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IRON Press Editor Peter Mortimer Takes a Look in the Mirror.

Posted on November 13, 2015 by Rebecca Robinson


Having been a small press editor for more than forty years, I find myself reclining on the 1950s Dan Dare chaise longue, musing on the peculiarities of the calling.

Let us examine the ten immediate advantages and drawbacks.

1) No salary. An individual is strangely freed from those usual pressures as to whether to build a house extension or take a three month holiday swanning around Mesopotoamia, even if such a place still existed. Having no salary also means you are not anxiously waiting for that pay cheque to go into the bank. There isn’t one. A cheque that is, not a bank. Alas, there are still many of the latter.

2) Loathing or sycophancy. Here lie the two extremes of the reactions from those few members of the public who do not treat you with a highly active indifference. There are certain authors who regard me with such contempt for not having published their life’s work (or even a haiku) that should I walk into the same room as they occupy, they are attacked by a severe case of projectile vomiting. Others believe sycophancy is the way and indulge in grovelling obsequiousness. This feeds my ego but does little to increase their chances of being published. Despite being given to the usual human flaws and limitations, one of my few proud claims in those 42 years is that no writer has been published by IRON Press unless thus merited by the quality of their work.

Most good writers, I should stress, occupy neither of the above two polarities.

3) On the Job. Often I envy those people who come home from a regular job and shut the door against the world. No, no, that’s not true at all. Let’s say I am curious about such a species. My own world of work seeps into every pore of my world of leisure, so that now I have no idea what is the difference between the two. IRON Press and the world of writing long since occupied every corner of this house. 2am phone calls from authors on the brink of suicide are not unknown. Usually I can persuade them out of it, especially if I’m still waiting for their completed manuscript.

4) Annual holidays. I heard someone mention these two words the other day. Any idea what they mean?

6) Despair. A regular visitor. You spend a year working on an author’s poems or stories, both parties nurturing them towards readiness. A further three months is occupied liaising with the book and cover designer, Finally the book goes to the printers and emerges blinking into the light – always a small miracle of a moment. Three months later sales total four, and you reach for the bottle of pills. Luckily you don’t have any pills so you go for a consolation pint instead.

7) Injustice. This is ubiquitous and mainly to be ignored when working as a small press editor. If there were even the slightest sense of justice, no-one would be publicising those ghost-written tedious autobiographies of minor untalented celebs snapped up by the chat shows at the expense of the neglected works of genius from your own imprint. Nor would they be promoting in the broadsheets those obscure unreadable tomes reviewed by the authors’ literary chums gravitating in the same small circle of the London literati. It was ever thus, so just get on with your own efforts. What do you want – a knighthood? Exactly!

8) Kindle books. Basically, they’re crap. They leave most real publishers cold and people are getting fed up already.

9) Authors. You don’t get to meet all of the ones you publish, but quite a few. Is there any more maddening, colourful, self-centered, brilliant, paranoid, funny, impractical,

imaginative, insecure, driven, impossible species on the planet? Some become good friends. Even lovers. Imagine your life without them. Exactly!

10) Moving house. Given the extent to which your small publishing activities have taken total possession of your house, this is clearly impossible. Thus you are freed from all the nonsense of property ladders or worrying about the value of your home.

Ten points to consider then. Fancy the job of small press editor? Fine. There’s no entry qualification, no interview, no career ladder, no organised structure. You just wake one morning and decide to do it. Good luck!

Peter Mortimer - Editor, IRON Press

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Delving into the Archive of Arc Publications

Posted on October 20, 2015 by Yen-Yen Lu

An introduction to Arc Publishing's diverse work, beliefs, and aims. Big thanks to our writer Paris Morel, marketing assistant at Arc!   

Here's the story: In 1969 the pioneering Tony Ward had a vision. One which would inevitably lead to the future of Arc Publications. Since then we've been placing the jigsaw together – demonstrating decades of international nourishment for our readers.

We've published over 350 titles and worked with over 500 authors and translators. Our list includes poets from Russia, India, Estonia, Sri Lanka and many other continental locations. We might be a small, independent press, but the only limit we're interested in is possibility. Over the years we've published a range of potent voices featuring in Arc's International Series, Voices Beyond Europe and most recently our brand new Pamphlet Series.

At Arc Publications, we believe that translation is the best currency for keeping language alive. That's one reason why seventy percent of our books are poetry in translation. This means that we can provide our readers with a compass –  one which allows them to navigate from continent to continent simply by buying one of Arc's bilingual editions. We've also launched a new Translators Forum and a new site for live poetry – Arc Sessions.  Yes, the last few months have been more than exciting. It's a been a real thrill to provide our audience with more poetry, more debate, and more discussion.

Our aim is to present the most renowned international poets' around. Those who can help us expand our perspective and allow us to examine the poetry of a nation and the cultural threads of human history. We can move past the common-place and the common-experience making room for new systems of thought.

You can find out more about Arc Publications on our website:


Take a look at Arc's Translators' forum at:


New films by our International poets can be found at Arc Sessions:


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On Writing The Green Table, by Tricia Durdey

Posted on October 14, 2015 by Rebecca Robinson

As Booker winner Marlon James reveals his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings was rejected 87 times before finally being published, Cinnamon Press author Tricia Durdey writes for us about the journey that finally saw her book, The Green Table, take shape.

I was a young dance student when I first heard of the choreographer, Kurt Jooss, and saw his iconic ballet, The Green Table. It was a pirated video copy in poor quality black and white, but even so I was struck by the extraordinary opening scene. Twelve Gentlemen in Black sit around a conference table. Are they diplomats, politicians, bureaucrats? The opening piano chords sound, and they gesticulate, preen, bow, shake fists – the tension mounts, and then they back off again, circling round each other in a predatory fashion, until finally they draw pistols, gun shots sound, and the figure of Death appears. It’s a classic work of German Expressionism, and won a prestigious choreography prize in 1932. Then in 1933, Hitler came to power, and demanded the Jewish company composer, Fritz Cohen, was dismissed. Jooss refused, and the company had to flee Germany overnight.

A few years later I moved to Amsterdam to continue my dance training. On my many walks through the city I was aware of a long shadow of Nazi occupation, even though it was by then the early 80s. One day I will write a novel set here, I decided. And so the seeds of The Green Table were sown.

Almost thirty years later I attended an Arvon Course at Lumb Bank – writing fiction for young adults – led by Celia Rees and the late Jan Mark. It was there that I first met Jan Fortune, who had not yet launched Cinnamon Press. Our task that week was to begin a new piece of work. I remember sitting in a writing hut in the garden, overlooking the steep wooded valley and talking to Celia about Amsterdam and the Nazi occupation, and how I wanted to write something about a young girl who was determined to dance. As I began to write, I remembered Hilde Holger, a Viennese Jewish dancer I trained with briefly in a basement in Camden Town. She was a very old lady, fiery and passionate, who had survived, and danced, despite the daily threat of being discovered by the Nazis. I heard her voice shouting at us as she banged her tamba, and the first scene wrote itself. On the final night I read out the first pages of The Green Table to the rest of the group.

I loved the period of intense research that followed – Dutch history, dance history, a visit to the Resistance Museum and Theatre Museum, translation of Dutch newspapers, and discoveries about the moral struggles of Dutch medics during the occupation. Slowly the characters emerged, and a narrative took shape.

The Green Table as a book for teenagers never quite made it. Two agents tried to sell it – including the wonderful Pam Royds, children’s fiction editor with Andre Deutsch for many years, who persuaded me to redraft a version with a stronger heroine, and call it Dance for Your Life – which I wasn’t keen on. At least two editors were enthusiastic, and one accepted it, but it was turned down by the marketing departments. It was never going to make big money. So in the end I abandoned it for three years and went off to do an MA.

But I could never quite let go. I had the notion that if I were to redraft it as novel for adults there would be scope to go into greater depth with the material. At this point I reconnected with Jan Fortune when she published one of my short stories. She’d loved the opening pages of The Green Table, heard all those years earlier at Lumb Bank, and I was delighted when she agreed to mentor me, and subsequently agreed to publish the re-worked version in 2015. What I hadn’t bargained for was the immense struggle involved, how much material from the original I had to eliminate, and how often the early work hindered the development and deepening of my characters. It came together, finally, when I spent a week alone last August, house and cat-sitting for Jan in Wales – something like solving an intricate puzzle, I could at last see the form, the shape of it.

Writing The Green Table has been a fulfilling and absorbing task, and has given me much joy. The act of writing, though personal, seems at times to reach far beyond the personal. It feels then like soul work. I have loved the journey, and am immensely grateful to Jan for believing in my work from the start.

To learn more about Tricia's work you can visit her website.
You can buy The Green Table here.


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The Blog, The Kindle and the Soul

Posted on October 06, 2015 by Rebecca Robinson

A blog for Inpress? Why not? Traditionally, I’ve done this kind of writing for various print organs as a columnist. It’s something I’ve always loved doing. Writing a regular weekly column puts a frame round your life and helps you make sense of it - so it’s as much for my own benefit as that of the reader. Yet print publications are now in such a parlous state, that freelance columnists are becoming history. Denied a print column outlet, I fret around the house. Meantime, I find myself writing for various blog sites. Why does it not feel the same? Why is the sense of anticipation more muted?

A blog going online brings a different sensation to a hard copy newspaper or mag rolling off the presses on one set day. A blog is wonderfully democratic – why, anyone can write a blog and put it up! But that very process of democracy weakens it. There is no editor, no selection, no particular day of publication, no sense of communality of readership. A blog just sits there forever, rather than being subject to the bittersweet ephemera of a newspaper, - a temporary immediacy, then gone.

My suspicion is that news of the odd blog going viral disguises the millions of others that are barely noticed. Writing blogs does not make my pulse race.

Making the pulse race is also one reason for my publishing books. A book is a work of art. This is independent of the writing style or the author’s literary reputation. The creative journey any writer makes from basic idea to finished manuscript is a fascinating one.

Only less slightly fascinating is the journey that manuscript then undergoes to be transformed into a book; the choice of fonts, the page size, the style, the commissioning of the cover, the dummy, the proofs, weight and texture of the paper, the binding, a whole load of practical and aesthetic decisions leading up to that one moment when the first copies are delivered from the printers.

After 42 years of editing IRON Press, opening that box is still a breathless moment; part terror, part delicious anticipation. Will the book look as planned? Is it properly trimmed? Are there some atrocious misprints? Is the registration correct? Are the cover colours true? Is the binding secure? Is it back to front?

I lovingly handle, open, fondle and caress the book. Sometimes I can smell the print. I am the midwife, proud of the newly born baby. During the next few days I return to it every half hour. I gaze upon it proudly. I am possessive of this book, even though it is not written by me, I have with it a unique relationship. I send the book out into the world nervous as to the reaction. Often there is no reaction. I learn to live with such indifference yet seethe at the injustice.

And as blogs are to hard print, so is Kindle to the physical book. Kindle. What a wonderful invention. I suppose. Yet my reaction to Kindle is similar to that towards blogs. Kindle does not make my pulse race. A book that is not really a book. Several of my own books are available on Kindle. Several IRON Press books, thanks to Inpress, are also now available on Kindle. The list grows. I wish them all luck. I have never been stirred to look at a single one of them.

It is, dear reader, to do with the soul. For me, blogs and Kindle however necessary and pioneering, however technologically exciting and liberating, have no soul. And the soul is something that is beyond technology. Poor me.

Peter Mortimer – Editor, IRON Press

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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:


Take a look at our celebration special offers at:


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


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