It was a couple of months ago now when Vicky stumbled upon Slightly Foxed (@foxedquarterly on Instagram) and being a major bookworm, totally fell for this literary magazine! So after placing an order for a book called Terms & Conditions (a hilarious history of girls’ boarding schools) Vicky reached out to see if they would be interested in some sort of collaboration and they said they’d love to! So we were sent a lovely selection of books, we took a few photos and are now very excited to announce our September competition! SF have kindly offered an annual subscription to their quarterly magazine, a lovely tote bag and a book of the winner’s choosing from the SF limited edition hardback series of memoirs! All the information about this competition can be found on our Instagram, @plumandashby.
We wanted to find out more about this quarterly magazine, so asked Jennie from Slightly Foxed, to answer a few questions for us. Read her lovely answers below…
Tell us a little more about Slightly Foxed
Slightly Foxed is a printed quarterly magazine for booklovers with a simple mission: to introduce readers to all the wonderful books, old and new, fiction and non-fiction, poetry and essays that have disappeared from the pages of review magazines and often from bookshop shelves. The magazine itself is a beautifully produced sewn A5 size paperback of 96 pages per issue, printed on high-quality cream paper. It costs £11 an issue and from £30 for an annual subscription.
Slightly Foxed is designed to be a pleasure to handle and a joy to read, valued as much for itself as an object as for the recommendations within. It’s something to last, that won’t go out of date and will be kept, reread, passed on, or shelved in a personal library. We have a wide range of contributors of all ages and from all walks of life to each issue. Some are well-known, some not, some are established writers and some are just starting out, but they all share a passion for reading and writing. In each issue there around 15 contributors writing about books that have inspired or influenced them and through their words we introduce – or sometimes reintroduce -our readers to books that have been neglected, overlooked or forgotten from the mainstream. To all these books Slightly Foxed aims to be the perfect personal guide.
Where do you find the unfairly forgotten titles that you republish?
Our book publishing imprint sprung from the magazine itself in early 2008. So many of the books that our contributors were writing about were out of print and unavailable that we decided to launch a series of pocket-sized limited-edition cloth-bound hardbacks to bring back forgotten voices, specifically memoir. A number of the books have been so successful that we brought them out in paperback, and subsequently in a new slightly plainer hardback edition, at the special request of many of our readers. Now that the series is well-established it can be harder to find four new additions to the list each year, but we scour the shelves of the London Library and follow-up on suggestions from our readers and writers, and have never yet run out of ideas.
What is your favourite book from the collection?
Gosh, that’s a tricky one. I have favourites for different moods and settings, but there’s nothing like reading an author in the surroundings from which they wrote, and this is especially true of Adrian Bell. This summer we published The Cherry Tree, the third title in his classic rural trilogy. My husband is from Suffolk and we escape the city whenever we can so, despite having read The Cherry Tree several times already, I sneaked off to while away a balmy afternoon or two with it under a tree in Adrian Bell country.
Other favourites are Hilary Mantel’s memoir, Giving up the Ghost – a masterclass in the art of storytelling by an extraordinary writer and, for a dose of bookworm’s indulgence, Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road, the account of a transatlantic friendship (almost a love story) conducted through books.
What is the brand’s philosophy?
Our philosophy (aside from being all about really good books) is that everything we create strikes a blow for lasting quality, for the small and individual against the corporate and mass-produced, and for the hand-made and long-lasting against the throwaway and temporary. As one of our friends and early readers, the great adventurer and travel writer, Dervla Murphy wrote:
‘This quarterly passes the rereading test and deserves its own space in a bookcase; later generations can quote from it to prove that good writing didn’t die with the twentieth century.’
This philosophy applies to our producers too: we’ve used the same craftsmen printers, Smith Settle in Yorkshire, from our first issue, and they produce everything we publish. Founded in 1981, they are among the now rare breed of craftsmen printers, producing beautiful hand-sewn books of the highest quality. It’s to them that we owe the consistently high standard of printing and elegant appearance of our books and the quarterly.
We hope we can continue on the same plane of good writing and reading for many years to come. Our philosophy for the future is that no matter how much SF grows up and out (if indeed it does) it retains its soul. We truly believe that small and democratic is beautiful. We don’t do hold music or automated phone systems, meetings are held around the kitchen table and we all muck in and share the boring jobs. We hope we’ll continue to grow and gain readers around the world, but preferably slowly and surely – we don’t like to do things in a rush.
How much does social media play a part in your business?
It’s absolutely key, and we love being able to connect with readers through our social media channels. We started off with Twitter and Facebook, and were relative late-comers to Instagram, but it quickly became our favourite platform, mainly due to its great sense of community, which mirrors the way we engage with our readers through the quarterly magazine itself. Our subscribers love the sense of belonging and a shared love of books that Slightly Foxed fosters: it really is more than just a magazine, it’s a fellowship of writers and readers of all ages, from all walks of life. Subscribers drop in to visit us, sometimes they bring marmalade, at Christmas they occasionally send cash for staff drinks or biscuits, and sometimes they even write to the dogs!
I just wish I had more time to engage with our Instagram community throughout the working day. When I joined Slightly Foxed (as a Christmas helper in 2008 when between jobs) it was just Gail working full-time on the magazine together with her co-editor Hazel, plus Steph on marketing, overseen by a very aged office dog, Pugwash. I only went in to help out at the request of a friend, and I’m still here! I’ve done every role imaginable here, and my job now involves running the website, creating catalogues, writing newsletters, arranging partnerships, generally overseeing things in our Hoxton office, and (my favourite part) managing our Instagram account in-between.
We’re now a team of five full-time and five freelance staff, with two naughty spaniels and a whippet puppy keeping us in check and, if we continue to grow, perhaps someday I’ll be able to drop a few of my other hats and spend more time with our online community. That would be extremely nice.
And finally, what does the year ahead hold for Slightly Foxed?
Aside from the four issues of the quarterly magazine and four limited-edition memoirs to come throughout the year, this autumn we’ve moved on to a new favourite children’s author, BB, with two beautifully illustrated editions of his classic nature novels, The Little Grey Men and Down the Bright Stream, with more of his work in store for next year too. We’re adding more titles to our new Plain Foxed Editions series and we’re branching out with a small range of greetings cards by our friend the baker and illustrator, Letitia Clark. Come November we’ll be hosting our annual Readers’ Day – a one-day literary festival for subscribers at the Art Workers’ Guild in the heart of Bloomsbury – and then (I hardly dare mention it) but Christmas will be upon us in a whirlwind of delicious books, brown paper and ribbon!
But aside from all that, we plan to just keep doing what we’re doing: introducing our readers to really good books, by really good writers, and having lots of fun along the way. Long may it continue!
Thanks so much Jennie for your time and full, interesting answers. The competition in collaboration with Slightly Foxed ends on Friday 29th September.