Tag Archives: literature

Cardiff Book Festival – We Are Cardiff’s top picks!

Cardiff Book Festival started off as a fairly modest affair last year, but this year it’s bigger, brighter, and even has its own literary-themed disco! We’ve combed through the programme (the best value ticket is a weekend wristband for £30, btw) and found our picks for the weekend. So get your read on, and let’s go …

Cardiff Book Festival: Where the written word comes alive, aloud, and off the page in the Welsh capital!

Friday 22 – Sunday 24 September, The Angel Hotel, Cardiff

OUR PICKS:

Friday 22 September

 

Catherine Mayer – Attack of the 50 Ft. Women: How Gender Equality Can Save The World!

7.15 PM – DRAGON SUITE, THE ANGEL HOTEL

Not a single country anywhere in the world has achieved gender equality. In more than a few countries, progress for women has stalled or is reversing. If gender equality promises benefits not just to women, but to everyone, why aren’t we embracing it? And how can we speed the pace of change? In ‘Attack of the 50 Ft. Women’, journalist and co-founder of The Women’s Equality Party Catherine Mayer tackles those questions and many more, sharing inside views and experiences. In her insightful, revelatory, often hilarious, and hugely inspiring book, Catherine Mayer takes us to a place she calls Equalia. What is it like? Does gender equality make for a society that is more equal in other ways too? Who does the low-paid jobs? How does gender express itself in a place freed from gender programming? What’s the sex like? What’s on the telly? (£7 full price, £5 concessions)

Dylan Jones on David Bowie: A Life in conversation with Mike Williams sponsored by Capital Law

8.30PM – DRAGON SUITE, THE ANGEL HOTEL

Dylan Jones is the award-winning editor of GQ magazine, a position he has held since 1999, winning the British Society of Magazine Editors “Editor of the Year” award a record ten times. A former editor at i-D, The Face, Arena, the Observer and the Sunday Times, he is the author of New York Times best sellers on musical heroes including Jim Morrison and Elvis. His new book David Bowie- A Life is an engrossing, magisterial biography unlike any Bowie story ever written. It’s an epic, unforgettable cocktail-party conversation about a man whose enigmatic shapeshifting and irrepressible creativity produced one of the most sprawling, fascinating lives of our time. Drawn from over 180 interviews with friends, rivals, lovers, and collaborators, some of whom have never before spoken about their relationship with Bowie, this oral history weaves a hypnotic spell as it unfolds the story of a remarkable rise to stardom and an unparalleled artistic path. By turns insightful and deliciously gossipy, David Bowie- A Life is as intimate a portrait as may ever be drawn. It sparks with illuminating, never-before-seen material from Bowie himself, drawn from a series of Jones’s interviews with him across two decades. Dylan will be interviewed by Mike Williams, the editor-in-chief of NME, himself a winner of the British Society of Magazine Editors “Editor of the Year” award during his time at Kruger Magazine, which is where I also cut my journalistic teeth. RIP KRUGER. (£7 full price, £5 concessions)

 

Saturday 23 September

Scientists of Wales/Gwyddonwyr Cymru

1PM – PRINCE OF WALES SUITE, THE ANGEL HOTEL

The University of Wales’ series of books Scientists of Wales/Gwyddonwyr Cymru charts the lives, times and works of Welsh scientists, and of people active in science in Wales. This event will see lively discussion in Welsh and English about Wales’ place on science’s world map, taking in the stories of William Robert Grove, a pioneering researcher who anticipated the general theory of the conservation of energy, and was a pioneer of fuel cell technology and Evan James Williams, whose work included attempting to prove the existence of Hidiki Yukawa’s hypothetical pi mesonparticle, and working on the MDS (magnetic detection of submarines) system to tackle the U-boat menace of World War II. (£5/£3)

 

35 years of Fighting Fantasy with Ian Livingstone

2.30 PM – DRAGON SUITE, THE ANGEL HOTEL

Ian co-founded iconic games company Games Workshop with Steve Jackson in 1975, launching Dungeons & Dragons in Europe. In 1982, he co-authored The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the first Fighting Fantasy gamebook in the series which has sold almost 20 million copies worldwide. His best-selling titles include City of Thieves, Forest of Doom and Deathtrap Dungeon, and his new book, The Port of Peril, marks the 35th anniversary of Fighting Fantasy. When serving as Executive Chairman at Eidos, he launched global video games blockbusters including Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Ian has a passionate belief in the power of play as a contextual hub for learning, and he is a leading advocate for the importance of having Computing on the National Curriculum. His book Hacking the Curriculum is an essential guide for teachers to promote creativity, computational thinking and problem solving in the classroom – meta skills for the digital age. He was awarded a BAFTA Special Award in 2002 and a CBE in 2013. Ian will share a reflection on his career before a Q & A session chaired by BBC Radio 1’s Steffan Powell. (£7/£5)

 

Sanctuary – Refugee writing in Wales

8.15PM – PRINCE OF WALES SUITE, THE ANGEL HOTEL

Eric Ngalle Charles is a poet, dramatist and novelist and a former Cameroon refugee. His first book ‘Asylum’ deals with what it means to be a refugee, caught between two worlds, destitute and unable to move forward with one’s life. He’s joined by others seeking asylum and refuge in Wales whose stories, poetry and essays about their journeys feature the extraordinary histories of the men, women and children who are seeking sanctuary in Wales. (£5/£3)

 

Sunday 24 September

Merthyr: the crucible of modern Wales? Sponsored by Modern Wales, Parthian

1PM – PRINCE OF WALES SUITE, THE ANGEL HOTEL

Dai Smith interrogates Joe England’s claim that Merthyr was the crucible in the development of Wales in the 19th Century and moving on a century asks why Huw Lewis’s moving memoir of growing up in Aberfan in the 1960s and 1970s, The Skylark’s Song, has so much to say about the past as a foreign country. (£5/3)

 

How Bullshit Conquered the World with James Ball

2.30 PM – DRAGON SUITE, THE ANGEL HOTEL

2016 marked the birth of the post-truth era. Sophistry and spin have coloured politics since the dawn of time, but two shock events – the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s elevation to US President – heralded a departure into murkier territory. This is the story of bullshit: what’s being spread, who’s spreading it, why it works – and what we can do to tackle it. This is bigger than fake news and bigger than social media. It’s about the slow rise of a political, media and online infrastructure that has devalued truth. The Pulitzer Prize-winning James Ball should know. He’s worked in political, data and investigative journalism in the US and the UK for BuzzFeed, The Guardian and the Washington Post in a career spanning TV, digital, print and alternative media. (£5/£3)

 

Neil M.C. Sinclair

6.30PM – DRAGON SUITE, THE ANGEL HOTEL

Afro-Celtic author and historian, Neil M.C. Sinclair is a native of Tiger Bay, the oldest multi-ethnic community in Wales. He has written extensively on the history of his unique hometown, a place which is now the subject of the new musical ‘Tiger Bay’, premiering in Cardiff this November. Sinclair’s insider’s view of the area draws on personal memories, family history and a lifetime’s worth of connections within one of Cardiff’s most celebrated communities. Supported by Wales Millennium Centre’s Tiger Bay the Musical, 13th-25th November 2017. (£5/£3)

 

Buy a festival wristband or choose your tickets here: Cardiff Book Festival tickets (on eventbrite)

Cardiff Book Festival website

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Cardiff Book Festival 2016 – our picks, full line up and ticket information

cardiff_book_festivalThe Cardiff Book Festival programme has been announced! A weekend of bookish delights and literary indulgence await, featuring literary heroes like Miranda Sawyer and Deborah Moggach. Whoop!

The festival takes place over the last weekend of October (from Friday 28 to Sunday 30 October) in various venues across Cardiff – more details at the bottom of this post.

Read on for our picks of the weekend and details about tickets!

We Are Cardiff’s festival picks!

Improve your Writing: Poetry, Short Story and Novel Writing workshops

28.10.16 – 9.30am to 12.30pm, Cardiff Central Library, Meeting Room 4

A unique opportunity to write with and learn from some of the most exciting names in Welsh fiction. Let our authors guide you through the finer points of fiction, poetry and short story writing, whether you’re just starting out or have been in the world of words for year. Poetry will be taught by prize-winning Jonathan Edwards, whose work has been widely published in magazines such as Poetry Review. Dan Tyte is an acclaimed novelist and writer- he will guide you through getting your novel into shape. The brilliant, award-winning Rachel Trezise burst onto the literary scene at the age of 22 becoming one of the most original writers of her generation. She’ll teach you the art of the short story. Join us for a one-off event that any aspiring author will not want to miss.

Workshops: Getting Published

28.10.16 – 1pm to 4pm, Cardiff Central Library, Meeting Room 4

Need help navigating the often complex process of publishing your work? The Getting Published masterclass covers everything you need to know to get into print. From exploring self-publishing options, how to find an agent and a publisher, building an author profile and platform, tips on how to get your book to sell and much more. With advice from industry experts including Hazel Cushion, the founder and managing director of Accent Press and Richard Davies, director of Parthian, this masterclass is a one stop shop for all your publishing needs.

Owen Sheers: On Life, In Words

28.10.16, 6pm. Yr Hen Lyfrgell

From Zimbabwe (The Dust Diaries), to the war torn fields of Pink Mist, or the rugby pitch in his non-fiction work, Calon, wherever his writing takes him, Owen Sheers\u2019 heart is still in Wales. His latest novel, I Saw a Man, is a gripping and stylish novel and he’s now renowned as one of the best contemporary writers. Owen’s novels, poetry and screenwriting are known all across the world. Chaired by Felicity Evans.

The Debuts, Laura Powell and Dan Tyte

29.10.16 – 10am–11am Cardiff Central Library, 5th Floor Creative Suite

They say everyone has one good book in them. Few ever get round to writing it, far less getting it published. Telegraph journalist, Laura Powell, traded fact for fiction with her debut novel, The Unforgotten, a thriller featuring forbidden love and a serial killer. Dan Tyte’s debut, Half Plus Seven, sees a jaded PR man in search of some sort of meaning in a book described as “a coming of age novel snorting with energy.

Roald Dahl Tour

29.10.16 – 11am, The City Cross at Cathedral Green, Llandaff

A hunt for what remains of one of the finest writers Wales has produced with author and poet Peter Finch. Dahl was born here in 1916 and left for boarding school when he was 10. In that time he managed to live in three different houses and to move around Cardiff enough for the city to seep into his creative consciousness. We visit his birthplace and take in other places of historical significance. This two-hour walk is aimed at adults but children are welcome.”

Miranda Sawyer – Mid-Life Moments

29.10.16 – 4.30pm, The Angel Hotel

What exactly is a mid-life crisis, and what happens when one arrives? The respected journalist and broadcaster Miranda Sawyer tackles this most challenging of times with humour and candid insight in her book Out of Time. For Sawyer, her mid-life crisis made its presence felt when she was 44. Here she discusses how our tastes and our bodies change as we get older; and the unexpected new pleasures the second half of life can offer.

Elliw Gwawr –  Living the Sweet Life (Welsh language event)

30.10.16 – 11.30am, Yr Hen Lyfrgell

BBC Cymru Wales’ Westminster Correspondent Elliw Gwawr swaps politics for puddings as she discusses her passion for baking. Gwawr has enjoyed cooking since she was a child, and following the success of ‘Paned a Chacen’ the first ever Welsh language baking blog, has gone on to publish two hugely popular books ‘Paned a Chacen’ and ‘Pobi.’ Filled with her favourite recipes for puddings, cakes and biscuits, Gwawr’s books are enough to satisfy any sweet tooth.

Jasmine Donahaye– Memoir and Memory

30.10.16 Yr Hen Lyfrgell

Poet and author Jasmine Donahaye discusses the life-changing events that became her award-winning memoir Losing Israel. In 2007, after a chance conversation with her mother, a kibbutznik, Donahaye stumbled upon the collusion of her family in the displacement of Palestinians in 1948. When she set out to learn the story of what happened, what she discovered challenged everything she thought she knew about the country and her family, and transformed her understanding of the place, and of herself. Winner of the 2016 Wales Book of the Year Creative Non-Fiction Award, Losing Israel is a moving and candid work, which spans travel writing, nature writing and memoir.

Deborah Moggach: The Best Exotic Writer in Wales – stories from the Marigold Hotel

30.10.16, Yr Hen Lyfrgell

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a smash when it hit the silver screen, cementing Deborah Moggach’s place at the top of the writing tree – it was her book, These Foolish Things, that the film was based on. Now living and writing in Wales, she is the author of sixteen other books – including best seller Tulip Fever – and several screenplays, such as the blockbuster Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley. She joins us to read from and discuss her new novel Something to Hide, which she’s adapting for the BBC. Spanning continents, it follows characters as they uncover secrets. “It turns out that no matter where you are in the world, everyone has something to hide.”

Neil Sinclair on Butetown: Tiger Bay Remembered

30.10.16, Yr Hen Lyfrgell

Afro-Celtic author and Cardiff historian Neil M. C. Sinclair is a native of Tiger Bay, the oldest multi-ethnic community in Wales. He has written extensively on the history of his unique hometown, providing an insider’s view of life in old Tiger Bay. Drawing on personal memories, family history and a lifetime’s worth of connections within the community, Sinclair’s humorous and thought-provoking journey through the old streets of Tiger Bay and Cardiff Docks in their heyday delves into the real heart of one of Cardiff’s most celebrated communities.”

 

Cardiff Book Festival: full programme

Friday

28.10,16 – 8am – Business breakfast debate- business leaders discuss what 2016 was like and what’s ahead in 2017.

28.10.16 – 9.30am to 12.30pm – Improve your Writing: Poetry, Short Story and Novel Writing workshops

28.10.16 – 1pm to 4pm – Workshops: Getting Published

28.10.16 – 10am Oodles of Doodles with Huw Aaron

28.10.16 – 6pm – Owen Sheers

28.10.16 – 7.30pm – After Euro 2016

Saturday

29.10.16 – 10am – The Debuts

29.10.16 – 11am – Roald Dahl Tour

29.10.16 – 11.15am – Caryl Lewis and Catrin Beard WELSH LANGUAGE EVENT

29.10.16 – 12.30 – Rachel Trezise and Thomas Morris

29.10.16 – 13.30 – Roald Dahl Tour

29.10.16 – 1.45pm –  Ifor ap Glyn and Clare Potter WELSH LANGUAGE EVENT

29.10.16 – 2pm – Patrick McGuinness and Holly Muller

29.10.16 – 3.15pm – Iolo Williams

29.10.16 – 4.30pm – Miranda Sawyer

29.10.16 -7pm – Martin Williams

29.10.16 – 8.30pm – Sophie Hannah

29.10.16 – late – Swn Festival at CBF

Sunday

30.10.16 – 10am – Poetry – Belonging: A Sense of Place. The immigration Handbook (Caroline Smith) and Jonathan Edwards.

30.10.16 – 11.00 – Elliw Gwawr –  Living the Sweet Life WELSH LANGUAGE

30.10.16 – noon – Jasmine Donahaye– Memoir and Memory

30.10.16 – 2pm – Deborah Moggach – stories from the Marigold Hotel

30.10.16 – 3.15pm – Cynan Jones and Tom Bullough

30.10.16 – 4.30pm – Neil Sinclair on Butetown

30.10.16 – 6pm – Debate – Feminism in 2016 with Felicity Evans

 

More information:

Cardiff Book Festival
Fri 28 Oct – Sun 30 Oct 2016, various venues across Cardiff

Cardiff Book Festival website

Cardiff Book Festival tickets

Cardiff Book Festival Twitter

 

Old Books - photo by Walt Jabsco

Old Books – photo by Walt Jabsco on Flickr

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Cardiff Book Festival / Gŵyl Lyfrau Caerdydd

Seems like 2016 is the inaugural year for many things here in our fair Cardiff. We had our first theatre fringe, and now there’s a crowdfunder open for our first Book Festival!

Loads of cities have Book Festivals, right? So why doesn’t Cardiff have one? Here at We Are Cardiff, we’re very partial to a good yarn – so much so, we published our first book for the We Are Cardiff Press late last year (it’s called The 42b and is a collection of short stories about an unconventional bus route through a dystopian Cardiff), and we’re currently scheming on our second one.

Anyway, back to the book festie … here’s all the official blurb …

Cardiff Book Festival Gŵyl Lyfrau Caerdydd is backed by award-winning writers and leading figures in Welsh public life.

Here’s the background:

https://vimeo.com/174498399

This year, the aim is to host a three-day festival aimed at promoting reading, writing and debate to the Welsh capital for the first time this autumn (28-30th October 2016).

It comes in the year the city celebrates the centenary of its most famous literary son, Roald Dahl.

The ambition is to continue to grow every year adding more events and putting the Cardiff Book Festival on the literary map.

Events will include artists like Ifor ap Glyn, the national poet of Wales, award-winning writers including Rachel Trezise and Jonathan Edwards and the investigative journalist, Martin Williams.

Festival organisers are aiming to raise £5,000 via Indiegogo but the more they can raise the more events they can organise at the festival.

As well as helping the festival get off the ground, they’re offering supporters a range of experiences including signed books, a Roald Dahl walking tour with one of our favourite Cardiff writers, Peter Finch, masterclasses with award-winning authors including Rachel Trezise and workshops with publishers and agents on how budding writers can get into print.

They’re promising a diverse and inclusive programme featuring talks and debates from high profile figures on topics ranging from poetry to politics, crime writing to children’s events, fiction to feminism and the Welsh language to walking tours.

Get involved! 

There are a whole bunch of great rewards offered on the Cardiff Book Festival Indiegogo page. (In case you were wondering, we’ve already booked ourselves on the Peter Finch walking tour – they’re good fun and always very interesting).

peter finch

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Cardiff for literature lovers and budding bards

Hear ye, hear ye! Poet Patrick Widdess has put together a guide to Cardiff’s ever-growing underground for authors, poets, and lovers of the written word. Read on for the low-down on Cardiff’s best open-mic and other events! 

We Are Cardiff present its first book, Porter pub thursday 5 november 2015, an evening through readings, live music and the most creative mind within the Welsh capital through an art joruney into the heart of creative cardiff.

Lovers of literature and budding bards have plenty of chances to indulge their passion for poetry and prose in Cardiff. The city has an ever-growing programme of events where you can hear a variety of poets and spoken word artists. Some attract established writers from Cardiff and further afield. Most feature open mic spots for writers and performers of all styles and levels of experience to share their work. There is something on almost every night of the week and these events are always worth checking out:

RARA (Rhyme and Real Ale)

Second Monday of the month
Mackintosh Sports Club, Keppoch Street, Roath

This friendly event welcomes poets of all levels to share their work or just listen. As organiser Will Ford says: “People should come to RARA  because beginners are given the same warm welcome as experienced readers and everybody gets the same five minute slot length. It is free and it is a fun, eclectic night where every reader gets to be as silly or as serious as their own writing demands!”

Will also runs spoken word events at various times and places under the name Megaverse (www.facebook.com/Megaverse-1157959360887023).

JUKE

Monthly (Check Facebook page for dates)
Four Bars at Dempseys
15 Castle Street, CF10 1BS
7 – 11pm

JUKE has only been going a short time but this open mic night has already established a solid reputation. Organiser Renn Hubbuck-Melly says: “JUKE is a night for writers of all different styles and forms which focuses specifically on performance and encourages people to explore and experiment with new ways of presenting words. There are feature acts who are seasoned performers and themed nights which ask people to write on a specific theme, the latest one being Myths and Fairytales. It is a very friendly, welcoming environment that can help inspire writers to think further than the page. It’s also entertaining and enjoyable for those who just want to come and watch.”
 
 

Rubberneck

Fourth Sunday of the month
See Facebook page for venue
6:30pm
A new night in one of Cardiff’s newest creative spaces. Stephanie Finegan and Natasha Borton invite lovers of words, music and coffee to enjoy a night “with the vibe of the Beat Generation and the power of spoken word, rhythm and music mixing in the air with daiquiris and Cappuccinos.”
 
 

First Thursday of the month at Chapter

Market Road, CF5 1QE
7:30pm

No excuses for forgetting when this event is! First Thursday features established writers and open mic slots. It is hosted by Amy Wack, Poetry Editor at Seren press and sponsored by Seren, Mulfran Press and Literature Wales. Such backing guarantees a high-calibre night of literary talent. There is a £2.50 entry fee refunded against the cost of books.

First Thursday Facebook group

Cardiff visiting writers series

Six times a year (always on a Monday) 
Four Bars at Dempseys
15 Castle Street, CF10 1BS
 
Cardiff University’s department of English, Communications and Philosophy organises this series which offers a great opportunity for their students and members of the public to hear published authors, and share their own work on the open mic in a relaxed setting. Past authors at the event have included Tessa Hadley and Rachel Trezise. There is often a Q&A session with the visiting author.
 
Patrick Widdess is a poet based in Newport. He is a familiar face on the Cardiff spoken word scene and his work has appeared in publications including Agenda, Cake, The Interpreter’s House, The Guardian, Waitrose Weekend and others. He hosts poetry blog and podcast Headstand and has recently published the book ‘Poetry Non-stop: Unlock your poetic muse and write a poem a day for 30 days’ available on Amazon. Support your local talent and buy a copy now!
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By the way … if you’re a lover of literature, did we mention that the We Are Cardiff Press debut book, The 42b, is out now?

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The roots of rock … Peter Finch goes from Cardiff to Mississippi and back

The lovely Peter Finch has written a book called (you’ve guessed it) The roots of rock – from Cardiff to Mississipi and back. And to celebrate, there’s a launch party!

roots of rock

Peter’s book draws on a life long love of music and the need to trace its roots … he explains the book way more eloquently than I could ever dream of, so I’ll just let him tell you what it’s about:

“I want to find out where the material I listened to as a young man and which became the backdrop to my life came from. I want to discover where it lived. How it was. How it is. How it got there. I want to find out on the ground how the blues, hillbilly, old time dance music, bluegrass, Hank Williams country and western, rockabilly,  Nashville slick and straight ahead Rocket 88 rock and roll came about. What were the components of these musics? How did they cross the Atlantic? What parts came from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales?”

“Most importantly I want to discover how the magic all this became made the transition back to rain drenched Wales. How did it flow across the Bay of Tigers to manifest itself in the bright blue drape jackets of Valley’s born Teddy Boys?  How did it appear amid the banjos plucked in folk clubs in pub back rooms on the Welsh Capital’s Broadway and Charles Street?”

How did it rock in the dance halls of Sophia Gardens, Cowbridge Road and Death Junction? And, in particular, how did it inform the taste of more than one Welsh generation? Mike Harries, Man, the Sons of Adam, Amen Corner, The Sun Also Rises, Edward H, Meic Stevens, the Manic Street Preachers, Cate Le Bon, Richard James, Georgia Ruth, Gruff Rhys,  Trampolene, Baby Queens, Climbing Trees, and Euros Childs.

The book starts in south Wales, in the place I come from. The Cardiff delta.  The flood plain made by the three city rivers – the Ely, the Taff, the Rumney – aided ably by the Roath Brook, the Nant, and that long lost waterway, the Tan. Cardiff is not the centre of the music universe by any means but it has had its moments.  Bill Haley came here in 1957 and played the Cardiff Capitol. Lynyrd Skynyrd did the same thing in 1975. John Lee Hooker was here in 1964 at a surf club on the Wentloog flatlands. Jerry Lee played  Sophia Gardens in 1962. Dion wandered to the Capitol in 1964. Chuck Berry duck walked there a year later. Johnny Cash visited in 1966. Elvis never. How and why? I want to know.

So there you go! I can’t wait to read it.

See you at the party?

Butetown Arts and History Centre
4 Dock Chambers, Cardiff CF10 5AG
Monday 7 December, 19.00

The Roots Of Rock From Cardiff To Mississippi And Back  by Peter Finch will be published by Seren Books on 7 December, 2015. There’ll be a paperback at £9.99 and a e-book at the same price. You can order your copy from Seren Books.

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Why I set up the We Are Cardiff Press

Today Hana Johnson – the director of our sister project, the We Are Cardiff Press – tells us why she decided to get into publishing. The Press’s debut book, The 42b, is available for pre-order now, and its official launch party is on 5 November.

You can read a preview chapter from the book online here.

Our Hana
Hana

On Friday, I did an interview for a WalesOnline story about the launch of the We Are Cardiff Press and our debut book.

The reporter asked me why I decided to set up the Press, and I began to describe the hundred reasons why I wanted to get into a dying industry.

Here are the five top:

1. I love books

Words have been my closest friend since I was about six years old. I used to get told off for reading in the bath and making the pages go all crinkly, and staying up until 3am reading Point Horror when I had school the next day.

I tasted razor-sharp suspense reading Rebecca for the first time, and fell in love with Edmund Dantès on a 26-hour south American bus journey.

I’ve been on adventures with Graham Greene, Paul Theroux and Alex Garland.

I’ve weed myself laughing at White Teeth and Alexei Sayle. I discovered injustice reading 1984 and The Killing Fields.

I recoiled at Ian McEwan’s The Innocent, and read Roald Dahl’s short stories over and over and over.

My bookshelves strain under the weight of unexpected buys, swaps, gifts and mysterious acquirements.   

My bookshelves are rainbow colour coded. And?
My bookshelves are rainbow colour coded… too far?

I can’t imagine a day when I won’t buy books. My house would be empty, for a start, but I’d have no presents to give people, no more afternoons wandering the damp depths of Troutmark and nothing to accompany me on long journeys.

Many of my friends feel the same, and even though book sales have been plummeting for years, I think there is still a place for beautiful, physical books in our lives.

And so, the idea for our first book was born…

Coincidentally, book sales are actually up this year, so there may be hope for the printed word yet!

2.  I wanted to contribute to a new kind of publishing

I received an offer for a publishing deal for our debut book, The 42b, in 2013. It was yet to be written, the illustrations were undrawn, and we didn’t know whether it would be any good.

The publisher told me that they could ‘turn around’ a 30,000 word book in three days – that meant editing, formatting and designing a cover. The unit price of the printing was suspiciously low, and the contributors would receive a tiny royalty for each copy sold.

It was tempting: easy, fast, on to the next project. But the publisher handed me a copy of a book they had recently launched… and they had spelled the author’s name differently on the cover and the spine. ‘Mistakes happen, it’ll be corrected in the second edition’, they told me.

The cover looked like it had been made on Microsoft Publisher, using Clipart from 1998.

It repulsed me. I hate seeing books with bad design or terrible marketing – the Lousy Book Covers website is almost too much for me – the grammar, the designs, the audacity…

The eleven people who had agreed to write and draw for the book are passionate about writing and art. They spend their free time writing stories, giving feedback to other writers, re-writing their work, attending creative writing classes, and submitting their work to journals and publishers and websites. They know that there’s no big money in writing, but they do it because they love it.

I wanted a publisher that cares about the work as much as we do. Someone that aches over a perfect cover design, proof-reads it a million times, and promotes it with all the intensity with which it was created.

And so I thought, ‘I can do this better’.

The Duracell bunny that is Helia Phoenix set up We Are Cardiff five years ago, with the intention of telling a different story of Cardiff to the one written in the tabloids at the time. She saw all the creative and cultural vibrancy of this city and created an outlet to champion it.

I came home from that meeting with the publisher and told her that I wanted to set up a small press to publish Cardiff’s best writers, artists and photographers, and I wanted to call it the We Are Cardiff Press. She said (as she always does) – ‘YES!! GO FOR IT!!!!!’ (with a hundred more exclamation marks). She also wrote eight blog posts while we had that conversation (or thereabouts).

After throwing the idea around with some incredibly talented and wonderful friends, and after getting inspiration from small presses such as Tiny Hardcore Books, the We Are Cardiff Press was born…

I decided that it would be completely non-profit – all the contributors work for free.

Any profit from the books will go into the Press to fund the next project, and to run writing workshops to help new people contribute to our future books.

We decided that we would only print what people wanted to read. If people didn’t want to buy the books, we wouldn’t print them: that’s why we are running a pre-order campaign to judge the level of interest in the book, and then print the right number of books.

I made a conscious decision to not apply for funding from the Arts Council or Literature Wales. This project takes up a lot of my spare time, and if I had to fit in writing applications and funding evaluations, I wouldn’t have time to write, edit, or promote our books. It also means that we’re free to do whatever we want with our books –  we are not confined by funding restrictions.

3. Writers deserve to have their work showcased and nurtured

Typically, writers aren’t good at self-promotion; they need encouragement and exposure and confidence. Large publishers reject work without telling people what’s wrong with it, so it’s impossible for work to improve without feedback.

Creative writing classes such as Briony Goffin’s are brilliant spaces, where writers feel safe to read their work out loud without the fear of ridicule. The work written in these classes deserves to have a wider audience, if the writers want it.

People write for different reasons: some genuinely aren’t interested in publishing, they do it for themselves. Some want to make a career, and some want to create a legacy that will live in libraries and bookshelves for years to come.

There’s an opportunity for small presses to take risks on alternative, challenging literature that the larger publishers don’t consider marketable. We know that some work will have a niche market, but does that mean that it should only exist online?

Online publishing is fantastic, but it can be short-lived.

When we click ‘publish’ on We Are Cardiff, we instantly reach over 35,000 people for the moment that the piece flashes in their inbox, on their Twitter feed or Facebook timeline. But it risks being missed or forgotten.

By publishing the very best work we discover in printed form, the slow-burn of old fashioned books spreads slower, but lasts longer.

We may only sell a few hundred copies of our book, but a copy of it will sit in the British Library, the National Library of Wales, and Scotland and the Bodleian in Oxford. And, after only two weeks and minimal marketing, we’ve already received orders for The 42b from unexpected places – France, the USA and Scotland!

The acclaimed literary critic and writer Peter Finch recently told us that he is ‘so impressed with the way [we] are going about publishing and selling The 42b’. He said that it is ‘the best approach’ that he’s seen ‘in an age’. And he speaks as a former publisher, bookseller and a present day writer!

The best advice I’ve read on starting a small press is:

4. The We Are Cardiff community is capable of amazing things

As soon as I put a Batsignal out that We Are Cardiff wanted writers and illustrators for a new book, I received about 20 pitches for stories in a month.

While setting up the Press, I’ve realised the incredible strength of the We Are Cardiff brand and team. People and organisations want to support and grow the creative community in Cardiff, and it’s exciting.

A few examples:

  • the Cardiff chapter of Urbanistas gave me such valuable feedback, contacts and advice;
  • Dan at Porter’s, where we are holding our launch party on 5 November (more info on Porter’s next week) has bent over backwards to help us arrange our event;
  • Abbey Bookbinding is an amazing Cardiff-based, family-run printer; Darren has spent hours perfecting the print of our detailed cover design, and providing brilliant creative advice; and
  • I also got excellent guidance on the Press’s legal structure and finances from Branwen at the Wales Co-op Centre.

We found performers and musicians to play at the launch within days, and people have volunteered to proofread the book and give advice on stuff like distribution and ISBN numbers. Just look how gorgeous the book is:

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Due to Helia’s incredible marketing skills, James’s design and video ideas, Alice’s events management expertise and Lisa’s proofreading, the book and the Press has come together in people’s spare time.

The writers and illustrators (who alongside the core team include Adam Chard, Paul Hunt, Sam Bees, Robin Wilkinson, Llion Wigley, Georgia Burdett and Emily Jones) have made a bloody amazing book!

I also have to give a shout out to our developer Matt Harris, who made our gorgeous online preview chapter. He’s the only person who doesn’t live in Cardiff, but we figured Bristol is like an honorary Cardiff 😉

5. Our ideas are endless

As soon as we launch our first book, we’ll begin taking submissions for the next one. I have at least a million ideas, but here are a few:

  • a book of portrait photography and personal stories of refugees and asylum seekers in Cardiff – how they got here, what they brought with them, and how they’ve made Cardif their home;
  • a book of recipes from chefs in the city. There has been an explosion in pop-up food in Cardiff, from Hangfire to Lia’s Kitchen, and it would be fantastic to bring together the best dishes that this city has to offer; and
  • a collection of street photography, paired with poetry or a piece of writing.

We can’t wait to get started.

Get involved with the Press by buying The 42b or coming to our launch.

Let’s bring books back!

Han  – hana@wearecardiffpress.co.uk

xx

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