Standing outside Cambridge railway station at seven in the morning seemed like a good idea the night before over a glass of wine. When the alarm bell sneaked into my dreams and I dressed in darkness my enthusiasm waned a little.
Askance Publishing was set up over a year ago. It has been an interesting journey – one I never expected and one which I fell into almost by chance. Having a father as a brilliant writer has been the main catalyst for making Askance work. His talents are unsigned by the mainstream publishing world – not through rejection but choice. Last year he told me he simply doesn’t have the time to spend months sending manuscripts to publishers. We knew there were other writers out there who felt the same and were put off. My father’s first novel sold well over 1000 copies without any mainstream backing and when he approached me with ideas for a second I was ready to help. Between us we had design, layout, proof reading, editing and marketing experience and what we didn’t know we learned. My father was always someone to approach things differently, and it was an idea of his that took me to Cambridge train station this morning.
18 months since Askance began and we have worked with over 20 writers and artists from all over the world. We have looked at a wide range of work from poetry, travel stories to conceptual art. Some we have published, to others we have offered developmental advice and as I write there are people putting pen to paper or wrestling with layout software. For some we were putting their work into print for the first time, but not for all. We chose the slogan, “a different way of looking at the world” to echo our interest in promoting non-predictable writing and art, but also to challenge the arduous publishing process and making it a pleasurable process for all concerned – even if it involves waking early on cold November mornings.
Most inspiring for me is the community that Askance appears to have inadvertently generated. At the launch of Positional Vertigo last week, seven authors attended. It was a real joy to see them excited with the project, swapping contact details and even embarking on an impromptu reading – suggested by one of the visitors at the event. We have also made friends with local businesses (like the pub!) and charities. We are small enough for this to still feel like a family and broad enough for that not to be too stifling.
This morning was fresh and as golden light crept into the sky, my dad handed me a wad of carefully crafted booklets each bearing the words, The Subtle Thief of Youth accompanied a picture of a ghostly looking girl. His idea was to share the first chapter of his new mystery novel with commuters. Free literature. If they liked it they might buy the whole book or come along to the launch on Tuesday – or come and hear him talk at Waterstones, Plurabelles or one of the other events we have organised. At the very least they might be entertained. My enthusiasm was quick to return and donning my Subtle Thief t-shirt, I began the task of handing them out.
I hope those who took the first chapter of The Subtle Thief of Youth on their journey today not only enjoyed the read and the suggestion of murder so early in the day, but also appreciated that Askance is not about mainstream mass marketing – it is about a love of words and a wish to share them. It has a different way of looking at the world – just like my father.