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The Curved House BlogInspiration, Tips and Projects from The Curved House

The Curved House Berlin Office Space

Desk available at our central Berlin office!

By | News


The Curved House have a spare desk available in our productive and creative office in Mitte, Berlin where we publish books (mainly for children). Here’s what you need to know:

  • Great location: Oranienburger Str. 26, Mitte (opposite Monbijoupark)
  • €220 per month all inclusive (rent, wifi, b/w A4 printer, water, heating etc.)
  • The office is one room with 4 desks, a kitchenette and a little yellow sofa. There’s a separate bathroom with shower (newly renovated).
  • We have an office dog called Sam who is very sweet. He sleeps all day and barks only when the doorbell rings (not often). Not suitable for those with a dog allergy.
  • Sharing with 3 others, all working for The Curved House (one full time, two part time) and all with writing, book publishing, art and design backgrounds.
  • The Curved House is a publishing and education business with an interest in visual learning and literacy. We also run Curved House Kids (children’s publisher) and Visual Verse (art/literary project).
  • We are all antipodeans, friendly, hardworking and prone to the odd bad joke or silly pun.

The Curved House Berlin Office Space

Feel free to email Kristen Harrison if you’d like to see the space or do a trial day.


september publishing

The Curved House speaks to September Publishing

By | Uncategorized

September Publishing was founded in 2013 by Hannah MacDonald as an independent start-up in an era of content overload. After twenty years of publishing at Virgin, Andre Deutsch, Random House and HarperCollins, Hannah specialises in a creative approach to shaping books with organisations, brands and personalities. Hannah is also the author of two fabulous books The Sun Road and Julianna Kiss, and a winner of a Betty Trask Award for first novels.

We spoke to Hannah about everything, from what it is like to run an independent publishing house and the challenges and rewards that go with it to what she would like to see more of in her submissions inbox. Read the full interview below.

September PublishingWhy did you decide to set up September Publishing?

I wanted to carry on being a publisher – but I also knew I wanted to work for myself for the foreseeable future!

What were the challenges/fears of starting your own publishing company?

The same fears arose as when starting anything new – fear of failure/ridicule/seeing it through. But—being in my forties—I know myself quite well now so I know when to listen to them and when not!

I was frightened of losing all the money I invested—and this was quite a sensible fear—so I created a couple of ground rules about what kind of books we could realistically publish. Our books need to sell somewhere other than just the UK book trade, and our authors each need a way they are going be heard directly by readers. These have been sensible and I stuck to them.

The first great challenge was constructing from scratch the hub of services that represent a publishing house – distribution, marketing, data dissemination. All the stuff I’d taken for granted at a large company!

The second great—ongoing—challenge is getting the books to be seen and heard.

SP is now into its second year. How has it grown since the beginning and have your goals or views shifted from those you had in the beginning?

We’ve shifted roles and responsibilities. Charlotte Cole who has worked with September since the outset has become a shareholder and we are discussing new imprints with new potential publishers.

You have to balance your focus on your original instincts and mission as well as keeping a real-time realism, as we learn what we do best. So the pitch of what we do – inspiring illustrated books and mind-expanding narratives is clearer.

I wish we’d sorted our accounting/financial/costing systems out a bit more vigorously from the start! It would have saved hours of envelope/calculator scribbling.

September Publishing
September Publishing

You’ve said that SP is an “author-centric” publishing house. What is the relationship like between SP and its authors and how is that relationship cultivated and nourished?

One of my authors who has been published several times and has also self-published a book said this is the first time she has felt like part of a functional, available team working with her to make her book a success. That’s what we’re aiming for really – in a nutshell.

Printed books compete with so many other forms of entertainment – computers, phones, games, social media. How do you tackle these obstacles and get people interested in your books?

Two ways:

1 Our illustrated books are physically desirable. People still want to hold and own nice things.

2 We try to publish into interest-communities that recognise what they are keen to read about – whether it is Celticism, ceramics, walking or a particular comedian.

Diversity in publishing a significant topic right now. How does SP fit into the discussion?

If September is to survive it must publish to the breadth of its audience. In which case we need a breadth of experts and authors. Quite naturally SP has developed a diversity of gender, nationality and sexuality in its team and authors. But I still long for a wider variety of styles, origins and influences within the submissions we get. And although we are unlikely to move into translated non-fiction we are actively seeking younger, more diverse voices and authors. Although paradoxically I also like reading memoirs by those who have lived long and fully and dug deep into a profession or role. There’s more to be found amongst first time 70 plus writers I think.

September PublishingWhat role do smaller, independent publishing houses play amongst the big players of the industry?

You can’t have growth without seed beds. Every industry has break-aways and start ups and we are often better at developing new talent.  

Do you find you have more freedom of choice with SP in regards to the types of authors and books that you can focus on and gear towards publishing?

Yes, which is lovely, but sometimes I could do with a really good challenging, creative discussion that forces me to look harder at things!

What balance does SP have between the culture of the written word vs the business of the written word?

Like a lot of publishers (as opposed to editors) I am essentially a greedy, fast reader. I studied English Literature but I wasn’t very interested by critical theory. It’s always been the immersion I’m after – which has always made me a quite un-snobbish reader and writer. I was always a bit shocked by colleagues who felt they could get away with disdain towards commercial publishing.

Publishing is a business. Business is partly about managing the different strands and different consumers of what you produce. Managing is about valuing different people for different reasons. I recognise those who have passion, purity and cultural value for what they produce, and working with them is wonderful. For me publishing is about the people, and reading is about the lives I get to live vicariously

What role does social media play for SP and its authors in terms of marketing and the relationship between readers and authors? Pros/Cons..

Some of our authors use it extensively as a message board and community room  i.e. Mark Thomas. We try to support our authors own activities and extend the reach of their followers/fans. Others of our authors do not use it at all—and these are often more literary authors—get recommended just as much within viral reading communities i.e. Anthony Loyd.

September PublishingThree of your authors have written memoirs and Christopher Nicholson’s Among the Summer Snows is set to come out in 2017. Is this ability to be self-reflective a quality you look for in your writers?

It’s less about self-reflection than September’s focus on building a list of narratives that expand your world. This includes quite a lot of memoir—from gold and diamond miners to war correspondents to poets—but also illustrated books with unusual perspectives on cities and popular subjects.

Not to encourage tunnel vision here, but what does a SP book look like? i.e. how would you define a vision for the books you’re looking for?

See above…!

What would you like to see more of in your Submissions inbox?

Artists, designers, illustrators. And voices that differ from the writing personalities in mainstream media – either in age, race or politics.

And finally, what would be your top tips for authors who are looking for a publisher?

Read lots. Be clear about the purpose of your book. Write succinct letters of enquiry, and submit with a one page overview and a single sample chapter.

Farewell David Rain (1961-2015)


A tribute to David Rain, from Kristen Harrison at The Curved House

Last week the world said goodbye to a wonderful writer and I said goodbye to a wonderful client.

David Rain, who passed away on December 15, was a writer and creative writing lecturer who also wrote under the pseudonyms Tom Arden and Peter Keith Nash. David grew up in Mount Gambier, a small town in South Australia before moving to Belfast to teach English Literature in the early 1990s. He then moved to Brighton and eventually settled in London where he lived for almost 20 years.

David’s last published volume was a collection of poetry called First Look that felt so very familiar to me. This collection evokes much of the duality of being an Australian abroad. Perhaps it’s the distance, or the uniqueness of the landscape, but no matter how far you go from Australia, Australia never leaves you. It is a place that burrows deep into your soul. For some of us, that depth can be suffocating and those who leave often end up occupying a confusing space between belonging and longing – wondering all the time if it would be a good idea to go back.

in the heat of the sun david rain
volcano street by david rain
The Harlequins Dance from David Rain's Orokon series

David was able to shape this duplicity into words and stories and to use it as a force in his writing. It is there in front of us in First Look, and it is there in his novel Volcano Street, a story in which two sisters try to escape a small-town Australian life they have been thrown in to.

For me, I will always be grateful that David wrote about things so familiar and that I found these words on the other side of the world, where I needed them most. And I will always remember the gentle, genuine and hardworking writer who quietly made his mark.

On behalf of the team here, we send our love and condolences to David’s partner Antony, and to his friends and family.

Kristen Harrison
22 December 2015

David Rain's "Christopher" for Visual Verse

David Rain’s “Christopher” for Visual Verse

coralie bickford smith the fox and the star waterstones book of the year

Coralie Bickford-Smith wins the Waterstones Book of the Year


Last month we featured a glorious illustration from Coralie Bickford-Smith’s The Fox and the Star on Visual Verse and over the course of the month we published over 100 submissions from writers responding directly to this image. That is a record for Visual Verse and it highlights the important of images for the written word, both in terms of prompting writers and in terms of depicting something we cannot say with anything other than visual language.

coralie bickford smith the fox and the star waterstones book of the year

Today, The Fox and the Star has been awarded Waterstones Book of the Year and we are celebrating on behalf of book fetishists everywhere! Congratulations Coralie, whose complete dedication to beautiful design over many years continues to reward us book lovers. And thank you Mr James Daunt, MD of Waterstones and founder of Daunt Books, for championing the aesthetic and ensuring the qualities of traditional book design remain close to the heart of UK booksellers.


Sophie Devine joins the curved house eu erasmus entrepeneur

Sophie Devine is in the House


UK designer Sophie Devine has joined The Curved House for three months as part of the EU Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs scheme. This is the same amazing EU intiative that brought us Irish Kate. Sophie will be working on a range of design and marketing-related projects and developing a brand from scratch. She will hone her skills as a book designer and also learn how to run her own design business.

Sophie’s first task was to explore some of our favourite Berlin bookshops including Motto, Gestalten, Do You Read Me?, Shakespeare and Sons, Dussmann and the literary paradise that is Charlottenberg’s Literaturhaus. We asked her to look at the differences between German and UK editions of the same books, and to analyse how and why these designs vary. She has documented her observations over on her Ich bin ein Berliner tumblr, where she is also keeping a digital diary of her erasmus experience.

Sophie’s next task was to help us with a creative project for Curved House Kids. We asked her to create a font using handwriting from a 4 year old Londoner, Alice (thanks Alice!). We were inspired by the awesome (and gruesome) Kickstarter project Let’s Play Murder that involved creating a custom font from a child’s handwriting. The results are in:

custom typeface from child's handwriting


Next week we’ll upload a tutorial to the Curved House Kids website so you can make your own custom fonts.

Until then, welcome to Berlin Sophie Devine, and welcome to The Curved House! Let’s make some visual magic…

A look back at my time as an EU Erasmus Young Entrepreneur


EU Erasmus for Young EntrepreneursAt the end of May my stint at The Curved House will come to an end. I spent four glorious months here as part of the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs scheme. For anyone who doesn’t know, Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs is a “cross-border exchange programme which gives new or aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs running small businesses in other Participating Countries.” The idea is that I, an aspiring entrepreneur about to start my own business, would spend time at an established small company, The Curved House in this case, learning the skills required to run a business.

I applied to the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme in late November 2014. I hoped to gain experience and insight into the day to day running of a small company. By December everything was signed and approved and so my journey with The Curved House began.


The Curved House team, Berlin

I was in Berlin by January 2015 and was so excited about the prospect of a new job, new city, new colleagues and €1.50 kebabs. I didn’t know exactly how the Erasmus scheme would work or what exactly I would be doing, but I was confident that it would all be worthwhile.

The first time I met Kristen and Nerys, they took me to their local coffee spot. The flat whites were made to perfection, so naturally I took this as a sign of how our working relationship would develop.

During my first few weeks, Nerys took me under her Curved House wing and showed me how everything worked. After being set up with a million logins, we planned a communications strategy for the coming months. I wrote blog posts, researched various topics and helped out with different editorial tasks.

Kristen made sure to always include me in all meetings, so that I would be up to speed but also to make sure I had the skills and know-how going forward.

During my stay I also guest edited Visual Verse. I loved doing this. I sourced lead writers for each new edition, wrote newsletters, tweeted daily as well as edited and published incoming submissions. This really helped me understand the importance of a having a strong social media presence.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 16.23.57

Another project I absolutely loved working on was Women In Letters, a celebration of female writers that kicked of on International Women’s Day 2015. I researched the writers and wrote the text, but this beautiful project was the creative brain child of Nerys Hudson at The Curved House. She also sketched all of the writers.


I was also lucky enough to go to the London Book Fair, where Kristen and I met lots of publishing people, clients and authors and went to some really interesting talks. We also met Ali Smith, one of the Visual Verse patrons, which was a highlight!


Kristen and Ali Smith and #LBF15

So in a nutshell the Erasmus was so rewarding, so enjoyable and so valuable for my professional growth and that of my future business. The financial backing allowed me to live in Berlin (my rent was covered with additional modest living costs) a city I had always wanted to explore. I even spoke the occasional bit of German.

Without a doubt, I would recommend this programme to anyone wishing to gain insight and experience in an established company. I am certain that this experience will help my own business. I definitely hope to work with these creative and talented people again in the future.

So long for now from Irish Kate!

kate mcdonald the curved house

Kate goes back to her roots at #LBF15

Visual Verse Editors catch up with Litro Magazine


Visual Verse editors, Preti and Kristen, talked to Litro Magazine yesterday about all things art, literature and, of course, Visual Verse.

Tomorrow is the first of the month, which means a brand new image and a brand new edition of Visual Verse. We have three incredibly diverse and reflective thinkers as our lead writers this month as well as an original painting by a very talented artist and illustrator based in Berlin. More on this tomorrow… Read More

Reporting back from The London Book Fair 2015


Last week The Curved House team set sail for The London Book Fair. Between meetings, reunions and taking selfies with Ali Smith and Laura Dockrill, we managed to get to some fantastic talks and seminars.

One which really got us thinking was a seminar about making books for blind and visually impaired children. The talk was given in association with Book Trust and discussed all the different ideas and concepts that go into making a book that can be read without seeing. Some of these books are available here. Including different textures to outline the story is crucial. Having a glittery road for example, which feels gritty and rough to touch adds a lot to the experience and helps move the story along. Smells can also play a huge role in developing the story, for example having a part in the story with a strawberry scented ice cream will transport the child to a park or beach or school trip. These aspects are key in developing a story which cannot rely on visuals, text and smaller illustrations. We’re completely on board with thinking outside the box and making reading accessible for all children. The aim with our Make Your Own Book series is to make all children, whatever form their literacy takes, whether it’s visual or textual, feel included and interested in the books and stories they read.

Another interesting talk we went to was about ways in which digital can innovate kids reading. The main ideas discussed were keeping kids interested and motivated in reading as they get older. With the overbearing presence of the internet, games, TV and extra-curricular activities, reading can often take a back seat. Keeping reading interesting and up to date is crucial to competing for a child’s time. A way of doing this is to start ‘gamifying’ books and stories. By turning stories into games with rewards, levels, virtual currency etc., kids become more engaged and more interested. These games can increase reading levels and keep kids focused on reading throughout their teens, when they would statistically drop away from reading. Digital is native to kids now, so reading will have to change its form to keep up. Check out Wandoo and Turmali for some fun reading games!

kate mcdonald the curved house

Kate goes back to her roots at #LBF15

jamie oliver kristen harrison

Kristen’s lifelong dream of hugging Jamie Oliver comes true #LBF15

Curved House Kids at the Central Books Stand #LBF15

Curved House Kids at the Central Books Stand #LBF15

Roads Publishing at London Book Fair

Lovely cover designs by Ireland’s Roads Publishing

Bridget Marzo's Tiz and Ott!

Bridget Marzo’s Tiz and Ott! We love Bridget.

Ali smith at london book fair 2015

Ali Smith being amazing

Font of the Month: Neue Haas Unica


This month we take you from Moscow to Germany with Neue Haas Unica.

We all know Helvetica. Globally, it’s the most popular and recognisable typeface; it’s everywhere you look, even on your iPhone. Helvetica, the rational, legible and hugely popular typeface was designed in 1957, with advertisements, signs and headlines in mind. There’s a super fascinating documentary, which discusses the emergence of the font and the ideas behind it.

However, once Helvetica’s uses were needed beyond headlines and in smaller form, Haas, the centuries-old Swiss type foundry that had introduced Helvetica in 1957, commissioned a Swiss design team called Team’77 (André Gürtler, Christian Mengelt and Erich Gschwind) to come up with a follow-up to the world’s most popular typeface. Team ’77 set out to design a font based on Helvetica but drawing on other sans-serif typefaces, principally Univers- hence the hybrid name they ended up with. “Unica was designed to be different,” said André Gürtler; “sharper than Helvetica, warmer than Univers, cleaner than Akzidenz.”

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London Book Fair 101


London Book Fair (#LBF15) kicks off tomorrow and we’re very excited here at The Curved House. Now in its 44th year, The London Book Fair is the book-publishing trade fair west of Frankfurt. If this is your first London Book Fair, the hallowed halls of LBF’s new home at London Olympia may seem like a daunting prospect. But fear not – we’ve got a short crash course to guide you through.
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