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Anne McDonnell Interview

22 November 10 words: Robin Lewis

To celebrate National Short Story Week we spoke to local publisher, Pewter Rose Press

Anne McDonnell reads from her latest publication.

To celebrate the beginning of National Short Story Week (22-28 November) we spoke to Anne McDonald of Pewter Rose, a local publisher of short story collections....

How did Pewter Rose press get started?  And why did you choose to publish collections of short stories, which are a notoriously challenging thing to market in today’s already crowded and difficult publishing world?
Pewter Rose Press started from a desire to see a particular collection of stories in print. Frances Thimann and I were on the NTU Writing Course together and I thought her writings were lovely. She was writing stories about the old, the end of life, from a range of viewpoints, and her style of writing appealed to me. Knowing how difficult it is to get published, we (myself and husband Nick) thought that instead of waiting for other people to decide what was published, that we would make these decisions ourselves -the old adage - publish what we would like to read!

After that you could say that we fell into publishing short stories. After publishing Cello and Other Stories, we received a number of submissions - mainly of short stories. People submitted from Britain, Europe, New Zealand/ Australia and the USA. And we liked some of them. So the business started.

We are happy to publish short stories, and think that they are very under-rated. They really suit today's lifestyle - you can read a short story on the bus going into work, or catch a story during a coffee break. But as yet, the reading public haven't quite been converted!

How have the five collections you've released been critically and commercially received?
As you say, short stories are not big sellers! I know that whenever the author reads one of the stories, the audience enjoys it and wants to hear more and they buy the book. Comments we've received about the quality of production have been very positive. Reviews have been generally positive. Our collections are very different from each other, both in terms of the styles of writing and the material. The early collections may be guilty of comprising stories that have a similarity about them but I think our new collections have more variety in story within them.

You mentioned your writers giving readings as a way of enticing readers.  What other strategies do you employ to give your books elbow-room in today’s market?
Well obviously getting reviews of our books into magazines such as LeftLion is great. We have had our books reviewed in other magazines, such as Staple in Nottingham or The Short Review (an online magazine). We have also had book giveaways on our website and online reading groups, and we've been present at the Independent Press Fair, Lowdham, Wigtown and Sedburgh Book Festivals and the Readers' Day in Nottingham. Bryan Walpert (Ephraim's Eyes) is organising a tour in America this October, and we are currently organising talks around the country for National Short Story Week in November (22nd to 28th).

Our next step is to produce the books for iPad and Kindle, and possibly audio versions. Certainly with short stories we would like to sell the individual stories as well as the collections.

Pewter Rose collections give a voice to subjects that often get ignored, such as Frances Thimann’s beautiful collection that explores the later years of age.

Do you run Pewter Rose Press in your spare time, or has it become your full time job?
Initially we ran Pewter Rose in our spare time, but recently I've decided to make it my full time job. The workload is increasing, which is very positive, and I want to give Pewter Rose Press a chance to grow and become more established. I am also learning a lot about how to run a business.
What's the attraction of a short story for you?
In a short space of time, the writer can conjure up so much, leaving the reader with a world in their head, allowing them to fill in the spaces in the story. I like the way they can focus the reader onto a small feature of a character's life and in doing so, tell us, or hint at, so much about that character.

Who are your favourite practitioners of the form?
Tania Hershman wrote an interesting collection based on articles from New Scientist magazine - a very interesting approach. I enjoy Philip K Dick's short stories and Jhumpa Lahiri's collection Unaccustomed Earth. I also like Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, for the variety of voices he comes up with (all the same story of course!), and Chris Beckett's The Turing Test. Also, from the 19th Century, Turgenev's Sketches from a Hunter's Album.

What are you looking for when you go through submissions from hopeful writers?
We are looking for stories that we enjoy! We are not genre readers and we do like writers who are different, who either tackle subjects that are not necessarily mainstream or who write interestingly (I'm thinking of Bryan Walpert's Ephraim''s Eyes here). It's easier to say what we don't want - which is crime, horror, or chick-lit type stuff. There are a number of other publishers who specialise in these areas. However, having said that, we do read every submission and we do judge each on their merits. In the main, the writing needs to be fairly polished and has to be such that we find ourselves lost in the story/ writing.

What's up next for Pewter Rose Press?
 We have two more collections coming out this autumn  - Insignificant Gestures by Jo Cannon and The Secret's in the Folding by Fiona Thackeray. We are branching into novels - we have a novella coming out later this year, Penny Spitfire by Brindley Hallam Dennis.  Also we are starting to look into ebooks and audio books.

We have also joined up with the Writing School Leicester this year. They are running a course for short story writers and we have agreed to publish the anthology. We will have editorial control over what goes in the anthology and this will help the writers to get experience of working with a publisher.

And finally, why 'Pewter Rose' Press?
For one of our anniversaries, our children bought us a pewter rose from the craft stalls they have in Nottingham around Christmas. So we have an actual Pewter Rose in the kitchen. It's a lovely object, and this is reflected in our logo. National Short Story Week

National Short Story Week website

Pewter Rose website 

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