Saturday, June 24, 2006

My Murky Past as a Secondhand Bookseller

The other day I came across some old photographs of my ill-fated secondhand bookshop venture in Camelford, North Cornwall, and decided to post them up on the blog, to share them with you. They made me come over all nostalgic for a moment, so I had to remind myself that I ploughed the last of my capital into this secondhand bookshop, launched it in 2002 with no business acumen or experience - and almost no advertising - and that it sank hopelessly into a pit of debt and despair before the first year was even up.

An old and sadly only too familiar tale for anyone who's ever been in business, I'm sure. But even reminding myself how I came to be so grindingly poor does not eradicate the little spark of nostalgia and fondness which leapt inside me as I viewed the photos of my old bookshop.

It really was a curiosity shop too, as you may be able to see from these photographs: strange prints on the wall, of nudes and who knows what else; a pair of elephant stools, hand-carved and painted; an exotic carved wooden wall-frieze; books sprawling everywhere, from cheap 60s & 70s 'Confessions of a Window-Cleaner' pulp fiction, to Modern Firsts of well-known twentieth-century poets, to antiquarian editions of Milton and Darwin; an impressive collection of occult literature - a local preacher came in one day and bought The Witch's Bible in order to burn it; an antique dark wooden settle for readers to relax on whilst browsing, and a large centrepiece table with an assortment of chairs for writing workshops and other social events.

Camelford was not ready for a bookshop, however. Rather like the bare platform in the poem 'Adlestrop', nobody came and nobody went for the first six months. A few local browsers would drop by in their lunch hour, engage me in idle talk, then disappear without parting with a penny. Once, a man in a weary-looking suit came in, poked around for a while, then smiled over the desk and told me that nobody reads books on the Cornish side of the Tamar. He was a bookseller from Devon.

One of my most serious problems was that I had little money for advertising, running a few poetry events instead to raise the shop's profile in the community, yet still failing to make enough in sales to cover the rent, rates and other outgoings. But I still maintain the shop failed because it was in too tough a location to draw regular custom - beyond the main body of the village, on a steep and dangerously busy hill, with almost no pavement. Even the Indian King Arts Centre, situated almost directly opposite, was struggling at the time and later closed down.

After I left, there was an art gallery there for a while. When we last drove past the shop, on holiday in Cornwall about a year ago, that too had gone.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Salt Publishing: new poetry collection for 2006

Great news! This week I signed with Salt Publishing in Cambridge for the publication of my second full-length collection of poetry, entitled Boudicca & Co., which is more or less ready to rock'n'roll and should be out on the shelves by late 2006. This is me pictured in Cambridge a few weeks ago with head honcho for the British side of operations at Salt Publishing, Chris Hamilton-Emery - whose poem 'Salt' I published in my magazine 'Blade' about ten years ago ...

As the title suggests, my second collection contains a long sequence of poems written in the voice of Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni, plus the best individual poems from the past nine years. Many of the poems included in this collection, however, were written over the past twelve months and reflect new changes in style and direction.

You can find my first poetry collection The Brief History of a Disreputable Woman, on the Bloodaxe Books site.

As the launch date approaches, I shall keep you updated about readings, performances and one-legged spoon races. And if you'd like to book me for a poetry event either later this year or in 2007, you can find all the right information and contact details for that on my Jane Holland website.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My Mother and Other Romantic Novelists

My goodness, the days do pass quickly when you're meant to be keeping your blog updated on a regular basis, don't they?

Okay, I've got some FABULOUS news for you on the poetry front, but I am not yet able to reveal it in all its fabulousness, so you will have to wait just a few more days for that! Be patient, be strong, have another muffin ...

MEANWHILE, back at the ranch --- and it does feel like a ranch here at the moment, as Steve's not been able to get out to mow the lawn for a few days - preparations for Ofsted inspections at his school! - and the grass has grown almost to thigh-level in some parts of our garden, waving beautifully in the breeze with leggy buttercups and graceful seeded grassheads under the apple tree --- MEANWHILE, I have been extremely busy creating a brand-new blog.

Groan, not another blog!?

Yes, for I have bloggy fingers and am unable to prevent myself from creating new blogs almost every month. But this time it's all in a good cause, for I have created a blog in memory of my dear mama, whose writing name was Charlotte Lamb and who wrote over 150 novels, most of them romances, but some historical novels and a few big thrillers in there too, and who died in October 2000.

I miss my mother dreadfully most days, as she doted on her two granddaughters Katie and Becky, and very tragically died before she could meet her other three grandchildren, my twin sons Morris and Dylan and my youngest daughter Indigo. So almost every day my kids do these odd amusing little things and I say to them 'Your grandma would have loved that!' and I show them her photo and tell them about her. Which makes it hard to forget ...

I don't have much material to do with my mother, alas, not even many photos, as my siblings and father have most of that sort of thing. But I do have copies of nearly all of her M&B romances and some of the thrillers and historicals, so I shall be posting up information about them, and about re-releases of her books in places like Australia, where she's still a very popular author, and some new graphic novels that have been made using her stories, and other titbits either about my mother or about romance in general.

If that sounds like your sort of thing, or even if you're just a little bit curious about my mother and her work, do please come and see what I've been up to at