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Office Hours

There’s a new deal going on at Gatehouse. I don’t even mean our new titles, though we’re quietly enthusiastic about Sarah Law’s upcoming Ink’s Wish as well as Kiran Millwood Hargreave’s recently released Splitfish. No, what Gatehouse has is something new: a Tuesday office hour (well, two hours) when all our key team members – Andy McDonnell, Julia Webb, and myself – get together to do the boring stuff like count stock, update accounts, send out orders and fill envelopes, check in on emails and check out our progress.

Did I say boring? It’s not boring.

In a weird way it’s remarkably exciting, because for the first time we feel like we’re getting a feel of the pulse of the business. We’re not just going through a routine, we’re doing interesting and slightly offbeat things like putting together spreadsheets that check their own consistency and flag up problems. My newest contribution, for example, is a spreadsheet that flags invoices as red, green or amber depending on whether they are overdue, complete, or not yet due. Simple things, but once they’re built they speed up the process of winnowing through our administrative backlog. And every minute we save we can spend on promoting poetry, or editing poetry, or encouraging people to read poetry. We do a good amount of that already, but since we volunteer our time we’re always happy to see more of it go directly towards the work we believe in.

But asides from the little thrills of meeting these technical challenges, there’s also the pleasure of working with other people, solving problems with them, building towards common goals. Julia and Andy have been great in this respect, both of them tireless in balancing Gatehouse against family commitments and other, paying work. Meeting in Andy’s family house just across the road we get to see his baby daughter, Chloe, growing week by week, my own face growing slightly more unkempt as the teaching term goes on in the wide dark pool of the hallway mirror. And beyond our little enclave, we also reach out from Tuesday afternoons to the Lighthouse team, top-notch fiction editors Anna de Vaul and Philip Langeskov, our London-based poetry editors Angus Sinclair and Laura Elliot, our founding director Tom Corbett, Lee and James, our web and graphics stalwarts at Norwich Designer, our wider team of directors, as well as our writers, supporters, customers: Tuesday is our lucky day, because we get to sit down and talk things over with these clever people.

With all that goes on, not just in the poetry world but in our otherwise busy lives, it’s good to be able to put distractions aside and put our heads together for a couple of hours. Our Tuesdays, after all, haven’t just produced spreadsheets but editorials and proofs, sketches for book covers and plans for magazine issues. There are always hiccups – things that get lost in the aether, banks that don’t return calls – but each week we have a chance to rally round and put it all in perspective over tea and, if we’re lucky, biscuits. What could be more in the spirit of the season than that?

A Happy Christmas to you all.

Posted 5 years ago

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