Friday, 11 December 2015

Prizewinners and a date for the diary

Words & Women has had a fantastic week this week. Firstly we heard we’d been shortlisted for Women In Publishing’s New Venture Award 2015. The award ceremony was held in London on Wednesday and the prize went to Mother’s MilkBooks, a publishing house in Nottingham, but we were runners-up! We’re absolutely thrilled to be recognised by women in the business. It’s a great honour and very encouraging.

Then we heard that a story ‘You Have What You Want’ included in Words & Women: Two, published by Unthank Books was awarded the Margaret Hewson prize. Anthea Morrison wrote the story and has read her work at Words & Women events in Cambridge. The prize is awarded annually by Johnson & Alcock Literary Agency to a student on the Creative Writing MA at Royal Holloway University of London. Anthea's short story impressed all the judges 'with its clear, spare prose and powerful description of a woman's altered state of mind. The story about a new mother's midnight stroll was beautifully observed and full of tension.' Congratulations Anthea!

Finally a date for your diary. Words & Women will be celebrating its fifth anniversary next year. We are organising a great International Women’s day event to celebrate. It will take place in the evening on the 7th March at the Norwich Arts Centre. More information will be released in the New Year but it will include the launch of our third anthology Words & Women: Three, readings, music and comedy.  All are welcome.Tickets are £5. Half of the money raised will support Words & Women’s future projects and half will go to our chosen charity Women For Refugee Women.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Words & Women interviews Rosie Sherwood about her latest publishing venture 'As Yet Untitled'.

W&W: Hi Rosie. Tell us a little about your work as an artist and publisher.
Rosie: Hi. My work as an artist is driven by my desire to tell stories every way I can. Storytelling and art have been at the heart of my life for as long as I can remember so it is unsurprising to me that the two things have become intrinsically linked. It is what first drew me to photography, as it is such a potent medium with which to tell stories and it is what continues to draw me to books of every sort.
I have been working with artists’ books for years now and the potential of the book never stops exciting me. As Yet Untitled is a reflection of all of that.

W&W: Tell us about As Yet Untitled?
Rosie: As Yet Untitled is an independent publishing house that specialises in limited edition, hand made artists’ books. At the heart of the company lies my interest in narrative and storytelling, and every new book published by As Yet Untitled will use the books form and structure in new and different ways to tell stories or explore how narrative works. I will be working collaboratively with poets, visual artists, writers, historians, musicians and more to make new, exciting and different books.

W&W: Where did the title for the press come from?
Rosie: As Yet Untitled is a personal joke. I love fantastic titles; I even have a list with my best friend of all the really wonderful titles we come across. However I struggle hugely with titling my own work. I always save new projects as AYU meaning As Yet Untitled. It seemed an appropriate name for a publishing house that is going to work collaboratively on projects from the very inception of an idea right through to publication. After all, everything we work on will be untitled at first.

W&W: Can you explain what an artist’s book is for those that don’t know?
Rosie: It can be almost anything really. Artists’ books can take any form, shape, come in every medium and fit in every “ism” of art and literature. At its core is the book as an art object. A book for which form and structure create meaning and the object itself is as important as what lies on its pages

W&W: As Yet Untitled was originally formed in 2012. Tell us about the first few years of the press.
Rosie: When I first started As Yet Untitled it was nothing more than a line on the back page of Elbow Room, our journal. I knew even with the very first volume of Elbow Room that I wanted the potential to create more books that would all fall under the same umbrella, the same independent publishing house. As my artistic practise grew As Yet Untitled became the name under which I produced my own artists’ books. Since the name first appeared in Elbow Room we have taken part in book fairs, got work into bookshops and special collections and taken part in exhibitions.
This growth has all been organic, until now I haven’t had any particular plan about where the press was going. That changed this year when I did a bit of work on The Princes Trust enterprise program, now we have a proper business plan with ideas set out for the next 5 years.
W&W: You mentioned Elbow Room. Can you tell us a little more about it?
Rosie: Elbow Room was started in 2012. It is an indie journal that celebrates art in all guises. Every volume includes a carefully curated selection of new writing and art sitting page to page. It was started out of my frustration that art is so often segregated from itself- poetry put over here, photography over there, music in that corner, literature in another. As an artist I am as likely to be inspired by a medium I don’t work in as I am by one I do. I wanted Elbow Room to be a reflection of the relationship between the arts.
It has become the flagship publication for As Yet Untitled and reflects many of the values of the press. Every volume of Elbow Room is hand made, numbered and produced as a limited collectors edition. We want to make an object people want to collect.
Since its launch we have made eleven volumes, three special editions in collaboration with the writers and UEA and run our first competition. We also host series of live events that brings art off the page and gives us a chance to showcase artists we can’t publish, animators, film makers, musicians. Its an exciting a diverse project and we are really looking forward to moving forward with it as the press expands.

W&W: You’ve decided to put As Yet Untitled on Kickstarter. What drew you to crowd funding?
Rosie: Crowd funding is something I feel passionately about. Funding for the arts becomes more and more difficult for everyone to access, particularly individuals and small businesses. The government is gutting public funding, demonstrating how little they believe in the importance of art. Crowd funding is a truly democratic process, a way for the public to act as patrons for the arts. It is a way not for the super wealthy but for everyone and anyone to show that they believe art matters, by helping to support artists in an incredibly grass roots way. I think it is incredible. I have pledged to numerous projects, big and small. When I was considering ways to fund my plans for the next stage of As Yet Untitled crowd funding seemed to obvious step. It isn’t an easy solution; it takes a huge amount of hard work to run a successful crowd funding campaign. But its worth it, getting the kind of support we are getting is incredible.

W&W: Tell us how Kickstarter works.
Rosie: There are a lot of crowd funding websites out there but Kickstarter is my favourite because it is risk free for the artists and their supporters. It works on an all or nothing basis. We need a particular amount of money to do all the things we are planning on, if we didn’t have enough the project would fail.
With Kickstarter you don’t get any money unless you reach your target amount, the amount you need to fulfil your promises. I like that because I want to be able to give everyone who has supported us exactly what we promised.
And of cause, if you are really lucky you can raise more, many Kickstarter projects are funding beyond the target amount.

W&W: What kinds of rewards do you have for people who donate?
Rosie: We have all sorts from bookmarks to back issues of Elbow Room or vouchers for our online shop. We have Kickstarter exclusive posters, limited edition photographs and portfolio feedback with my co-curator at Elbow Room and myself.
The rewards start from as little as £3. I think people imagine that the small pledges can’t really help so they have to give lots or none at all, but that’s not true. Every penny helps.

W&W: How much money do you hope to make, and what will it be used for?
Rosie: The target is £2000. Though obviously the dream is to make as much as possible. It is all going to be spent on materials and equipment, things we will be able to use for years to come. A pledge now is an investment in the very foundations of the press.
I’ve been talking a lot in the promotion of the Kickstarter about paying it forward. Every pledge to As Yet Untitled will help us to make countless artists’ books. The money people are giving won’t just help me but every artist and writer we work with.

W&W: Tell us a little about the books you plan to make?
Rosie: That’s hard to do, as I don’t know what they will be yet. What I can say is that every book we make will be different, unusual, experimental and fantastical in some way. As for the first titles, the ones due out next year, I can say that one is mine, a book called The Ellentree that has been waiting a long time for become real. The other two are going to be made in collaboration with two different poets, Zelda Chappel and Ella Chappell (not relation). Exactly what they end up being… hopefully enough people will pledge for us to find out!

Rosie is a multidisciplinary artist, independent publisher and scholar with an MA in Book Arts from Camberwell College of Art. Running her own independent publishing company she also works as a visiting lecturer at Universities across the country. This year she has taken part in group exhibitions at both The Southbank Centre and the Oxo Tower Gallery. Her work is housed in special collections both national and international including the Tate Library and Archive, The Poetry Library and the State Libraries of both Queensland and Victoria, Australia.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Thank you for entering our prose competition

Thank you to every one who sent in an entry for our prose competition. We had 176 entries in total, a solid mix of fiction and non. Currently we’re drawing up our shortlist of 40 which Words & Women and guest judge Emma Healey, author of Elisabeth Is Missing, will reread over December. Then we will meet at the start of January to decide on the winner of our £600 first prize and 20 commended who will appear in our anthology Words And Women: Three, published by Unthank Books. We hope to make the announcement of our winner on the 5th January.
In the meantime we received an entry for our competition from Amelia Humphreys-Piercy who lives in Norwich. Amelia was attracted to our competition because ‘no boys’ were allowed to take part.  We were unable to put Amelia’s entry forward for judging because she is 9 years old and our rules state that only women writers over the age of 16 can enter. However, we were impressed by Amelia’s piece and so, with her and her mother’s permission, we are posting it in full here. We would like to congratulate Amelia on her engaging work and wish her all the best for her writing in the future.

First Sight
By Amelia Humphreys-Piercy

The first time I saw it, it was amazing: amber and cerulean feathers dazzling in the bright sun. Me and my dad had sat for ages at the nature reserve, but apart from a few drakes there was no sign of life. We sat there for a good hour before we saw it. There was Dad, sitting, staring out, camera at the ready on its mini-tripod. There I was, sitting with my mints at hand, surveying the landscape. I may not have had a camera like my dad, but I certainly had my memory. At first the bird was just a blur of orange and blue, but then it came back and sat on the wooden post. Dad snapped photos with his camera, I snapped photos with my mind. Then the bird dived, not in water as you would think, but in the air – grabbed a fish, and flew back to the post to eat. It was so incredible. As things like that usually are, it was over as quickly as it had begun. But what I saw was enough, just one quick flashback to that time and it will keep me going while I am bird-watching. Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong end of the stick, I love bird-watching and you can see many amazing things like that, but sometimes I get a bit impatient! Waiting was worth it though. I saw my first kingfisher.

Amelia Humphreys-Piercy: I am nine years old and I live with my Mum and brother and my step-family. I am interested in animals, bird-watching and writing; I also spend a lot of time reading books. My favourite author is Michael Morpurgo. So far I have written a story series about a pre-historic girl and tried out a couple of competitions. I was shortlisted for the BBC Hetty Feather writing competition for my story about a ghost in a circus. On my door it says: “author in progress” and I hope that is true.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Ann Quin: prose as a form of expression

This final posting by Nonnie Williams Korteling about the British experimental writer Ann Quin explores why Quin’s work was forgotten and is only now making a comeback:

‘I was at an English Association conference yesterday, talking about the subject of English, about the transition from A level to undergraduate work.  One of the Keynote speakers talked to us about post-2000 fiction, and one moment in the history of British writing he identified as being against ‘realism’ (that loose and baggy monster) was the Avant Garde writing of the 1960s – he mentioned Ann Quin and B. S. Johnson in particular -- and advised us to ‘buy shares’ in them.  These writers, he assured us, are most definitely going to be the next big thing in discussions of twentieth-century British literature.  Hurrah!  And, as if to confirm it, the very same day a friend emailed me to say that Quin had been recommended for a 'retrospective reward' in the New Statesman this week (it’s on pg. 75 if you want to have a look) for Berg.  So Quin is most definitely making a comeback….
But why was she forgotten anyway?  In my posts so far I’ve talked about Quin’s life and some of her writing – this time I’m going to think more about this question of why Quin, though initially acclaimed, was so soon rejected and forgotten.  Published as they were written in the 1960s and ‘70s by Calder and Boyars, the books were then out of print until the early 2000s, when Dalkey Archive republished them.
In Aren’t You Too Young To Be Writing Your Memoirs? (1973), B. S. Johnson named Quin as one of few he saw as ‘writing as though it mattered, as though they meant it, as though they meant it to matter’.  These writers were, he said, in opposition to the ‘stultifyingly philistine […] general book culture of this country’.  Whatever we think of his bombastic tone, the sentiment is persuasive: Johnson wanted to rescue British fiction from stultification, to foster a literary culture where experiment and risk would be better allowed to flourish.  More recently, Gabriel Josipovici’s much reviewed, sometimes contended What Ever Happened to Modernism? (2010) identified similar problems.  According to Josipovici, British book culture remains disappointingly mundane.  Modernism’s legacy of risk, he says, has been largely ignored by the essentially conservative and anti-continental nature of ‘the prevalent English view’, which is ‘fuelled by anxiety rather than anything else’.  While I’m not sure his thinking is entirely fair or even correct, Josipovici does have a point in that on the whole in this country there does seem to have been a neglect, a shying away from really experimental writing.  He calls for this to be redressed by the story of British writing in the twentieth-century expanding to include its ‘the blind alleys’ as much as ‘achieved successes’.
            As I hope my brief discussion of Quin’s Berg and Three have suggested, these are unusual, vivid, strange and highly creative books.  The later books -- Passages (1969) and Tripticks (1972) -- are not only startlingly unusual; in places the writing is so familiar it becomes clichéd.  While to me the deliberate use of cliché is a success of the writing, for many reviewers such qualities were its downfall.  Those responses interpret the increasingly conscious experiment and inclusion and repetition of source texts in Passages and Tripticks as following behind 1950s and early ‘60s American and European Avant Garde writing in a derivative manner: they saw Quin’s later writing as too much and too late.  While Berg, and more cautiously Three, had been seen to evidence a compelling and instinctive storyteller, this later prose was claimed to put off and alienate the average reader, who was all often disinclined to carry on.
This apparent difference, between original creative writing and experimental pastiche confirms Johnson’s claim that ‘‘Experimental’ to most reviewers is almost always a synonym for ‘unsuccessful’’.  But, rather than dismissing Quin’s fragmented, repeating, resistant writing as failed experiment, I prefer to think of the risks the writing takes by deliberately playing with earlier forms in a similar manner to John Cage’s thinking about experiment in Silence: Lectures and Writings, when he says: ‘the word ‘experimental’ is apt [when] understood not as descriptive of an act to be later judged in terms of success and failure, but simply as of an act the outcome of which is unknown’.  This kind of thinking about the experimental artist as shaper rather than maker, an observant ‘tourist’ whose creative process is ‘inclusive rather than exclusive’ is useful for reading Quin.  Rather than focussing on ideas of ‘success’ or ‘failure’, it is worth paying attention to the writing’s inclusivity, openness to risk and the unknown of its outcome without reductive value judgements.
The growing vogue for writers like Quin confirms, of course, that I am not alone.  Such appreciation follows in the footsteps of those fellow writers, publishers and reviewers who were able to see the value of Quin’s approach, who understood that her writing’s following of, its being behind fashion, was a form of processing, questioning and responding to earlier writing.  As well as the example of Johnson’s praise above, the writer Alan Burns placed her among counter-cultural British writers ‘riding the crest’ – as he put it to me: ‘we felt we were the heart of the matter’.  This ‘we’ was the ‘Writers Reading’ ‘collective’: Paul Ableman, Alan Burns, Carol Burns, Barry Cole, Eva Figes, B. S. Johnson, Jeff Nuttall, Ann Quin, Alan Sillitoe, and Stefan Themerson.  This very loose and diverse group of writers were united by ‘a profound interest in prose as a form of expression and not simply as a medium for story-telling’.  With this focus on form, such writers – with Quin as an excellent example – mark a transitional point between Modernism and Postmodernism (and indeed, as the Keynote speaker put it yesterday, ‘post-postmodernism’ !!): a not so much ‘blind’ as fascinating, thought-provoking and alternative-route of an alley along which our thinking about twentieth-century British writing certainly ought to take a wander.'

Scroll down for Nonnie’s earlier posts on Quin.

Nonnie Williams Korteling: Between 2008 and 2012 I was researching and writing a PhD on Quin at UEA. The project, called 'Designing its own shadow' - Reading Ann
Quin, ended up as a combination of critical readings of Quin's work
and biographical vignettes. I now teach at UEA and am particularly interested in twentieth-century literature, women's experimental writing, life-writing, and the essay form. My current writing projects include reflections from the classroom, a life-writing project reflecting on the women who made me, and a book on British Avant Garde
Fiction of the 1960s.’