The Serial Garden and the copyright office

Fri 17 Jul 2009 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Joan AIken, The Serial GardenJust had a fun (seriously) couple of phone calls with the Copyright Office about Joan Aiken’s The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories. The question was about who had compiled the collection, which was, happily, easily answered, as Joan herself had put the book together before she died. Which means, of course, that the in-house editing job was much easier than otherwise—and thanks to Joan’s estate’s agent, Charles Schlessiger, getting the stories was almost easy, too.

The copyright is owned by Joan’s children but the copyright to the whole book isn’t theirs, as there is an introduction by Garth Nix and illustrations by Andi Watson. Who knew that they would tweeze thigns apart so finely?

This seems as good a time as any to mention that Joan’s fans should pick up a copy of the May/June issue of The Horn Book as there is a piece worth reading by Lizza Aiken about her mother, Joan.



Locus, Hugos

Tue 3 Feb 2009 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Looks like the 2008 Locus Recommended Reading List is out and it includes some of our books. If you’re so inclined, you can vote for these in the Locus Poll (soon) and the Hugos (now). (Don’t forget Couch!)

Also on the list were The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror 2008 as well as Kelly‘s collection Pretty Monsters, and the title stories, “Pretty Monsters” and “The Surfer.”

There are a ton of great books on the list, some of which are pasted below. Since we stopped reading for The Year’s Best in late November, and we usually read most of the material for the book from November to January, this list is certainly not exclusive. The Amazon links below are cut (libraries and indie bookshops are it) and the cut’n’paste was done on the fly, so it’s a sample of stuff we liked, but very messy!

Read more



Joan Aiken in the LA Times

Mon 26 Jan 2009 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Yay! In his latest Astral Weeks column, Ed Park says:

“The Serial Garden” is my happiest discovery this year. I say this without being influenced in the least by what happens to Mr. Armitage in “The Frozen Cuckoo.” As I conclude my hymn of praise, I am certainly not thinking of how, shortly after Mr. Armitage pans A. Whizzard’s “shockingly bad book on spells and runes,” the incensed author requisitions the Armitage house, then turns him into a bird that later gets trapped in an ice cube.



Ponzi & Other Schemes

Wed 17 Dec 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Ponzi schemes: anyone want to invest $50bn with us? $5bn? Letters and cheques to the usual address.

We promise to at least deliver you some very nice books, if not the kind of “returns” Bernard Madoff was promising. Ah, the system shows itself to be built on sand after all. What’s that? No more foundation money for us? But… but… we had been relying on… oh, yes, that old thing: sales. Fingers crossed that Couch and The Serial Garden keep doing what they’re doing!

Chocolate update: Apparently the Chocnomicon has shipped! Meanwhile we must try this. (Via, um, forget.)

Is it ok to lift links wholesale? Because that’s how we got this first chunk (hope you don’t mind, Ben!):

Fun with “The Ant King and Other Stories”:

The Serial Garden:

  • Garth Nix reveals the reason he was happy to write an introduction.
  • The Harvard Book Store chose it for their Holiday Hundred List and have stacked it up in unmissably high piles throughout the store—all at 20% off. Yay!
  • “An excellent way to show Harry Potter fans that magic can come in small doses too.”
    Author Magazine
  • “The Armitage’s world grows richer as it is extended. This is a collection of stories which allow — in fact demand — the reader joins in with their own imagination and remakes the story inside their own head. Aiken’s pragmatism shows through in her stories. Instead of remaining in or reflecting upon the past like some of her contemporaries, they show an author making the best of the world and coming out ahead with humor and imagination.”
    January Magazine

What’s going on with Couch? We got some great entries in the couch competition and we’ll get those online and announce the winner soon. We have a small and exciting Portland-based surprise, more about that in January; John Joseph Adams talked to Ben about it at Sci-Fi Wire; and it’s an Indie Next List pick for January and we are going to force Ben back out on the road. He puts on a good show: there’s the couch moving part, the crying, the sharks, the whole 4,000 miles in 20 minutes or so.



Happy Crowley Day, too

Mon 1 Dec 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Go wish John Crowley a Happy Birthday—but let’s not depress him any more than the Writer’s Almanac already did. Wonder if this means John will be on Prairie Home Companion one day? (And, what would he sing?)

It’s the birthday of the writer John Crowley, (books by this author) born in 1942 in Presque Isle, Maine. His most famous novel is Little, Big (1981). It’s a fantasy story, full of fairies and enchantment, but it’s also an epic saga of a New England family, complete with historical details. The critic Harold Bloom chose Little, Big as one of the books that changed his life. He said, “I have read and reread Little, Big at least a dozen times, and always am startled and refreshed.” John Crowley has a cult following, and his novels always get great reviews, but they still don’t sell very well, partly because they’re so hard to categorize.

Endless Things actually sold ok. If we’re to believe Bookscan, it has outsold the paperback collection of Novelties & Souvenirs and will soon overtake the pb of Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land. More interestingly, The Solitudes has blown it out the water which bodes well for the whole series. Given the recent National Book Award win by Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country, maybe we can persuade John to rewrite the whole Aegypt sequence into one massive novel. Hmm!

Iain Emsley recently met up with Lizza Aiken to talk about her mother, Joan:

“She had a curious childhood. She didn’t go to school until she was 12, she was brought up not in much contact with children at all. Her mother married her step father when she was 5. He was essentially a Victorian much in the same way as the books in the house. There were no children’s books, and there weren’t that many books for children in the 1920s, so she read whatever was in the house which were Dickens, Dumas and Austen.

LCRW 23 is at the printer. Yay!

Anyone online at www.readingtrails.com? (Not that we are, just looks like an interesting site.)



Pandemonium tonight

Tue 25 Nov 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Tonight we’ll be in Boston with Benjamin Parzybok for his reading at 7 PM at Pandemonium Books (ok, Cambridge) then Ben will take his tour back to the west coast. So far no one on the east coast has brought a couch to a reading. Boston couch carriers, represent! (We do have some nice pics of couches, will get those online soon.)

Kelly is being interviewed by Lizzie Skurnick at the 21st Annual Indie and Small Press Fair in a couple of weeks in NYC:

Sat. Dec 6th, 5:00 PM: Author and Indie Publisher Kelly Link interviewed by Lizzie Skurnick
Kelly Link has built a serious cult following with her uncanny and affecting fiction. She flirts with fable, fantasy, and horror and stands among the best of short-story writers. After two collections, Link’s new book, Pretty Monsters, is targeted at young adults — though she hasn’t turned down her sublime strangeness one bit. Link is also the co-publisher of Small Beer Press. Lizzie Skurnick is a writer, editor, poet, and, according to Forbes.com, “one of the smartest bloggers on the Web.”

The Table of Contents for Jonathan Strahan’s The Best SF and Fantasy of the Year Vol. 3 is out and includes Joan Aiken’s “Goblin Music” from The Serial Garden, the title story of Pretty Monsters. Looks like another great book in the series.

Ben Rosenbaum interviewed on Sci Fi Wire (is there a Fantasy Wire?):

“My feeling, after reading Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, that its protagonists, the Dashwoods, have so much verve, aplomb and admirable self-control that they are a bit underchallenged by merely arranging for matrimony in Georgian England, and that if, say, they were living on the body of a colossal naked giant who was living on a fractal series of ever-larger naked giants…”

Wish Christopher Barzak’s new book a happy birthday!

Shelf Awareness had a note on Powell’s new solar array which will provide 25% of the power for their warehouse—another reason to support this amazing indie bookstore. In our town there’s a fantastic toy store, A2Z, which installed something like 40 panels to (again) provide about 25% of their power. You can see a snapshot of the power generation system every 15 minutes or so—not quite yet as it’s a bit dark and rainy here this morning.



Serially Amazoned

Wed 12 Nov 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

There’s a movement online to buy books for Christmas—or the holiday of your choice—which is a fine idea (although we also like gifts given to Heifer, Greenpeace, Amnesty, Habitat, etc.) especially as this year we have the perfect gift book: Joan Aiken’s The Serial Garden—we just got a great note from Politics and Prose in DC saying they are “delighted to carry it; Joan Aiken is a favorite of ours.” Yay!

There’s a great interview with Lizza Aiken on Omnivoracious:

The Serial Garden by andi watsonThe story of The Serial Garden had always haunted her, and many of her readers too, and I think she felt a real duty to try and resolve the terrible sadness of its ending. It was her idea to use the name of this story for this collection, and I understand that this was why she chose it. She had written a couple more stories about its hero, Mr Johansen and his lost Princess, and gave them the possibility of a happy ending, but perhaps was still worried that she had been unduly harsh to Mrs Armitage, whose brisk spring cleaning had caused an unwitting tragedy. Mrs Armitage was in many ways a portrait of Joan’s mother, and it is she who is really redeemed in a later story, Milo’s New Word and remembered as the patient and loving mother she really was.

The book has an illustration for each story by UK illustrator Andi Watson (who we’re going to interview here, if you have any questions for him, send them along).

The Serial Garden was reviewed on The Cultural Gutter: (“It would be perfect for reading to kids”) and on Green Man Review (“Readers of all ages have the opportunity to enjoy some of the best writing by one of the most superb and timeless fantasy writers”) and is a pick of the week on a kid’s radio show(!):

This week’s show’s Book Time with Ella will be about the late Joan Aiken’s The Serial Garden.

and was a recent critic’s pick at Salon: “Buy it to read to your kids, and you’ll find yourself sneaking tastes on the sly; a little Aiken is a fine thing to have in your system at any age.”

This Sunday we’ll be in New York City for an event at Books of Wonder celebrating the book’s publication (and picking up a few cupcakes!) with one of our favorite writers, Michael Dirda, Joan’s daughter (which makes her Conrad Aiken‘s granddaughter) Lizza Aiken, and Joan’s long-time US literary agent, Charles Schlessiger.

Sunday, November 16th 1-3 pm, Books of Wonder 18 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011. 212-989-3270. Free.



Aiken on Salon

Mon 10 Nov 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Here’s good news: Laura Miller including The Serial Garden in Salon‘s critics picks:

The Serial Garden“The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories” by Joan Aiken
Throughout her life, Aiken, one of the 20th century’s greatest authors of children’s fiction, wrote stories about the Armitage family: a mother, father, sister and brother whose lives in a rural British village are routinely disrupted by magic — mostly on Mondays. Unicorns overrun the garden, the Board of Incantation attempts to requisition their house for a school for wizards, and the annoying kids next door get turned into sheep. The delicious unflappability of the parents is one of the most amusing aspects of these tales. Mrs. Armitage barely looks up from her knitting when her husband observes that the two children are riding broomsticks in the backyard: “I think it’s much better for them to get that sort of thing out of their systems when they’re small.” Buy it to read to your kids, and you’ll find yourself sneaking tastes on the sly; a little Aiken is a fine thing to have in your system at any age. — Laura Miller



New Joan Aiken site

Thu 23 Oct 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Ooh, pretty!



Harvard Book Store/Books of Wonder

Wed 22 Oct 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

The former of these just called asking if we had lots of copies of Joan Aiken‘s book in stock…. Which has to be good news and is as good a time as any to mention an event we’re sending out invitations to (consider yourself served with an invitation):

The Serial GardenMichael Dirda, Lizza Aiken, and Charles Schlessinger
Celebrate Joan Aiken’s Armitage Stories

Sunday, November 16th 1-3 pm

Books of Wonder
18 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011
212-989-3270

We will celebrate the publication of The Serial Garden with a conversation between Michael Dirda and Joan Aiken‘s daughter Lizza Aiken and Joan’s lovely and esteemed long-time US literary agent, Charles Schlessiger of Brandt & Hochman.

This event is free and readers of all ages are welcome.



The Serial Garden, pics

Tue 14 Oct 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

The Serial Garden by andi watsonWe just got copies of Joan Aiken’s The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories—which should have been called The Complete Treasury of Armitage Family Stories because it’s so darn pretty! Each story has a title page illustration by Andi Watson—here’s one, with 24 stories plus a few extras there have to be, um, 20+ in the book.

What else is in the book? A mistake in the author bio that John Clute spotted. very enjoyable and fascinating introductions by Garth Nix and Joan’s daughter, Lizza. The Prelude to the series that Joan wrote. An afternoon up a tree* reading. Four new stories that are published here for the first time. The Big Mouth House name in glittery gold on the spine and the web site inside (still to do in the 2 weeks before the pub date of Oct. 28).

Pre-orders will be shipping this week and the book will be it in stores in a couple of weeks. This is a book we designed to be something we’d love to receive as kids—so if you know a smart kid who needs a good book, you know what to do.

The first review comes from Kirkus:

The Armitages’ wacky magic (usually a Monday occurrence) and that of their fantastical town, a place filled with witches and magical beings, rises from the pages when matters go slightly awry, in the manner of Edward Eager and E. Nesbit.

If Michael is in on Friday (he was in Denver at a beer fest, so who knows if we will get him back!) we’ll ask him to take some of those great book pics he takes and post them. In the meantime, here’s the unboxing and a floored reader modelling our latest non-t-shirt:

Unboxing the Garden Aiken shirt

* In the attic, on the couch, in the library, on the bus, you know how it goes, yes?



I know you’re a big mouth but what are we?

Wed 17 Sep 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Publishers Weekly introduces our new imprint, Big Mouth House, to the world in a nice piece that also mentions Kelly’s new collection, Pretty Monsters:

When Kelly Link and Gavin Grant, founders of Small Beer Press in Easthampton, Mass., first considered publishing children’s books several years ago, they had a problem: the name of their press sounded like a brewery.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Beer? Anyway, it’s true: we are slowly and carefully opening out a new imprint for readers of all ages: Big Mouth House.

The Serial GardenThe first title comes out at the end of October, The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories, by the late Joan Aiken that has 4 previously unpublished stories. There are illustrations by Andi Watson and introductions by Garth Nix and Joan Aiken’s daughter, Lizza Aiken. It’s a Junior Library Guild pick and we got the best and most generous quote for it:

“Joan Aiken’s invention seemed inexhaustible, her high spirits a blessing, her sheer storytelling zest a phenomenon. She was a literary treasure, and her books will continue to delight for many years to come.”
—Philip Pullman

At some point soon the Big Mouth web site will become better and we’ll put up more about forthcoming books, guidelines (queries only, no picture books for the foreseeable future), and so on.

For the moment, The Serial Garden is Big Mouth House: one book that is so lovely and has been such fun to work on that we can’t wait to get it back from the printer (the proofs are due tomorrow!).

Preorder it: here, Powells, Local Bookstores: Yours, Ours, (ebook available soon from us and Fictionwise).



The Serial Garden . . . on film

Tue 16 Sep 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Some mornings are just that bit crappy so to wake up and watch this was indeed cheering. These kids, they are having the fun:



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