Friday Poem – ‘Without Narcissus’, Rhiannon Hooson

without narcissus rhiannon hooson

Last night, we welcomed a chilly December in Chapter Arts, with Rhiannon Hooson reading poems from her debut collection, The Other CityIt seemed appropriate to have Friday’s Poem from this beguiling new release, for those who missed out.

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Rhiannon reading to a full house at December’s First Thursday event

the-other-city_quicksand-cover-copyWith a sharp focus and beautiful resonance, the deeply felt poems from The Other City  tend to travel in distinct streams: some reference and re-make narratives from classical Greek myth; some rework elements of Welsh history, both ancient, and modern. There are also a number of poems exploring the idea of otherness and the uncanny, where actions are done and undone, and the familiar made unfamiliar.

 

Without Narcissus

The lack of his blindness shocks the silver water black.
Your palm’s slap against its surface is looped silence:
bare shoulders with their heron stoop,
the wet ropes of your black hair, the empty water
and the stiff-leafed lilies which break for sharp fingers,
their pink throats silent and smiling. Speak.

Over the water the red rock leans and watches.
Your nails like fish-scales break against
the cool shadow of its noon, and the silence. Speak.
Even the fish have voices, even the rough
hush of the trees, even the birds.You press your body
to the dark-loomed sediment and learn its silence, touch the red
heat of your mouth to the rock and learn the syllables
of its unspeech. Speak.

Birds watch you writing the mangled sign of your name
wet hair strung across the tangled mats of cress,
white fingers and their fish-belly pallor, your white lips
kissed against the petals of the lilies.You can speak
their silence back to them so well, so well.

 

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Happy St David’s Day 2016

happy st davids day 2016

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus! Happy St David’s Day to one and all.

This is a day to celebrate Welshness, so that means warm Welsh cakes, bunches of fresh daffodils and one or two good Welsh books to read.

Why not celebrate this St David’s Day by investing in a new book published by one of the fabulous Welsh publishers? Visit your local bookshop or gwales.com to see the great selection of Welsh books out there.

happy St David's Day

 

Want to know more about our Welsh publishing friends? Read a little about each of them below.

Parthian’s long list of gorgeous titles include Rebecca F. John’s award-winning short story collection Clown’s Shoes.

Firefly Press have loads of great children’s books including Branford Boase-longlisted Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot.

Honno has a well-deserved reputation for publishing some of the best women’s literature in Wales.

Gwasg Carreg Gwalch publishes an astounding range of Welsh interest books for adults, children and visitors to Wales in both Welsh and English language.

Cinnamon are an innovative press, publishing fiction, poetry and non-fiction books, not defined by genre but by their ability to be thought-provoking and to say something new.

Gomer is the oldest publisher still running in Wales and publishes across the board with children’s titles, plays, poetry, bilingual books and more.

Graffeg have produced and published over 100 illustrated books since 2003, with titles about food, arts, culture, heritage and architecture, gardens, landscapes, photography, sport and lifestyle.

Y Lolfa started out as unofficial printers to the new, activist Welsh Language Society in the ’60s, and have evolved to produce an ever-widening range of popular books in both Welsh and English.

University of Wales Press publishes around 70 new books and journals a year, primarily in the fields of European studies, philosophy, literature, history, Welsh and Celtic studies.

And lastly there’s us here at Seren, bringing new poetry, fiction and non-fiction to you each year. From our list we suggest Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize-winner Significance, Man Booker Prize-longlisted The Last Hundred Days or Costa Poetry Award-winner My Family and Other Superheroes for some extra-special St David’s Day reading.

There is an astounding amount of literature produced in Wales each year, everything from fiction, to guide books, to scholarly material. We hope you find a new book to fall in love with this St David’s Day. Support Welsh publishing, because #WelshBooksMatter.

 

Five Tips for Budding Interns

Our Marketing Assistant, Jess, shares some tips for people seeking work experience in the publishing industry.

I’ve been lucky enough to witness both ends of the spectrum in the publishing industry; I’ve been an intern, and I’ve met several interns since I started working for Seren in December 2014. This doesn’t make me a publishing expert by a long shot, but all the same there are a few tips I can offer to those of you currently seeking work experience in the publishing industry.

1) Think Ahead

Most publishing houses are very busy, and slots for work experience fill up quickly. If you want some work experience for the first week in August, you’re not going to get it if you email a publishing house in the last week of July.

I’d recommend looking into internships around a year in advance. That might sound crazy, but that year will give you plenty of time to plan your transport and possibly your accommodation – all of the major publishing houses are in London, but not everyone lives there!

To give you an idea of the timescale you’re looking at, I interned with Parthian Books in the last week of July 2014, and I first contacted them in September 2013.

2) Look outside London

I know from experience that when you start looking into publishing work experience it can feel like every single publishing house that has ever existed is in London, but that’s not the case at all. If you’re a little concerned about seeking work experience because of your finances – paying to stay in London only to work for free isn’t ideal for most people – there is a solution: look for your nearest independent publishing houses.

There are independent publishing houses all over the UK, without exception; England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have their own independent publishing houses, and most of them will accept interns. In Wales alone Seren, Parthian, Honno, and the University of Wales Press all offer work experience.

We’re based in Bridgend, which is ideal for any of you who happen to live or study in south Wales; we’re only 20 minutes away from Cardiff on the train, so we get quite a few students from the Cardiff area, though anyone’s welcome to apply just so long as you’ve completed your A Levels!

Parthian Books‘ Marketing and Editorial Office, where I interned, is based on the Swansea University campus itself, so it’s ideal for those of you who study at Swansea or live in the area.

Honno Press specialises in books written by women and is based in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre – perfect for those of you who live or study in Aberystwyth!

University of Wales Press is based in Cardiff, and is ideal for anyone interested in academic publishing.

3) Research

You don’t have to read every single book that’s ever been published by the company you’re looking into – in fact you don’t have to read any unless you want to! – but at least give their website a little browse so you know the kind of books they publish; if you’re interested in academic publishing, you might not find a fortnight at a publishing house that specialises in children’s fiction all that helpful. (Although I have to admit that, personally, I think experience is experience, and you might discover a real passion for an area of publishing you hadn’t even considered before if you try something new!)

4) Don’t panic, Mr. Mainwaring!

When you at last secure that internship, I know it can be a little nerve-wracking stepping into a professional environment, no matter how many part time jobs you’ve had. Just remember: it’s work experience. Nobody expects you to be an expert in the publishing industry, otherwise there’d be no point in work experience at all, so don’t be afraid to ask questions – in fact we love it when people ask questions! The interns that want to know more about the industry are the interns we tend to remember most vividly, and if you make a real impression you might find yourself being considered for a job a little further down the line.

So smile, talk to us and ask questions – we don’t bite!

5) Do it all again!

Never stop looking for work experience, because every placement looks impressive on your CV, regardless of what it is. Perhaps you do a week of work experience in publishing and then a week on a hotel reception desk – that’s not going to lower your chances of getting a job in publishing! All that shows is that you’re willing to work; trust me, nothing will put your potential boss off hiring you more than a huge gap on your CV where you haven’t been at university, haven’t been employed, and haven’t done any internships or voluntary work.

The more work experience you do, the more networking you’ll do, and if you manage to secure several bouts of work experience in various different publishing houses you’ll have a whole host of professionals under your belt, and if they can’t offer you a job they can at least give you a glowing reference.

Tl;dr: Plan in advance, look all over the UK, do your research, ask questions, and keep on looking!

Good luck!

What Editors Want – Poetry

This year we’re doing a series of blog posts on what editors in the publishing world are looking for. In February we heard from our fiction editor, Penny Thomas, and today our poetry editor, Amy Wack, lets us know what she looks for in submissions.

Dazzle me.

Isn’t this what everyone wants out of art? I want the book that makes me sit up at my desk, that makes my skull tingle, that intrigues and enlightens me, that seduces me with a fiercely intelligent music.

There is also a sense that someone has put the hours in. This is the 10,000 hours that it takes to become proficient at any art or skill. It involves a lot of reading, thinking and writing every day, often for something like a decade.

Sometimes, a writer will show evidence of talent or flair, but just hasn’t put the hours in yet. Sometimes a writer will show evidence of having put the hours in, but they need something else, that elusive spark that ignites language with feeling and relevance.

Some artists are gifted (or cursed) with a strong, sometimes tragic subject matter: a dark past, a difficult childhood, a divorce, or death, a powerfully dark story. These poems can feel like they’ve come from a pressure-cooker. There is a powerful sense of inevitability about them. They aren’t just asking for our attention, they are compelling it.

Others are gifted with a more work-a-day talent, are slow burners, and their work will build in layers, become more consistent, and over time will come to encompass a distinctive body of work. They have the luck of not needing tragedy to evolve.

Do I really need to say anything about presentation? White paper, black ink, one page cover letter, large return envelope, enough return postage. Get poems in magazines before you dream of approaching a publisher. Get used to multiple rejections. Do not take it personally. Keep your day job. Be polite to the Editor, be polite to staff.

I love classical poetic form and rhyme used well. But I also liked to be surprised out of my inclinations and persuaded by new forms. I also really like poems that speak to the average reader and not just to some esoteric coeterie, so I have time for the whole spoken-word scene, as I feel like this is entirely the point of poetry.

So, speak some words to me!

Amy Wack, Poetry Editor

Revealing the Independent Publishers

Last week we put together some logos of six different independent publishers, some of them British and some of them not, to see if you could identify any of them by their logos alone. Today we’re going to reveal which publishers those logos belong to, and tell you just a little about them!

persephone books

Persephone Books was founded in 1999 by Nicola Beauman, whose original concept was to publish a handful of lost or out-of-print books each year. The majority of these books would be inter-war novels and short stories written by women, and so the name Persephone was chosen as a symbol for female creativity. Though they sell the majority of their books online, they also have a bookshop in London where they are based.

honno_logo

A little earlier, Honno Press was founded by a group of volunteers in 1986 who wanted to increase the opportunities for women in the realms of Welsh publishing. They asked for support from the Welsh public, and in the first 6 months 400 people became shareholders in the company. To this day they still only publish work by the womenof Wales, and have published everything from fiction to poetry to non-fiction. They are based in Aberystwyth.

tpp

Twelfth Planet Press are a little further afield – in Australia, to be exact! Founded in 2009 and based in Yokine, Western Australia, Twelfth Planet Press specialises in speculative fiction, whether it’s Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, or any sub genre in between! Their aim is to publish fresh fiction away from the typical work seen in the speculative fiction genre today, as well as to promote Australian fiction to a wider audience and give a louder voice to women writers.

2ravens

A little closer than that, Two Ravens Press is based in Scotland. Founded near Ullapool in 2006, they later moved to the Port of Ness in 2013. Quite possibly the most remote independent publisher in Britain, they publish contemporary literary fiction, non-fiction and poetry, some of which has won a variety of major literary awards.

gomer

Back to Wales now, to a publisher who may be a little more familiar to many of you. Gomer Press was founded back in 1892, and to this day it’s still run by the same family! They specialise in English and Welsh books for both children and adults, whether it’s fiction, non-fiction or poetry, and are based in Llandysul, west Wales.

Mercier

Based in Cork, Mercier Press are Ireland’s oldest independent publishers, having been around since 1944. Mercier rose to prominence publishing books which explored topics such as religion, women’s rights, domestic violence, the sexual revolution and drug abuse, some of which had previously been banned in Ireland. They publish both fiction and non-fiction, and offer an alternative voice to the Irish publishing world.

So, did you guess any correctly?

How Well Do You Know Your Independent Publishers?

When you go iPrintnto a bookshop and see our signature star on one of the spines, we hope you immediately think of us and know that the book you’re about to pick up has been published by an independent publisher that prizes quality over quantity and individuality over hype.

But how well do you know your independent publishers? If you were given nothing but a logo, could you identify a specific publisher?

Below are the logos of six independent publishers – some of them are British, and some of them are international – how many of them do you know? Leave your guesses in the comments below. You have until next week!

publog1publog2 (1)

Happy Indie Book Day!

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Our Marketing Assistant, Jess, shares her thoughts on why it’s worth supporting our independent publishers.

Today it’s Indie Book Day!

In a world where the big names in publishing are producing bestsellers and you can sit back and wait for an online store to deliver them to your house, why should we support our independent businesses?

The first thing we must remember about publishing is that it’s a business like any other. Businesses succeed when they make money, and they make money by producing products that sell. When something is successful in the publishing world, it appears in everything; would vampires have been everywhere were it not for the commercial success of Twilight? No. Would dystopia have made a comeback were it not for the popularity of The Hunger Games? Definitely not.

This isn’t bad by any means. Publishers will only produce what is selling, and if a particular genre or sub-genre is selling then we can assume that it’s also being read and enjoyed because, ultimately, publishers wouldn’t exist without their readers. However, for the readers out there who aren’t interested in the hype – the readers who don’t like vampires and have enough problems with their own government to worry about anyone else’s – it’s easy to get a little lost when it comes to finding what you want to read next. How are you supposed to find those hidden gems when they’re rarely being talked about?

For the independent publisher, however, the hidden gem is their specialty. The independent publisher can watch the hype, even support it, and then publish books that they believe are worth reading, regardless of whether or not they fit into what’s currently most popular. When you support your independent publisher, what you’re also supporting is individuality. You’re supporting books that might not otherwise get the attention they deserve because they don’t include male leads who sparkle.

I won’t go so far as to say independent publishers are ‘better’, because frankly I think that’s petty, but they are businesses that produce content for the readers out there who want something just a little different. It’s for that reason that I’m proud to work for an independent publisher, and I hope you’re proud to support them.

Happy Indie Book Day!

Top 5 Tips for Getting a Job in Publishing

Our Marketing Assistant, Jess, shares some tips on getting into the publishing industry after university.

It happens to the best of us. You’re enjoying student life, living on spaghetti hoops, cereal, and that questionable looking meat at the back of your fridge that you found for a suspiciously cheap price at the local supermarket. You’ve grown out of the ‘going to lectures in your pyjamas’ stage, but you still feel like a child playing at being a grown up, snuggled comfortably in the safety net that is higher education.

Then it hits you: you’re in your final year of uni. You need to start looking for a job.

Not to worry, my friend, we’ve all been there, and if you think the publishing industry is for you then you’re in luck: here are my Top 5 Tips for Getting a Job in Publishing. From one ex-student to another!

Work Experience

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by the amount of people who are interested in publishing and yet never do any sort of placement, even if it’s just for a few days. The truth is you’re not going to know if publishing’s for you unless you give it a try; the last thing you want is to apply for a job you think you’ll love, only to discover too late that you’ve never hated anything more.

Plus most placements will give you the opportunity to find out which area of publishing you’re the most interested in – you might go into a placement expecting to like Publicity and finding yourself enjoying Marketing more, and once you know that you have a better idea of which vacancies you should be keeping an eye out for!

And perhaps most importantly, work experience gives you the chance to network. You’ll never leave a placement without a few new contacts under your belt, and with any luck one of those contacts could eventually become your employer.

If you’re thinking ‘but I can’t afford to do unpaid work in London’ then you needn’t worry. Our office is based in Bridgend and there are plenty of independent publishers all over the UK, so have a snoop around – you never know what you might find just around the corner!

Get Involved

Do you have your own blog? Do you review the books you read? Have you written for your uni magazine? Are you involved in any societies?

Don’t worry, the answer to all those questions doesn’t have to be a resounding yes. The point I’m trying to make is make sure you get involved in things outside your lectures and use them to build up your CV. Who knows, the fact that you were the Vice President of the Belly Dancing Society might just single you out from the other applicants.

Basically, if you’re interested in being an editor, for example, it certainly wouldn’t hurt if you’d already done some editing for your local newspaper!

Be Realistic

I know from experience that those are the two words no student ever wants to hear, not when your friends and family are telling you that you can do anything. The truth is you can’t expect to go straight into a high-flying job, so don’t be put off if the only vacancies you can find are positions as Editorial Assistants or Marketing Assistants – we all have to start somewhere! Just get your foot in the door, and then you can work your way up to your dream job.

And if we’re being honest, isn’t that way more satisfying than getting everything handed to you on a plate?

Be Open-Minded

So you want to be an Editor, but the only vacancies you can find are in Publicity. Apply anyway! If you’ve done your fair share of work experience there won’t be anything about a different department that’s too alien or intimidating for you, and there’s always the chance that you’ll be able to move between departments. Alternately, you may find yourself enjoying the job you have more than the one you initially wanted!

Keep Trying

And lastly, getting a job in publishing can be hard. We all know that in this climate it’s not unheard of for more than a hundred people to be vying for one job. If you don’t get the job you wanted first time around it doesn’t mean you never will, just keep gaining work experience and keep applying. You’ll get there!

Good luck!