Friday, 30 July 2010

Exclusively Independent Relaunched!

We recently took a break for Exclusively Independent purely to regroup, and really think about the fantastic feedback gained.

So now that we're back in action the following alterations have been made:

The project will run bi-monthly instead of every four weeks. This is purely to ensure the titles are given the exposure they deserve, and time to really highlight independent talent.

Six titles will be selected as each cycles final titles, instead of 10. For numerous independent bookshops, space is an issue therefore responding to this feedback we have shortened the amount of titles selected. We hope this will provide each title with the space, exposure and prominence that we strive for.

With additional publishers involved, we welcome the return of the project, and look forward to reading your submissions!

Publishers just need to email up to three AI's and ms' to the address below.



Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Zoë Jenny's Sophie's Summer continued

Here is the second half of Zoë's beautiful short story, Sophie's Summer:

Clarice and I picked up Jan by car at the train station. He was standing on the platform with a smile; his legs were covered with fine blond hair, and he had brought along all of his photographic equipment. On the way back, as I sat in the back seat, Jan started sniffing Clarice’s locks and inhaling the fragrance of her hair. He embraced Clarice’s parents and walked with a possessive gait through the house as if he belonged there checking everything out as if only in passing.

The next day he unpacked his equipment. The smallest of things could capture his interest: a beam of light falling through the veranda door and casting a rectangular shadow on the wooden table, a petal, Clarice’s exposed arm draped across the back of a chair. In the evening at the beach, he took pictures of clouds drifting by, of the sun going down, and of the sea and the shells washed ashore. Eventually, he threw himself on the ground and photographed the structures of the sand. Sitting on our swimming towels, Clarice, Sophie and I started laughing, as we saw him doing that. Jan gazed through his lens, crawled through the sand, and discovered Sophie’s feet, as if by coincidence. He exclaimed how beautiful her feet were, so fine and round. He asked her to let the sand run through her toes. Sophie turned red in the face and sheepishly tucked strands of hair out of her face and behind her ear, like a woman suddenly turned into a girl again. She did, as Jan asked her to, and he photographed her feet full of enthusiasm. At the dinner table, as they sat facing each other, Jan observed how Sophie brought the fork to her mouth or how her hands folded the napkins. She didn’t seem to notice, but Clarice did and went to bed sooner than usual. For the next couple of days, Jan was preoccupied with photographing Sophie. He accompanied her to the beach and was her constant companion, leaving only to rush into the village to buy more film.

Sophie’s voice suddenly regained its strength. Her laughter was buzzing through the house, like an invisible but omnipresent figure. Clarice tried not to let on, but I felt for the very first time that she was afraid. Sometimes she cast a sideways glance at her father, as if waiting for his intervention. Only once, after dinner, did Mr. Schmitz ask Jan what he was going to do with all these photos. “Nothing, really,” Jan replied, “I am just practicing.” Mr. Schmitz slapped him on the back, a bit too forceful to be understood as gesture of good will. Jan, however, did not respond in kind, but instead fumbled with his camera and looked at it from all sides, as if it were an interesting, live creature.

On the eve of our departure, Sophie decided to have dinner in the garden and carried the table out with Jan. Clarice complained of a headache and said good night even before we had dessert. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Schmitz and I retreated into our rooms as well. From my bedroom window, I could see Sophie and Jan, two lovers facing one another in the glow of a candle. Clarice knocked at my door. “I can’t sleep,” she said and crawled into my bed. Under my blanket she assumed an embryonic posture. “Close the window,” she said in a cold voice. “I have always known it.” As children, we used to lie next to each other for many a night for fear of missing the ghosts sneaking past us the moment we’d close our eyes.

Mr. Schmitz stumbled into the room even before sunrise. “They have gone,” he said in a muffled voice. Clarice sat up abruptly. Not only were her eyes wide open, her entire face was looking intently. The house was quiet. In the distance one could hear the wash of the ocean. Clarice threw away the flowers in all the rooms. She bent the stems and plucked the flowers. Mr. Schmitz shook his head mechanically. “Has she gone crazy, has she gone crazy?” he said as if to himself, while removing the items he had placed in the suitcase; he stared at them, not knowing what to do with them. I couldn’t help but think of Clarice’s hair as a child, the lock I had kept somewhere in a match box. I walked up to her and grabbed her arm. “This will pass; it doesn’t mean anything,” I said, unsure of myself. Clarice looked up briefly, and my words disappeared behind the disks of her eyes in the dark.

Many thanks to Zoë for taking the time to write Sophie’s Summer – it’s always interesting to see how each author interprets the task of writing a blog, and posting up a short story adds a little variety to the daily entries. To buy a copy of The Sky is Changing, please click on the link below.

Order your copy of The Sky is Changing now -

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Best selling author Zoë Jenny - Sophie's Summer

Zoë's first novel The Pollen Room (1997) won her global critical acclaim and is the all-time best selling debut novel by a Swiss author. The novel has been translated into 27 languages since publication.

The Sky is Changing (published by Legend Press is May 2010) is Zoë's first novel written in English, and featured in the May selection of Exclusively Independent.

Zoë has written a lovely short story for the site entitled Sophie's Summer. Today, the first half will be posted, and check back here tomorrow to read the second half.

What happened back then in the summer home of the Schmitz family was unimaginable for all of us, and in the end nobody was able to explain how this family could have been destroyed within just a couple of days and how its members could be so estranged from one another that it was as if they had never been related.

Clarice, the only daughter of Martin and Sophie Schmitz, was a friend from my early childhood. Our friendship evolved from casual encounters over a long period of time into a regular part of my life, similar to the way isolated stars only add up to a recognizable picture when seen from a distance of light years.

Clarice had big eyes, which changed color from green to blue depending on the light falling on them. It was as if she inhaled each word I spoke with her eyes. I guess that was the reason I loved her so much: because she listened with her eyes and, as if coming from nowhere, came out with sentences like, “I can be as lonely as a man.”

As kids we lived on the same street and walked round our neighborhood hand in hand disguised as princesses. We would spend weekends alternately in the home of her or my parents. Clarice’s mother had a small, high-pitched voice. When we used to come out of the bathroom and crawl under the covers, still smelling of chamomile, she would sometimes stand in front of her bed, call her husband and, while clapping her hands, tell him how we looked like sisters. In reality, however, Clarice had brown, curly hair, whereas mine was brunette and straight. Once, as a token of our friendship, I cut off a lock of her hair and kept it in a matchbox.

We were both sent to the same school and, pressured by us, our parents saw to it that we were put in the same class. We sat next to one another for the first couple of years and copied each other’s mistakes during our school exams. During lessons we exchanged folded messages, on which we had drawn small and mean caricatures of our teachers and made fun of them. Eventually we were separated because, as they used to say, we were a “bad influence” on one another. As a result, we no longer saw each other as regularly as before. But even if I didn’t see her for weeks or months, we shared a bond and the knowledge that we understood one another without having to say so.

When she turned seventeen, Clarice took a small apartment in the city and on weekends worked until two in a bar. At that time, her parents bought the summer home on the beach. Clarice visited her parents only during agreed-upon times. “Family relations have to be scheduled, too,” she once said when she showed me her calendar, where I could see the entry, “visit parents,” in red. She visited them at Easter and Christmas. And in the summers she would spend two weeks in the house on the beach. From that point on, she never went by herself but always brought along whatever boyfriend she had at the time. For the most part, I would hear from her only when one of her affairs had run aground. Clarice was passionate about being in love. She carried her beautiful curvaceous body through the streets of the city as if it were a gift. Once she called me in the middle of the night to tell me in a husky voice that her parents and I were the only remaining anchors of stability in her life. That was shortly before we were presented with our high school graduation certificates, then Clarice disappeared abroad and I didn’t hear from her for years. Occasionally, I would bump into Sophie at an intersection or while shopping: “Clarice is attending a famous acting school,” she announced. She was doing well. For the summer, she had plans to return to the holiday home, together with her boyfriend. I extended my best regards. Every time I met Sophie, her small high-pitched voice had shrunk even more; her voice seemed to shrivel year after year. When I inquired about Clarice, she would whisper faintly “yes,” she would see her in the summer when she planned to return home with Thomas. The names of her boyfriends changed from Thomas to Paul and from Erich to Robert. In my thoughts I envisioned an empty chair at the table in the Schmitz family summer home on which, year after year, sat a different young man next to Clarice in front of the same plate as his predecessors.

Years later, following a short and unusually harsh winter, I bumped into Clarice in a clothing store in our hometown. I was looking for something to wear for the wedding of a friend of mine, and was standing in front of the mirror trying on a festive, sequined dress, when she tapped me on the shoulder. Clarice’s eyes had gotten even bigger, as if the life she had witnessed had stretched her pupils. We sat down at a street café and both watched the people go by. As she pulverized the ice cubes in her glass with the handle of her spoon, she related how she had stopped going to acting school after having a nervous breakdown. She had been running around from morning to night with a palpitating heart supercharged on cocaine. She hadn’t been eating for days, simply because she had forgotten to, and one morning in class she collapsed midway through a recitation. Now she was living with her parents again and trying to relax. She was doing better, and on her way home on the train she had fallen in love with a photographer. I nodded and congratulated her by clinking my glass against hers. The same evening she called to say that she was going to their summer home in a couple of days and asked whether I’d like to come along.

Clarice was driving and we sang along loudly and badly to the music blaring from the radio. Her parents were already there when we arrived that evening. They were standing on the veranda and calling our names as we spotted them whilst walking through the garden. Sophie clapped her hands and said to her husband: “Don’t they look like sisters?”

The summer home was smaller than I had imagined it. “It is an ok house,” as Clarice phrased it. Sophie had put flowers all over the place. Depending on the room, it smelled of azaleas, lilies, and orchids. On the first floor was a kitchen and a spacious living room. That’s where we sat, with the veranda door open, until late at night talking over old times. You could hear the sea in the distance. Mr. Schmitz put his arm around Sophie’s shoulders. He was a 56-year-old man full of the pride and self-satisfaction of success because he had worked hard for it. Mr. Schmitz was on the road for much of the year, so he didn’t feel like moving while on vacation. He lay the whole day in a yellow-and-white striped lawn chair in the garden, his face covered by a sheet of newspaper set up like a tent. When Clarice, Sophie and I, late in the morning, walked past him through the garden in our bathing suits, he lifted his arm and waved at us. His face remained invisible beneath the newspaper. The beach was only a couple of minutes away from the house. Barefoot we climbed over the dunes behind which the sea was hidden. We began the day by rubbing sun tan lotion on one another’s backs. I rubbed Sophie’s back, she did mine and that of her mother. From the corners of my eyes, I observed how Clarice’s hands moved in a circular motion on Sophie’s back. All the other women I knew had problematic relationships with their mothers dominated by feelings of hatred, guilt, and envy, and even death did not always bring about a solution to these tensions. I couldn’t help but stare at Clarice’s hands on her mother’s peaceful back.

When we returned that evening, Mr. Schmitz awaited us relaxed and in a good mood. He cooked for us women light dishes, cold soups and fish. He called Sophie “princess,” and sometimes even “sweety,” when he had drunk a bit too much; I always felt awkward hearing this phrase, even though the term was fitting, except when coming from his mouth. We spent some calm and peaceful days together. Clarice relaxed and her body turned brown and round. One evening the phone rang, and Clarice was gone for an hour. When she returned, she let us know in a happy voice that her photographer-boyfriend was on his way here.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Fantastic news as former EI author Andrew Sharp has won the Waverton Good Read Award for his fantastic novel The Ghosts of Eden! Congratulations to Andrew and Picnic Publishing for enabling this brilliant book to receive the recognition it deserves.

Here is a short piece from Andrew:

Waverton Village Recipe for the Waverton Good Read Award

Take a large village, stir in sixty-one novels, bake patiently until five rise to the surface, skim those off and taste. Announce winning novel at village fete. Warning: takes nine months to cook.

Since 2003 the village of Waverton in Cheshire has been selecting a debut novel by a British or Irish author to receive the Waverton Good Read Award. The award came to national attention in its first year with author Tony Saint’s article in the Telegraph entitled I’m not even the fifth best novelist in Waverton. Previous winners have included Mark Haddon for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Maria Lewycka for A History of Tractors in Ukrainian, and Tom Rob Smith for Child 44.

The folk of the village, from all walks of life, score the submitted novels using a detailed and telling feedback form. The options for scoring include whether the book has too many clichés, is a man’s or a woman’s book, whether it would make a good film, and whether there is a lot of violence and sex. I’m not sure if the last is a pre-requisite to success. I guess not as I kept above the duvet in my own novel; principally to avoid the risk of being nominated for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. There is also that most telling question rarely asked by other literary prizes: whether the reader made it through to the final page.

Waverton’s readers were kind enough to like The Ghosts of Eden sufficiently to give it top marks this year and so give approval to the offerings from the hamper of Independent Publishers such as Picnic Publishing.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Legend Press Writers' Workshop

We’re delighted to announce a unique opportunity for writers to meet, question and present their work to some of the UK’s most prominent writers: Bonnie Greer, Zoë Jenny and Nick Griffiths.

Bonnie Greer OBE: Bonnie is an author, playright and political commentator, who has become a regular on our TV screens, and one of the most high profile writers of the last year. She has also acted as a judge for the Orange Prize for Fiction and her latest book, OBAMA MUSIC, was included in Blackwell’s Paperbacks of the Year, and featured in the October cycle of Exclusively Independent.

Zoë Jenny: Zoë’s first novel, THE POLLEN ROOM, sold into 27 languages and made her the highest-selling Swiss debut novel in history. She has since written a number of hit novels and, in June 2010, THE SKY IS CHANGING launched. This is her first novel written in English and featured in the May cycle of EI.

Nick Griffiths: Nick has had five books published across three publishers, witnessing the full range of what large and small publishers can offer. His books include acclaimed Doctor Who titles, DALEK I LOVED YOU and WHO GOES THERE, and IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF HARRISON DEXTROSE, which has been described as the new HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, and featured in the January cycle.

Event to start at 12.00 at Kings College London, full directions to be sent following booking confirmation. Please note that places limited to 30 writers.
Price: £100.00+VAT.

To book, email