A Guide to Indie Presses 2016/17

My experience with the Indie press has served me well: a novel, my first, from Flambard (sadly now no longer) a collection of short stories from Iron Press and this year a new novel, Sometimes A River Song,  published by the terrific Indie, Linen Press.

If you haven’t heard of them before you have now –  ‘Linen Press is a small, independent publisher run by women, for women. Our policy is to encourage and promote women writers and to give voice to a wide range of perspectives and themes that are relevant to women.’

As writers increasingly turn to the small presses in the hope of publication, Mslexia have produced what looks like an invaluable guide to Indie Presses 2016/17

‘Indie Presses 2016/17 is a comprehensive catalogue of more than 400 independent literary presses operating right now in the UK and the Republic of MslexiaIreland. Compiled by the team at Mslexia, it’s a vital resource for all writers, men and women alike.

If you’re wondering where to submit your poems or short fiction, if you’ve completed a pamphlet or full-length collection, or a novel, biography or memoir that you’d like to see published, this guide gives you all the information you need.’

What’s inside?

A comprehensive catalogue of more than 400 independent literary presses operating right now in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Indie Presses 2016/17 provides details of around 200 literary magazines and 250 small independent book publishers (some magazine publishers also produce books).




Word Power Books and International Women’s Day

I’m looking forward very much to celebrating International Women’s Day next Tues, March 8th in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, at a dinner 348sorganised by independent bookstore Word Power Books and Sister Acts, in the

‘lovely Spoon restaurant. There will be a chance to meet other women, catch up and enjoy a dinner with songs, poetry and performance. Our Sister Acts is an open mic slot so come prepared!’






If you’re around then why not join us? I’ll be with Liz Rao assistant editor at Linen Press. I’ll be reading from my new novel, Sometimes a River Song, due for publication in April and Liz will be taking pre-orders.

Me and the river and no one else seeing or listening. I catch its song at the edge of the day, rose light of dawn, blue light of dusk . I walk without rest. Blood and blisters on my feet…  Sometimes a River Song


Linen Press at the British Library – Contemporary Small Presses…

I’m still buzzing and full of inspiration after Saturday’s, Contemporary Small Press, event for readers and writers at The British Library. So much to say and commend so where to begin? With Linen Press of course, after all they’re publishing my latest novel and I couldn’t be happier about being published by the only Indie Press for Women in the UK!

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Right to left – editor Lynn Michell, assistant editor Liz Rao

Lynn Michell, founder of the press and my kind but astute editor, spoke eloquently about setting the press up, about kitchen tables, and gas fires, about the big five and crowd pleasers, and about taking risks. Because that’s what small presses do – they take risks. They take risks on writers like me and books like mine.

Linen Press author Susie Nott Bower challenged the taboo of ageing and read from  The Making of Her – assuring us we could, ‘re-invent ourselves at any age.’

Galley Beggar Press, editor Sam Jordison, along with author of the much lauded novel, Playthings Alex Pheby

postprovided some of the day’s best quotes, seen here. Galley Beggar’s  questions are much like those of Linen Press and they’re music to the writer’s ears – they ask, ‘not who someone is, or whether something is going to make it into the supermarkets. Rather, … whether this is an author we want, a novel we love.’

In the afternoon we were presented with unique handmade books from Westminster students including my personal favourite from the inspirational bookartist and poet  Sandhya.

And then author of Foxy T (which I’m about to read) Tony White read his funny yet moving story, The Holborn Cenotaph, and introduced us to the delights of Piece of Paper Press.

‘Piece of Paper Press is an artists’ book project that I started in 1994 as a lo-tech, sustainable imprint that could be used to occasionally publish new writings and visual or graphic works by artists and writers and distribute them free.’ Yes you heard it – Free!

And so it was books, books of all kinds, books for readers who do not want to be dictated to by the big five, books for women, books by people who believe in their beauty, who believe that writers need nurturing and editing, books that celebrate a low-tec, sustainable model without sacrificing the quality of the writing, books that take risks – and book people of course and wine after –  a perfect Saturday.

Textiles in Rajasthan

sari clothRajasthan is known the world over for its textiles, above is a quilt made from old saris. Below a woman in the town of Bagru prints from ancient wood blocks and the proprieter of the workshop demonstrates the depth of the indigo pit where fabics are dyed



We are not the first visitors to this textile emporium. Richard Gere visited before us and was reputed to have bought 90 pieces. According to the owner they were ‘for his concubines’ !!


Eclectic Iron

Yes, it’s this year’s Iron festival and at at 7.30 on Friday evening in the RNLI building in Cullercoats I will be reading from my short story collection Millie and Bird – really looking forward to reading in this wonderful building so close to the sea and I hope to see you there. Tickets for all events are selling fast so book now!

‘Following the roaring success of the 2013 IRON AGE Festival, which won Best Event Tyneside Award in The Journal Culture Awards 2014 and was described by writer David Almond as “the best festival I’ve ever read at” (and he’s read at a lot globally), we’re delighted to announce Eclectic IRON – a Festival of Words, Music & Oddities. Full programme – and it is a very full programme! – and how to book now published.

The Festival will take place at six different venues facing onto the beautiful Cullercoats Bay from Thursday June 4 to Sunday June 7, 2015 and once again there’s a heady mix of the famous, the grass-roots, the curious and the downright bizarre.’

Now I’m not sure which of the above catogories I fit into – famous I think not  – maybe grass-roots – I settle for that… :)

Ten Things I Loved About Fictions of Every Kind

On Tuesday I read at a Fictions of Every Kind Evening in Leeds – it was a great night – here are just 10 things I loved about it


1.The uber cool venue – Wharf Chambers ‘arguably Leeds’ most ‘underground’ bar!’ (Justin R) It’s in Wharf Street off Kirkgate which contains the only surviving remains of medieval Leeds.

lamp2.The vintage standard lamp and shade you stand next to when you read.

3.The democracy of the open mic – there were some great and brave readings (it takes guts to get up there) – my personal favourite was Finn’s. Great to talk with her too.

4.Meeting the lovely and talented writer Zoe Lambert and likewise writer and organiser S J Bradley

5.The encouragement cards and pens on elastic, for open mic readers – ‘Do what you love…Don’t listen to anybody else who tells you not to do it’ ‘You don’t learn to write in College,’ Ray Bradbury.

6. These Men – the brilliant and amusing acappella band. Check them out HERE.

7. Going with my daughter and her partner – they live and works in Leeds, so a night out with them is a real treat.

8. Reading to a truly appreciative audience – it’s always a buzz, and this was no exception.

9. Talking to Dulcie and her mum – I really enjoyed being around so many young people who are so serious about writing and love it so much.

10. The crowd – back to Justin R here: ‘the crowd can get a bit ‘hippyish’ at times; full of anarchists, vegans, ageing hippies, poets, underground artists, socialists, etc.’

My kind of place – thanks so much for having me. And of course I should have added, it all happened here in the NORTH!

Why Writers Should Never Give Up – Eimear McBride

In my last blog post 15 Things We Should Stop Doing as Writers   I wrote, under the heading of 12. Giving Up,  –

‘all the best writers suffer rejection, for some the rejections run into double figures but nonetheless they persist. So while we are busy writing the next thing, we should still persist in our attempts to find an agent, or a home for our latest story, a publisher for our novel. Take Eimear Mc Bride: McBride wrote A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing in just six months, but it took nine years to get it published. Galley Beggar Press of Norwich, finally picked it up in 2013. In 2014 it won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.’

I knew nothing of Eimear McBride until she won the Bailey’s Prize, and I wasn’t alone in this. She came out of obscurity published by a small independent press. If you would like to know more about her and her literary heritage you can read an excellent interview HERE in The White Review.

When I first downloaded A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing I was put off by the first few pages. They were too demanding, too experimental. It defied all my ideas about how novels should begin. I felt it was asking too much of the reader and it was going to require reading energy I didn’t have. More recently, I came back to it – I think I knew along this was a book I had to read – and very quickly I was hooked. McBride re-invents language – guttural and thick her language sticks in your throat while dazzling and holding you with its brilliance. At odd times it’s impenetrable but nonetheless the story captivates and compels you forward. It is fiction not memoir but for me it’s as if McBride rips out her soul (yours too) and lays it on the page. This is a raw, haunting novel that moved me to tears and there is so much to learn from her example:

Her persistence should inspire us all– She worked consistently hard on the novel (see interview). After it was finished it took her 7 years before she even began to be resigned to it not being published.

She was uncompromising and brave –  She took risks, was experimental, wrote what she believed in. She broke the rules. It was turned down by all the major publishing houses – it was described as unmarketable. She refused to do a re-write or allow it to be marketed as memoir just to get published.

Her heart is on the page – she did not hold back – she was not afraid, or if she was, she went ahead anyway.

She is a writer of integrity, who did not give up

Of course this approach to writing will not necessarily bring success in the conventional terms of publication or prizes but it will bring the satisfaction of writing what we love and believe in, of writing with integrity. It’s time we stopped concerning ourselves with what the big publishers want because after all they are mostly just chasing the money. Hooray for writers like McBride and for the Independents – like Galley Beggar Press.

And whatever you do, don’t GIVE UP.



My Writing Process – Blog Tour

Today is ‘My Writing Process,‘ blog tour day, when writers post about their writing process. Last week, the inspired Wendy Robertson, posted hers.  Thank you Wendy for inviting me on your Writing Process blog tour. Click here for Wendy’s Post


Q. What am I working on?

From writing with love final cover smallI’m currently in the final stages of completing and publishing my book on writing, From Writing With Love. This is a book I’ve been wanting to write for some time now, so I’m delighted to already have published it on Kindle, just this weekend,  and I’m now continuing with the Create Space process of producing the hard copy. From Writing With Love is a book that’s really close to my heart. I suppose it’s the teacher in me that won’t go away, still wanting  the buzz I get from helping and inspiring others.

What I’ve tried to do within it’s pages are chart my own writing journey in ways which I hope will resonate with both would- be writers and  more experienced writers. It’s the story of how I fell in love with writing, how a writer can find her voice and how I came dangerously close to falling out of love after rejections and disappointments. In it I offer new ways of defining and achieving success in our writing and of believing in ourselves. I talk about going Indie. I’ve also included everything I’ve learned along the way: all the craft, all the things I wish I’d known better at the outset, everything I’ve learned about writing short stories and novels.

This coming week I will finally get back to some fresh writing. I’ve recently written one or two darker stories and they seem to have led me to begin exploring connections with fairy tales. I’m very excited by this and by the prospect of new creative work.

Q. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not very comfortable with the idea of putting writing into boxes. I don’t think of myself as writing in any particular genre. I write what I want to write, whatever project most appeals, this includes poetry which is on the back burner just now but which I know I want to explore much more fully in the future. The good thing about working in this way is that each thing I do influences the next, across genre boundaries. So for instance when I wrote my crime novel Blood Tide I learned so much about pace and constructing plot that I can take into  a new novel with me.

Q. Why do I write what I do? 

I write what I do because of who I am. I’m drawn to writing about the lives of people living on the margins and I think this reflects my long years of working in a women’s prison. As do the darker elements in my work

My writing is often inspired by place. I am always excited by new a landscape and when I was growing up my happiest times were out of doors, in the countryside or by the sea. I spent my childhood in a very watery place and I find when I’m writing, water often flows onto the page, as does  a love of the natural world, especially birds, and gardens too.

Q How does your writing process work?

I’m not strict about writing every day but I write most days, mostly because I can’t resist it. I write the majority of my first drafts in notebooks and I like to get out to cafes or bars to do this. I often do the really creative stuff out of the house and then come back to transcribe onto the machine. When I’m writing short stories I try to stay loose with ideas and not over think them in the early stages. I try to live with characters for a while, let them settle into my head and I try not to anticipate the story ahead. So when I come to write the story it’s a journey of discovery for me as I have no idea where it will end.

I also draft  my novels in a notebook first. For me once you get onto a machine it’s too tempting to start editing too early. The same with poetry. I keep this in the notebook for as long as possible and do even more drafting in the notebook before I risk the screen.

I spend a lot of time editing, what writer doesn’t? I enjoy it. I always think at this stage the hard work’s been done and now is the time to hone and polish and then leave it (for as long as possible) and then come back to it, and hone and polish again each time making it better. After all I think our goal must always be to produce the best writing we can. If we do this then I think we  have achieved  a measure of success.



Next week, on the 3rd February, the blog-baton passes to Judith Marshall. Judith is a poet and creative writing coach from Richmond, North Yorkshire. Judith alternates between fantasy and poetry, and is currently experimenting with a fusion of the two genres. You can find her blog HERE

Also on Feb 3rd I hope to share with you pictures of my real/virtual (it’s a bit of both) launch of From Writing With Love

Root – from Corbridge to Bishop Auckland

I had a great time on Wednesday evening in Corbridge (see previous post). For one thing it’s just so good to meet readers and for another the enthusiastic response they gave to the extract from my story Tough Love took me quite by surprise and was very gratifying. Mostly they wanted to know what happened to Dennis! Had he been buried in a hole along with the birds? What about his wife? Did I have a husband? And if you get to read the story you’ll see why they asked after my spouse!

The venue was perfect -Tea & Tipple cafe – and I was full of admiration for Helen of Forum Books who organised this packed event. I’ll definitely be back to browse the Forum bookshelves.

Meeting other writers like Beda who was also reading from the Root antholgy, was a huge part of the enjoyment- also via Twitter – writers : Mari Hannah, Hazel Osmond, Chris Marples – it was great to meet, have your support and share stories and a glass of wine – such a bonus. Also great to see Ian from my prison days

Of course Peter Mortimer and Kitty Fitzgerald from Iron Press – were behind the whole event – without them the book would not exist – they are just amazing at what they do – if you don’t believe me take a look at the programme for their forthcoming festival in May.

If you didn’t make it to Corbridge but you can make it to Bishop Auckland Town Hall this Wednesday 10th – 7pmwe’ll be doing it again. This time John Price and myself will be reading  HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE !