The Linen Press: Publisher of the Month
The Linen Press is a one woman band based in Edinburgh and run by Lynn Michell. What the press lacks in size, it makes up for in enthusiasm. Lynn is passionate about prose, and committed to publishing writing which might well be over-looked by the big publishing houses. The Linen Press welcomes manuscripts from emergent writers, writers from minority groups, writers from outside the UK, and women writers who have translated their own work into English. What the press is searching for are writers with innovative voices who inspire readers with their wisdom, integrity, distinctive style and beautifully crafted writing.
Lynn had been working with women writers in Edinburgh for five years, both in groups and one-to-one, when she decided that the varied, accomplished and unheard voices deserved a wider audience. In collaboration with Helen Boden, and with a grant from the Scottish Arts Council, the first book was born. Wild on Her Blue Days is an eclectic anthology of new prose and poetry by unpublished writers combined with a commentary from Lynn and Helen about the process of working with writers.
The next project came about when 92 year old Marjorie Wilson came to one of Lynn's classes, and a rare, lyrical voice was discovered. Childhood's Hill, a memoir about growing up in Edinburgh in a time long gone, was published last year to considerable acclaim and beat Ian Rankin in Blackwells‚ Best Sellers. Well, for a week or two. This memoir was described in The Scotsman as "Luminous, episodic, sensual, rather like memory itself." After that, Lynn decided she just had to continue.
Last November, Breeze from The River Manjeera by Hema Macherla was published. Lynn picked the manuscript from her slush pile and was immediately won over by the plucky heroine's fight for freedom and independence after finding herself trapped in an abusive arranged marriage with a cast of appalling in-laws. She describes the ensuing editing process as a close, satisfying collaboration between an editor who loved the book and a talented debut writer with a gift for dialogue and description. The novel was launched at the Nehru Centre in London, attended by at least 150 people. It was a noisy, joyful, multi-cultural event.
The next book due out is The Missing by Juliet Bates. This beautiful, dream-like novel is about loss, the unreliability of memory and the stories we invent about ourselves. The story begins in 1958 when journalist Frances Daye is persuaded to follow the trail of yet another woman thought to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia. While she searches through the avenues and boulevards of Paris, she recalls a long forgotten tale of her own. Juliet Bates, who is an artist as well as a writer, paints her characters‚ experiences with colour and texture. We feel the slipperiness of the silk that the seamstress is stitching and we hear the click of the shutter as Frances‚ father captures the perfect combination of light and shadow in his photographs.
Being a very small publisher (maybe the smallest?) means being a Jill-of-all-trades, and decision maker at every stage of the process from selecting a manuscript to choosing the typeface. It has been a steep learning curve, especially for someone who is rubbish at numbers. When she calculated the price of Childhood's Hill, she forgot to factor in the percentage taken by book shops! While already confident as an editor and at ease working with writers, she has had to get to grips with the business side of publishing, and the labyrinth of distribution, book shop cuts, printing and publicity. Lynn says she needs another person to take on publicity but this can't happen unless the Linen Press publishes a best-seller.
Lynn is a writer herself with six published books, fiction and non-fiction, and knows only too well the hopes, aspirations and disappointments felt by women trying to get their work published. She relies on the slush pile for publications and so tackles the time-consuming task of reading many manuscripts. Wherever possible she sends a personal response which offers constructive criticism and advice.
What really annoys her are writers who do not read the website before sending in a totally inappropriate manuscript. It says no poetry or chick-lit or science fiction, but in they come. The Linen Press states that it publishes writing by women, but men send in stuff too, maybe suggesting a pseudonym. The other no-no is the writer who thinks a synopsis is a summary of the plot, or worse still a five page cut-and-paste account of the plot lifted from the novel. A synopsis should give the publisher all the clues she needs about the issues addressed in the novel, about any historical or political backdrop, and about the strengths of the writing, and its originality.
Lynn's role model is The Women's Press which established its reputation by publishing vibrant, challenging, contemporary writing by women. In the 80s those distinctive striped spines with their logos of an iron steaming ahead‚ had their own stand in bookshops along with Virago. Alas, no more. Lynn was fortunate enough to work with Kathy Gale on three projects and experienced the best possible collaboration between writer and editor. The success of The Women's Press is Lynn's inspiration.
The story unfolds.....
- Add to BasketBreeze From The River Manjeera
- Paperback - Linen
'Breeze from the River Manjeera' tells the story of the engaging Neela who comes to England after being bought as a bride for the brutal Ajay. The life that awaits Neela is a far cry from her hopes and expectations.
- Add to BasketNothing Is Heavy
- Paperback - Linen Press
The Deep Sea chippy and the Fantasy Island bar face each other across the neon glow of Junction Street. Beth shovels chips on one side and Amber spins naked around a pole on the other. Their work is mundane and predictable, each night much like any other, until a sudden, dramatic death forces them to choose between relative safety and risk.