Based in Bridgend, Seren is an independent literary publisher which specialises in English-language writing from Wales. It was founded by Cary Archard, a then-English teacher from Bridgend, to publish the works of Poetry Wales from his kitchen table. The press briefly moved to Dannie Abse’s garage and also endured a brief stint in an abattoir before fully establishing itself.
Now under the leadership of Mick Felton, Seren Books has been the driving force behind contemporary Welsh fiction since 1981. Initially focusing on poetry but now covering a range of genres, the books include travel to memoir, biography to current affairs, and many more in between.
Seren have produced a number of award-winning and successful books, including Clueless Dogs by Rhian Edwards (which won Wales Book of the Year, 2013), Jonathan Edwards, whose poetry collection My Family and Other Superheroes has just been shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Prize, and Francesca Rhydderch’s Wales Book of the Year 2014 winner, The Rice Paper Diaries. They also publish works by more recognisable names, such as Dannie Abse, Sheenagh Pugh, Pascale Petit and Owen Sheers. The press currently publishes around 20-25 books annually from both emerging and established writers.
Seren also hosts writing workshops, book launches and poetry events throughout the year, such as one held in Neath in March of this year, at which National Poet Gillian Clarke read from a few of her collections. Amy Wack, Seren’s Poetry Editor, also hosts the increasingly popular ‘First Thursday’ at Chapter Arts Centre. Supported by Literature Wales, this event provides a platform for invited published writers to read from their work before a general open mic session. This regular event, held on the first Thursday of each month, is a chance to hear talented writers read their own work and perhaps give voice to some of your own. Attendees can also pick up copies of many of Seren’s titles at the book stall there with the entrance fee of £2.50 being taken off the price.
We spoke with Jodie Kay Ashdown, a Creative Writing MA student at Cardiff University, who is currently interning for Seren about her experience. You’ll find her on the desk at First Thursday trying to keep up with who’s buying what. Through her internship she has been introduced to some incredible writers, such as Mir Mahfuz Ali who read from his collection Midnight, Dhaka and Peter Finch with his psychogeographical work, Edging the Estuary. She is looking forward to getting involved with more events in the summer and continue to enjoy learning the practice.
Jodie will be working at the Seren Books pop-up shop at Chapter for selected days during December. There will be a selection of titles from Seren, Parthian, Mulfran and Firefly books on display until December 24th. Head on down to pick up some excellent titles while at the same time supporting local businesses.