On Saturday I went to the Independents Day at The Lowry. A whole 8 hours of readings and talks and stalls from independent publishers. I didn't last out the whole 8 hours as my already cluttered brain could only take in so much. All this on offer: create your own publication in a DIY workshop; listen to readings from poets and prose writers in the Circle Bar; attend talks and seminars with editors of cutting edge magazines, publishers and writers; mingle with writers and readers; explore stalls promoting what's on offer in the world of independent literature; buy books; drink coffee.
My highlights were:
- having the chance to wander round the stalls - small presses and magazines ranged from Comma, Cultureword, Transmission, Route to Parameter, Ugly Tree, Banipal Books and Templar. They were there to sell and promote books, magazines, writers, events.
I picked up copies of Iota and Parameter, chatted to Graham and Jo, the brilliant minds behind Transmission and got the chance to see the new Pulp Fiction issue. I talked to Suzanne Batty, another Manchester poet, whose work I love, and picked up a copy of her new book The Barking Thing, published by Bloodaxe.
I bought Dean Gaffney's Sawn-off tales (a gorgeous hardback Salt book) which I've been wanting to read for ages. I decided to try out Mahmoud Shukair's Mordechai's Moustache and his Wife's cats - a collection of short fiction from a Palestinian writer I've never heard of... but hey, this was the day to discover new writing, browse, explore, shop and relish the great world of independent publishing.
There were talks and seminars. I went to Out of School: presentation and discussion with editors and contributors of Transmission, Matter and Textyle magazines. This was an interesting discussion of the publishing that comes out of University Presses and Creative Writing courses. It had a hopeful message: if you're passionate about writing, if you have time to invest, and no concerns about giving your time for free, then you can start your own magazine, and/or submit work to a ground breaking publications who are interested in writers just like you.
The Alternative Publishing Seminar chaired by Ra Page from Comma Press was a good debate on all the new modern ways to get writing out there... from print on demand services to blogging, community publishing, digital books. It was quite a lively debate with audience members chipping in, asking questions, and listening to the debate on the pros and cons of mainstream vs independent publishing, whether the internet dilutes the quality of literature or makes it more accessible, and the creative ways independent publishers get writing seen.
And readings in the bar... a range of readers representing different independent publishers. My favourute was Shamshad Khan. I've seen her perform before, and each time she has made an impact. Her poems are beautiful, assertive, sometimes quiet, sometimes urgent. She knows exactly how to get them across to an audience and her musical voice drew us in.
It was a great day, I had the chance to chat to meet up with poet friends and meet new writing friends, mingle, exhaust myself with ideas and come home to a cosy night in with a handful of new books, and a head full of inspiration. We need more events like this at festivals, as perhaps Independent Publishing is the real future of literature.
- Annie Clarkson