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From the Gulf of the Poets

From the Gulf of the Poets

Two hundred years ago Shelley and his companion Edward Williams sailed their boat Ariel out of the Gulf of Spezia towards Livorno and were never seen alive again. It is quite easy to see how they made the mistake of going out when they did. The bays of Lerici and La Spezia are protected from the Ligurian Sea by enclosing headlands and islands. The thunder storms that build up most summer evenings at nine o’clock crackle their lightning around the hills to the north towards Genoa without, more often than not, troubling these havens. In 1822 there were no weather forecasts, other than the opinions of local fisherman, who tend to be canny and quiet when advising foreigners.

Shelley left behind a tangle of love affairs and infant deaths that must have been emotional hell for everyone involved. Byron, who was involved but had a tougher hide, and Leigh Hunt arrived a few weeks later and found the villages where Shelley had been living – San Terenzo and the larger Lerici, ten minutes’ brisk walk round the bay – delightful. Since then an anthology of writers, mainly British and Italian, have passed through and agreed, with Sem Benelli naming it the Gulf of the Poets in 1910. D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster loved the place, and now, thanks to the new Lerici Music Festival (while in no way bracketing myself with them), so do I. This century Lerici Pea Prize has been given to writers who have contributed to the tradition, and they have little plaques on the railing of the seaside path between the two villages. Among them is Carol Ann Duffy.

When Leigh Hunt and Byron arrived from Livorno they were, like Shelley, not just coming for summer sun. They had spent months crossing Europe to escape the increasingly autocratic and censorious clutches of a Tory government in London that had been in power too long. Sound familiar? Shelley had been fulminating against it in pamphlets, to the fury of the Tory press, which seized on his private life to discredit his views. The answer was to start their own periodical, The Liberal, which Leigh Hunt backed and helped publish with his brother. The reason for Shelley sailing to Livorno was to discuss the idea for the journal with them – sailing down the coast was a much quicker way of getting about in the days before railways, when roads were bad and the ways through the hills difficult. Shelley was not on a pleasure cruise. When The Liberal did appear, though, it did not last long: barely a year. Tory money does not flow towards publications that are openly hostile, then as now.

A long time later, in 2004, Ben Ramm revived the title, feeling that the political atmosphere in Britain was ripe for some original thinking not tied to the Labour or Conservative parties. Once the Liberal Democrats allied themselves with the Conservatives in 2010, they found its views inconvenient too and it first dropped its print run, then closed on the Internet in 2012. 

I miss it, not only because The Liberal published my poems, but because it provided an opposition to orthodoxy, social and economic. Time it returned, two centuries after its birth on these glorious if rocky, Ligurian shores – and for a longer stint this time. The authoritarian forces across the world are having things too easy at the moment and they need confronting.

Lerici and San Terenzo are coming to life again, not only for tourists and those looking for yacht moorings. A new cultural foundation has been formed, the classical music festival is six years old and happens on the sea front, where any passing child can peep through the curtains and hear Bryn Terfel singing with the local student orchestra. It also uses the villas around the towns – the sort of places that Leigh Hunt (but not Shelley) could afford. The links with literature, London (the Artistic Director, Gianluca Marciano, is also the conductor of the Chelsea Opera Group, the company where Sir Colin Davis started his career) and contemporary intellectuals are being reforged. My week in Lerici has been inspiring, convincing me that it is the poet’s job, with musicians, to make the case for a saner and less judgemental world – not always with polemics but with works that give driving forces other than power and economics the space to take hold.

Main image: Posthumous Portrait of Shelley Writing Prometheus Unbound in Italy by Joseph Severn, 1845


Simon Mundy’s poetry collection Waiting for Music was published by Renard Press in 2021.

An Interview with Jade Leaf Willetts

An Interview with Jade Leaf Willetts

Jade Leaf Willetts is a writer from Llanbradach in South Wales. He writes about extraordinary characters in ordinary worlds and has a penchant for unreliable narrators. The Green Indian Problem is his first novel.

We caught up with Jade to talk about his new book, The Green Indian Problem.


What inspired you to write The Green Indian Problem?
I read a few coming-of-age novels that focus on identity, but I was really interested in writing a younger child’s point of view. I think child narrators are compelling, and when I ‘found’ Green’s voice, I was hooked on his interpretation of the world. Kids are like little detectives with their incessant questions – I wanted to explore what happens when there are no easy answers.

Are there any main themes or points you want the reader to take away from your book?
I’d like the book to comfort readers, especially anyone struggling with their identity. I think reading the right book at the right time can be a special thing, and I like to think The Green Indian Problem will be the right book for someone.

Which other writers do you most admire and why?
Bukowski – for writing about the beauty in the ordinary. I also love Alan Sillitoe.

Are there any books which have changed your life?
The Catcher in the Rye was the first book that changed my life. It was my first experience relating to a character completely. I was so isolated in my feelings, it hadn’t occurred to me that I wasn’t alone, that my weird thoughts were universal. It blew my mind that someone from another place and time had felt the same things and bothered to write about them. It was a revelation in shared experiences and emotions.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
The old classic ‘write what you know’. I initially approached writing as an escape and ignored this advice, but my writing fell flat. My mother kept telling me to use my background and experiences in my work. She was right, and so were the writers the advice is attributed to.

What’s the strangest job (besides writing) that you’ve ever had?
All my jobs have been strange and ill-suited. I think I’m allergic to money. I was a barber for a few years. I felt like the homicidal barber in that Monty Python sketch. I dreaded every day. Writing is the only ‘job’ that suits me.

Where do you write?
In the corner of the living room. I’ve got a tiny laptop and a child’s desk. It’s not Wonderland, but I can relate to Alice.

What’s the best place to read?
In bed, with a cup of tea (when it’s raining).

You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which famous writer (from any point of history) do you invite?
It’s tempting to invite Sylvia Plath, Joan Didion, or Jack Kerouac, but nobody could live up to my expectations of them, and I’d hate to find out over a curry. I’m a loner. The pressure would kill me.

What’s the background music at your dinner party?
Since I’m dining alone, Joni Mitchell would be perfect company.

Any outlandish hobbies?
All my hobbies involve sitting down. I am only adventurous with words. In another world, I would be a skateboarder.

What’s next?
I’m writing a coming-of-age follow-up to The Green Indian Problem. It’s going slowly. I need to finish a lot of things. I’ve got too many half-written stories.


Set in the valleys of South Wales at the tail end of Thatcher’s Britain, The Green Indian Problem is the story of Green, a seven year-old with intelligence beyond his years – an ordinary boy with an extraordinary problem: everyone thinks he’s a girl. Green sets out to try and solve the mystery of his identity, but other issues keep cropping up – God, Father Christmas, cancer – and one day his best friend goes missing, leaving a rift in the community and even more unanswered questions.

Dealing with deep themes of friendship, identity, child abuse and grief, The Green Indian Problem is, at heart, an all-too-real story of a young boy trying to find out why he’s not like the other boys in his class.

Longlisted for the Bridport Prize (in the Peggy Chapman-Andrews category)

208pp paperback
ISBN: 9781913724528
£10.00

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An Interview with Iain Hood

An Interview with Iain Hood

Iain Hood was born in Glasgow and grew up in the seaside town of Ayr. He attended the University of Glasgow and Jordanhill College, and later worked in education in Glasgow and the west country. He attended the University of Manchester after moving to Cambridge, where he continues to live with his wife and daughter. His first novel, This Good Book, was published by Renard in 2021, and his second novel, Every Trick in the Book will be published in September 2022.

We caught up with Iain to talk about… well, all sorts, but not least This Good Book.


What inspired you to write This Good Book?
I wrote another book in which I based some scenes on memories of my student days in Glasgow in the 80s, and I drew a brief portrait of two twenty-year-olds walking through Glasgow on a Sunday, along Kirklees Road… I wanted to think and write more about characters like these, and they came to be a sort of proto-Susan Alison and proto-Douglas. Also, This Good Book grew out of energy and the vision of the artists, writers and musicians of that unique time in Glasgow in the 80s and 90s. (A writer friend suggested this line as, she says, these questions should serve as advertisements for the book, but she was also right on the money.) More than anything, though, I build books out of other books, other stories. Here are some that I thought about as a I wrote This Good Book: Trocchi’s Young Adam; Robinson’s Gilead; Wallace’s This is Water and Good Old Neon; the New Testament; Spark’s The Ballad of Peckham Rye and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and all of her books, in fact; I have Camus’ The Outsider on this list which I drew up as I wrote the book, though the connection now eludes me; and, finally, Warner’s Morvern Callar.

Are there any main themes or points you want the reader to take away from your book?
I was talking to my pastor (I have a pastor the way the POTUS must) about what my point was with the book, and talking to him, where I got to was I wanted Christians to become atheists… and atheists to become Christians, and Christians become Muslims, and atheists become more atheist, and Christians become more Christian and Muslims become… Well, you get the picture: just for everyone to think, and not even for them to think and change, but just pause for a moment in their thinking, just pause and think. That’s the point.

Which other writers do you most admire and why? Are there any books which have changed your life?
It would be wrong of me, given my preparations to be in Dublin again for Bloomsday this centenary year of the publication of Ulysses, to say anything other than Joyce’s book, which utterly changed my life when I first read it, uncomprehendingly the first few times, at the age of 17 and 18. I got to the bit in Ulysses that usually ends the whole game for most readers, ‘Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes’, and I thought, I want to know what these words mean! Though, really, perhaps Portrait of the Artist hedges it because I read that age 15 or 16 and it encouraged me to go on to read Ulysses.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
‘The first draft of anything is always shit.’ Hemingway, allegedly.

Aux yeux de ces amateurs d’inquiétude et de perfection, un ouvrage n’est jamais achevé, – mot qui pour eux n’a aucun sens, – mais abandonné ; et cet abandon, qui le livre aux flammes ou au public (et qu’il soit l’effet de la lassitude ou de l’obligation de livrer) est une sorte d’accident, comparable à la rupture d’une réflexion, que la fatigue, le fâcheux ou quelque sensation viennent rendre nulle.‘ (In essence: ‘A book is never finished, it’s abandoned.’) Valèry.

‘A writer writes, always.’ Throw Momma from the Train.

If you could offer a budding writer one piece of advice, what would it be?
You’re brilliant and you can do it!

What drew you to your genre?
It’s not so much a genre, but I think of This Good Book as a Muriel Spark novel, in tone, at least. What’s not to be drawn to?

What’s the strangest job (besides writing) that you’ve ever had?
At a vulnerable point in my life I was drawn into the sphere of a gang of evil experimental psychologists who were investigating the connection between alcohol and violence. While being covertly filmed, I was employed to noise up drunk people playing Tetris on a computer by pulling the plug on the computer without warning to see if they would hit me. This is a true story.

Where do you write?
Everywhere.

What’s the best place to read?
Anywhere.

You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which famous writer (from any point of history) do you invite?
It would be Muriel Spark, though the thought scares me and makes me anxious.

What’s the background music at your dinner party?
Mogwai. Spark: ‘What IS that infernal noise?’

Any outlandish hobbies?
Planning books I’ll never write?

What’s next?
Every Trick in the Book, to be published in September 2022. A genre-deconstructing novel that explodes the police procedural and undercover-cop story with nouveau-romanish glee. An alchemical trick of adding Perec, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band and Met Police scandals to Virginia Woolf and FOOF!! The whole thing blows up in your face!


‘Sometimes I wonder, if I had known that it was going to take me fourteen years to paint this painting of the Crucifixion with Douglas as Jesus, and what it would take for me to paint this painting, would I have been as happy as I was then?’

Susan Alison MacLeod, a Glasgow School of Art graduate with a dark sense of humour, first lays eyes on Douglas MacDougal at a party in 1988, and resolves to put him on the cross in the Crucifixion painting she’s been sketching out, but her desire to create ‘good’ art and a powerful, beautiful portrayal means that a final painting doesn’t see the light of day for fourteen years.

Over the same years, Douglas’s ever-more elaborately designed urine-based installations bring him increasing fame, prizes and commissions, while his modelling for Susan Alison, who continues to work pain and suffering on to the canvas, takes place mostly in the shadows. This Good Book is a wickedly funny, brilliantly observed novel that spins the moral compass and plays with notions of creating art.

208pp paperback
ISBN: 9781913724191
£10.00

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‘There’s only control, control of ourselves and others. And you have to decide what part you play in that control.’

Cast your eye over the comfortable north London home of a family of high ideals, radical politics and compassionate feelings. Julia, Paul and their two daughters, Olivia and Sophie, look to a better society, one they can effect through ORGAN:EYES, the campaigning group they fundraise for and march with, supporting various good causes.

But is it all too good to be true? When the surface has been scratched and Paul’s identity comes under the scrutiny of the press, a journey into the heart of the family begins. Who are these characters really? Are any of them the ‘real’ them at all? Every Trick in the Book is a genre-deconstructing novel that explodes the police procedural and undercover-cop story with nouveau romanish glee. Hood overturns the stone of our surveillance society to show what really lies beneath.

200pp paperback
ISBN: 9781913724924
£10.00

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An Interview with Emma Zadow

An Interview with Emma Zadow

Emma Zadow is an actor, playwright and screenwriter from Norfolk. She trained at Rose Bruford College as an actor, and her plays have been performed at the Arcola, the Old Red Lion Theatre, Camden Fringe Festival, Norwich Arts Centre and Pleasance Theatre. Emma is an alumni playwright from the Soho Theatre Writers Lab, and she was shortlisted for the ETPEP Award and Tony Craze Award. A BBC New Creative, her screenplays include the hit short film The Cromer Special and Jigging. Emma now lives in London.

We caught up with Emma to talk about her forthcoming playscript, Black Hills.


What inspired you to write Black Hills?
America, Kentucky, Memphis, Arkansas, New Orleans… the awareness you feel there of tradition, heritage, truth and inherited history. My backpacking from Kentucky up to Chicago and then back down through the South to New Orleans for Christmas and up via the East Coast through Virginia and the Carolinas to NYC for NYE. I met a lot of people. I travelled with a lot of people. Like Sofia Coppola said about Lost In Translation, sometimes people you meet and know within two days mean more than those you spend a whole lifetime with. (And I’ll always remember a bookshop manager in Memphis thinking I was from Chicago. I felt far cooler than the reality, ‘I’m from Norwich!’)

Are there any main themes or points you want the reader to take away from your playscript?
What does it take to make a family? What happens along the road? What do you leave behind and how do you choose what to leave by the roadside and what to take with you?

Which other writers do you most admire and why?
Sam Shepard, Steve Dykes, Marina Carr and Paula Vogel for their connection to character, sense of place and dark humour. Martin McDonagh for sheer black humour and muscularity in his dialogue and worlds.

Are there any books which have changed your life?
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, because it’s a sublime piece of indigenous writing that many leave out of university teaching. Anna Karenina affected me as I read it only in lockdown, and it’s a book that stays with you for years in its commitment to its characters and very distinct lack of ‘hero worship’ for Anna; unlike, perhaps, Marvel female heroines, who don’t get the luxury of getting things wrong and making mistakes. As much as Anna does, anyway. Martha Gellhorn’s non-fiction is exceptional. Her war-journalism prose – her correspondence on the Spanish Civil War in her book The Face of War, for instance – is exciting reading and deserves more recognition than, perhaps, her then-husband, Ernest Hemingway.

Books that have changed my life significantly will be ones I read as a teenager – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman for found families, Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence for sister relationships and connection to nature, and The Mabinogion. Its interweaving celtic strands across the centuries bring great inspiration and teachings.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
I’m never quite sure about writing advice, as I’ll always question it and mistrust ‘writing advice and rules’! But I do believe that the more you experience, good and bad, the better. If it’s bad, at least you have experience to put into a character’s story to make it come alive on the page. Say ‘Yes’ more often than ‘No’.

If you could offer a budding writer one piece of advice, what would it be?
Know what you want to say and how you want to say it. And be ready to defend your story. Defend your characters and let them attack the audience. Stories are the gateway to empathy – let that happen however that means to you!

What drew you to the story behind Black Hills?
The idea of the road story between siblings enchanted me, and I loved the idea of a shared history, and what that does to Scott and Joanie, because they can’t make it up like everyone else – their truths are facing right back at one another. The mythic symbolism of the Oregon Trail played a big part, too, in terms of heritage on the journey. They drive – but to where? And who for? Their mother, Carrie, is always in their present and future. The book flits between 1968 and 1975, and their mother stays the same.

What’s the strangest job (besides writing) that you’ve ever had?
That would definitely be being a cat’s dermatologist’s assistant. I don’t even have a dermatologist!

Where do you write?
Outdoors, indoors, always pen and paper or via dictaphone on my audio recording app.

What’s the best place to read?
Where I feel no one will interrupt.

You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which famous writer (from any point of history) do you invite?
I’m expanding the guestlist. Martha Gellhorn, Federico Lorca, Anne Rice, Sappho, Joy Harjo, Assata Shakur, Emily Dickinson and Dylan Thomas.

What’s the background music at your dinner party?
Anything jazz/blues/70s

Any outlandish hobbies?
Um, does foraging count? I like wild garlic and puffballs, and I grow my own rosemary, spearmint, parsley, thyme and tarragon.

What’s next?
I’m currently developing a TV police drama about the recent spike injections, set in the North East. We’re shooting the pilot in the late summer. My BBC New Creative short Jigging recently came out, and is available to watch on iPlayer…


Set between the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1973 and East Coast suburbia in 1968, Black Hills picks out a stark portrait of intricate familial relationships, and how dark events in the past must be addressed before they take root.

Toying with heavy themes, and engaging with the notions of American identity and domestic violence, Black Hills is a thought-provoking tour of one family’s past that leaves a lasting impression.

96pp paperback
ISBN: 9781913724962
£10.00

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An Interview with Miriam Burke

An Interview with Miriam Burke

A writer from the west of Ireland, Miriam Burke’s short stories have been widely published in anthologies and journals, including The Manchester Review, Litro Magazine, Fairlight Shorts, The Honest Ulsterman, Bookanista and Writers’ Forum. She has a PhD in Psychology, and before becoming a writer she worked for many years as a Clinical Psychologist in London hospitals and GP practices. Women and Love is her debut collection.

We caught up with Miriam to talk about her new book, Women and Love.


What inspired you to write Women and Love?
My characters come from a wide range of social and cultural backgrounds because I love the diversity of life in contemporary Britain. I grew up in Ireland when it was culturally monochromatic, so I really appreciate the richness of a multicultural society. The stories explore how women deal with different kinds of love because I think how we love is one of the most interesting things about us.

Are there any main themes or points you want the reader to take away from your book?
I suppose one point is that we should value and recognise the humanity of the people who collect our rubbish, fill supermarket shelves, clean our offices, wash our cars and do other poorly paid jobs with low status. The pandemic has taught us that we are all dependent on each other, and I believe we shouldn’t live in social silos with people who think like us and have similar backgrounds.

Which other writers do you most admire and why?
I love Elizabeth Strout’s novels. She portrays a whole community by focusing on a small number of characters. And her prose style is a great pleasure to read. Unlike some writers, she isn’t trying to demonstrate how smart she is; she doesn’t get between the reader and the characters. And like all great writers, she’s terrific company, and I feel bereft when I finish one of her books.

Are there any books which have changed your life?
I read everything Virginia Woolf wrote when I was a teenager, and her work was very important for me because it helped me see that other ways of living were possible. I came to London looking for Bloomsbury and found ‘The Gateways’ (see below).

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Be more visual. Look carefully at the physical world around you.

If you could offer a budding writer one piece of advice, what would it be?
Writing is like any other profession; you need a great deal of practice and a lot of advice from others to achieve competence.

What drew you to the genre of short stories?
I grew up in a culture where the short-story form was loved and valued. We studied great short stories at school and the publication of a collection of short stories was a significant cultural event.

What’s the strangest job (besides writing) that you’ve ever had?
I worked behind the bar at the ‘The Gateways’, the club in the film The Killing of Sister George. It was the only lesbian members’ club in London at the time, so everyone went there, from head mistresses to actresses to sex workers and petty criminals. It was a far cry from Bloomsbury.

Where do you write?
I write at home, because I’d be watching other people and trying to eavesdrop on them if I was in a café or library.

What’s the best place to read?
I love reading on the Tube, especially during the plague, because it distracts me from the stranger in the next seat who is sneezing viruses all over me.

You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which famous writer (from any point of history) do you invite?
Kate O’Brien, an Irish lesbian writer published by Virago Classics. Her books were banned in Ireland. She was brilliant, very courageous, and funny. She loved to party and would be great company.

What’s the background music at your dinner party?
My childhood friend Marion singing ‘My Own Dear Galway Bay’.

Any outlandish hobbies?
I’m a bit obsessed with hares. Sadly, I haven’t seen any yet on the streets of London, but I took many photos of hares in Ireland and I console myself for the absence of hares in my current life by looking at the photos.

What’s next?
I’m working on another collection of stories, and I’d like to do more work on a novel I’ve written about Irish women revolutionaries.


‘I couldn’t sleep that night; our conversation was like a trapped bird flying around inside my head. The next morning, I texted to say I wouldn’t be coming back. I lied about having to return to my country to nurse a sick relative. I couldn’t bear to see my story mirrored in his eyes, and to see what we never had. I knew he’d understand.’

Women and Love is a thought-provoking collection of seventeen tightly woven tales about the power of love, all its trials and complications, and the shattered lives it can leave in its wake.

The stories explore a huge variety of sorts of love surrounding women in wildly differing settings, and features an unforgettable cast including GPs, burglars, inmates, emigrant cleaners, carers, young professionals, and many more. Navigating heavy themes, with a particular focus on LGBTQ+ experiences, including gender dysphoria and searching for a sperm donor, the stories leave the reader burning with indignation, full of empathy and wonder.

224pp paperback
ISBN: 9781913724818
£10.00

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Renard Acquires Reshma Ruia’s Still Lives

Renard Acquires Reshma Ruia’s Still Lives

Renard Press is pleased to announce that it has acquired world rights to the timely, haunting novel about love, betrayal and belonging by Reshma Ruia, Still Lives.

Synopsis:
The glow of my cigarette picks out a dark shape lying on the ground. I bend down to take a closer look. It’s a dead sparrow. I wondered if I had become that bird, disoriented and lost.

Young, handsome and contemptuous of his father’s traditional ways, PK Malik leaves Bombay to start a new life in America. Stopping in Manchester to visit an old friend, he thinks he sees a business opportunity, and decides to stay on. Now fifty-five, PK has fallen out of love with life. His business is struggling and his wife Geeta is lonely, pining for the India she’s left behind.

One day PK crosses the path of Esther, the wife of his business competitor, and they launch into an affair conducted in shabby hotel rooms, with the fear of discovery forever hanging in the air. Still Lives is a tightly woven, haunting work that pulls apart the threads of a family and plays with notions of identity.

Shortlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Prize

Reshma Ruia is an award-winning author and poet. Her first novel was described in the Sunday Times as ‘a gem of straight-faced comedy’. She has published a poetry collection and a short story collection; her work has appeared in international anthologies and journals, and she has had work commissioned by the BBC. She is the co-founder of The Whole Kahani – a writers’ collective of British South Asian writers. Born in India and brought up in Rome, her writing explores the preoccupations of those who possess a multiple sense of belonging.

Still Lives
Reshma Ruia
29th June 2022

Renard Press Acquires The Green Indian Problem

Renard Press Acquires The Green Indian Problem

Renard Press is pleased to announce that it has acquired world rights to the debut novel by Jade Leaf Willetts, The Green Indian Problem, a story about a young boy who the world thinks is a girl.

Synopsis:
Set in the valleys of South Wales at the tail end of Thatcher’s Britain, The Green Indian Problem is the story of Green, a seven year-old with intelligence beyond his years – an ordinary boy with an extraordinary problem: everyone thinks he’s a girl.

Green sets out to try and solve the mystery of his identity, but other issues keep cropping up – God, Father Christmas, cancer – and one day his best friend goes missing, leaving a rift in the community and even more unanswered questions. Dealing with deep themes of friendship, identity, child abuse and grief, The Green Indian Problem is, at heart, an all-too-real story of a young boy trying to find out why he’s not like the other boys in his class.

Jade Leaf Willetts is a writer from Llanbradach, a strange, beautiful village in South Wales. He writes about extraordinary characters in ordinary worlds and has a penchant for unreliable narrators. The Green Indian Problem, his first novel, was longlisted for the 2020 Bridport Prize in the Peggy Chapman-Andrews category. Jade’s poetry has been published by Empty Mirror, PoV Magazine and Unknown Press. His short story, ‘An Aversion to Popular Amusements’ was shortlisted for the inaugural Janus Literary Prize.

The Green Indian Problem

Renard Acquires Simon Mundy’s Waiting for Music

Renard Acquires Simon Mundy’s Waiting for Music

Renard Press is pleased to announce that it has acquired world rights to the timely poetry collection by Simon Mundy, Waiting for Music, featuring poems written for a wide variety of works as varied as Brahms’ piano works and a soprano’s solo by Roxana Panufnik inspired by a 16th century portrait.

Synopsis:
Waiting for Music is the fifth collection of poetry from the acclaimed writer Simon Mundy. A great champion of the arts, his relationships with musicians, visual artists and dancers are the main driving force behind his poetry, and this book sets out a playlist of poems inspired by music – from the classic strains of Brahms’ piano works to a soprano’s solo by Roxana Panufnik which never came into being (itself inspired by a 16th-century portrait).

Published after a year spent waiting for music to appear on our land­scape once more, Waiting for Music collects the voices of an array of composers, cultures and forms, set against backdrops ranging from Valparaiso to the Veneto, and celebrates the depth of talent and sound that has been missing from our lives this last year.

 

‘Mundy can be cheeky, he can be rueful, but he is always passionate.’

(on By Fax to Alice Springs) — DALJIT NAGRA

‘A book I will take with me as my companion everywhere… Beautiful.’

(on More for Helen of Troy) — BETTANY HUGHES

 

Simon Mundy studied drama at university, but soon veered towards writing poetry and reviews, and at 23 he found himself a music critic and arts journalist. A champion of the arts, he has served as Director of the National Campaign for the Arts and Vice-President of PEN International’s Writers for Peace Committee, and he co-founded the European Forum for the Arts and Heritage; he remains an adviser to the European Festivals Association. His writing includes biographies, novels, non-fiction, playscripts and poetry. Waiting for Music is his fifth poetry collection. For the last 40 years Simon has bounced between Mid Wales, the far north of Scotland, London and Brussels. He likes his indecision.

Dana Mills on Burgling Against Capitalism

Dana Mills on Burgling Against Capitalism

Dana Mills is an author, dancer and activist. Her most recent book is Rosa Luxemburg (2020), following the success of Dance and Politics: Moving Beyond Boundaries (2016).



It’s especially depressing to be bombarded with adverts for Black Friday this year (which has deeply racist origins, and a deeply oppressive contemporary presence; no ‘bargain’ you buy online does not come at the price of someone else’s reduced costs for labour). It’s also just plain bizarre. Perhaps especially strange are adverts for perfumes showing good looking and made-up people escaping to exotic places wearing perfume. Considering we are looking at a winter of indoor traipsing in sweatpants at best, lockdowns at worst, it’s strange to think this would appeal to anyone. Yet capitalism is a death cult and built on unattainable fantasies.

Confession: I like giving presents. A lot! I think this is a legacy from my late father. I especially like finding things people will like and surprising them with those gifts. However, I was raised to focus on either home-made or very low-key gifts. My mother still says the best gift I ever gave her is a potato peeler I got her when I was eight. I turn 39 next week and she still uses that peeler.

It’s hard for me, lately, not to give gifts that aren’t books, because books give you fantasy that you can, unlike those perfume ads, live. Books give a narrative outside of your ordinary life, a story of someone else who you’ll never know. I’ve noticed I culled from my networks all those who say ‘I don’t have time to read’ (who, at the same time, will be the people who post three times a day on their Facebook/other social media accounts). So, for the past few years, all of my gifts have been books. While the publishing industry is far from being independent of the ills of capitalism, it does have many small independent publishers who try to resist the monopoly of the large, exploitative ones.

Perhaps this year, more than ever, it is easy not to shop around Black Friday, to realise that we really didn’t need that extra dress or pair of trousers. We don’t need three of everything we own. We don’t need ‘self care’ products that give us an hour of a bath with no expansion of horizons.

What we need is a way to expand our imaginaries when we are locked up. We need a way to sustain communities and consecutiveness. We need to remember and remind that, even if we can’t be physically together, we can be there for each other and provide a narrative and a conversation and a different point of view. No lip gloss or aftershave can do that.

And so, in the spirit of gifting a story and a listening ear, those people who I care about and have been consistently sustaining me this year will receive this festive period Willa Cather’s classic The Burglar’s Christmas, from which proceeds go to the Three Peas, a charity doing work on Lesvos for refugees. Unlike big industrial ‘charities’, this is a collective doing work on the ground, and so I’ll be able to give something to several people. This new press, Renard Press, publishes cutting edge and classic books, and is worthy of your attention generally. This holiday season give community, give expansion of thought – don’t give gifts that wither away and are grounded in fake capitalist fantasy.

(I’ve conceded that I’ll never transcend that potato peeler for my mother).

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Renard Kicks off Playscripts Series with Emma Zadow

Renard Kicks off Playscripts Series with Emma Zadow

Renard Press is thrilled to announce that it has acquired the haunting debut play by Emma Zadow, Fridge.

Set against the background of rural Norfolk, Fridge centres on the dysfunctional relationship between two sisters.

Synopsis:
Alice hasn’t been home for a while – for seven years, in fact. But when her little sister Lo tries to take her own life, she has to return to the life she left behind. The change of scenery from London to Norfolk proves quite the culture shock, however, and Alice has to confront what she left behind all those years ago.

The sisters’ relationship hasn’t evolved in Alice’s absence, and when she steps through the door she’s plunged back into the same world she escaped from. Set against Norfolk’s bleak landscapes, but masquerading as childhood nostalgia, Fridge is an all-too-familiar exploration of the broken promises of youth, and a bitter exposition of a generation left behind.

Emma is an actor, playwright and screenwriter from Norfolk. She trained at Rose Bruford College, and her plays have been performed at the Arcola, the Old Red Lion Theatre, Camden Fringe Festival, Norwich Arts Centre and Pleasance Theatre. Emma is an alumni playwright from the Soho Theatre Writers Lab, and she was shortlisted for the ETPEP Award and Tony Craze Award.