Judging A Book By Its Cover

We all know how the saying goes. It doesn’t bear repeating here.

Whether we like it or not, we do judge books by their covers.

How many times have you been in Waterstones, casually browsing, and picked up something because the front cover looked cool?

(Side note: the Waterstones here is really cool!)

Minimalist Faber cover or graphics heavy and funky, we all judge books by how they look.

If you haven’t heard of the writer, haven’t heard about the book from somewhere or haven’t heard a reading of it, this is the main way of getting you pick it up.

This week at Peepal Tree has been all about front covers.

We are publishing a debut collection by poet Marvin Thompson. Having been in touch with him, I got a brief outline of the type of things he is looking for.

The collection concerns various places; Jamaica where his parents are from, London where he was born and South Wales where he currently lives and works. The collection also features the poet’s father quite heavily.

To begin with, there was only a  loose idea of what Marvin Thompson wanted, along with some old photographs he hoped could be used.

Throughout the week, I have been using his brief and photographs in various ways to come up with cover designs. I’ve found that they all start off terrible, but the more I do, the more I churn them out, the better they get, and the more interesting the designs become.

I’ve been using my InDesign skills to layer and arrange texts and images. It’s been a lot of fun! I’ve enjoyed the challenge and the chance to be creative in a different way.

In other news…

A might have mentioned in a previous post about designing an advert for people tree which was to appear in The Bookseller magazine.

Well, it was printed and released in the current issue (Friday 28 June).

Here it is!

Peepal Tree ad in The Bookseller – Friday 28 June




A Summer In Cumbernauld

Hello again world!

Like Hamzah down in Leeds, I’m also going to be doing another internship over the course of the summer – with Cumbernauld Theatre!

The building doesn’t look much like a theatre from the outside (I promise I’ll get pictures). In fact, Cumbernauld Theatre was originally built in 1960, converted from abandoned farm cottages by members of the new town who, seeing that the town planners had neglected to include any cultural facilities, endeavoured to create their own as volunteers. Things weren’t perfect – the 55 seat studio theatre has a tin roof, so when it rained during performances the audience certainly knew about it. But now, 59 years later, the theatre boasts a 250 seat auditorium (with the original studio playing host to workshops), the centre is run by the professional Cumbernauld Theatre Company, and next year the company will be moving to a state-of-the-art new building, in a more accessible location from the town centre and train station.

That’s where I come in. After much liaising about where to fit in an aspiring playwright as an intern, I have been asked to research the theatre’s archives, dating all the way back to the 60s, and present a spread of their history to appear in the Autumn programme – this Autumn being the last ever season to be held in the original building. So, expect more and much more detailed accounts of Cumbernauld Theatre’s history in the coming weeks!

I’ve also been asked to help out with the theatre’s summer youth programme. The Summer Academy is a series workshops aimed at different age groups of children. 6-8 year olds and 9-12 year olds are given a week-long course in which to devise a performance, to be shown at the end of the week, while the 13+ group have a more intensive two week course. All the classes will be drawing inspiration this year from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and my job will be liaising with the tutors, taking part in the workshops myself and helping the children plot and write a performance. The real trick, apparently, is striking the right balance between steering the kids without taking over what is supposed to be their project – something I’ve found to be a key part of collaborating in theatre no matter the age range.

I’ve been to Cumbernauld Theatre four times in the past few weeks. The first time for my initial interview, to discuss whether the theatre and I were a good fit for one another, and more recently to witness some of the kids who’ll be attending the Summer Academy in action. I sat in two Saturdays ago on the term-time classes for 6-8 and 9-12 year olds.  I haven’t worked much with children, certainly not a big group of them before and never as young as 6, though I have been mistaken for a 12 year old boy on several occasions. I was, to put it mildly, terrified going in. What if a child started crying? What if one kid started bullying another? What if they all started bullying me? At what age do you not need to support their heads anymore?

More than anything else, however, the day proved overwhelmingly nostalgic. I recognised games and songs I used to love in drama classes years ago. And the kids – who I’ve been reassured I’ll never be left alone with, saving not just the cost of a PVG but also me from bursting a blood vessel from stress – are actually all sweet. Although they all seem to have an alarming compulsion to gravitate towards the most dangerous looking objects in the room whenever they think no one is watching. By the end of the day I was in awe of the two tutors who somehow manage them all every Saturday.

Last Wednesday and Thursday I was up again, to watch another group of children rehearse a show called Remote, written by Stef Smith in 2015 for the National Theatre of London, about young people navigating this age of technology and information. Or, as the Cumbernauld Theatre programme puts it: “Remote is a play about protest, power and protecting yourself.” What was most interesting to me was seeing how hard the children worked, and how much they improved from the first run-through I saw to the dress rehearsal the next day. All of them were guided and motivated, of course, by their director Hannah, who doubles as Cumbernauld Theatre’s Drama Practitioner.

From July 1st I’m going to be visiting the theatre and archives on a regular basis, while surfing the couches of some very gracious friends in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I await the next few weeks with excitement and (just the tiniest bit of) terror.

Until next week,


P.S. Having taken 130 hours to finish it, I am never touching Persona 5 again. At least not until the new downloadable content comes out. In the meanwhile I’ll have to find another game to report on for the sake of quirkiness.

My First Week At Peepal Tree Press

I’ve been in Leeds for a week and already done so much!

Where do I start?

Reading & Blurb-ing

First of all, there has been lots of reading! But that shouldn’t be a surprise, I’m working in a publishing company after all.

I have to say, one of the best things so far, is reading some great – and some not so great – writing for free!

The reading has mostly been fiction and poetry. Along with reading submissions, as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been reading an upcoming poetry collection which I have to write a blurb for.

It was like being in class, taking out a pencil, annotating the manuscript, taking notes and analysing the text. Nothing like a bit of close reading to keep you humble!

The interesting part was  how to write the blurb itself. I thought I knew how to do this, but that wasn’t quite the case. I went into default review mode and started writing  how I write for DURA.

It’s not quite like that. It seems to sit on the fence between a review and a newspaper article, with all the most important info coming first. My blurb had to be around 250-300 words, but I was surprised to learn that it could be extracted by a magazine, for example, and only the first 18-30 words used.

After a few editing suggestions, I went back to the blurb and refined it.
Now I’ll just have to see if my blurb makes it on to the actual book!

Advert for The Bookseller

One of the most enjoyable things I have done so far is to flex my graphic design muscles and make a half-page advert for an upcoming issue of The Bookseller.

Peepal Tree has half a page to advertise the company and promote its latest titles. So, I’ve been spending some time with Hannah, discussing different ideas and designs.

I suggested that we use a poem from one of the our latest releases, A Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson, to capture people’s attention. His poem ‘Black Olive’ is certainly one that will do that. The final version of the advert includes the poem, several book covers and general information about Peepal Tree.

Other bits and pieces

I was lucky enough to attend an Art Council Meeting with Jeremy to learn about how publishers can make the most of their digital and social media presence.

And, not strictly publishing-related, but Jeremy was one of the speakers at a conference on Post-Colonial Studies, where I met various students and academics and listened to some fascinating presentation.

Up next…

Currently I’m working on Peepal Tree’s catalogue for 2019. I have to make sure it is updated with the correct information and in the correct order before it goes to print.

In the coming weeks I hope to have a stab at come formatting and editing, but so far so good!

Before you go…

If you’d like to learn more about Peepal Tree Press, check out this interview I did with Jeremy and Hannah.

I’ll be back with more later,





Luath placement Day Five Its the final countdown…

Today felt rather odd, perhaps because I knew it was my final day at Luath, perhaps because I was going to meet Gavin for the first time and the controls of power would change from the girls working there to Gavin. I went for a coffee at the Castle Rooftop Diner again. I didn’t even need to ask for my order today, as they knew!  So I sat and relaxed before climbing the Luath’s tower. (Seriously, I think I will be fit after this!)

I met Gavin, and explained what I had been up to all week. I was then tasked with continuing with the Scottish Parliament: an oral history. This time not with proofreading, but with creating a blurb, a press release and other items on my list.

Later on, Carrie showed me the ONIX system and Maia explained how to create a barcode. These were useful things to see. I wrote a brief summary for  Gavin, and discussed this with him at the end of the day, prior to leaving.

I felt that perhaps he was perhaps surprised about my decision to leave teaching.  He did explain that it was difficult to get into publishing, and indeed to get published. I understand that fully, and stand by just teaching up to four days a month for money flow, but other than that I want to pursue my dreams.

As I travelled back  the Queensferry Crossing, I contemplated about my week. It was busy, eventful and I learnt a huge amount. I considered what Gavin had said about teaching etc.  However, I have come to the conclusion that I really do want to work with books and become an author, and I would also enjoy proofreading -on a freelance basis. I made my choice when I resigned my permanent post in September. I am totally convinced that it was the correct move for me.

Lorna Goodison, Jamaica’s makar, in conversation with Louise Welsh in Bute Hall, GU

From atoms of a shared consciousness…

There’s something quite magical and transformative about listening to a seasoned poet reading from their vast ouevre, unbidden and from memory. When it’s in the architectural splendour of Glasgow University’s Bute Hall in Gothic Revival and that poet is the Jamaican poet laureate, Lorna Goodison, in conversation with Louise Welsh, writer and Professor of creative writing at the University, then you know that for the next hour you’re in for something of a treat. Within a minute or so of introduction, Lorna is in full poetic flight reading firstly ‘For my Mother (May I Inherit Half Her Strength)’ (raising much laughter in the audience) before dropping into the corpus of the collection with many more readings; aptly closing with one about Bob Marley and Robert Burns in ‘And I Hear From Two Rabbies’. Lorna’s poems are words of praise, paeans to Nature and everyone and everything connecting to it; teeming with a superabundance of fruit and flower imagery – mango, daffodil, bougainvillea are just three such examples. Together these exotic blooms of spoken words, powerful as they are, form almost as a new Jamaica in the vast cathedral of space above our heads before falling as confetti into our shared consciousness. The Botanic’s Kibble Palace might have been more suited for such a show but on this cold March evening the warm ambience of the Bute Hall, in the falling light through stained glass, tawny and familiar, is just right for transcending our ordinary lives.


Luath work placement day 4 … ‘I think I’m alone now …’

After running from my car, which was parked quite a distance from the Halbeath Park & Ride  building, to the bus this morning, I recovered on the bus. A leisurely stroll ensued past Princes Street Gardens then up to the Royal Mile, by a different route this time, I was in need of a drink. Underneath some scaffolding, I found Deacon Brodie’s cafe. It was perfect. With the age of the building and the cordiality of the staff, I could have whiled away many hours there; the coffee delicious.

I headed up to Luath for my fourth day. Then I continued proofreading the ‘The Scottish Parliament: an oral history’  manuscript for the remainder of my day, prior to heading to Main Point books in Bread Street.

For a couple of hours this afternoon, I was on my own in the office as Maia needed to go to give a presentation at the university; Madeleine, the other intern was already at the book shop. I took three telephone calls and had a long discussion with an elderly author during one of these calls.

When Maia returned, I left to see Jennie at her shop with the completed manuscript, that I had proofread. She agreed with most of the alterations, which I was delighted about. These will then be queried with Luath’s director on his return from London. Another busy but successful day.

Luath work placement day 3 – ‘I’m halfway there!’

Crazily busy day today proofreading a book about the Scottish Parliament from its establishment in 1999 until more recent times. It was mainly compiled as an ‘oral history’, which has since been transcribed. I have gone through more than fifty pages, over a hundred more to do still. However, I am getting faster. The oral transcripts do not need as much attention as the author introduction and other author written sections, as they require speaker authenticity. I certainly have learnt about a subject today, that I never thought I would read!

Jennie, an editor, was in today and gave me lots of tips. She wants to go through this task with me tomorrow in her bookshop, Mainpoint Books, towards the end of the day. So that will be a beneficial thing to do too.

In between all of this, I delivered a box of books to St. Augustine’s United Reformed Church, on George IV bridge, as they have an Old Edinburgh group meeting there tonight.

I will definitely sleep well tonight.


Luath work placement day 2 …’Beware the savage jaw of 1984!’

Interesting day and the time just flew by! I finished up my AI on  Sgaith, Amazon Queen of Skye.

I then went onto completing a Marketing Plan for Barnhill by Norman Bissell. I then prepared a calendar of events for a Fathers Day Promotion/Competition/Social Media items to do with the launch of Barnhill. Barnhill is a biography on George Orwell’s  latter years, which he spent at Barnhill on the Isle of Jura. During this time he wrote ‘1984’. This june marks the 70th anniversary since the publication of ‘1984’. This was all extremely interesting and useful to do.

The day ended with another post office visit, this time we got drenched but didn’t take the long route!

Looking forward to proofreading a novel tomorrow.



Luath work placement Day 1 ‘I took the bus to streets that I could walk down/ I walked the streets to find the one I’d looked for/ I climbed the stair that led me to your front door’


Nothing could prepare me for how different this day would  be, compared to ‘my previous working life’. Apart from having adults to speak to/not speak to (as appropriate at the time) and being able to go to the bathroom without waiting for break time and actually, most importantly, being able to do a task without being interrupted by 33 children at various points: it was as far removed from my normality of 24+ years as it could actually get!

So, as I had arrived in Princes Street nice and early, I sauntered up to the Royal Mile and found myself in the Castle coffee shop, where I waited with a lovely americano till  nearer 11AM. I then made my way to the little close off Castle Hill. Another girl, Madeleine, was looking too, then we eventually worked out which door we needed. All that education between us …

We were warmly met by Maia and were introduced to Carrie when we got to the attic. Yes, attic! The room is ‘cosy’ and had the most amazing views. It is piled high from corner to corner, not that you could see the corners, with.books and manuscripts galore! The walls and slanted roof adorned with book sleeves. What a treat! A book lovers delight …This week would certainly be an adventure!

We were shown the One Drive server and asked to just browse it. I was apprehensive as we could look at everything. I had to take the utmost care not to accidentally erase/alter anything! It was fascinating to see the AIs (Advanced Information sheets) and also the way they approach book sellers.

I have been given the task of sorting out social media for a novel coming out soon and to look at doing an AI this week too. I commenced an AI on Sgaith, Amazon Queen of Skye.

Madeleine and I then packaged books and AI letters to go to various booksellers for Tribes of Glasgow.  We then carried these sacks to the post office, via quite an interesting route,  then went our separate ways home. Next time I’ll do the navigation! 😂

Looking  forward to tomorrow.


Luath placement ..on my way!

Sitting here at my dressing table feeling a tad apprehensive about what is in store for me this week. I am looking forward to it but equally nervous about whether I will get things right, whether they will like me or not or whether I’ll talk too much! It will probably all be fine … though as I sit glancing at my nails,  I do wish that on the 1st March (St David’s Day) I had chosen a different colour of shellac nail varnish,  other than daffodil yellow … It might not give the ‘right’ impression…too late now …

As my bus approaches the Forth Road Bridge, I’m thinking about all the questions that  I could ask and those that I could be asked. I hope that I don’t clam up, as could equally happen to me as talking too much …no middle ground.