Celebrating femininity and empathy through images and words

Mother's Milk Books Blog

Behind the scenes at Mother's Milk

Highlights of 2015 and some of our favourite books

It’s been an age since we’ve had a new post so I will do my best to do a succinct round-up of our 2015 highlights.

Fireworks, image by Teika Bellamy

 

To date, 2015, was our most intense publishing year, with four books being published: The Forgotten and Fantastical, Hearth, Oy Yew and The Mother’s Milk Books Writing Prize Anthology 2014: The Story of Us. My youngest was at home with me for most of that time, and so I have to remind myself that it was quite a feat to even produce these four books while looking after him and running a household!

Financially, Mother’s Milk Books is run very much as a break-even affair, which means that pre-orders and trade sales to authors and shops etc. ensure that I manage to pay the costs of printing. However, in June this year I realized that we wouldn’t have enough money to cover the costs of printing of Oy Yew, so I put an SOS out there. I was heartened by the amount of support (financial, practical and emotional) we were given and due to this support it got us through a tough time. Every month since June has continued to be difficult (we REALLY need to make more sales) but fingers-crossed we will be able to “keep on keeping on”. With SEVEN books being published next year, with a bit of luck our sales figures will increase. These are the seven titles I am getting very excited about: Echolocation by Becky Cherriman, The Forgotten and Fantastical 2, Maysun and the Wingfish by Alison Lock, Handfast by Ruth Aylett and Beth McDonough, Baby X by Rebecca Ann Smith, Nondula by Ana Salote and The Mother’s Milk Books Writing Prize Anthology 2015: Love.

2015 was also the year I received the Women in Publishing’s New Venture Award. Here is what I put together for the press release (which, ironically, got buried here in The Bookseller, but which will, hopefully, be seen here):

“I am delighted to be the recipient of the Women in Publishing’s New Venture Award for pioneering work on behalf of under-represented groups in society, particularly so because having been in the publishing business for four years now I am very aware of how challenging the book trade is! Mothers (and breastfeeding mothers and children) shouldn’t be an ‘under-represented’ group in society, but sadly we are because, all too often, our stories aren’t heard or are dismissed as being merely about ‘women’s issues’ and therefore niche and uncommercial. I am extremely proud to be part of the diverse and thriving UK independent publishing scene, which dares to take editorial and financial risks to ensure that vital, unheard stories get told, particularly since Nottingham, where we are based, has just now become a UNESCO City of Literature. My hope is that this award will go someway to highlighting the excellent work of my authors, illustrators and co-editors so that Mother’s Milk Books can continue to keep publishing books for many more years to come.”

My statement got me thinking more and more about ‘unheard stories’ and so I asked my authors and co-editors to list some of their favourite books of 2015, which had been mainly published by indie presses and were, by and large, given little recognition by the national press. I hope you will add some of these to your 2016 to-read pile!

Cathy Bryant: Selkie Singing at the Passing Place, poetry by Sarah Miller and Melanie Rees. It’s the best BOGOF deal I’ve ever experienced. Though Hearth by Sarah James and Angela Topping is up there when it comes to collaborations.



Beth McDonough: Nell Nelson at Happenstance is doing amazing work, and publishing beautiful pamphlets. In her reading windows, she gives so much of herself to support poets. I’ve just read Jim Carruth’s Killochries (Freight Books). Described as a ‘verse novella’, it’s very wonderful.

Alison Lock: The Emma Press for tales of myths and legends for children with Falling Out of the Sky.

Angela Topping: Ruth Stacey’s Queen, Jewel, Mistress: A History of the Queens of England & Great Britain In Verse (Eyewear)

Becky Cherriman: I’ve just read Sumia Sukkar’s, The Boy From Aleppo who Painted The War (Eyewear). An emotive portrait of the war in Syria condensed into one family’s experience. Telling the story from the perspective of an innocent with flaws (the protagonist is on the autistic spectrum) and a unique way of seeing the world makes us focus on what counts in war - people. It couldn’t be more relevant.



Sarah James: Ruth Stacey’s Queen, Jewel, Mistress: A History of the Queens of England & Great Britain In Verse (Eyewear). Each queen is a given a distinct voice, in poems that take a range of poetry forms and styles befitting their time. They’re women’s viewpoints, but the worlds they belong to and are set in mostly men’s; its depiction therefore unconfined. The imagery is wide-ranging: nature, animals, birds, blood, war, lust, secrecy, politics, violence and the hidden messages of nursery rhyme. The poems are full of memorable lines and metaphors. Some of the poems are thoughtscapes, others landscapes. Some carry a narrative, others spark against each other to create a bigger story. All of them are very human, and very much recommended.
    

Mark Goodwin’s Steps (Longbarrow Press) is one of those beautiful collections that somehow manages the feat of being in constant movement (word play, riff, layout) while also capturing the stillness of each precisely observed moment and creating a sculpture of words on the page. These are poems of all the senses alert and voiced, with energy in the lay-out, punctuation and varying line lengths to create pieces that are quietly adventurous and daring, and always uncluttered. All of the poems are alive with beautifully stunning but entirely unfussy or unforced images. A very beautiful and enjoyable collection to read.

Robert Peake’s The Knowledge (Nine Arches Press) has been a delight. These poems are the kind that create their own space of existence, no matter how noisy a place or head space I was reading in. To bring such calmness and focus to a reader reading in unideal surroundings is no mean feat, perhaps enhanced by the fact every poem feels complete, crafted and sufficient in itself, not needing the reader to move on at any pace other than what comes naturally; this what comes naturally being subtly and imperceptibly set up by the poems. From closely observed nature, Peake links to philosophical insights, human needs and warm humour. Family relationships, not belonging and the surreal humour of English phrases can also be found. This is, in fact, a wonderfully wide-ranging and encompassing collection of poems which resonate after putting the book down.

Rebecca Ann Smith: I am very much looking forward to reading Erinna Mettler’s Starlings early in the new year, it’s very nearly reached the top of the reading pile. Starlings is similar in structure to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas in that it is made up of linked short stories. It has some fabulous reviews, and is published by Brighton-based indie Revenge Ink. Mettler, who’s also written award-winning short stories, is online at http://www.erinnamettler.com/

Ana Salote: I love Liz Brownlee’s Animal Magic, Poems on a Disappearing World. Liz has astonishing empathy for the animal world. She doesn’t just observe, she inhabits her subjects. She cares deeply about animals and makes us care by homing on the essential character of each species. Diversity is more than the mere shuffling of DNA. We share her fascination with the results of that process. The fine-tuning of the animate to its surroundings produces delightful quirks of design; each one individual, precious and irreplaceable. She expresses all of this in language which is exquisite, poignant and frequently witty. It can be read by children and adults with equal enjoyment. I can’t think of a better way to educate children about wildlife and conservation.

Tom Bellamy (co-editor and founder): These are very funny: How To Be A Public Author by Francis Plug (by Paul Ewen and published by Galley Beggar Press) and We Go To The Gallery: A Dung Beetle Learning Guide by Miriam Elia (Dung Beetle Books).



Rebecca Bellamy (beta-reader and young editor extraordinaire): Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery and Oy Yew by Ana Salote.



Jerome Bellamy (tea boy): Puff The Magic Dragon.

Teika Bellamy: Sara Maitland’s Moss Witch (Comma Press), Angela Slatter’s Sourdough and Other Stories (Tartarus Press). I was profoundly moved by Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. I was also glad to read Smallcreep’s Day by Peter Currell Brown (published by Pinter & Martin) and I can see why it was described as a masterpiece. There is so much in it that is still so relevant to society today. I’ve also just now started reading Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed which is simply stunning. Also, for budding writers I highly recommend Orson Scott Card’s writing guides: Characters and Viewpoint and How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (which is where I first found out about Butler’s books; Card is a big fan of hers). Poetry-wise I very much enjoyed Only The Flame Remains by Adam Horovitz (it is beautiful and haunting) and also Destroyed Dresses by Cara Brennan (Valley Books) touched me with its gentle, bittersweet charm.

 

Thank you for all the support you have given us throughout 2015. I wish you and your families all a happy, healthy and creativity-filled 2016!

 

Writing Bubble
Results of the 2015 Mother's Milk Books Writing Pr...
Interview with Jessica Bradley, winner of the Moth...
 

Comments 13

Guest - Jo Winwood on Tuesday, 05 January 2016 14:50

Some interesting titles here. Oy Yew has been on my radar for a while so i may get round to reading it soon. I'm also looking for some poetry to read and your recommendations sound like ones to consider.

Some interesting titles here. Oy Yew has been on my radar for a while so i may get round to reading it soon. I'm also looking for some poetry to read and your recommendations sound like ones to consider.
Guest - Teika Bellamy on Monday, 11 January 2016 14:22

Thanks Jo! And I do hope you get around to buying Oy Yew one day and to reading some of the recommended poetry. Maybe you'd be interested in entering our Writing Prize? Best wishes to you for 2016!

Thanks Jo! And I do hope you get around to buying [i]Oy Yew[/i] one day and to reading some of the recommended poetry. Maybe you'd be interested in entering our Writing Prize? Best wishes to you for 2016!
Guest - Maddy@writingbubble on Tuesday, 05 January 2016 21:21

You've achieved so much with Mother's Milk Books in the last few years and I think to publish four books in a year with a child still at home is a huge achievement. Very well done (again) on your award, it really is so well deserved! I know it's been a tough year so I really hope you can keep on going as I think you could and should go from strength to strength given the calibre of the work you publish and your commitment. Thanks for sharing all these book recommendations too - what a lovely idea to do your bit for other indie presses in this way. I'll be perusing the list again and picking some out! Thanks for linking to #whatImWriting.

You've achieved so much with Mother's Milk Books in the last few years and I think to publish four books in a year with a child still at home is a huge achievement. Very well done (again) on your award, it really is so well deserved! I know it's been a tough year so I really hope you can keep on going as I think you could and should go from strength to strength given the calibre of the work you publish and your commitment. Thanks for sharing all these book recommendations too - what a lovely idea to do your bit for other indie presses in this way. I'll be perusing the list again and picking some out! Thanks for linking to #whatImWriting.
Guest - Teika Bellamy on Monday, 11 January 2016 14:25

Many thanks Maddy for your kind words and, of course, your support. And you're welcome re: #WhatI'mWriting - it's a really great group. :-)

Many thanks Maddy for your kind words and, of course, your support. And you're welcome re: #WhatI'mWriting - it's a really great group. :-)
Guest - Sophie Lovett on Wednesday, 06 January 2016 15:18

Some really interesting looking books here - once again I am reminded how much I want to make more time to read... Congratulations on everything you've achieved in 2015 - here's to an even more successful year to come!

Some really interesting looking books here - once again I am reminded how much I want to make more time to read... Congratulations on everything you've achieved in 2015 - here's to an even more successful year to come!
Guest - Teika Bellamy on Monday, 11 January 2016 14:26

So glad you like the look of some of those books! And many thanks for stopping by. :-)

So glad you like the look of some of those books! And many thanks for stopping by. :-)
Guest - nicola young on Friday, 08 January 2016 10:26

I'm so pleased you managed to get the extra support you needed. Where are you based? My local bookshop has a writing group and they get guests in to talk about all aspects of publishing and writing. Would be good publicity and help sales. It's in Sevenoaks.

I'm so pleased you managed to get the extra support you needed. Where are you based? My local bookshop has a writing group and they get guests in to talk about all aspects of publishing and writing. Would be good publicity and help sales. It's in Sevenoaks.
Guest - Teika Bellamy on Monday, 11 January 2016 14:28

Hi Nicola, we're based in Nottingham - so quite a way from Sevenoaks, BUT I'm sure that Rebecca Ann Smith, one of our authors would LOVE to come along to Sevenoaks (and she's closer than me!). Many thanks for your suggestion - it's much appreciated. :-)

Hi Nicola, we're based in Nottingham - so quite a way from Sevenoaks, BUT I'm sure that Rebecca Ann Smith, one of our authors would LOVE to come along to Sevenoaks (and she's closer than me!). Many thanks for your suggestion - it's much appreciated. :-)
Guest - Nicole (The Brightness Of These Days) on Monday, 11 January 2016 11:29

I've only recently started blogging & linking up to the fabulous #writingbubble but I am so pleased I have as I've already come across so many inspiring & creative women (& men!) such as yourself. I can't believe you achieved so much last year and with a little one! Congratulations & I look forward to following your story in 2016 x

I've only recently started blogging & linking up to the fabulous #writingbubble but I am so pleased I have as I've already come across so many inspiring & creative women (& men!) such as yourself. I can't believe you achieved so much last year and with a little one! Congratulations & I look forward to following your story in 2016 x
Guest - Teika Bellamy on Monday, 11 January 2016 14:31

Many thanks for your kind words, Nicole, and I'll look forward to reading more of your posts. Best wishes to you and your family for 2016!

Many thanks for your kind words, Nicole, and I'll look forward to reading more of your posts. Best wishes to you and your family for 2016!
Guest - Sara | mumturnedmom on Monday, 11 January 2016 21:12

What an incredible year you've had! It's amazing to see it all written down like this, and what a fabulous collection of recommended books... Massive congratulation on the Women in Publishing’s New Venture Award, somehow missed that along the way, although I was MIA from #whatimwriting for much of the latter half of last year! Looking forward to catching up properly with what everyone is doing as we move into 2016 x

What an incredible year you've had! It's amazing to see it all written down like this, and what a fabulous collection of recommended books... Massive congratulation on the Women in Publishing’s New Venture Award, somehow missed that along the way, although I was MIA from #whatimwriting for much of the latter half of last year! Looking forward to catching up properly with what everyone is doing as we move into 2016 x
Guest - Emily Organ on Tuesday, 12 January 2016 16:40

Wow that's some year! Big congratulations to you, the publishing world is TOUGH. Even the big publishing houses don't make much on some books and as a self publisher I know it's an exceptionally competitive environment and you need to work at staying ahead while also planning for the long term. However the benefit that indie publishers and authors have is we can adapt to the market more speedily and we're much better placed to connect directly with readers and that's the uniqueness we can offer. I'm looking forward to seeing how 2016 goes for you x

Wow that's some year! Big congratulations to you, the publishing world is TOUGH. Even the big publishing houses don't make much on some books and as a self publisher I know it's an exceptionally competitive environment and you need to work at staying ahead while also planning for the long term. However the benefit that indie publishers and authors have is we can adapt to the market more speedily and we're much better placed to connect directly with readers and that's the uniqueness we can offer. I'm looking forward to seeing how 2016 goes for you x
Guest - Debbie on Wednesday, 13 January 2016 19:39

Congratulations, Teika. That's a great achievement.

Thanks to you and your co-editors for all the recommended reads. I'll check some of those out.

Debbie

Congratulations, Teika. That's a great achievement. Thanks to you and your co-editors for all the recommended reads. I'll check some of those out. Debbie
Already Registered? Login Here
Guest
Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Captcha Image