Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Did I mention it has my name on it" revisited

The jacket for The Ambulance Box has been revised, so I've replaced the photo in the post below with the new version. Also, the PDF sample is now available.

Children's Christmas Book Tree

Just seen this in an e-mail newsletter from Edinburgh International Book Festival. Looks like a great idea but, unfortunately, it finishes today!

Blackwell's Bookshop on South Bridge, Edinburgh, are working with City of Edinburgh Council, Edinburgh Women's Aid and Edinburgh Young Carers to help make Christmas a little better for disadvantaged local children. The Children's Christmas Book Tree scheme means that children who will be living in difficult circumstances at Christmas, who have caring responsibilities beyond their years or those who won't be at home for Christmas and will have few personal possessions, will each receive a book to treasure.

The children have each put their Christmas wishes for a book on a gift tag which is then hung on a Christmas tree in the store. All you need to do is choose a book which you think the child will really appreciate, from dinosaurs to fairies, Jacqueline Wilson to James and the Giant Peach. Staff in the children's department will be more than happy to help with selections. You then pay for the chosen book and leave it with staff in store who will ensure that it gets wrapped, before being distributed to the right child for Christmas day.

If you are keen to donate a book, there's not much time left: the scheme finishes on 21 December. Those of you who can't make it to the store can ring Blackwell's on 0131 622 8222, ask to speak to the children's department, and donate a book over the phone.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Did I mention it has my name on it?

Things are moving on apace with The Ambulance Box, folks. No sooner had I dispatched my second proofs, than third proofs and a first cover design appeared in my inbox. (Okay, I confess to a slight exaggeration there. There was a time lag of a few days.)

The cover looks as fabulous as all those other Salt jackets I've drooled over in the past few years but it has my name on it!

This afternoon, the web page for the book went live. It has my face on it, courtsey of the marvellous marc marnie. You can also read descriptions of the collection there, along with a brief biographical note and enblurbments. There's a PDF sample and you can read a poem from the book and see the table of contents. I'm delighted with how it's all coming together. Publication date is 1 March 2009, as you know, so don't be deceived by the big BUY NOW! button. We go to press in the new year. Look out for further updates and details of readings here.

Did I mention I was excited?

By Pods We Live

Ryan Van Winkle, the Scottish Poetry Library's reader in residence, has just produced the first SPL podcast. Check it out here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Messiaen's Birthday

I can't let today pass without noting that it would have been the 100th birthday of that great 20th century composer Olivier Messiaen, a favourite of mine. I've blogged before about what makes him so great for me, and my enthusiasm only deepens the more I hear his music.

Radio 3 is celebrating the centenary in suitable style: Messiaen was Composer of the Week last week (download the podcast here while you can) and his Quartet for the End of Time was the subject of Discovering Music on Sunday, but there is much more besides. And this after a summer and autumn already packed with Messiaen pieces! I'd be in heaven if I had the time and space to listen to them all.


Katy Evans-Bush's virtual book tour has got off to a glowing winter start with a short but delightful interview at the North Meadow Media blog. I just had to write down the following and share it with you:

Word play opens up the language itself, like a pile of roasted chestnuts, for our delectation.

Isn't that lovely? So evocative. I'll never be able to pun again without thinking of that wonderful, warm, sweet aroma.

You can find the rest of the dates for Katy's tour here on Salt's new Cyclone sub-site. And don't forget that those of us far from the metropolitan mayhem of the south have an opportunity to catch her in person at the Great Grog in June 2009 reading from her collection Me and the Dead.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Essay and Much More

It's a good season for poetry on Radio 3. The Essay last week was deeply under the influence: five contemporary poets each on a poet who influenced them. I'd recommend in particular Michael Symmons Roberts on David Jones; WN Herbert on Edwin Morgan (don't ask me what the picture of Eilean Donan castle is about!); and Menna Elfyn on T Gwynn Jones. But hurry up and listen before they fall off the end of the iPlayer, which starts happening tomorrow.

But that's just the canape in comparison to the cornucopia of programmes on and/or involving work by Milton up till the end of the year. His shorter poems are being dropped into Breakfast and Afternoon on 3. They started in earnest with the Sunday Feature tonight, to which I'm listening as I write this, and continue with the Essay this week.

A Conversation about Dreams

That ever-stylish blogger and Salt poet Katy Evans-Bush embarks tomorrow on a virtual book tour to promote her collection Me and the Dead. The tour, entitled "A Conversation About Dreams" will include feature interviews, pictures, audio, poems, jokes and a few serious moments -- everything you'd expect from an in-person book tour expect flesh-pressing signing sessions. The tour kicks off tomorrow at North Meadow blog. It should be well worth following Ms B's virtual progress, which I'm sure will also find its comment on Baroque in Hackney.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Salting the Ground

For any Facebook user interested in contemporary literary publishing -- especially writers who hope to be published -- Chris Hamilton-Emery's notes should be essential reading. They are a blog in the strictest sense, a log of daily ups and downs that gives a fascinating insight into the struggle of juggling family life and the heavy demands of running one of the most vibrant literary presses in the UK. Chris's openness about those demands and the precarious economics of the enterprise is impressive. Take this, from yesterday's note:

I thought I'd write a note on sales here, too. Each Salt title represents about £2,000 investment that's cost of sales and a share of the overhead. It means that every title has to do a lot of work to break even. Discounts vary from 20% to 60% dependent on the route to market (or sales channel) and the sales of individual volumes can vary hugely. Average first year sales are 200 copies. Some sell 1,000 copies, many sell around 150. Too many sell less than 50 copies. A few sell less than 5 copies. We need to sell around 310 copies to break even in the UK, 800 in Australia and 600 in the USA. That's before we make any money to pay for the next lot of books and to continue the publishing programme, never mind any capital we need for IT or new ventures. Making those sales is the toughest thing Jen and I have ever done.

Hard truth, isn't it? But it's best that we writers not be under any illusions about how hard everyone -- especially us -- has to work to make our books a success. And maybe it makes us think hard about what we define as success.

More impressive still is the quality and variety of the Salt poetry and fiction lists. Yes, yes, I would say that, but you don't have to take my word for it: check out the many links here to reviews of Salt titles in the broadsheets and elsewhere or the prizes for which Salt authors have been shortlisted and have won. Check out too what David Morley, for example, has to say here about Jane Holland's new collection Camper Van Blues and Isobel Dixon’s A Fold in the Map. An embarrassment of riches, I'm sure you'll agree, and a truly international one at that.

Most importantly of all, get yourself down to the Salt online shop (here for customers in the USA) and avail yourself of that fantastic pre-Christmas offer: 33% off all books. You all know how essential Salt is in a cold and icy winter like this one.

What's New on Tonguefire