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Books, Birth & Small, Beautiful Beginnings

by Cathy Galvin

In a few days I shall be the proud parent of a new literary imprint. I’m aware of how it was conceived, which isn’t always the case in parenthood. I’ve willed it into being and reacted instinctively when the right publishing partner came along. Yet this arrival is still surprising, nerve-wracking and, yes, exciting.

In time, perhaps we parents might allow ourselves a little celebration – when the new Guillemot Factory imprint is in the world, being read, held and perhaps (we can hope) being adored. Before then, there’s some labour to be done: it has to roll off the presses at the printers in Lostwithiel, Cornwall, smelling of new paper and hot ink. I shall be there, watching as four limited edition pamphlets make their way into the world.

Cathy Galvin GuillemotLike any parent, I am proud and biased: these are brilliant, bold works. Brilliant in execution – with four stories from the superlative David Constantine, Carys Davies, Jessie Greengrass and Adam Marek – and bold in illustration: Donya Todd’s artistic flair marks a departure in traditional cover design.

Published by Luke Thompson of the Guillemot Press, an independent publisher whose gorgeous poetry pamphlets won him the prestigious Michael Marks illustration award earlier this year and commissioned by me for the Word Factory, the national organisation supporting excellence in short fiction, we are at the beginning of something remarkable.

Our partnership marks the union of two small, beautiful enterprises committed to small, beautiful things that also carry significant weight – poetry and short fiction. To nurturing the kind of talent that stops time and catches the breath.

Poetry pamphlets have long been an accepted way of publishing established and emerging poets. Why not showcase short fiction in similar fashion?

There’s no reason why not but why not is not reason enough. We wanted something more. This imprint was born out of trusted relationships and respect: writers trusting Luke Thompson to innovate as a publisher and the writers who instantly said yes to my commission trusting the quality of what would emerge when they handed me their work.

Printed books are robust children, surviving the contractions of the market, flounderings of major publishing houses, fears about digital publication and tectonic shifts in retail and distribution. So we have high hopes for these small, beautiful books, and for ourselves. It isn’t always easy building something from scratch in the literary world. Luke and I have both experienced how frustrating it can be but also, how liberating. Where innovators create, others follow and sometimes, even imitate. Which doesn’t make innovators such as the Guillemot Factory rich but does make us attentive and imaginative parents.

I have thought carefully about who to invite to contribute to this first series, in each case identifying writers who are literary innovators within the short story form and within fiction more broadly. I have been deeply touched by the philosophical, poetic strength of Jessie Greengrass’s prose; Carys Davies’s visionary, eclectic clarity; David Constantine’s timeless, flowing attention to deep humanity and Adam Marek’s courageous, genre-breaking inventiveness.

The joy for both Luke and I is in the hope these works will be held, read, re-read and treasured.
Guillemot Factory Team
From left to right: Printer Roy Crocker, Cathy Galvin, Illustrator Donya Todd and Luke Thompson

The pamphlets can be pre-ordered here. First outing for the pamphlets at the Charles Causley Festival in Launceston, Cornwall on Friday June 1st. Tickets here.

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