Monday, 29 March 2010

It's good news week at the big W

Except it will soon be a small w. Waterstone's has announced a rebranding programme, moving to lower case "w" as the logo. The will be "rolling out a new brand", having announced that "It's important that we re-engage with our customers in a much more impactful way", getting away from the "stifling homogeneity" of the recent past. Never mind the dreadful construction "much more impactful way", this is good news for all readers, most publishers, Waterstone's (or is that now to be waterstone's?) staff, and people who write real books.
Provided budget follows promise, it looks like a return to more autonomous branches, which can better reflect the book buying public locally. There are nice words being said about working with local publishers and local writers and a significant reduction in floor space devoted to price promotions. I assume that with the closure of Borders there is less need for price promotion. But even the announcement that branches can put up their own best-sellers list indicates a return to trusting branch staff who have in the past had to cope with merciless centralisation and big redundancies.
A big independent in every town and city would be great, but that is not going to happen, so the health of the Waterstone's chain is important. Some have argued that the business model of Borders/Waterstone's is over. Maybe, but these changes will give the chain a fighting chance to survive. And make it nicer to work there.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Evelyn Gibbs

After Laura Knight, Evelyn Gibbs was probably Nottinghamshire second most important woman artist. She was a member of the left-wing Artists' International Association, the Women's International Art Club, founded the Midland Group in Nottingham and was a well known war artist. Her long-hidden murals at St Martin of Tours in Bilborough are due to be renovated and made public again.
Pauline Lucas has been the main person keeping Gibbs' work alive, through her Five Leaves' biography, talks and occasional exhibitions.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The lit

The day after States of Independence it was off to Edinburgh where the Edinburgh Jewish Literary Society ("the lit", had an evening devoted to Five Leaves' The Sea of Azov. Anne Joseph, the editor, was there (eagerly looking forward to her 7.00am flight back to London the next day), as was Ellen Galford, a local contributor. Ellen is the author of one of the best-titled books ever, The Dyke and the Dybbuk. Together with fellow "lit" members Elaine Samuel and Leslie Danziger Ellen read chunks of The Sea of Azov as a backdrop to a discussion on Jewish short stories internationally.
"The lit" has been going since 1888, naturally with ups and downs, but it has always been the place for debate, argument and a home for the secularists as well as those of religious bent. A number of the current members are Yiddishists, a number are also academics from the University - that being something of a tradition. This session was the last of the year-long season but any Jews (or those interested in Jewish culture) in that part of the world might want to make sure they get next year's programme. There's a history too, published in its centenary year The Lit. at Home, available from bookshops using 0 902528 19 X as a reference.

Another one bites the dust

States of Independence in Leicester on Saturday - see blogs passim - was a big success. Thanks to all the stall holders, speakers, table carriers and fellow organisers for making it so, especially the Creative Writing Team at De Montfort University. There have been a number of blog entries about it, but none more likely to give me a big head than the following: I'm usually a modest bloke with a lot to be modest about but on this rare occasion I'll also immodestly add a photo of me in action. The bloke with his eyes beginning to glaze over is Stephen Hill, a writer from Lowdham.
More seriously, the event was a success, with getting on for 400 attending, many for several hours. Most of the 40 stall holders I have spoken to did well in sales, in contacts, in future arrangements and many of the talks and readings were packed. 70-80% of those attending were probably from Leicestershire, but we do know of people attending from Newham, Manchester, Birmingham all various places in the East Midlands.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Up all night

Busy at 4.35am on the night of Sunday 21st March? Thought not. In that case why not listen to Up All Night on Radio 5 with Jenny Swann and Andy Croft reading from The Night Shift. For their sake I am glad to say it is a pre-recorded programme, though some might say that is being a bit pathetic. People should suffer for their art. Those with other commitments at that time can find the programme via I player for seven days afterwards.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Stanely Middleton 1919-2009: a celebration

The handsome chap with the sideburns and the book collection is Stanley at the time he was joint winner of the Booker Prize for Holiday.
Five Leaves and others, in cooperation with the Middleton family, are organising a celebration of his life, 2.00-4.30 on Saturday May 8th at the Djanogly Lecture Theatre, Lakeside, University of Nottingham NG7 2RD.
Stanley lived in Nottingham all his life, save for his war service. He worked as an English teacher yet still wrote a published novel nearly every year from 1958 onwards.
The celebration will include live music from Stanley's granddaughter, the soprano Caroline Danks, accompanied by Nicholas Danks on piano. There will be readings from his published work, unpublished letters and his poetry.
For a period Stanley's Holiday was on Five Leaves' list before reverting to Hutchinson. We had re-issued it for his 80th birthday together with the festschrift Stanley Middleton at Eighty. There are still a few copies of the latter available. Only on typing this did I realise that all the speakers and readers at the celebration have been regularly or occasionally published by Five Leaves, including David Belbin, John Lucas, Sue Dymoke, Barry Cole, Philip Davis and Tamar Hodes, while Paul Binding is currently working on a commission for the press. That is rather pleasing.
For further information and to reserve a place see All are welcome to attend. There will be refreshments and the event is free.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

East Midlands Book Award

The East Midlands Book Award, an independent, annual award will be first awarded in 2011 for the best book of 2010. £1000 will be given to a writer of fiction (including work aimed at young people), creative non-fiction, or poetry. The aim of the award is to promote writers who live in the East Midlands, to raise the profile of the thriving literary scene in the region, and to reward exceptional work.
Nominations are invited from local and national publishers. A panel of judges will be chosen each year to shortlist submissions and make the final award. A shortlist of up to eight books will be announced in April of each year and promoted through bookshops, libraries and reading groups. An award ceremony will be held each June – in the first year at the Lowdham Book Festival in 2011.
The judges will be announced shortly. Contact Antonia Bell for further information at
• To be eligible books must have been physically published between January 1 and December 31 of the year preceding the award.
• Nominations must have been received between March 1 and December 1 of the year preceding the prize award.
• Send covering letter and three copies of the book to:EMBA Writing East Midlands 49 Stoney St The Lace Market Nottingham NG1 1LX
• The covering letter needs to simply state East Midlands Book Award, relevant contact details for the agent or publisher, and the address of the writer.
• Judges may call in other eligible works but, otherwise, late submissions will not be considered.
• Books must be submitted by agents or publishers, nominations from individuals will not be considered.
• Self-published books are not eligible.
• Work by writers under sixteen is not eligible for this award.
• Three copies of each nominated book must be submitted.
• To be eligible for the award, the book’s author must be on the electoral register in one of the East Midlands’ counties (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, and Rutland) during the period of publication.
Non- residents are not eligible.
Notes: The term ‘creative non-fiction’ will be generously interpreted by the judges but is not intended to include guide books, textbooks, anthologies or similar. Edited anthologies would normally be ineligible, save for collections where the majority of the writers and the editor(s) live within the region.
The trustees of the award are David Belbin, Ross Bradshaw, John Lucas and Jane Streeter, each acting in an individual capacity. This independent book award is administered by Writing East Midlands.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Jazz Jews - the movie

Well You Tube anyway. This is the book launch. I'm the guy in the blue shirt doing the introduction. When I put this up the counter on You Tube said the introduction had not been viewed, which is a mistake, as of course the man in the blue shirt has viewed it several times:
Clare Shaw is the singer - the canary in jazz parlance. There is still one song from the launch to go up, her arrangement of Strange Fruit, written by the Jewish Abel Meerepol in 1936, and introduced to Billie Holiday in 1939 by the integrated night club owner Barney Josephson, and recorded by Milt Gabler on Commodore in the same year, which history in itself makes some points about jazz Jews and their relationship to the black community.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

World Book Day - Berlie Doherty

Congratulations to Berlie Doherty on being appointed as the first Derbyshire Reading Champion, tomorrow on World Book Day. The appointment is for two years and during this time Berlie will act as an advocate and champion reading within Derbyshire and beyond, raising the profile of reading and libraries. She will participate in a number of high profile events with children and families as well as training events for staff and partnership activities.
Berlie is a Five Leaves' "irregular" - most of her books are with other publishers but we were pleased to publish her crime novel for young adults, A Beautiful Place for a Murder. The beautiful place in question is Derbyshire of course. Indeed the book is set in her home of Edale, and some real local residents happily have walk on parts in the book. The book started as a short story in our regional young adult fiction anthology In the Frame, before it grew into a full size book. It was shortlisted for the Bolton Book Award and is in its second printing already.

We will be publishing a Five Leaves' edition of Berlie's picture book Blue John, also set in Derbyshire. By tomorrow would be good, but it might be a little longer.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Ricahrd Hollis joins Five Leaves

Richard Hollis has been in publishing, or on its fringes, for 50 years. He has worked as a printer, art editor, production manager, teacher and lecturer. His first complete book designs were for Weidenfeld and Andre Deutsch. This was in the early 1960s, a time when he went on to design a series of covers for Penguin and, after a year in Paris in Galeries Lafayette's publicity studio, became art editor of New Society. As well as teaching at the London College of Printing and at the Central School of Art and Design, he was art director of Pluto Press and for a short time design and production director at Faber and Faber. In the 1970s he worked with John Berger on several books, which began with his Booker-winning G and included his best-seller Ways of Seeing. Hollis has designed art catalogues for Bridget Riley and the Whitechapel Art Gallery. This summer he worked on a book for the British artist Steve McQueen at the Venice Biennale. For forty years Richard Hollis made the layout and covers for Ted Hughes and Daniel Weissbort’s quarterly Modern Poetry in Translation. He does the typesetting for his wife Posy Simmonds’s graphic novels including Tamara Drewe, now being filmed by Stephen Frears. His first three books appear under his own name, but under the umbrella of Five Leaves. Two are connected with Ted Hughes and with a single London house. The memoir of Ted Hughes is written by Daniel Huws, the tenant of the flat where Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath stayed. Susan Alliston, the author of the second book, for which Ted Hughes wrote an introduction, at a later date, also lived in the house. The third book, a memoir of his experiences in the Holocaust is by Romek Marber, designer responsible for the basic style across most of the Penguin covers in the early 1960s and in the following twenty years.

States of Independence