About Me

Wales, United Kingdom
Cinnamon Press is a small, independent publisher based in Wales & publishing the best new poetry and fiction with occassional non fiction and cross-genre titles. Books come from Wales, the UK and the world. We run writing competitions twice a year to find new voices in poetry and fiction with three categories (novel/novella; poetry; short stories) - each category has a cash prize plus publication. You can find our excellent list of titles at www.cinnamonpress.com

Saturday, 22 November 2008

brilliant reading from patrick jones

Last night was a real treat – instead of constant talking about darkness is where the stars are a lucky audience in Caernarfon got to hear patrick performing poetry from the book. A huge thanks is due to Matthew, the proprietor of Y Ddraig Goch Cafe (a gorgeous place if you;re in Caernarfon any time) and to Rhys Mwyn who organised the event. The cafe had been phoned by Christian Voice with the same old message that the reading should be cancelled and apparently a member of CV even went to look the venue over, but thankfully there was no protest at all. About 50 people attended a fantastic reading which can be seen on YouTube http://uk.youtube.com/user/cinnamonpress

What was most encouraging is that people were able to hear the wide range of issues that patrick addresses in his poetry and to witness his amazing integrity as a writer and performer – the passion was absolutely authentic and his energy was impressive – and, of course, the audience warmed to him.

We’re looking forward to more readings, including patrick’s appearance at the Welsh Assembly, Committee Room 24 on December 11th at noon. Borders are also making plans for the main launch – due to the pressure on them the date and time is still to be confirmed, but invitations will be issued and we are immensely grateful to Borders for both their stance on free speech and the seriousness with which they are treating the safety of their staff and the launch guests.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A book of many parts

Here at Cinnamon Press we are still celebrating the sanity of Borders, who have invited patrick jones to launch darkness is where the stars are at their Cardiff branch on December 11th after his reading in the Welsh Assembly.

There’s been some debate about the invitation to patrick to read in the Welsh Assembly, most of it sadly missing the point. Christian Voice were not provoked into their extremist reaction –
patrick has been in dialogue with them for ages, long before a launch was planned, and the idea that the victim deserves threats of violence is absurd. But more to the point what matters is not how CV came by patrick’s poems, but how they reacted – with threats, the language of the battle ground and bully tactics.

The other really big point that is being missed in the debate is that the poems about religion (and they are not vitriol, but serious engagement) are a tiny minority of the poems in this book. There is a stunningly good and poignant sequence on domestic abuse against men; poems about urgent ecological issues, poems about war and pacifism, poems about education and much more.

The great thing about having a launch date and brave venues like Y Ddraig Goch Cafe, Caernarfon is that people will get the chance to not only see this great range on the page, but to hear the poems performed – and patrick is a fantastic performance poet. If you can’t get to one of the venues we’ll be putting up video footage on YouTube.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Borders and brilliant

Since Waterstones MD decided to cancel the launch of darkness is where the stars are in the face of protests from the extremist group, Christian Voice, life at Cinnamon Press has been more than interesting. What has been heartening is the fantastic support from so many quarters – from liberal and sane people of faith to humanists to the literary community to politicians.

Today brought another encouraging step forward when the CEO of Borders stepped in to offer an alternative launch date to co-incide with patrick’s reading at the Welsh Assembly on December 11th. patrick will read in Committee Room 24 at the Assembly at noon and the book will be launched at Borders later that day (time to be announced).

It’s brilliant to see a high street chain that won’t bow to threats of harassment and that takes free speech seriously. We’re really grateful to Borders for the opportunity to give the book the start it deserves.

Don’t forget that patrick will be reading at Y Ddraig Goch Cafe, Eastgate Street, Caernarfon, LL55 1AG (opposite Weatherspoons pub) on November 21st 7.30 p.m. as well as in Cardiff on December 11th and we are also talking to Borders about other possible readings.

And now for something completely different

Just for a brief change of subject - have a look at the Book Depository today where Cinnamon Press editor, Jan Fortune-Wood is featured in the 'Tuesday Top Ten' slot :)


Monday, 17 November 2008

patrick jones and Jonathan Swift

Today’s email from Waterstones is a simple ‘no comment’ statement – a pity that they don’t say that they were harassed into cancelling the launch of darkness is where the stars are due to threats from extremists, but at least it’s an improvement on attempting to blame patrick jones for provoking the bullies. Sadly the email implying that that there had been provocation or some kind of orchestrated publicity stunt lingers on some blog threads, so let’s say for the record (again) that the cancellation was a huge shock and that no one associated with Cinnamon Press, including the author, informed Christian Voice about the launch.

Yes – it has given a poetry collection lots of publicity (which is a pretty rare commodity) and it has brought out a fantastic chorus of support for free speech for which we are hugely grateful, but it’s also spun our heads – we’re a tiny little press run by two and bit people already working flat out – there’s no PR department, no spin doctor, no secretary to answer the phone.

And the other issue that shouldn’t be forgotten is that the threats haven’t gone away. Patrick will be reading at Y Ddraig Goch Cafe, Eastgate Street, Caernarfon, LL55 1AG (opposite Weatherspoons pub) on November 21st 7.30 p.m. and the venue has had lots of calls from Christian Voice supporters keeping up the vitriol. We are very impressed with the cafe owners who refuse to be intimidated and we’ll be there with books and support as patrick reads. We won’t be cowed, but it is pretty worrying to be facing all of this. In my last post I suffered three major assaults at work (ironic fact: I was working as a Vicar) – two of these assaults were life threatening – and I had to retire as a result – the injuries remain, but the post traumatic stress has largely been worked through and is under control. Facing these bullies presses lots of buttons and the notion that Cinnamon Press might have set this entire chain of events off as a publicity stunt couldn’t be more absurd.

There is nothing ‘whiffy’ about us comparing the events to Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses (as one blogger put it). The comparison came from Waterstones’ staff who told Cinnamon Press that they have not received this level of controversial correspondence about a book since the publication of Satanic Verses. The difference being that in that case Waterstones were altogether more supportive of the publisher and author, leaving Cinnamon Press with the suspicion that when it comes to publishers, size matters.

To keep it all from becoming too stressful Rowan (our MA student son who works part time for Cinnamon) had the idea of a fun contest on YouTube – to vlog a satirical poem on a religious theme. This isn’t about religion bashing – we have a lot of respect for the integrity of most people of faith, who are not only open to mature dialogue, but also know that a bit of parody and laughter is extremely healthy. The poems coming in are not religion hating, but light and funny – exactly as we hoped. And that’s also why Rowan mentioned that they should be in the spirit of Swift – not just for hyperbole and talking up our own wonderful poet, but because the best poem in darkness is where the stars are on the theme of religion is very much in the spirit of Swift – taking two texts from two religions and juxtaposing them to invite a deep reaction.
This is what Michael F. Suarez, S.J. says in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift: “For Swift, language, religion, and politics are not strictly divisible... The serious business of Swiftian satire is that it invites (or provokes) the reader to be critical: that is, to judge. Most often, the judgments that Swift's satires ask us to make go well beyond straightforward condemnation of the work's obvious target; rather, we are led to form a series of deeper judgments about language, religion, and politics, and about the operations of human vice and virtue that govern these activities in others and in ourselves.”1

Certainly couldn’t put it better ourselves :) It’s not missing the point to invite others to do something in this vein, as patrick does – and of course no one is claiming he’s the new Jonathan Swift, but he is doing something in this tradition and it is because his work invites these ‘deeper judgements about language, religion and politics’ that he is seen as a threat, has come under attack and is still being threatened.

1. Suarez,, Michael F., S.J. "Swift’s satire and parody." The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift. Ed. Christopher Fox. Cambridge University Press, 2003. Cambridge Collections Online. Cambridge University Press. 17 November 2008

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Bigots, not poet to blame for launch furore

Having forced the cancellation of the launch of the poetry collection darkness is where the stars are by patrick jones at Cardiff Waterstones last Wednesday, emails of support have been pouring into us at Cinnamon Press, with blogs and vlogs appearing world-wide, so it was a shock to read a BBC article quoting an inflammatory email from Gerry Johnson, MD of Waterstones, particularly as Mr Johnson had reassured me that he would desist from sending the inflammatory on Friday evening. The email blamed patrick and Cinnamon Press for events that led to the cancellation, implicating Cinnamon Press in bad faith by changing the nature of the agreement with Waterstones.

So let’s set the record straight. patrick has been sending emails to several organisations for years, engaging in debate over a range of contentious political issues. None of this had anything to do with the launch and patrick’s communication with Christian Voice was of an ongoing nature and began long before any event was planned. To conflate this long term debate with deliberate provocation is inaccurate and unacceptable. No one associated with Cinnamon Press informed Christian Voice about the launch.

It was both disappointing and distressing to see the recalled email quoted by the BBC, particularly as it contains the very shaky allegation that ‘provocative action... was taken without prior discussion with the store or their consent and altered the nature of the pre-agreed event.’ If this wasn’t so outrageous it would be laughable. The ‘agreement’ in question was a couple of informal emails agreeing a date and that Cinnamon Press would turn up with refreshments and introduce our poet, which is exactly what we did, only to find we’d travelled for five hours for nothing. At no point was there any mention that the poet needed to keep quiet about the content of his work. Why would an author need Waterstones’ consent to continue a discussion begun months or years before and which made no reference to the launch? It is extremely bad faith to suggest that patrick and Cinnamon Press changed anything or gave grounds for the cancellation. We turned up in good faith having been told the day before by Waterstones that they were expecting protests, but had no intention of bowing to these or allowing the protesters to prevent the launch.

We remain adamant that the only people to blame for all of the furore are those members of Christian Voice prepared to threaten violence and acts of public disorder. By shifting the focus to trying to blame the poet the real issue is being lost. The real issue being that Christian Voice are being allowed to trample free speech with their threats and are continuing to threaten the venues that patrick reads at. Over the years patrick jones has corresponded with many organisations with whom he strongly disagrees and on every other occasion the result has been mature, if passionate, discussion, not threats. Anyone suggesting that patrick or Cinnamon Press are in any way to blame is simply handing these unsavoury bullies ammunition.

Patrick will be reading at Y Ddraig Goch Cafe, Eastgate Street, Caernarfon, LL55 1AG (opposite Weatherspoons pub) on November 21st 7.30 p.m. and at the Welsh Assembly at noon on December 11th in committee room 24, despite continued threats – please come and support him if you can and if you can’t be there then buy a book – annoy a bigot :)

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Buy a book - annoy a bigot (again!)

Another exciting day in the short history of the fabulous book darkness is where the stars are.

Rowan's excellent video of the launch that never was can be seen at:


My second open letter to Waterstones' can be heard at:


We've also had our first poetry response to the events surrounding the cancellation of patrick's launch at the request of the extremist group Christian Voice, who claim that the book contains 'enough profanity and female genitalia to excite the literati' (the genitalia references are part of a protest poem against female genital mutilation so I'm not sure why Mr Green associates this with excitement, but I'm not going to ask). It is, however, a great quote and we're pondering whether to print stickers with the quote for the front of the book.

We've had lots more fantastic and articulate emails supporting the book today and a few more sales - thank you to everyone who has written or bought and please do buy the book - it's now on special offer and it is brilliant and wide ranging and hard hitting and we really need to show the bigots that their attempts at censorship have backfired.

Buy a book - annoy a bigot

The campaign to support patrick jones' fantastic poetry collection, darkness is where the stars are, continues - yesterday we had a mention in the New Yorker as well as on some fantastic blogs (thanks to Pink Triangle and all the other brilliant bloggers).

We also attracted cross-party political support with a great interview from Lorraine Barrett A.M. (Labour) and Peter Black A.M. (Liberal Democratic) organising a reading at the Welsh Assembly for patrick on December 11th. We also had a lovely message of support from Dafydd Elis-Thomas A.M. (Plaid). Christian Voice have taken the offensive against the Lib Dems (bet they're scared :)) without realising that right thinking people of all persuasions (and all faiths) don't want to be associated with bullies who threaten violence and want a repressive theocracy. (The politicians, poets and people of Wales plus all their wonderful supporters world wide are never going to let it happen, Mr Green)

So we are marching on with the campaign to persuade Waterstones to reschedule the launch and with the aim of making this great poetry collection a best seller - poetry topping the charts would make the whole thing worthwhile so please buy the book - annoy a bigot :)

Friday, 14 November 2008

picking over the bones - the launch that wasn't

Cinnamon Press feel that it is important to put on record that the only people we hold responsible for the cancellation of Patrick jones’ launch of darkness is where the stars are are those members of Christian Voice who exerted threats on Waterstones.

We have had some enquiries as to whether patrick jones was responsible for the events that led to the cancellation of his launch. patrick’s work is politically engaged and he works tirelessly on many issues concerned with human rights and civil liberties. He has engaged with Christian Voice on previous occasions on a variety of issues and had sent an extract of his poetry in the spirit of ongoing debate to the leaders of Christian Voice. This was part of discussion dating back to March this year, there was no ‘gloating’ and no mention of the launch at Waterstones in this correspondence with Christian Voice.

It would be invidious to suggest that the person targeted by an extremist group should be in any way held responsible for being targeted. In the perspective of Christian Voice the mere existence of any alternative opinion to their own is ‘provocation’ and they want nothing short of the monolithic acceptance of their views. Fortunately most people in this ‘debate’ are reasonable – Gerry Johnson and I have agreed to differ on some things, but happily Waterstones are not blaming patrick for events that didn’t take place. To repeat what is on the Cinnamon Press blog earlier - there is only one group to blame here: Christian Voice.

darkness is still where the stars are

One of the things that really rattles me about vitriolic, bullying groups like Christian Voice is the way in which otherwise sane and sensible people feel that they have to take a balanced position between the competing views. I can see where this comes from - it's a sound rule of thumb that we generally debate rationally across disparate views, but the idea that we should give equal weight to the views of those spreading hatred and using tactics of intimidation is madness and I'm not happy to have my views weighed equally with theirs.

Well, that's got that off my chest - on with the issues.

I spoke with Gerry Johnson this morning and it's really sad that we can't agree on all the issues over the cancellation of patrick jones's launch, but we did get some agreement. We both think censorship is wrong and this means that Waterstones will continue to sell the book.

Where we part company is on how to respond to the threats of bullying bigots. I do understand that Mr Johnson has to take the safety of his staff seriously and that he has a duty of care, but I don't think the cancellation was commensurate with the threat. We know now that Christian Voice were planning some leafleting and maybe a bit of shouting - the event could have withstood that. Mr Johnson rightly points out that things happened quickly and that he didn't know the scale of the threat, but he didn't just cancel with the rider that we could review later - he is adamant that the event will not be rescheduled. I may never persuade him otherwise, but I will continue to stand by my view that this is not necessary or reasonable. It gives far too much ground to those who use unscrupulous tactics, even threaten unlawful action. It may well be a matter for the police, but it is not a matter for capitulation.

Mr Johnson insists that Waterstones is not a public body but a private company and therefore there are no rights to the space - absolutely right, but his company made a commitment that involved Cinnamon Press in costs and then pulled out offering no recompense. And the idea that we should only defend public spaces from those threatening disruption or even violence simply doesn't convince me.

But even more deeply I'm disturbed by the fact that Waterstones still seem to be blaming patrick jones and that goes back to my original point about how mad it is to allow ourselves to believe that hateful views deserve equal weight and respect. I hope I'm wrong about this, but Gerry Johnson did say to me today that patrick had admitted sending faxes to Christian Voice and someone wrote to me earlier to say that Waterstones claimed that , "shortly before the event took place, the author deliberately took provocative action to create a furore around the publication of his book."

This is a terribly twisted version of the claims that Stephen Green is making. In fact patrick jones has a long history of political activism and campaigning for minority, civil and human rights. This has brought him into conflict with Christian Voice's 'down with that kind of thing' mentality several times over the years and as part of a recent and ongoing debate (patrick generously talks about trying to chat and debate with these closed minds) patrick had sent some of his poems, including one that protested against female genital mutilation. The correspondence did not allude to the launch at Waterstones.

To call this ongoing engagement 'provocation' is unacceptable. Anyone who disagrees with Stephen Green is provocative by their mere existence from his perspective, but that is not reasonable or sane. Even if Gerry Johnson cannot bring himself to reschedule the launch I would be deeply appreciative of some indication from Waterstones that they do not concur with Christian Voice's inflammatory blame of patrick jones.

I do want to stress that the issues that separate us from Waterstones are really not that huge - I'm glad the book is still on sale there and particularly grateful to the staff at the Cardiff branch for their support, but I don't want Christian Voice to get away with any chipping away at free speech and civil society. patrick jones should be promoting his work - it's brilliant and what else should he do with his book? Only Christian Voice are culpable here - not Cinnamon Press, not patrick jones and not Waterstones. But Waterstones do have it in their power to do even more...

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Mad world

Yesterday was one of the more interesting days running a small press. We travelled down to Cardiff to launch two fantastic books. The first was Black Waves in Cardiff Bay, a wonderful anthology of new writing. All went well and off we went to Waterstones for the launch of darkness is where the stars are by patrick jones.

We spent half an hour finding a car park anad twenty minutes dragging a laden trolley of wine, glasses and books to deliver to the author through Cardiff centre to be greeted by 'oh, that event is cancelled'.

It transpired that a bigoted group of intolerant religious extremists had taken offence at patrick's book. Now patrick is pretty outspoken when it comes to religion - he gets het up about silly little things like stoning women in the name of God, religious involvement in military conflict, the use of religion to label some people as 'outsiders' etc. This is hard hitting and passionate stuff and whilst not everyone would agree it's none the less brilliantly written and opens up very important debates with which people of all faiths and none should engage.

But Christian Voice don't want to engage in debate - they prefer to carry placards with 'down with that kind of thing' (they don't like gays and lots of other people as well as poets) and to bully and intimidate people into silence. So they whipped up a storn of emails to Waterstones and the MD, Gerry Johnson (email gerry.johnson@waterstones.com) caved in very quickly with remarks about how he couldn't risk disruption - we're talking boyotting, maybe a bit of leafletting or the odd shout - and, let's face it, if these people were threatening violence the obvious solution is to go to the police, not to do as they say!

The event was pulled last minute, we didn't know till we turned up and we were told that our author had been contacted and was not going to attend - this was false - he did come, along with a crowd, but we'd left by then on Waterstones' misinformation.

We drove back through the night and have spent the day in pyjamas (well Mike had to get dressed to go to the post and get breakfast food at two in the afternoon) answering the phone, sending out press releases, starting a FaceBook event and putting up a website for the book. The site is at www.darknessiswherethestarsare.co.uk and there is also a YouTube vlog and open letter to Waterstones at

Please buy this book - you can get it direct at www.cinnamonpress.com

We need to show bigots that we won't be bullied.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Crazy Autumn

So much seems to be happening at Cinnamon Press right now that it's hard to keep up. October was jam packed with launches and events - the launch of TAG at The Hootenanny in Brixton (Brixton's only ceilidh pub!) was a fantastic evening (the cover picture is reds not blues, by the way) and other great events at the launch of An Elusive State in Hoxton, the launch of Flashes and Specks in Bangor (standing room only) (alls the colours on these jpegs are weird - but you can see good ones at http://www.cinnamonpress.com/) and two poetry events at the Chester festival.

I also snuck in a week tutoring an Arvon course (first poetry collection with the wonderful Michael Laskey as co-tutor) and several trips to Yorkshire plus a a four day trip to Linlithgow with a group of young people, just to keep October extra busy.

November sees three more launches, so watch this space...
And don't forget the great books that have been around a bit longer from Cinnamon Press - there's an excellent interview with Shanta Everington, author of Marilyn & Me, at http://www.viewfromheremagazine.com/2008/11/shanta-everington-interview.html
Books make the best Christmas presents and they're not even expensive - especially with the great offers we've got at the moment - and if you haven't bought TAG yet, then hurry - it's flying off the shelves.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

September sun shining on cinnamon

Just back from an amazing weekend on a canal boat staying with wonderful friends who live on the water. It's wonderful to have those moments to sit and read and reflect and even more wonderful to have the sun - just when I was beginning to forget what it looks like.

Of course the problem with going away for a few days is that the work lays in wait for you so I've had a busy morning catching up on emails and bits of admin, but while I've been working our latest book arrived from the printers - it is so beautiful I just want to sit and stroke it, but reading it's fantastic too - TAG by Stephen May is a book that we are really proud of.

Mistyann is fifteen, unpredictable, unreliable and violent. She’s also gifted. And now she’s on her way to Wales for a special residential course for talented youth. An American psychologist wants to unlock her potential, help her become the person that she’s always dreamt of being. God help Wales. God help us all.

Jonathan Diamond is forty-one. Looks a bit like Tom Cruise and he’s going to Wales too. A failed musician and a recovering alcoholic he’s now an Advanced Skills Teacher and he’ll be in loco parentis for the week. Together the two of them develop an unlikely and dangerous alliance as they are forced to confront difficult truths about themselves.

Part bleakly comic confession, part twisted romance, at heart an elegy for dreams that refuse to die, TAG is the fast-moving, at times shocking, story of two lives turned upside down by reckless moments and impulses that won’t be denied. Full of wit, drama and an eye for the absurdities of the way we live now, TAG is a memorable debut novel.

Stephen May is a hard-headed day-dreamer, always cynical but ever hopeful. He’s been a barman, warehouseman, museum attendant, low-level council flunkey and teacher. He became a Dad while still at college and spent several years in a series of low paid menial jobs, struggling to support his family. A lot of the jobs involved stacking, filing, photo-copying and answering the telephone and Steve thinks it’s this period that informs any good writing he’s done. He used to drink a lot and spend a lot of time chasing women around, but found, like Flaubert, that it is best to ‘be a bourgeois in your life, so that you can be an anarchist in your art.’ You get more done and it’s more interesting in the long run.Steve lives in West Yorkshire with his wife and two youngest children and is working on another novel (The Good Soldiers), another play and some television projects.

Ray French said about the book: "Tag is a cracking story which has also has important things to say about youth; about middle age; about what it means to be considered gifted; about Wales and England, as well as some withering, satirical comment about contemporary life. It is also, in parts, very funny indeed. And in the character of Mistyann, Stephen May has created a thoroughly modern small-town Miss. A motormouth underclass Holden Caulfield, if you will. A vividly alive fusion of wit, beauty and instinctive defiance of authority. A character who will linger in the mind long after you have finished the book."

It's one of those books you just can't put down once you begin - be warned.

All are welcome to the launches - Saturday 11th October 2008, 2.00 – 5.00 pm,
at the Ted Hughes Centre, Lumb Bank, Heptonstall, Hebden Bridge. Please arrive between 6.30 & 7:00pm for a complimentary drink & the chance to buy this superb book & Friday 24th October 2008, 5.00 – 7.30p.m. At The Hootenanny, Effra Road, Brixton, London.
Free event with bar.

You can also hear readings of TAG at Ilkley festival on October 4th ; Manchester Literary Festival on October 19th Bedford Waterstones on October 25th and Off the Shelf literary festival November 1st

Sunday, 14 September 2008

new contracts

Just made out a new batch of contracts and it's always exciting thinking about the books to come out in the future. Printing out contracts reminds me that we're in ths for the long haul, especially now that the list is bursting at the seems and we're timetabling our 2010 books.

September has always been my favourite month - things seem to get going again after the summer (such as it was) and after weeks of rain we've even had a glimpse of sun in North Wales. The autumn is full of great titles - publishers are bound to say that their books are great, of course, but I really mean it. One of the things I love about Cinnamon Press is that it's like being a child in a bookstore - we only publish books that we love, that spark some real passion and interest in us and the autumn is full of such gems.

At the moment one of those gems is Welsh book of the month at Waterstones, which is fantastic news for a small press like Cinnamon - you can actually walk into Waterstones across the country and see Yeah Dai Dando front of store. Brilliant - and it deserves to be there. If you can't get to a Waterstones in Wales check it out on the website - it's Meic Stephens first novel, but you wouldn't know it from the writing, which is funny and sharp and - sometimes only a Welsh word will do - bendigedig - absolutely bendigedig!

Friday, 29 August 2008

cinnamon at costa poetry cafe, Liverpool

Glasses - I never move without them – I can’t remember ever being anywhere without them- my eyesight is so bad I'm not allowed to drive - even with the glasses, so imagine my horror when I'm alsmost in Liverpool (from ~North Wales) and discover I have no glasses with me and I'm about to launch my prose poetry collection, Stale Bread & Miracles.

Anyway I tried Rowan’s glasses, but still couldn’t see the words. When we got to the cafe I stood under a light with a torch for extra impace and could make out odd words and shapes, though horribly blurred. Someone managed to find a little magnifying strip, but I couldn’t use it constantly as it blurred the words and I couldn’t track along lines – to read poetry you need a bit more than one word at a time to get the scansion right ;)

I could make out enough through the blurry shapes to jog my memory while there was daylight and went over and over the pieces. By the time I got to read it was about 9.00 p.m. and the daylight had gone. I could see next to nothing so it was a 90% memory, 10% torch and magnifying prompt job.

And it was a pretty good reading :) I think the combination of concentration and high octane adrenalin saw me though – not something I’d want to repeat and my body is still coming down, but it worked and the audience was great. You can see for yourself on YouTube - it should be up later today and is at http://uk.youtube.com/user/cinnamonpress

Joan Hewitt, also reading for Cinnamon, was brilliant and you can find her performance on YouTube too - on Cinnamon's new channel courtesy of Rowan.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

How can it be April one moment and the end of August the next? Time really is a tricky thing, especially when it's full of amazing books. Since my last post we've had events at Hay festival, launched lots more great titles and told ourselves that we'd catch up on all those fiddly admin jobs in august when it's quiet. As if! Ah well, wet (even for Wales, extraordinarily wet) summer almost at an end and we're looking forward to a sparkling array of literary treats this autumn.

Tomorrow I'm off to Liverpool to perform at the Costa Poetry Cafe alongside Cinnamon poet, Joan Hewitt. I'll be reading from Stale Bread & Miracles, a novelised sequence of prose poems that I'm pleased with (and liking one's own writing doesn't come easy to most authors) which deals with a long process of becoming one of the first women priests - hammering on the doors of the institution to be let in and then let out.

Joan will be reading from her fantastic collection, Missing the Eclipse. It's poetry that tells stories and sees life through the reflexive eye of the camera - it's visceral, but beautifully crafted. And Joan's performances are brilliant.

So August is ending on a high note and there's a lot more high notes to come.

Friday, 25 April 2008

More launches :)

Back from our latest launches, which were lots of fun. Wednesday at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea for the launch of Lloyd Rees's latest collection Simple Arithmetic. Lloyd's reading was great as was the hospitality of David Woolley and the regulars at the DTC monthly poetry in the bookshop. The open mic session had some real gems, especially from younger readers and the atmosphere was superb.

Thursday saw us at the Wales Millemium Centre for the launch of two brilliant books. Arriving to find the stage occupied by a flamboyant drag artist singing with gusto certainly made a different start to the evening, but these two authors could follow anything. It was great to hear readings from Kate North's multi-genre novel, Eva Shell, and Holly Howitt's unique collection of microfictions, Dinner Time.

Both authors are young women who've studied creative writing in Cardiff - Kate completing her PhD there and Holly currently working on her PhD. Both authors have the kind of distinctive voices that make their work utterly compelling. Both will be appearing with Mike Jenkins at the Hay festival on May 29th - so if you're planning a visit to Hay don't miss this event - it will be an absolute treat.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Keeping Busy

Just back from Cambridge where we had the launch of Dan Healy's excellent debut collection Winter Lines. Heffers was a great place for a launch - well attended, with an audience who really appreciated poetry. Dan's reading was excellent - complete with short, dry introductions that were exactly suited to his crisp, pared down poetry.

It's a book that deserves to sell well. Of course they all are - they're my babies, every precious one of them - and, as a mother of four in real life, I can honestly say that 52 babies and counting is a lot to feel responsible for, but it does bring a certain warm glow as well.

Being away from the desk means that things pile up so I returned to tackle the mounting slush pile of submissions to the poetry journal - Envoi. I recently did a feature on Envoi for Poetry News and worked out that we get aroudn 8,000 poems a year from around 2,000 poets. We have the space to keep about 4% of what is submitted. That's a lot of rejections. Some of the poems sent are so close to that elusive criteria of 'what I'm looking for' that I feel like an axe murderer for saying no, but the majority, sadly, are from people who never read poetry - or not since they had Humpty Dumpty read to them as infants.

There seems to be a huge, flourishing industry of therapeutic writing, which I have no doubt is a powerful tool for self discovery, expression and even healing and resolution. What seems less healthy is that bucketloads arrive at my door - twelve year olds who want to cut themselves; long term mental patients, a regular submission from a schizophrenic who has been sending me poetry for three years and insists he will not take no for an answer; a rather abusive young man in the States who emailed me ALL of his thoughts on the vileness of womankind when I wished him well with his writing.

I'm sure some of these people search out magazines for themselves, but the steep rise in such submissions leads me to wonder whether counsellors and therapists are suggesting that publication is possible as part of the process. I'll never know, but if I'm right it's an unwittingly cruel suggestion in most case - one that will only lead to rejection.

Submissions pile wrestled into shape, I can get on with some editing - the best bit :)

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Musing on literary prizes

It's a real boost when a book from a small press gets short-listed or even wins a literary prize. At Cinnamon we're thrilled with Jane McKie's success in the Sundial Scottish Book of the Year Prize in the category of best first book and similarly it was great to see Ruth Leader's collection, The Peacock Room, short listed for the Jerwood Aldeburgh Prize last November and Bill Greenwell's collection, Impossible Objects short listed for the best first collection in the Forward Prize.

As a small press we take great care in the selection of the books we publish and it's encouraging to see that other people in the literary world think we're making the right choices.

But, sadly, not all prizes are as open to small presses as they appear. Prizes like those mentioned above ask presses to send in a few copies of the book as part of entry - enough to allow the judges to see copies. Others ask for a fee - and this can be just the first prohibitive hurdle for small presses exising on shoestring budgets. Several major prizes ask for large numbers of books for free - well, fair enough - this might deter presses from submitting books casually and give pause to see how much investment a press has in a particular book. But given the sales figures of books from small presses, particularly poetry books, it can also be a real deterrant.

The Sunday Telegraph (27th January 2008) recently published the sales figures of the TS Elior prize short list - well known poets with established writing careers for the most part and shockingly low figures. Only three had sales of over 340 books out of the ten listed, most were in the 270-340 range and one made only 36 sales.

With figures like these even after being short listed for a prestigious prize having to supply a prize organiser with 80 or more free copies raises questions of whether entry is in the interest of the press. But it doesn't stop there. Many prizes require substantial payments from the publishers of short listed works towards publicity - often in the range of £2,500 or more with further money required if the book actually wins.

For a small press the maths simply doesn't work - by the time a fee is paid, copious copies supplied and perhaps £3,000 to £4,000 shelled out in marketing contributions the chances of selling enough extra copies of the book to so much as cover costs becomes vanishingly rare. The top seller in the TS Eliot shortlist was Sophie Hannah's Pessimisim for Beginners with 986 sales. Assuming a prize could boost our poetry sales to such figures, after costs for printing, distributors and royalties we'd still make only a modest profit and this would rapidly turn into a significant loss if we contributed thousands towards publicity costs to a prize organiser.

There are some excellent literary prizes that really do level the playing field between all sizes of press - prizes like the TS Eliot, the PBS prizes, the Forward prize, the Jerwood Aldeburgh prize, the Wales Book of the Year and the Sundial Scottish Book of the Year prize, but many others effectively have their doors shut to small presses. Some, of course, carry the chance of boosting sales well beyond the contributions asked for, For novels, for example, this could be the case, but it is still a risk and, in any case, many small presses don't have that kind of 'spare' cash with which to gamble upfront.

All the more reason, I suppose, to celebrate the prizes that truly are open to all on literary merit alone.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Congratulations to Cinnamon Author Jane McKie

A huge congratulations to Jane McKie, whose debut poetry collection, Morocco Rococo was yesterday announced as the category winner of best first book in the Sundial Scottish Arts Council book of the year awards. Jane will be awarded a cheque for £5000, and goes forward to be considered for an additional prize of £20,000 (an overall prize of £25,000). The overall winner will be announced at Borders Book Festival in Melrose on 20 June 2008 at an event hosted by writer and comedian Rory Bremner. Morocco Rococo was originally winner of the Cinnamon Press Poetry Collection Award and we’re thrilled at Cinnamon Press to have our choice so resoundingly confirmed. If you haven’t got a copy, now is the time to take advantage of our special offer on this fantastic title – just £6 inc p+p in the UK by cheque to ‘Cinnamon Press’ or on the website.

Delicate, layered images distilled to their visceral essentials characterise Jane McKie’s award winning poetry. She takes her readers on journeys – to the desert in the footsteps of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, to magical places from Scotland to Sussex or to the heart of the myth. Whatever the landscape we are let into a world where the senses are alive, where the same vivid acuity pulses on the page delivering sounds smells, tastes and sights as we have never known them.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Welcome to the Cinnamon Press blog.

Cinnamon is just about to celebrate its 50th book publication - the achingly good debut poetry collection of Kentucky author and lecturer, Kelly Moffett: Waiting for a Warm Body to Fill It.

Fifty books in two years has been quite a feat. We began cautiously with eleven titles in 2006 and moved up several gears in 2007, launching a further thirty titles. So far this year we've released another five great books with five more to come in April and a projected 65 titles in print by the end of 2008.

To celebrate all this I thought I'd start a blog - a record of a small press in progress.