Designing a new website has been on our to-do list for the whole of 2021. We knew it was coming back in 2020. Sarah designed the former site as a huge and unexpected gift after an earlier site was hacked. She’s maintained it for us for years and has been such a pleasure to work with, but she’s retiring from website work so this was an opportunity to think about our internet presence afresh.
Somehow things like getting Cinnamon Press through lockdowns with no bookshops open and one of the two major book wholesalers in the UK going bankrupt, and re-organising our distribution techniques and work-flow around the pandemic, kept knocking the job of redesign off the list. And then, with Brexit hard on our heels, we decided to finally take the plunge and move to mainland Europe. An international house move, ten weeks of re-wiring the new house plus other ongoing major works and two more lock downs later, we finally decided that this was the moment.
When I began, I had a intense poetry residential course to lead with experienced and ambitious poets working to push their boundaries, but as we were an international group all the sessions were afternoons and evenings so I decided to use mornings for the website work. The next week was back to editing — we’re currently working on several novels in final stages of proofing that will launch in the autumn and a list of gorgeous poetry collections and pamphlets coming out next Spring. The editing needed the morning slot so the website had to go into afternoons and evenings.
Getting started was the worst stage. We were changing platform from Joomla to WordPress, since my personal site already runs on WordPress and I wouldn’t have to learn a whole new system. We also intended to change the kind of theme we would use to build the website. I’d bought a fancy, apparently drag and drop interface last year in anticipation. By the second day, not a single page was up — hardly a word, in fact and I was feeling more than stuck. I cut my losses and opted for a simpler theme from the company I’d used before.
Then there was the need for plug-ins to make certain things happen, like a slider to make new books whiz across the screen temptingly, an accordian style Q&A to build those pages where people needs lots of anssers to FAQs and a form-style plug-ins for people to send literary award submissions or submit manuscripts to Leaf by Leaf.
Once the main header pages were in, the menu fixed together, there was the front page to play with. This theme is ‘black and white’ so I had to find ways to throw in colour with banners and widgets. (I’m still not sure what a widget is beyond a bit of code that is inserted to do a job, but I got good at pressing buttons till something happened that looked acceptable).
The home page has to do a lot of work for the site — letting you know who are partners are, how to reach us and, of course, featuring upcoming titles and offers, We also wanted it to give a flavour of Cinnamon’s identity, a bit of our philosophy, hence the ‘Acts of Radical Kairos’ block that links to the ‘About’ page where you’ll find a bit more about the press.
Our values are what keep us publishing, mentoring, hosting events, collaborating with amazing writers and mentors who give their precious time and partners who support our work. And a new site is an opportunity to re-affirm what Cinnamon is about, so we also wanted to say something about these values here:
We like being small. In terms of the business structure small means me (Jan) with Adam Craig as ‘conjoint collaborateur’ (that’s French for working without pay). Cinnamon is never going to be a unicorn (one of those start-ups that are meant to ‘scale’ and then get aquired for figures that end in lots of zeros), which is good, because such things can lead anyone wayward. We are small indie press in a small place. We ran for 15 years in a tiny village in rural North Wales at the foot ot the Moelwyns and now run from a hamlet in a forest in Brittany. We value small, personal, slow.
But along the way this ‘small’ has also meant some big things — being inclusive and being supported by so much large-hearted generosity. Many of our authors mentor for Cinnamon, or edit a book or two each year or help keep us afloat or collaborate with other authors to share events … the thing that has never been small iin Cinnamon’s history s the amount of support, kindness and enthusiasm to see us survive another year and another …It has been a whole community that has ensured Cinnamon is still here to go on valuing books that are beautiful and which, in a somewhat crazy world, create an ARK.
We recently did a consultation with the eco-activist and rewilding gardener Mary Reynolds about how to make the large forest garden and woodland that is in our care at our home (Ti Triskele) into a restored, native ecosystem — Mary calls such places ARKs — Acts of Restorative Kindness for our little patches of the planet.
In a world in which our time, our bodies, even our sleep are increasingly colonised by mass media, social media and corporations, tiny independent presses like Cinnamon and many other inventive publishers offer something different. Our courses are restorative and inspiring, our books are a way to lose yourself in other worlds and connect with imagination and exquisitive language, our events are ways to take your own time to listen and connect.
Kairos is the Greek word for ripe time, for those moments when we feel our deep connection to all life. Such moments are a contrast to time that is all about chronos, always being on the clock in linear chronological time. I’ve recently being doing a teacher training course in yoga nidrā (a type of yogic meditation that allows the body to sleep while the mind goes on its own journeys) and it has confirmed for me how vital it is that we slow down and connect deeply. Cinnamon Press is a tiny piece of that — in this case Acts of Radical Kairos — a bit of rewilding of the mind and heart as we rest and journey with story or poetry.
We believe in publishing books we feel passionate about; small miracles from distinctive voices, books that are not defined by genre but by their unique ability to be thought-provoking, say something innovative and go beyond the mainstream. And putting up the pages for this website, all these lovely book pages, reminded me of this —powerfully.
I loaded around 300 images and put in more than a thousand links and this was the most solacing part of the work — it sometimes left me dizzy and was a strangely addictive task. But the most interesting thing was that it felt like I was rediscovering old friends and it reminded me why I’d been excited about working on this or that book … or with this or that author … it reminded me how excited I am about how far Cinnamon has come and the list we have planned for the future.
And it reminded me how many of our authors feel woven into the fabric of our lives and how each one has intrduced us to a range of communities of readers, who also care about language and rest and want to be delighted and challenged and moved.
I can’t say I was looking forward to putting all those pages up, but I’m so glad I did. It’s led to fascinating conversations and intriguing ideas about how we could go on developing — being small also means we’re flexible and can take risks and try things out, so we’re beginning to wonder about developing downloadable courses for writers and also a readers’ series to help more people discover the wonderful books on offer.
We’ve been publishing gorgeous books of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction for sixteen years and we love it. We hope this new site will be one of the ways these beautiful labours of love find their way to discerning readers. The shop pages are still a work in progress at this point, but we will have these pages up over the next couple of weeks and the events page with lovely September launches is ready for registrations.
We’re aware that this is a big change. If you had an account on the old site you will need to remake an account for this one. And if you had access to the eBook library and hadn’t yet downloaded all the books get in touch and we’ll set up your access as soon as this page is live.
We hope you’ll enjoy exploring and we’d love you to keep in touch with us and, if you don’t already, subscribe to the newsletters so that we can keep you posted about literary awards that lead to publication, submissions, launches and, of course, the wonderful books.
Jan Fortune, Ti Triskele, August 2021