman could see the good in the book, the others I think would have preferred not to have read it. Bad writing, bad translation, bad blurb on the back and too expensive. That was their verdict.

My husband believes in Marmite. He even claims that it saved his life when he was eighteen cycling across the Continent. My mother-in-law, too, loves to sing its praises, especially its versatility – spread it on toast in the morning, turn it into a nice hot drink in the evening.

I am acutely aware that the reviewers – either newspapers or bloggers – have been predominantly men. They can see what I see in the text, namely a mesmerizing portrayal of a mind totally wrapped up in itself. I would even go a step further: Beside the Sea shows us how difficult it can be for a mother to understand that her perception of reality is very different to that of her children. Furthermore if she ever loses that understanding, her love becomes destructive.

When I read this book for the first time, I felt an excitement at having discovered a writer who managed – successfully – to draw attention to the dark side of motherhood. I assumed other mothers would too. On Monday evening I understood that my assumption was wrong. Some would rather not have encountered the book.

Just like Marmite and me. In fact, it was Adriana Hunter, the translator of Beside the Sea, mother-of–three and total believer in the text, who had the brilliant Marmite idea when I told her about the reading group. “How strange”, she pondered, “that the people who like this book feel so passionate… and those that don’t are equally vehement in the other direction. You could run a whole campaign along the lines of the Marmite ads (you either love it or hate it).”

Fabulous publicity stunt! It might make me also reconsider the virtues of Marmite.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Exclusively Independent Call Now Open!

Enter sign The call is now open for publishers to submit up to three titles for Exclusively Independent. Have the chance to showcase independently published titles in bookshops and libraries thoughout the country.

Publishers just need to email the AI and ms' of their best titles, and these will be collated into a submission pack. An industry based panel will select the final ten titles at the panel meeting which is 20 April.

Submit now, and don't miss out!


Bill Coles' Blog

Featured in the new cycle of Exclusively Independent is Bill Coles' book Dave Cameron's Schooldays published by Legend Press. This is a fantastic fictional account of Tory leader Dave Cameron's days at Eton. This title has coverage in The Edinburgh News, Evening Standard and The Mail. It is also Waterstones' Independent Book of the Month. Here's a blog from Bill, detailing the adventures you can stumble upon when you least expect it...

In Edinburgh, underneath Scotland Street - the same Scotland Street that has been made famous by Alexander McCall Smith - there is a kilometre-long tunnel that stretches all the way to Waverley station. I first came across this tunnel eight years ago, but at the Scotland Street end it was all bricked up, and with a thick metal door which seemed to be permanently locked. It was one of those locks with thick steel plates welded all around it, so you couldn’t get a hacksaw onto it. How it vexed me. I had also examined the other end of the tunnel, which comes out at Platform 19 at Waverley Station. This was also padlocked and was behind some fencing, and I was dubious about the railway police and all the cameras. I’d even thought about renting some industrial-sized bolt-cutters - but unfortunately, these were not to be had. At least not in Scotland.

So for a long time, my little tunnel-walking dream had to be put on hold. And then …

And then a week ago I discovered that the tunnel entrance was nothing but a gaping black hole: the entire wall, metal gate and all, had been knocked down. Last night, I and three friends blithely ignored the keep out signs and explored the tunnel for the first time. Within just 200 yards, the light at the end of the tunnel was just a pin-prick. Stalactites, like long strands of spaghetti, dripped from the ceiling. There were hollow inside and tasted of stone. The stalagmites on the floor were nubby blobs, like white jellyfish that were growing out of the floor. Further in, a sewer had ruptured, giving off an extraordinary fusion of smells - faeces and scented bath-water. The tunnel had been built by the Victorians to connect New Haven with Waverley - though more recently it was used as a bomb shelter during the war. Block after block of brick-built lavatories were dotted along the tunnel - some with the wooden seats still in tact. One door still on its hinges, with the words “Do not slam” etched on the outside.

At the far end, the tunnel suddenly becomes much smaller - so low that you have to bend your head. There was also some sort of babbling noise, like a radio in the distance. It was difficult to make out, but then we realised it was the station tannoy. We peered out onto Platform 19 - to see the reassuring sight of a police van parked up 30 yards away.

A mini-adventure - right in the heart of Edinburgh.

Dave Cameron's Schooldays is launched this evening (Wednesday) at
Waterstones George St from 7:30pm.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

New Selection of Titles!

We recently met for the monthly panel meeting and the new selection of titles has now been finalised!

Mum's on the Run by Charlotte Bingham (Merriday)
Dave Cameron's Schooldays by Bill Coles (Legend Press)
The Alternative Manifesto by Eamonn Butler (Gibson Square)
East of Islington by Sam Taylor (Gibson Square)
Babble and Squeak by Mark Kotting (Legend Press)
Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi (Peirene Press)
On Travel by Charles Dickens (Hesperus)
How to Draw and Paint Dragons by Tom Kidd (Search Press)
Soldier 'I' The Story of an SAS Hero by Michael Paul Kennedy and Pete Winner (Osprey)

As you can see, we have a great selection including Holt Jackson's Book of the Month (Babble & Squeak) and Waterstones' Independent Book of the Month (Dave Cameron's Schooldays).

We're really pleased with this cycle's list, and hopefully the variety offers something different for all interests.


Monday, 22 March 2010

Emilie Christensen's Blog

Featured in the January cycle of Exclusively Independent, was Duckling Chronicles by Emilie Christensen (Winged Chariot). Winner of the Norwegian Ministry of Culture's First Writer Award, this novella is an intimate dialogue between a girl and her imaginary friend about their experience of loss, anger and courage. Emilie has kindly written a blog for the site:

When I was six years old, little ducklings came visiting us in kindergarten. In CAGES, of all things. One of the ladies who worked there told me that I kept standing in front of this one's cage; always looking out for, asking if he was doing all right, if there was something he needed - yes, simply forgot to climb and dig. And make castles.

I can't say I remember much about that, but what I DO remember, is holding him up against my chin, thinking; this must be the most precious of all Preciousness!

Yesterday I read that crocodiles swallow stones to be able to dive deeper. So instead of saying I'm a writer - because that was certainly never my intention -I can say: I? What am I? A crocodile. Because THAT'S what I did (at least when I wrote 'christmas' - the first part). I swallowed stones. Bunches of them. Andmygoodness they were heavy! But suddenly I could dive. Deeper. Almost reaching the bottom. And then - when being down there - I started writing. While swimming back up.

And POOF! a book. Thanks to the stones.

You should try it sometime!


Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Interview with Sarah Ladipo Manyika

Featured in the current cycle of Exclusively Independent is In Dependence by Sarah Ladipo Manyika (Legend Press).

In Dependence is Tayo and Vanessa’s story of a brave but bittersweet love affair. It is the story of two people struggling to find themselves and each other – a story of passion and idealism, courage and betrayal, and the universal desire to fall, madly, deeply, in love.

Here is an extract from an interview Sarah had with London-based Nigerian writer Ovo Adagha for African Writing online.

How would you describe the peculiar motivations that derived it? And was it based on a biographic foundation?

I am very grateful for the attention the novel has received thus far, and intrigued to see what aspects of the novel readers find themselves drawn to. My intention was to write a story of unfulfilled love fraught with the weight of history, race and geography and intertwined with questions of belonging, aging, religious faith and family secrets. I also hoped that the novel might speak to the complexities of contemporary Africa, its Diaspora and its interdependence with the rest of the world. I was drawn to write about all of the above simply because these happened to be themes and ideas that I was thinking about at the time of writing the story.

How long did it take to write? And would you say your 'intentions' were accomplished?

It took me several years to write this novel. At the time that I began to write the novel I was looking for a really good love story set in geographical locations and historical periods that I was particularly interested in (namely West Africa from the 1960s to present day) and because I did not find that story, I ended up writing the story that I wanted to read. And so in that sense I accomplished what I intended. I wrote a novel and was lucky enough to find a publisher that wanted to publish it.

I find that there are significant issues of imperial literary history, Pan-Africanism, racism and colonialist discourse buried in the narrative. Even your characters – especially in the early stages of the book – are mired in heated discussions on these and other precocious issues. I found these discussions fascinating and in some ways I am reminded of the insurrectionary elements in Soyinka’s The Interpreters and Clark’s America, Their America. Were you perhaps striving to stimulate your readers to a higher level of awareness or is this an insightful style of delivery you are naturally drawn to?

Imperialism, Pan - Africanism, racism and colonialism are all raised in the novel because these were issues that my characters would have been discussing at the time and issues that touched them personally to one degree or another. Soyinka and J.P. Clark emerged as significant authors in the 1960s and this too is why a reader should not be surprised to find references to their works by one or more characters in the novel. I am particularly intrigued though, by your use of the word “precocious” to the extent that it’s one of the adjectives that I might use to describe Vanessa, the main female character in this novel. I find myself increasingly drawn to women characters that do not conform to what society expects. “Insurrectionary,” perhaps?

To continue reading this interview click here


Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Caroline Rance reading Kill Grief

Featured back in March 2009, was Caroline Rance's fantastic debut novel Kill Grief (Picnic Publishing).

Chester, 1756: Mary Helsall must take the first job she’s offered – that of a nurse. She soon longs to escape the hospital’s stench and the surgeon’s lechery as much as she wants to escape her own past.

Mary finds consolation in rotgut gin and an affinity with porter Anthony. But then, a patient reveals he is aware of her connection to the notorious Gaol, her infatuation with a thieftaker, and her entanglement with a smuggling gang.

From the gin shop to the operating theatre, and the stormy seashore to the prison dungeons, Mary seeks hope of an independent future. Ultimately, she must decide whether addiction is a fair price to pay for love.

Caroline Rance began writing fiction in her twenties, inspired by her interest in medical history. Born in Wirral in 1975, she now lives in the Chilterns and is writing her second novel.

Click here to hear Caroline reading an extract from her book.

Many thanks to Caroline for taking the time to provide an the recording.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

The Cheesemonger's Tales - Loose Chippings

Alongside Roy the Eagle, we have a second title from Loose Chippings Books: The Cheesemonger's Tales by Arthur Cunynghame. This book is a hardback, containing 16 pages of fantastic colour images.

"Well Written and Charming" - The Independent
"A Vivid Insight" - The Oxford Times
"A Guide No Cheese Lover Should Be Without" - Latest

A former Royal Warrant Holder as cheesemonger to The Queen and The Prince of Wales, Arthur Cunynghame guides you through a virtual tasting tour of cheese dairies and vineyards, with the insight provided by his 30 years’ experience as a cheesemonger and wine merchant.
The book is an eclectic mix of delightful anecdotes and helpful information, based around a personal selection of twelve of the finest cheeses, and the people who make them, matched with twelve memorable wines; and much more.

To see what other fantastic titles Loose Chippings have to offer, have a look at their site by clicking here.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Roy the Eagle - Loose Chippings

Currently featured in Exclusively Independent is Roy the Eagle by Kate O'Sullivan and David Harfield (Loose Chippings Books).

Priced at £5.99, this paperback contains 28pages of beautiful illustrations as children can follow Roy's adventures as he overcomes all kinds of obstacles. Here are some extracts from the title AI, followed by information about the company behind the book:

What makes us different, brings us together.

Roy is an eagle who wears glasses and, as a result, is teased by all the other eagles. But it is Roy’s glasses that enable him to save all the other eagles when disaster strikes in the forest where they live.
Engagingly told in verse with colourful and forceful illustrations, Roy The Eagle was an instant hit when trialed with Key Stage 1 children (ages 5-6), although it can be read to younger children out loud or read by older children on their own. A teacher at one primary school described the book as brilliant and one of the children said, “It is a story isn’t it, because eagles don’t wear glasses do they?”

Another school has used the book to encourage a young girl who is refusing to wear her glasses. The teacher is very impressed and is looking for a cuddly toy eagle they can put glasses on!

Children can follow Roy’s adventures as he overcomes all kinds of obstacles to discover that the very things that make him different from his friends are what brings them closer together.

Company info:

A small and eclectic range of interesting titles.

Loose Chippings is a small, independent publisher registered with the ISBN Agency. We treat each book individually and work with an author to realise the full potential of the manuscript and bring their book to market.

As a result, our books remain firmly their author’s creation but with the benefit of a publisher’s impartial input.

Readers will find individuality in our books; we hope that the sense that our books are created by authors with something to say, rather than as an exercise to fulfil a marketing plan, will be evident from cover to cover.

Take a look at our titles; there may well be one that appeals to you or someone you know.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Submissions Call Now Closed!

A big thankyou to all of the publishers who have submitted to Exclusively Independent this time around.

We have a fantastic list of titles to now look through, and select our favourite ten.

The panel meeting is 19 March, so as per usual, I'll announce the lucky 10 on that Friday.

Off now to do some reading!


Friday, 5 March 2010

Search Press Blog continued...

Following on from yesterday's blog, is some further information about Search Press. To find out more information about the company itself, how it started and where it is today, simply read below.

Search Press: Search Press is the leading art and craft publisher in the UK, specialising in fine art, textiles, general crafts and children’s crafts. The company was founded in 1970, when Charlotte de la Bedoyere published her first book – Basket Weaving in an attic room in Kensington. In the early 1980’s, Lotti moved to Tunbridge Wells, establishing a warehouse and offices in a quiet corner of the North Farm Industrial Estate – where we are today. She continued to publish an increasing range of popular books, developing new series and commissioning larger titles. Then, in 1997 following her decision to retire, her son, Martin de la Bedoyere, took over as Managing Director, with his wife Caroline, our Sales and Marketing Director. Both directors from Heinemann publishing, they have continued with the strong traditions that Lotti had built up over 27 years.

With a team of 26 people, most of them long term employees, Search Press now publishes up to 100 of its own titles each year, as well as distributing titles for other publishers. From the commissioning of an original idea to the final delivery of books into the warehouse, the publishing process is carried out ‘in-house’. A few books are bought in from other sources and labelled with the Search Press ‘stamp’, but they are always checked by us before they are printed, so that they fit in with our style and publishing policies. We have a strong and dedicated team, with everyone playing their part in the process, from the warehouse staff to the sales and marketing team, production department, accounts and designers and editors.

Thankyou to Vanessa for providing this fantastic information, over the last two days.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Search Press Blog

Ready to Paint the Masters: Van Gogh is one of the featured titles in the next cycle of Exclusively Independent. This is the first title from Search Press to be selected, and offers a step by step guide for aspiring painters to follow one of the very best.

Here is some information about the book, and check back here on Monday to see the blog continued...

Author: Michael Sanders studied graphic art at Plymouth College of Art and Ceramics at Bristol University. He went on to become a graphic artist and signwriter, then a potter, tutor and professional artist. He still teaches and he now runs painting holidays in the UK and Europe. He regularly writes articles for art magazines, loves boats and travelling, and he enjoys music, the theatre and teaching art. Michael has also published 4 other books with Search Press.

Series Description: The Ready to Paint The Masters series shows readers how to paint in the style of their favourite painter. Michael Sanders shows how to reproduce three famous paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, using step by step photographs and detailed instructions. He then paints two further compositions of his own, using the style and techniques of Van Gogh. Six tracings are provided for readers to pull out and transfer on to the painting surface: one for each project plus a bonus tracing. Michael Sanders has studied and reproduced many of Van Gogh's works as an artistic exercise, and has gained insight into the painter's methods, right down to individual brush strokes. Lovers of Van Gogh's amazing paintings can now learn how to paint their favourites using acrylic paints.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

London Deep - Mogzilla

As mentioned below, one of the featured titles in EI next month is London Deep by Robin Price and Paul McGrory (Mogzilla). This is a fantastic title, containing the best of both worlds: half book, half graphic novel.

Jemima Mallard is having a bad day. First she loses her air, then two kids sink her houseboat, and now the YPD (Youth Police) think she’s mixed up with a criminal called Father Thames. Not even her dad, a Chief Inspector with the ‘Dult Police, can help her out this time. Oh – and London’s still sinking. It’s been underwater ever since the climate upgrade. All in all the girl they call ‘Miss Hap’ is deep trouble.

'This book contains some brilliant cartoon-illustrations drawn by Paul McGrory...Overall I thought this book was great. It would suit most ages.'

To found out more information about this book, click here.