The Edinburgh book festival progamme has arrived.  The wishlist drawn up. Budget finalised. Everything in place for the assault on the internet  the day tickets go on sale. (Tuesday 22.6.2009) It would be if I hadn’t been called away on business next week.  Irony of ironies – I’m spending 3 days at a computer conference with no personal access to the web or the EBF box office.  The phone lines will be jammed for days – I’ll have no chance of getting through in my 30-minute lunch break.  Time to call in the business continuity plan – more commonly known as paper and pen.  I shall submit a paper order by snail mail and hope that the box office processes it before all the tickets have been snaffled by the online EBF ticket-buying junkies.  You know and I know who you are and, though I am snarling,  please don’t take offense.  It’s just that my stress levels are high!

Cue peptalk.

The Voice of Reason

Lizzy, you’re a punter.  Your stress levels are miniscule compared to

a) those who have been organising the Edinburgh Book Festival for the last 12-months

b) publishers who have brought forward publication to coincide with the EBF.

Lizzy Siddal

Frodo
Frodo

That’s true.   I was talking to Sharon Blackie and David Knowles of Two Ravens Press when in Ullapool a few weeks back.   I asked them about an average day on their book-publishing, sheep-rearing, poultry-breeding croft on the shores of Loch Broom.  Days which start  at the ungodly hour of 4:50 am to feed the poultry.  In  lambing season (as it was then) the next task is to check the welfare of  the lambs and the remaining expecting mothers.  Once the dog, the gorgeous, lovable,  Frodo,  has been walked,  the two humans can sit down to “porridge and battle plans” at 8:00 a.m.  Of course, that was then.  I see from their croft-related blog Tales from Green Willow Croft that they’ve now added an apiary.  I do wonder how Frodo’s coping with all those bees around his snout.  Should he be in need of a rescuer …..

The Voice of Reason

Lizzy, you’re digressing.  This is not a dog blog.

Lizzy Siddal

OK. OK.

So it’s now 8:00 am at Green Willow Croft and thoughts are turning to literature.  Sharon is a third of way through writing her second novel for which she has received an arts council bursary.  It must be finished by October.  “It will be”, she said, unphased by yet another deadline.   When not writing her novel, she turns her attention to the TRP prose catalogue – editing, copy editing, designing covers, marketing.  David, whose own poetry collection, Meeting the Jet Man, was recently shortlisted for the Scottish Arts Council of the Year award, reviews  poetry submissions and looks after the business arm: accounts, production problems, supply chains, online orders.    The hitches are numerous.  The trials and tribulations of a small Scottish publisher often documented on the Two Raven’s Press Blog.

Out of the blue a call comes from the EBF inviting a TRP author to present.  The catch is that publication of the novel, originally scheduled for October, must be brought forward by 2 months to take advantage of the opportunities this presents.  It’s not some  novella-like creation either – only the longest novel TRP have published, an epic of risk-taking proportions, 262,000 words, a novel that larger publishers have decided is too long for the contemporary market.

Little of the pre-publication work was done at the time, but the TRP team of two went into action to edit, typeset, copyedit and proof this work in the space of about 6 weeks.  Fortunately the novel already met TRP exacting standards for literary fiction.  The author understoods the TRP ethos.  (David described the relationship between TRP and their authors as “getting married with sales targets”).    Amazingly everything got completed in the new timeframe .  Sharon has read the book multiple times, David once.   All that remained was the jacket design and production of the finished article.  Distribution of review copies and voila!  After compressing what normally takes 12 weeks into half the time, the publishers can now sit back and take a well-earned break for, oh let’s be generous given that there is a lamb due to be born at any moment and an adorable dog demanding more exercise, a whole 10 minutes!

Sharon Blackie and David Knowles
Sharon Blackie and David Knowles

The novel, Joseph’s Box by Suhayl Saadi, will be published on July 31st but is now available directly from Two Raven’s Press website.   More details on the novel at http://www.josephsbox.co.uk

As a reader, all I need to do is order it to read before the event at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 27 August.  Suhayl Saadi is, according to Sharon “an excellent book festival performer”.  A must-see event then …. assuming the EBF box office processes my paper application before all tickets are gone.

Pina
Pina

The Voice of Reason

Lizzy, you’re winding yourself up again.  Go read a book and remember you don’t have to publish it.  Even better why not de-stress with a dog. Your adorable pooch,  Pina,  awaits.  Just look at the smile on her face!

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