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Small Press Shakedown: Michael Curran of Tangerine Press

Tangerine Press
The 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 Tangerine Press.

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

My name is Michael Curran and I founded Tangerine Press in 2006. The original plan was to publish limited edition, handbound books of poetry and prose by authors I admired, whether they be known or unknown, dead or alive. I was quite happy doing this for 7 years – binding books in the evenings after work and at weekends – until January 26th 2013.

That date is burned into my memory because for the first time in my life I called an ambulance: for myself. Following a serious back injury and subsequently losing feeling in my left leg from the knee down, then the whole leg, I had to reconsider my future. There was plenty of time for that: I was laid up for 3 months, in and out of hospital, etc. Dropping six Tramadol every morning just to make the day bearable. Going back to The Building Game – I was a self-employed carpenter for 16 years – wasn’t an option.

So the future suddenly had to be Tangerine.

JL_TPOTA_clamThere was nothing else on the horizon. Slowly I got myself together and late 2013 saw me relocating all my bookbinding gear to a small workshop at the back of a printer’s warehouse, located near the (recently closed) Wimbledon dog track. Paperbacks were added to the press’s output in 2014, being published in tandem with the limited editions.

Previous publications include definitive poetry collections by cult US poet William Wantling (1933-74) and artist-musician-writer Billy Childish, as well as prose by controversial Booker winner James Kelman. In 2014 Tangerine co-published, with L-13 Light Industrial Workshop, a new edition of Jack London’s The People of the Abyss, with an introduction by Iain Sinclair. Photobooks include Seeing Richard, a selection of mostly unpublished images of Richard Brautigan by Erik Weber, with an introduction by William Hjortsberg (Jubilee Hitchhiker, Angel Heart) and foreword by Jarvis Cocker.

Media coverage of the press itself includes: Times Literary Supplement, The Londonist, Courier, BBC Radio London, Reuters, Beatscene, The Bookseller, The Irish Times, BBC 6Music’s Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service and a special feature on Channel 4 News.

The press has also published work by Akiko Yosano, Will Self, R. Crumb, Jenni Fagan, Tim Wells, Joan Jobe Smith, Dan Fante, Adelle Stripe, Benjamin Myers, Richard Long, Salena Godden, Chris Wilson, John Dorsey, Mick Guffan, Ntozake Shange, Alexander Binder, Tony O’Neill, Hone Tuwhare, Kelsie T. Harder, Stephen Hines, Neal Brown, Lyn Lifshin, Fred Voss, Joel Williams, &c.


EW_SR_main_paper (web)What are the stories or the novels that you want to publish?

As long as the work is original, innovative and challenging, Tangerine will be interested. But I have to admit I do get a real kick out of writers who don’t come from the expected places. What I mean by that is, the sheer luck of their talent being discovered. For example, after years of homelessness and incarceration, author/painter Chris Wilson only picked up a brush when in rehab in south London after being deported from the USA in 1998. That simple suggestion by a member of staff: “Why don’t you give it a go?” began a glorious chain of events for him.

The bottom line is authenticity, regardless of your background.

What have you recently published, and what's coming soon?

The most recent, readily available publication from Tangerine is Archie Hill’s autobiography A Cage of Shadows, which came out in May. I first read this book three years ago and it blew me away. I researched the author extensively and discovered that next to no information about him existed in public records or online (this has thankfully now changed). The book was first published in 1973 to enthusiastic reviews in the Times, Times Literary Supplement, New Statesman, etc. It tells of Mr Hill’s brutal Black Country upbringing during the 1930s, frequent beatings, an alcoholic father, run-ins with the law. On leaving home, he encountered further degradation in prisons, asylums and on London’s skid row. But a chance meeting whilst incarcerated during the 1950s changed his life completely. Mr Hill became friendly with Klaus ‘Doc’ Fuchs, atomic spy for Russia, who instilled in him a passion for literature and encouraged him to write. Libel action in 1975 meant copies of A Cage of Shadows were pulped, with an edited version being published two years later. Tangerine has republished the original 1973 text. If you’re a fan of John Healy’s The Grass Arena then you should enjoy this book.

AH_ACOS 4 (web)There’s a final (so we’re told!) ‘new’ poetry collection from Charles Bukowski called Storm for the Living and the Dead, due later this year from Ecco. To celebrate this, Tangerine was asked by the editor of that book to produce a letterpress broadside of one of the poems to be included. Tangerine has just released ‘poem for Dante’ in an edition of 176 numbered and lettered copies. Lettered copies are housed in a handbound, hardcover portfolio (covered in hand marbled paper with a silk spine), alongside specially commissioned, signed artwork by German artist Christoph Mueller. Numbered copies are housed in an embossed custom envelope with (unsigned) artwork. It’s been a real pleasure to work on such an unusual project and Herr Mueller is an extraordinary talent.

September will see the publication of Stephen Hines’ debut story collection The Late Season and will be available as a signed limited edition with artwork, as well as the more readily available paperbacks. The stories have a unique ambience and I really believe Mr Hines is Canada’s most overlooked writer. Those of us active in the indie press scene – readers, writers and publishers – have been aware of this for a good few years.

Mick Guffan’s Inner London Buddha, a definitive poetry collection, is slated for November. Mr Guffan (1953-2006) was born in An Sciobairín, Cork, Ireland, the youngest of five brothers. He came to England at the age of 18, working variously as a taxi driver, airplane cleaner and finally as a carpenter. He died at St. George’s Hospital, Tooting, London on 14th June 2006, his body set about by nervous exhaustion following a gunshot wound. A fascinating character and a great talent.

SF1_open (web)Any advice to authors on the process of submitting? Cover email, details, formatting, etc?

First and foremost, check the publisher’s list to be sure it’s a suitable match for your work. Always include a cover letter/email with the editor’s name. A brief third person biography is a good idea, mentioning magazines/websites where work has been published before, previous publications, etc. Then a few examples of the work itself: five poems, three stories, first three chapters/synopsis if it’s a novel, etc. There’s always the basics of course: Word document; double spaced for prose (with approximate word count for each story); name/address at the start; pagination is helpful; classic, easy to read typeface. Scattergun email submissions are a very bad idea. Keep everything brief.

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

I’m kind of following on from the previous question here, but there is something I want to mention that I’m sure all publishers will recognise. Occasionally you’ll hear from a new writer out of the blue and they are straight in, banging on about how much their poetry/story/novel means to them, to the extent that you hate the work before you’ve even read it. Then you start to hate them. Perhaps they think this is an ‘introduction’ to what they’re doing, but it really isn’t and should be avoided at all costs.

A general comment on the whole submissions process is that publishers often know after the first few pages, sometimes the opening line, whether they’re going to work with a writer or not.

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

I always say delusion is your greatest asset. It’s akin to resilience or even that psychotic benchmark: self-belief. Sometimes a rejection means you reassess/edit, sometimes you persevere with what’s there. It’s a tough call. Keep kicking against the pricks: writers and publishers were born to be suspicious of each other.

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Learn more about Tangerine Press on their website. Check out the other small presses profiled as part of our weekly series. If you're interested in participating, drop us a line at editor@pornokitsch.com.

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