Celebrating 5 years of Cultured Llama: Mark Holihan’s There Are No Foreign Lands

May 30th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Strange FruitsFive years ago, Cultured Llama published its first book, strange fruits, by Maria C. McCarthy. Here’s what Maria has to say about how Cultured Llama was conceived:

I was laid up with a bad back early in 2011, and while I was resting, I came up with the idea of publishing a book of poetry to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support. My friend Karen McAndrew had recently died after a short illness, and I wanted to do somethin253054_10150264190429179_531564178_8806395_4031660_ng to help others who were going through what Karen, her friends and family had been through. Having the good fortune of logobeing married to a publisher, Bob Carling, it was not long before the idea became reality. We bought 10 ISBNs (you couldn’t purchase just one), thought of a name for our imprint (I have a thing about llamas), and off we went. We had no money, no business plan, no funding from the Arts Council or the like – we just did it. We brought in help from friends who offered cover designs, website hosting, even stuffing books into jiffy bags.

Bethany_Pope_A_Radiance_FRONT_COVER_DRAFT_204x326The idea was that Cultured Llama would publish poetry and short fiction, plus what we first named Cultural Non-Fiction, and later became Curious Things. It was not until a year after strange fruits appeared that the next book was published, A Radiance, Bethany W. Pope’s debut poetry collection, and we were dealing with a flood of submissions. Somehow, word got around about our new publishing house (could it have been my addiction to Twitter at the time?).

It has been exhausting, exciting, at times infuriating, and never, never dull. We have maintained a kind of do-it-yourself punk ethic to how we run Cultured Llama. We have never applied for funding, which means that books have to pay for themselves fairly quickly, and we do rely on a team of helping Llamas to keep us going, plus the hard work of our authors in getting their books known and sold.

25803_408716579178_531564178_4954133_6038486_n croppedI guess I am the face mainly seen on social media – my role is choosing books to publish and editing the poetry and short fiction collections, but Editor Bob really does most of the work – the typesetting and design, dealing with the printers, the more technical side of this website. And a big shout out is due to Anne-Marie Jordan, non-fiction editor and sister stuffer-of-books-into-jiffy-bags.

9780993211980-front-cover-low-resIn June of this year, we publish our 27th book, There Are No Foreign Lands, a debut poetry collection by Mark Holihan. Mark has been known to us for a long time, as a great poetry voice, reading his work at open mics and other events in Kent. It is astFront-MHS-ALTonishing that this is Mark’s first book – why has no-one snapped up his work before? Mark is also Cultured Llama’s graphic designer, responsible for the majority of our book covers. It’s about time Mark came out from behind the scenes to showcase his wonderful poems, and we are proud to publish them.

We asked some of our followers on our Facebook page what they like about Cultured Llama:

A sustained level of quality. Cultured Llama has introduced me to some great writers.

Great writers, great quality, great diversity!

Its willingness to take a risk in good writing that might not fit the conventional mould.

I love the fact you also publish short story collections when, according to Philip Hensher, there are fewer and fewer outlets for short story writers.

I like the close editorial attention paid by the Cultured Llama team and a sense of generosity and openness which runs through everything they and their writers do.

Highlights of the five years? I remember some of the events to launch our books, at places as diverse as The Chapel, a pub and a bookshop (what’s not to like?) for Gordon Meade’s Sounds of the Real World; a cookery and gardening shop on The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells for Digging Up Paradise by Sarah Salway; wine and welshcakes at Lynne Rees’s home to launch The Hungry Writer; and a musical launch of Do It Yourself: A History of Music in Medway by Stephen H. Morris in a pub, featuring some of the bands from the book, with Editor Bob and our author Peter Cook jamming on guitar, with me and my daughter singing into an offered microphone. I believe the chorus of the Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society song was, “We’re all going back to the workhouse”. What a night, what a time its been. Here’s to five more years, Cheers!

Digging_Front_Cover9780993211935-Cover190915 ALT1.inddbook cover2

As Long as it Takes – ‘love and family are all that matters’

May 5th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

9780992648510-Perfect-MH cropped FRONT COVER with outer edgeWe are delighted with a recent review of As Long as it Takes by Maria C. McCarthy. Written by Debbi Voisey, it appears on The Short Story:

As Long as it Takes is a collection of short stories that deal with the life of an Irish family as seen through the eyes of the women, along with some close female friends. This might limit its readership, but the writing in this is neither frilly, nor precious, nor overly feminine. It is gutsy and full of balls, telling stories of a world that is brutal and colourful. There is plenty of humour -laconically delivered – along with grace and skill.

Voisey cites the last two stories in the collection as her favourites:

The last two stories (‘Self Help’ and ‘Combing out the Tangles’) are my favourite and the most emotionally raw. Throughout the book you become acquainted with the family members – particularly Maggie who was a standout character. In the penultimate short story we find her struggling with the burden of having to tell her mother (Maura) something. Maura is a hard woman and takes no nonsense. She comes to stay with Maggie and takes over the household – nothing is right in Maggie’s house and she wants to blitz Maggie’s kitchen, in the way that mothers are wont to do when they visit their offspring. As she cleans, Maggie battles the difficulty of imparting important news:

Maggie practised the words she needed to say in her head as her mother balanced on a stool, a bucket of water with a dash of vinegar in it on the ground.

We are left in no doubt about the awkwardness of their time together and it becomes clear that their history is one of non-communication […]

I won’t give the game away, but the final short story wraps up the relationship between Maggie and Maura. Narrated by Maura, it is tragic, but executed with dignity. The shortest of the stories in this collection, it is nonetheless long enough to show the reader that this woman, the peg that has always held her family together, is not as hard as she appears.

Debbi Voisey concludes: ‘this collection shows that when every story has been told and it is time to say goodbye, love and family are all that matters.’ You can read the full review at The Short Story.

As Long as it Takes contains the story ‘More Katharine than Audrey’, which was the winner of The Society of Authors Tom-Gallon Trust Award, 2015.

As Long as it Takes costs £12 plus p&p. But any two books from the Cultured Llama website and post and packing is free. Find out more about the author here.

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