Saturday, 5 March 2016

Make Mine an Indie: Seren Books

It's Saturday, and that means it's time for Make Mine an Indie! In case you're new around these parts, I've made a commitment during 2016 that 9 out of 10 of the books that I buy will be either published by or bought from independent publishers and bookshops, and that 50% of what I read this year will be independently published. In order to help myself discover great titles I feature a different independent publisher on the blog each Saturday!

This week's publisher, Seren, was founded in 1981 and describe themselves as 'Wales' leading independent literary publisher'. They publish a wide variety of genres across poetry, fiction and non-fiction, and many of their titles have been shortlisted for major literary awards. They specialise in English language writing from Wales, but also publish many international authors. On their website they have a free short story every month, and you can sign up for their book club which gets you 20% off books on their website and other fun stuff! If you like poetry but aren't sure where to start with poetry collections then may I recommend Seren's blog, where they have a Friday poem each week, and just browsing through for this post I've discovered several that I really liked.

Now, as usual, some titles I'm excited about!

Boom! by Carolyn Jess-Cooke
From Seren's website:

Boom!, Carolyn Jess-Cooke
The title poem of this new collection of poems by Carolyn Jess-Cooke: ‘Boom!’ enacts the moment when the new baby arrives in the family ‘like a hand grenade’. ‘Becoming a mother changed me in every single way,’ says the author, ‘my first child – born in October 2006 – just about knocked me sideways. There were many reasons for this, but here’s the biggest one: I could not believe how public and political the (hugely personal) experience of motherhood was.’ 

A noted academic, author of a book about film and Shakespeare, and a best-selling popular novelist ‘The Guardian Angel’s Journal’ and ‘The Boy Who  Could See Demons’, Jess-Cooke found, as many parents do, that the juggling act required to raise young children and continue a professional and creative life, is both exhausting and fulfilling. 
The poems chronicle the rapturous moments, such as ‘Wakening’  where the baby is observed: ‘the seedling eyes stirred by sunlight’. There are also the tragi-comic ‘Nights’ full of ‘small elbows in the face’ and ‘assailed by colds and colic’. Jess-Cooke doesn’t flinch from the darker fears and depressions that can afflict parents. There are also pieces of pointed satirical intent and socio-political comment such as ‘Poem made from bits of Newspaper Headlines ’ and ‘The Only Dad in Playgroup’.  
Viewing motherhood from a multiplicity of artful angles, the author says, ‘Coupled with all this was the love I had for my children. It completely and utterly blew me away, how much I could love another human being.’

I read the title poem on Seren's blog while researching this post and fell in love. Motherhood is such an insane, profound, life altering thing to happen and yet we tend to blow it off, like 'oh yeah I just had a baby'. This collection sounds like it will give better voice to that feeling than I can. 

Love and Fallout by Kathryn Simmonds
From the Seren website:

Love and Fallout, Kathryn SimmondsWhen Tessa’s best friend organises a surprise TV makeover, Tessa is horrified. It’s the last thing she needs – her business is on the brink of collapse, her marriage is under strain and her daughter is more interested in beauty pageants than student politics. What’s more, the ‘Greenham Common angle’ the TV producers have devised reopens some personal history Tessa has tried to hide away. Then Angela gets in touch, Tessa’s least favourite member of the Greenham gang, and she’s drawn back into her muddy past.
Moving between the present and 1982, and set against the mass protests which touched thousands of women’s lives, Love and Fallout is a book about friendship, motherhood and the accidents that make us who we are. A hugely entertaining novel from debut novelist and award-winning poet Kathryn Simmonds.
Honestly, this just sounds like fun!

Six Pounds Eight Ounces by Rhian Elizabeth
From the Seren website:
Six Pounds Eight Ounces, Rhian ElizabethHannah King is a liar, so everyone says. That means her stories of growing up in the Rhondda, as told in Six Pounds Eight Ounces, must be treated with caution. Debut novelist Rhian Elizabeth opens Hannah’s notebook up on her own little world of crazy friends and crazy family, and a crazy school with crazy teachers who aren’t always what they seem. From dolls and sherbet lemons, to a bright student who drops out of school in favour of drink, drugs and glam rock up on an estate which feels like another planet, Hannah, it seems, has always been trouble.

Unreliable narrators, such fun! This sounds a little bit quirky and a little bit coming-of-agey. All good things!

Fountainville by Tishani Doshi
From the Seren website:
Fountainville, Tishani DoshiFountainville is a strange, lonely town on the edge of everywhere, with its own healing secrets, as revealed by Luna, assistant to Begum, the Lady of the Fountain, in this retelling of celtic Mabinogion myth by poet and novelist Tishani Doshi. Under their care the town flourishes, but when the mysterious Mr Knight arrives at their house of 24 women everything begins to change. Aided by Rafi, the giant of the woods and the all-action Leo, events begin to unravel fast for Luna and Begum.
Seren publish a series similar to Canongate's Myth series, of retellings of stories from the Mabinogion. In case you're unfamiliar (which I somehow was until I watched a thing with Cerys Matthews on the BBC a couple of years back!) the Mabinogion is Britain's earliest prose literature and is made up of eleven prose stories from the oral tradition compiled in the 12th and 13th centuries by Welsh medieval authors. This seemed like a great place to start with a series I will clearly want to read all of! Plus the covers are beautifully designed for the entire series!

In case you're interested or in need of indie inspiration, I'm making a wishlist of indie titles, feel free to check it out!
Catch up with the rest of the Make Mine an Indie series here
Find Seren on their website, Facebook, twitter or Pinterest.

1 comment:

  1. Boom looks interesting. Love that mysterious, eerie cover too.