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Coffee to Cinnamon: Ten Years of Cinnamon Press

Posted on September 24, 2015 by Yen-Yen Lu

In celebration of the tenth anniversary of Cinnamon Press, Jan Fortune discusses the roots of Cinnamon, obstacles and achievements from the past ten years, and what we can expect from Cinnamon in the future. She also talks about the writing courses run by Cinnamon and some exciting pop-up events taking place in October to celebrate Cinnamon’s anniversary.

Ten years ago, Cinnamon Press began with a small magazine, Coffee House Poetry, with under a hundred subscribers. Since then we’ve published over 250 titles, worked with over 500 authors in some 20 countries and our books have been nominated for and won major awards, including Wales Book of the Year, The Forward Prize for best first collection and the Scottish Arts Council Best First Book of the Year. From the outset, Cinnamon set out to be an innovative publisher, publishing fiction, poetry and selective non-fiction books that have something to say and that don’t fit more mainstream houses. The books cover a wide range of poetry and prose styles, but always have a distinctive and compelling voice, whether it’s the award winning poetry of T S Eliot-prize winner, Philip Gross or the lyrical, mesmeric prose of Adam Craig’s extraordinary novel, Vitus Dreams. Our list includes books from Wales, Scotland and England and also titles from Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, America, France, Italy, China and many other places.

In addition to publishing around 25 titles a year, plus pamphlets and our new Liquorice Fish Books imprint, which features inventive and experimental writing, we also have a popular series of writing competitions and courses, plus a successful mentoring scheme. In short, we’re a small, family-run independent press with a love of inventive writing and a passion for literary activism.

Getting to the milestone of ten years feels like a huge achievement. There have been several periods when we didn’t think we’d make it this far. In 2012 we found ourselves without any grant funding and only survived a rough six months due to the generosity and ingenuity of our supporters and authors. Two authors set up ‘Cinnamon Friends’ as a way of raising some income; others gave donations or offered time to edit or help with mentoring; others helped us to redesign our competitions. This year we had a major attack on the website with hacking that made the site unfeasible to retain, but once again we were rescued – this time by the generosity and talent of web designer, Sarah Willans, who runs ZipFish. Life remains precarious – getting books into the world is always a challenge for independent presses, but we’re thrilled to be able to say, after ten years ‘We’re still here’ and we have lots of exciting plans for the next decade.

The books published in our tenth anniversary year represent the best crop we’ve ever had. They are a diverse range, but what unites them are authors with distinctive voices who are willing to take risks with their writing. Adam Craig’s Vitus Dreams is a novel, but also uses poetry techniques – highly lyrical, often concrete; it’s both narrative and experiment and stands out for being inventive. Ian Gregson’s novel, The Crocodile Princess, is full of wit and fresh thinking – a slightly alternative world in which Peter Cook suffers of crisis of comedy and becomes a diplomat in Cambodia during the Cold War; with brilliant effect. Meet Me There is a distillation of some of the best writing from Cinnamon Press on the theme of place – ten authors showcasing their writing, discussing literary process and offering suggestions for writers wanting to develop their craft; a real insight into how writing works. Vanessa Gebbie’s Ed’s Wife [and other creatures] uses extraordinary micro-fictions combined with gorgeous illustrations from Lynn Roberts to explore the many facets of a relationship, sometimes surreal, always captivating. Laura Seymour’s The Shark Cage won our poetry collection competition with a series of poems that constantly surprise; the language is supple, the images are startling, there is humour and darkness, mischief and light. And these are just five of the offerings from this year’s celebratory list.

Our relationship with authors is really important to us and the courses and mentoring scheme help us to develop relationships with emerging writers or more experienced writers doing something new. We live in a fast world, but writing takes time and taking time out from busy lives to nurture the writing with a course or giving serious attention to a writing project over a whole year with supportive feedback and development can make all the difference. And the publication rate of our mentored students is over 70%.

For the future our stress will remain on inventive writing from authors who find fresh ways to communicate. We have some exciting new projects including Liquorice Fish’s first novella set in Beirut, Omar Sabbagh’s Via Negativa and a several compelling novels for 2016. We are also putting a lot more energy into our design with wonderful new covers from Adam Craig.

Throughout this year we’ve had launches with an extra something and published books we’re more proud of than ever. We’ve also launched extra-special offers throughout the year so that we now have ten offers to celebrate ten years. You can catch up with us at this year’s Free Verse Book Fair in London at Conway Hall on September 26 and at events around the country in the autumn, but our big celebration will be the 10th anniversary pop-up weekend in Northampton, at the beautiful NN Gallery from October 2 – 4. All the weekend events are free, we will have lots of special offers and giveaways and the café will be open.

You can find out more about Cinnamon Press on our website:

http://www.cinnamonpress.com/

Take a look at our celebration special offers at:

http://www.cinnamonpress.com/index.php/about-cinnamon-press/special-offers-ten-year-anniversary-bonanza

You can also find details of our anniversary weekend and download the full programme here:

http://www.cinnamonpress.com/index.php/about-cinnamon-press/tenth-anniversary

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