Dear new and aspiring women writers,
Welcome to Linen Press, the only independent women’s press in the UK. We publish fine writing by women, for women.
The press came into being somewhat by chance when 93 year old Marjorie Wilson came to my writing group and I discovered her lyrical memoir about Edinburgh at the turn of the century.
‘It’s been turned down by every publisher in the land,’ she said.
‘I’ll publish it,’ I rashly replied, with no experience whatsoever of the industry.
We met weekly, in front of her gas fire with her cat Tufty in attendance, in the house she’d lived in since she was twelve. I typed her manuscript and my daughter-in-law, Cara Forbes Stenning, made the cover and painstakingly restored a dozen fine old photographs of Marjorie and her family. Childhood’s Hill did very well, beating Ian Rankin for a week in Blackwell’s best seller list. It received this gorgeous review from The Scotsman: ‘luminous, episodic, sensual, rather like memory itself’. Linen Press was born.
The idea to write a blog for the website came after murmurings on the authorial grapevine that the work that goes on inside a publishing house is a bit of a mystery. I’ve decided to open the doors on my own press so that you know how I choose the submissions that end up on our list, how I edit my authors’ writing from manuscript to book, and how else I occupy my busy days.
I’m about to reveal all. Today the broad strokes; later the fine detail. In an over-stuffed nutshell, here’s what I do:
- First thing every morning I check my inbox for submissions and skim read a few pages if something looks inviting. It’s a never-ending, time-consuming job but I’m always searching for that elusive manuscript that is astonishingly whole, coherent, assured and dazzlingly written. The bar is high and you need to be a literary athlete to jump it.
- Once a manuscript is signed, I start on the long, collaborative process of editing. I work chapter by chapter, writing tons of suggestions down the margins, and re-writing and deleting words, phrases and sentences. Then I send the chapter back. My author re-drafts and returns her new version to me. Just now I’m editing The Dancing Girl and the Turtle by Karen Kao; some chapters have crossed the airways seven or eight times. We call it word ping-pong. When an author and editor are in tune, as we are, it’s rewarding and fun.
- I’m passionate about the books I accept. I live in them almost as much as I live in a book I’m writing myself. Without that immersion, I can’t get under the skin of the characters or suggest changes to the scaffolding of the structure. I need to get close to adopting my author’s voice.
- My superb interns are at my virtual side helping with submissions, offering their youthful opinions and running the social media platforms. I couldn’t manage without them. Currently I owe gratitude to Rianna Walcott, Hayden Harrison, Emma Lawson and Francesca Zunino Harper. One or more will write a blog here soon.
- When I’m not reading and editing, I’m entering books for awards, planning events for authors, thinking about marketing, begging bloggers and reviewers to read a new publication, looking at images and creating designs for new covers and writing publicity material. I work with my freelance website wonder woman Louise Santa Ana on updates, posts and special offers, and with my whizz of a type-setter and digital file producer Becky Pickard.
I’ll be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Linen Press next year and it’s now such an integral part of my life, I’d feel incomplete without it. It’s my metier and the flip-side of my own fiction writing. For me, editing and writing are complimentary, each contributing to the other. Yes, it can be hard to get the balance right but ever since I saw Elvira Madigan barefoot on a high wire, I’ve wanted to be a tightrope walker so I’ll continue on my pre-occupied and precarious way.
Until next time,