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At the table with Sam Jordison, Galley Beggar Press

January 10, 2020

At the table with Sam Jordison, Galley Beggar Press

Galley Beggar Press is an independent publisher committed to publishing daring, innovative fiction and non-fiction. Founded in 2012 by Sam Jordison and Eloise Millar, many from their collective of authors writing 'outside the norm' have since been longlisted, shortlisted, and winners of over twenty of the world’s most prestigious literary awards. We reckon nothing beats sitting down with a good book and a cup of tea, so we were delighted to hear more about the Galley Beggar story from its co-founder, Sam, in our latest interview for The Kitchen Table blog.

Tell us a bit about Galley Beggar Press. Why did you start it? 

Galley Beggar Press is an independent publisher based in Norwich. We started it for all kinds of reasons. Hubris and folly played a part. But also artistic aspiration and a hope that we could bring something interesting to readers - and create a place where writers could thrive. Where there wouldn’t be a need to compromise with marketing dictates. Where risks could be taken. And the most important thing would be the quality of the book not how well it fitted into ideas trends or fashions. We also wanted to have fun.

At the table with Sam Jordison

Sam with Galley Beggar Press co-director, Eloise Millar

Where does the name come from and what does it mean? 

Well we wanted something cheeky and puckish, that would reflect our outsider status. Puck Press didn’t quite work so we started casting around for names - found this little sprite called a Galley Beggar. It seemed to work because publishers have Galleys and indy presses tend to be pretty cash-strapped…. And Galley Beggar Press has a nice sound. So we took it from there. 

Your book covers are distinctive in their bold simplicity. What’s the story behind your cover designs? (Pardon the pun).

We wanted something where the books could be allowed to speak for themselves. A design that suggested it was the words inside that mattered and the person who wrote those words. Also, we wanted to give a strong feel that these books came from a particular place. Or at least that they had been carefully curated. I was very into 90s independent music labels and the way brands like Factory could convey a lot about themselves with real direct simplicity. And also the designs of old Faber&Faber poetry books and early Penguins and Gollancz’s early SF covers. 

In your opinion, what makes a good story? 

Okay, this is tricky. The answer I can give you would either be impossibly vague variations on “anything and everything” or sad approximations of Ernest Hemingway’s ideas about trying to write the truest thing you know. So why don’t I just abdicate responsibility and hand over to Papa? He says if you’re a writer, you should “write the best story that you can and write it as straight as you can.”Although I’d also suggest breaking that second rule, if the circumstances require.

What does the kitchen table mean to you? What role does it play in your home and/or business life? 

The honest answer is, it means having a bigger house than I can currently afford. Our kitchen is too small to hold a table. Kitchen tables are Boomer luxuries! I’m kidding. But at the moment you could say the role the kitchen table plays for me is to make me envious of big kitchens. Although, while I’m also being honest, it also reminds me of choices I’ve made. I didn’t want to be a normal career…  I had aspirations about art. Part of that deal is - currently - having a very small kitchen. Which is fair enough. I’m having a good time. So I really should try to work on that envy. Really, it’s okay that I don’t have a kitchen table. 

Plus, our house is a terrace, which means there’s a dining room right next to the kitchen, so I get to do some kitchen kind of things in there. And yes, it has a table. Which is also the place authors come to sign copies of their novels when we publish them, so that’s important. If we’re lucky, authors also come and have food at our table too. And I eat breakfast there with my wife and my daughter. It’s a pretty good place to be, all in all. Even if it sometimes ends up being a place to store yet more books and endless piles of random… crap… 

At the table with Sam Jordison

Author Alex Pheby signing books at Sam's dining room table

What is your favourite thing to do at your kitchen table? 

Eat breakfast with my wife and my daughter. 

Describe your perfect coffee or tea moment at home.

I think the time I get most into the idea of drinking tea is about three-quarters of the way into a walk or run in the pouring rain. That’s when I really start to think about its restorative powers.  And the tea rarely disappoints when I get back. When you’re drying off, and warming up, your legs feel tired and your face is still pink from the wind, you can have a really transcendental cup of tea.  If there’s a fire on, and I’m reading a good book, and the dog’s beside me, so much the better. (So long as he isn’t too damp.)

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