Across 2022, the Year of Stories, we are spotlighting Publishing Scotland members, who will share their own story in their own words. Get to know Arkbound, the literature and media social enterprise that publishes books whilst seeking to improve social inclusion, environmental awareness and diversity.
What’s your story?
Arkbound was founded with the support of the Princes’ Trust in 2015, and later was registered as a charity in 2017. Our focus from the beginning has been empowering people from the most disadvantaged and under-represented backgrounds to have their voices heard through writing. In particular, work that covers some important environmental or social theme. For us, it has always been about recognising the power of writing for both writers’ own wellbeing and the wider readership, in terms of raising awareness of pressing issues and dispelling stereotypes or discrimination.
Being a small charity and publisher has of course been fraught with challenges, somewhat reminiscent of the same obstacles that those we work with often face: lack of finance, limited resources, stretched capacity, and so on. But we have gone on to deliver a series of activities, supporting over 35 disadvantaged authors, and are also proud of our ongoing focus on the environment, with tree planting initiatives (2000 oak saplings planted so far since 2019) and publications that cover various aspects of climate change. In 2021 we became the UK’s only accredited organisation in the literature sector by the United Nations Environmental Programme; we’ve also received diverse support from a variety of bodies, including Big Issue, Creative Scotland, Resonance, and the Council of Europe. Through this support, we have managed to develop new initiatives, such as Crowdbound – a new crowdfunding platform for books and projects that has successfully funded over 5 campaigns since being launched in July this year. Our imprint, Palavro, also enables the distribution of books in Europe – which formerly was a challenge to us due to the import fees caused as a result of Brexit.
Tell us about some of your key stories.
We have published a diverse range of titles that generally share the same theme of being by a disadvantaged or under-represented author, who is writing about an important social or environmental theme. These include fiction and non-fiction. Some books, such as David Onamade’s ‘Sorrow, Tears and Blood’, cover what it is like to experience street homelessness (David’s book was shortlisted for the Kavya Prize in Glasgow earlier this year). Other books explore the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities and how people can adapt using nature-based solutions, such as ‘Great Adaptations’ by Dr Morgan Phillips (recently to be translated in Japan). We are also proud of supporting groups who would otherwise face great challenges in accessing publishing: for example, Lauren Smith’s ‘Tick Tock: It’s Time to Listen’ showcases what it’s like for a teenager with autism in the education system, whilst our anthology of ‘Writing Within Walls’ was the result of a national writing competition for serving prisoners to convey what gave them hope. On another level, our fiction list has included titles like ‘Lullaby in the Desert’ by Mojgan Azar, who uses her own experience to tell the story of a woman journeying through the Middle East to find freedom.
What draws you to a story? What makes a good story?
We love stories by those with lived experience of disadvantage or who have been under-represented in publishing. They can convey powerful and unique perspectives that would otherwise go unheard, and can play a crucial role in informing the wider public on issues that they might not have prior full understanding of, or been deliberately misinformed of by some press outlets. There is no greater power in literature than when a widespread perception is turned on its head, revealing an entirely new dimension to society and sometimes to reality itself. This can be done both through fiction and non-fiction, as shown by some of the greatest literary works across history – still read hundreds and even thousands of years after they’ve been written. Of course, finding such a title is always a publisher’s dream, and ultimately only time determines which ones these turn out to be.
What stories should we look forward to or check out this year?
Our next title, ‘Prickelus Gets Caught’, is the heart-warming story of a hedgehog that reminds readers of the importance of tenacity and the kindness of humans who are willing to help. An illustrated children’s book, it combines the elements of a thrilling adventure, alongside puzzles, autumn crafts and tasty recipes – all written by an author experiencing a significant disability. In 2023, we also welcome ‘Beggar Bee Nameless’ – another fiction title that follows the work of a Deceased Affairs Officer who is investigating cases of the ‘Nameless’, people who have died but are unidentified. It is a battle against the odds – an interweaving tale of grief, hope and redemption – and we hope readers will love it!