This week I had a lovely catch up with Haley Jenkins, who if you don't know, is the fabulous editor of up and coming small press, Selcouth Station.
So you're the editor and founder of Selcouth Station Press. How did the idea come about?
The idea happened very organically and I would hesitate to say I had a plan when I began! I had experience putting books together and working with writers, originally however I saw Selcouth Station as a group blog and a way for me to be socially awkward and social at the same time! However when it came to it, it was just me writing solo and trying my best to reach out to others. I quickly met some wonderful writers, such as Leo X Robertson (Bonespin Slipspace) and Mike Aaron (Cuteness Overlord). I began receiving review requests and I actively hunted down people for interviews, trying to convince them I came in peace and wouldn't bite! I have always been an editor and dreamed of getting into publishing, so when we were approaching 500 Twitter followers I rather riskily said: Hey guys, if we hit 500, we'll become a micro-press! The rest is history...The name 'Selcouth' is an Old English word for unusual, strange, beautiful, I wanted to publish work mainstream publishing houses would turn down because they couldn't see a profit in it or the writer was new and unknown. Mainstreaming publishing has a lot of perks, but they tend to be more about the business rather than people and my heart is with the people. I called my press 'Station'' because it is a place where anyone can get on a train with us and leave whenever they want, it is a place of chance encounters and transitions from here to there.
What are the challenges and rewards of starting your own indie press?
The biggest challenge is becoming legit and trying to ensure nothing you do is illegal ha! As I began with a Kickstarter, I needed to register as a small business (specifically a sole trader) and for tax returns, as I needed to explain the sudden income. I researched on what counts as expenses (answer: most things) and what I would have to pay tax on (answer: anything left over). There are also the more practical queries: who is going to print our books? The first printer I had in mind couldn't provide the service the press needed, so I then had to source another one. Another practical query: how do I pay my authors? I decided the best way was to give them 20% of the 100-copy print run, which they could then sell on at £5.00 each, totaling in £100 profit for the twenty books. They could order more at 50% reduced rate. Writers should be paid for their work wherever possible, whether it is in physical copies or in cash. The biggest challenges for me was ensuring everything I planned to do was fair and legal.
The biggest rewards so far is seeing the books arrive with the authors and the Kickstarter backers, laughing uncontrollably as people tweet images of our books and review them! It has been a wonderful experience! We never stop supporting our authors and you know what? They have never stopped supporting us. We have a fantastic relationship with them and we are so excited to meet our next authors! I say 'we' as I have been joined by Sandra and Lorna, two wonderful writers and editors who believe in the press.
Who are 3 of your favourite writers and why?
Now this is a hard one because I rarely have favourite authors, but favourite books. However, I can give you three who have stuck with me for a long time. J.R.R. Tolkien was my first love, my mother would read chapters to my brother and I in the evenings when we were little. We would be huddled in blankets and hot-water bottles because we didn't have heating for a long time. I was convinced no book could ever beat 'The Hobbit', so when I was twelve I marched into my grandparents' living room and declared I would be a writer and I would write something on par with Tolkien.
Angela Carter continues to be a favourite and I have just read Edmund Gordon's The Invention of Angela Carter, an exquisite biography of a fantastical, clever writer who showed me I didn't have to be conventional. I fell head over heels in love with The Bloody Chamber during college and continue to read her work. She has such daring and passion, I've always blown away by her books, even the more trippy ones like The Passion of New Eve.
Neil Gaiman is the most recent addition to my Top 3. I have read his short stories and Neverwhere, yet it took until reading The Sandman comics for me to really acknowledge him as a favourite. I loved his voice, his passion, I must have listened to a hundred interviews of him talking about his work, yet I needed to find my Gaiman. I am five volumes into his comic series, I am at once scarred and inspired by his dark stories of dream and darkness.
What are you working on at the moment?
Oh dear, how much procrastination can I get away with here? Well, if I'm being honest, I am slowly working together a poetry book called Saga City. I'm still exploring it. So far I know it is going to be experimental poetry with a mythos of made-up words, collages from early 20th century women's magazines, twenty sound-poetry pieces ripped from the biographies of twenty historical women in arts/literature and more personal issues like body image and anger. I want it to be a beautiful book where I can use colour, so I will likely have to self-publish it as colour is expensive to print. It will focus on ancestry and origins. All origins are lonely, to quote Maggie O'Sullivan's book (Veer Books), and I believe it is essential we connect with them, whether than is the landscape your ancestors worked on or the internal dreamworld you visit during your blue days.
What would your advice be to writers just starting out?
Be afraid. I don't mean this in a 'oh god you are walking into hell' way, though I will not deny being a writer is tough. You cannot be truly brave without fear. Being brave is not about 'not' being afraid, but being afraid and still fighting for what you believe in. You are allowed to feel like the worst writer in the world, as long as you keep writing. Self-hate and anxiety are two demons I have lived with for a very long time and while I have tamed them a little, there are still days when I believe the Fraud Police will turn up and arrest me. I want to tell YOU, the writers, YOU are ALLOWED to feel this way. You look at other writers and you judge yourself by what you perceive: oh look how effortlessly they write, oh look how they achieve their dreams, oh if I just put in the hours I know I could do that. I will tell you now: if you are a new writer and you are feeling confident, you are doing something wrong. And hey, my inbox is open to you if you want to chat.
Haley Jenkins holds a Creative Writing Master's Degree from The University of Surrey and a Creative Writing Bachelor's Degree from The University of Roehampton.
In 2016, Haley was awarded First Prize in the Elmbridge Literary Competition for her short story 'Talisman' and in 2014 won 3rd Prize in the Hopkins Poetry Prize. She has been published in two anthologies by Fincham Press - The Trouble with Parallel Universes (2014) and Screams & Silences (2015), as well as publications such as, Guttural Magazine, Rag Queen Periodical, Tears in the Fence, painted spoken and The Journal of British & Irish Innovative Poetry. Her work has also appeared in online zines such as datableedzine, epizootics and ez.Pzine (Pyre Publishing). In 2016, she completed editing Bigger than Bones, a volume of essays and creative work with a focus on the body, produced by interdisciplinary.net.
Haley's first poetry chapbook was published by Veer Books (August 2017). Haley has presented work, both creative and non-fiction, at The University of Roehampton, The University of Falmouth and Mansfield College of The University of Oxford.