Literary bent: from Treasure Island to It’s not Lord’s

In 1958, our primary school teacher, Miss Town, read Treasure Island out loud in end-of-the-week episodes. I have loved books ever since. Next came The Boy Next Door by Enid Blyton and Prester John by John Buchan. English Literature became my most successful ‘O’ level, featuring Brighton Rock by Graham Greene and Shakespeare’s Henry V. Despite taking Physics, Chemistry and Biology in the sixth form, I was able to keep up with a corner of the book world during General Studies.

At college, for one year, I edited the medical school magazine. It was crap.

During 1980, I edited and published an anniversary history of Saddleworth Rangers ARLFC. I shall forever regret omitting Peter Goddard and his achievements. Recently, when I popped across to Shaw Hall Bank, I was saddened to hear of his death.

Until 1990, as a medic, my reading and writing were fairly specialised. In 1990 I began to write a diary, both personal and as part of reflections on college courses. Certificates in management and a diploma in counselling were followed by a masters in behavioural studies (1999). However, writing for myself and the academic reader needed to change. We had a great couple of creative writing years in evening class at Greenhead College. Ron Phillips was the tutor and brilliant at telling stories about authors and how they wrote. I survived a year in English at University of Huddersfield before clinics in Dewsbury couldn’t be ignored. I learned to love Seamus Heaney and the poets of the Spanish Civil War. ‘King Lear’ is the perfect play for the old fart. Steve Wade, Pete Townsend, Barbara McMahon and Leslie Jeffries were excellent. Work as an occupational health medic was now seriously beginning to interfere, cutting short my stint at Sheffield Hallam University. Livi Michael and Jane Rogers were okay, but the pick was Steve Earnshaw who, in 2006, introduced me to the world of literary editing.

I’d had some experience of editing: Liverpool Medical School magazine (1968), Saddleworth Rangers ARLFC anniversary booklet (1980), New Mill Male Voice Choir magazine (2005-08) and Almondbury Casuals CC booklet (2005). A couple of accidents enabled me to move forward.

First, I met Peter Davies in his role of leader of a Huddersfield University evening class entitled Bat and Ball, covering the heritage of West Yorkshire cricket. During the 2006 Pennine cricket conference, we asked for support for a web-based writers’ group. It never materialised. Instead, Peter went straight for an anthology, mostly of writing from his amazing heritage website, with some help from local authors we knew personally. I had to learn Adobe Indesign very quickly and we had a title; It’s not Lord’s, a reference to the stubborn grittiness of northern players and committee men and women who kept going despite many setbacks. Progress was made until Peter fell ill, and he was the proof-reader. He struggled down to the University printing press and we got an edition out, but it was full of errors. Sadly, Peter relapsed and I was left on my own. Alan Hicks, a friend from choir, took over the proof-reading and I made a few phone-calls, asking for advice on next steps. Stephen Chalke told me to get a digital print company, so I did; Riley, Dunn and Wilson. Websites on self-publishing suggested I call myself something and buy some ISBN numbers. So I did; Shalliley Books (a unique name derived from my wife’s middle name). We got the second edition out in Autumn 2011 in time for the Christmas market.

There were two weaknesses. Whilst Peter financed the first edition from his grant, I had to loan the company money to pay costs prior to selling. In addition, I had a book, but no marketing strategy. In other words, the middle was okay, but the start and finish could have done with more planning.

The second accident occurred, one year later in Autumn 2012, when Chris Humphries, a friend from Holmfirth Harriers, called to invite me to a walking club. He happened to mention that he was in a group who were raising funds for renovating the iconic pavilion at Honley CC. Almost as a reflex I said, ‘Why don’t you have the profit from my cricket book sales?’ I didn’t know at the time, but just then, not only was I a publisher, but I’d become a social enterprise, turning profit into social good.

‘Let All Men Sing’ is a another anthology celebrating the 21st anniversary of New Mill Male Voice Choir. Profits enabled the choir to have an open night when we invited community organisations to listen to a history of the choir and a short choral set from the current repertoire.

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