2021 Year in Review (Part 2 of 3)
In which Valley Press founder Jamie McGarry continues his three-part “year in review” with a look at our spring 2021 publications. (Part 1 is here.)
In last week’s blog I started to recap our publishing year, and with exactly twelve books left to mention and things getting a touch frosty outside, I feel compelled to add a more seasonal edge to part two. I’m talking about this sort of thing:
“On the fourth day of Christmas, I purchased from VP: Essence of an Hour, Siphonophore, Jo Brandon’s Cures, and Suddenly While Living.”
I believe that scans perfectly with the original, and so does the next title I’ll be discussing, so be sure to sing This New North as loudly and enthusiastically as you would normally attempt “five gold rings” when we get to the full song next week. In fact, here’s a deal: if we sell two dozen books between now and Tuesday 14th, I will dust off my tiny electronic piano, don a festive hat, and force the VP team to record this song for you at our last staff meeting of the year.
With that in mind, onto the books: This New North features short stories from our neighbours up here in northern England, with a few established writers joining twelve graduates of the Northern Short Story Festival Academy programme — referred to in the blurb as “brand new” writers, which must be taken as a compliment! We love working with the NSSF crew and this is a high-quality read for any proud northern readers (or the north-curious). It was even shortlisted for an award, can’t argue with that!
Next up was Wherever We Are When We Come to the End (which might be trickier to fit into the song), Richard Barnett’s reimagining of Wittgenstein’s philosophy as poetry, which is much more accessible than you might think. It is also ‘ingenious, devastating, and filled with emotional riches’, according to author and philosophy graduate Sarah Bakewell, and there’s a host of poetic luminaries on the book’s homepage waxing even more lyrical than they usually do about the incredible achievement contained within this slim volume.
The Layers is the debut novel from Stephen Reynolds, in which he set out to “de-normalise loss” but also to celebrate the human connections that are such an important part of all our lives; exploring how they shape us and what remains after the person has left our side. It’s a love story in the very largest sense, and has 20 five-star reviews on Amazon at present with phrases like “thought-provoking” and “beautifully written” appearing several times. (Incidentally, both of the last two books I mentioned are available in audio format, great for anyone who might receive Audible vouchers over the holidays. You’ll find links on their book pages.)
As we moved into the summer, we teamed up once again with the students of York St John’s University for the latest editions of cutting-edge anthologies Beyond the Walls and the York Literary Review. With more than 30 students now on their Publishing MA course, YSJ has officially become the beating heart of publishing in North Yorkshire, and it’s been a colossal privilege to be part of that. These annual titles are expected to move to our York-centered imprint Lendal Press for 2022, where they will continue to be in good hands and worked on even more closely by the talented student population.
Finally, I must return your gaze to Particles of Wonder, the second collection by poet and compulsive sign writer Mark Waddell. This was my big editorial project for the year, which started with the arrival of a large heavy parcel which the receptionist mistook for a delivery of printer paper. Nope! It was a copy of every poem Mark had written in the half-decade since we finished On the Cusp of Greatness. Having such a huge selection to choose from means the poems ultimately featured in Particles — each one thrusting a dazzlingly weird and original concept towards a killer punchline — are the absolute cream of the crop, and this collection comes highly recommended to anyone who enjoys a walk on the absurd side of life.
We’ve now made it all the way through to July, but I will save discussion of our big eco-anthology and the wonderful volumes that followed it for next week (editor’s note: part three can now be found here). Until then, stay safe and stay warm, and remember to point your friends in the direction of our shop if you want to hear that singalong…