"I Eat Your Skin" (1971)
Home to heroes, too.

Small Press Shakedown: Cherry Potts of Arachne Press

9781909208100The UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints, and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication, we've asked a number of editors to share what they're working on - and what they're looking for. This week our featured publisher is Arachne Press.

Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you're doing?

Arachne Press was born out of frustration as a writer with my existing publisher, and an opportune redundancy, which meant the mortgage got paid off and possible poverty wasn’t going to mean homelessness, so I decided to take a risk and do what I had always wanted – yes, 1970’s careers advisor, I did it in spite of you – be a publisher.

It’s ended up being a much wider remit than that – I also run The Story Sessions an irregular live lit event in South London and an annual festival Solstice Shorts which mixes time-themed words and music, on the shortest day of the year on the Prime Meridian in Greenwich; I video as much of the live stuff as I can, and when we get funded, we have BSL interpreters as well to make our work as accessible as possible.

We’ve run an exhibition for our cover artists, and published Outcome, a book of LGBT photographic portraits by Tom Dingley, which is touring as an exhibition all over the place, we just secured an exhibition in Amsterdam in 2018… and we are just about to stick a toe into the audio book pool. So basically, anything I enjoy, I try to include in the Arachne web.

What are the books that you want to publish?

9781909208360I’m obsessed with the short story, and started out with themed anthologies of new stories initially in cahoots with Liars’ League– mainly because I wanted to have people to talk to, being a one person business can be a bit lonely. Genre-wise there is a leaning towards fantasy in its widest possible definition, and that’s where we've had critical success, with a Saboteur award for our 2014 SciFi/Fantasy/weird anthology Weird Lies, and a Carnegie Medal nomination for Devilskein & Dearlove, our YA Fantasy novel by Alex Smith.  I like to see writers stretch their imaginations!  I loathe horror though, and steer clear of that – but pretty much anything goes genre wise.

What have you recently published?

Our last two books were poetry collections, With Paper for Feet by Jennifer A McGowan and Foraging by Joy Howard. Jennifer’s poems are long and narrative, so very like short stories apart from the rhythms, and rooted in mythologies from all over the world, so slide into fantasy again.

What's coming soon?

Next up is Liam Hogan’s collection of dark(ish) humorous(ish) short fantasy stories, Happy Ending NOT Guaranteed. I’m so happy Liam is finally letting me publish a collection, we published two of his stories in our first anthology, London Lies back in 2012, and I’ve been pursuing his work ever since, and finally cracked it last year, when he provided a story for both Liberty Tales (inspired by the Magna Carta) and Shortest Day, Longest Night (the second Solstice Shorts anthology). It has been a lot of fun putting the collection together and planning the tour – we are involving some actors as Liam regularly writes first person female narrators, which gives us an opportunity to vary the pace and tone of a reading.

Any advice to authors on the process of submitting? 

Devilskeinfront-final-for-bus-cardWe only accept submission for specific call outs. It’s a funding thing – If I don’t have the cash to produce something it is just frustrating for everyone involved to want to say yes to something I can do nothing with. The route to getting published by us is sending a story or poem for either The Story Sessions or an anthology and being a cheerful, enthusiastic, sensible and friendly person. Prima Donnas NOT welcome. If we use your work more than once you go onto my ‘invite’ list, which means that when we do have funds we will ask you what you have that we might be interested in.

Is there anything about a story or its presentation that will immediately knock it out of consideration? An 'auto-fail'?

No erotica. No Horror. No chick lit. No ‘romance’.  No howlers in historical fiction – I WILL check. Misuse of over-elaborate words. Misogyny. Racism. Sexism. Homophobia… you know – I’m not interested in hate or casual dissing of sections of the human race because you’ve not used your brain recently. I’m happy to have religion in things, any religion, but as soon as people start labelling their work as ‘religious’ I shudder.

The nasty part of editing... what advice do you have for writers if they're turned down?

I always offer feedback. Some people don’t want it, but they’d be wasting their time resubmitting if that’s the case. I don’t do anodyne ‘it’s not for us’ responses – if that is genuinely the case I will suggest who it might be for. Sometimes I provisionally accept on the basis of a hard edit – sometimes even after the hard edit it’s not up to scratch, so I may still reject it. Sometimes I really like how someone writes but the piece doesn’t fit, and I will encourage them to submit to a different theme – if I say it, I mean it.

Any other tips for those sending you work?

Use submittable. 

Cover letters! I have a file of cover letters (anonymised) I show students, of how to put someone off reading your work. Keep it simple and factual, please! If you’ve been published before says so. If there are particular guidelines for the call out show me you’ve followed them. That’s really all I need to know.

Are you looking for new writers right now? If so, what sort of work? 

We have a call out for Story Sessions (DEADLINE end of APRIL 2017) for fantasy stories. Under 2000 words shorter the better. Preference given to people who can come and read their own work, but we have an actor in residence who will read for you if you REALLY can’t. After that, it depends on where we can garner some more funding for the next project.

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Learn more about Arachne Press on their website, or follow them on Twitter. Check out the other small presses profiled as part of our weekly series - and to participate, drop us a line at editor@pornokitsch.com.

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