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About Us

(The story of Misfit Press is inextricably linked to the story of Misfit Incorporated, which is inextricably linked to the story of AJ and Melissa Leon. These fascinating stories have been told at length on many other occasions – in newspapers, on TEDx stages, during numerous interviews and chance meetings in wine bars. If you want to explore the weird and wonderful company that is Misfit Incorporated, peruse our site. For the full backstory, check out this video interview.)

Misfit Press itself was established in 2014, with the publication of AJ Leon’s The Life & Times of a Remarkable Misfit. The little-known backstory to The Life & Times is that it was originally slated to be published by a major American publisher, who headhunted AJ after noticing the popularity of his blog, The Pursuit of Everything. About a third of the way through the writing of the book, AJ began to get twitchy about the compromises involved in traditional publishing: uncompromising editorial pressure, a lack of say on issues such as design and artwork. Not long later, AJ bailed on the contract, and decided to publish the book himself. The Misfit team created and ran a Kickstarter, aimed at raising $15,000 to cover publishing costs. By the time the fundraising had run its course, pledges totalled more than treble that amount. With the excess funds, AJ and Misfit decided to go one better than just publishing a book, and also founded a publishing house.

Since its founding, Misfit Press has steadily flourished. In 2015, we took under our wing Wolftree, the finest arts journal in the American Midwest; we released our 2015 Anthology, featuring the finest creative work we encountered over the preceding year; and The Life & Times of a Remarkable Misfit continued to find readers across the globe. In 2016 we published Destination Shakespeare, the debut poetry collection from esteemed Shakespeare academic Paul Edmondson; and we have more Shakespeare-related publications in the works for 2017, including Shakespeare On The Road, a tale of a Shakespearian adventure across the US.

Last  year was a big growth period for the Press, and there is lots more on the way for 2017. As you’ll see from our Forthcoming Publications section, over the next twelve months we will be publishing Saya Sayama: Three Years in Myanmar by incredible photojournalist Spike Johnson, a photonarrative account documenting a unique moment in Myanmar’s history: the violent shift from General Ne Win’s fifty-year dictatorship to the country’s first steps towards democracy. Also imminent is Tangentially Reading, featuring some of the most insightful, shocking, touching, and hilarious moments from the first 200 episodes of Christopher Ryan’s much-loved podcast, Tangentially Speaking.

These are exciting times at Misfit Press. To keep up to date with everything that’s going on, follow us at our blogFacebook, Twitter and/or Instagram. Into the future, we will always continue to work in the fashion we do right now: with authors we like, on projects that matter, in a way that leaves writer, reader and everyone in-between satisfied. We will also never renege on our One-for-One pledge; for every publication we ever sell, a child in India will receive money towards prescription eyeglasses, via the Misfit Foundation.

w: Matt

“He is always on the side of life”Paul Edmondson's Birthday Tribute to Shakespeare

On April 24th, as part of Shakespeare’s birthday/deathday celebrations, Misfit Press author Paul Edmondson took part in the Sunday service at Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church – burial site of the Bard. Recorded by BBC Radio 4, the service was a grand affair. In his role as local Reverend and renowned Shakespeare scholar, Paul delivered a powerful and poignant sermon, and then gave a reading of “William Shakespeare 1616-2016” – the first poem from his forthcoming collection, Destination Shakespeare. Following Paul’s reading, the sonnet was set to music by the composer Philip Stopford.

If you want to catch up on the whole service, you can find it on the BBC Radio 4 iPlayer website here. To hear Paul’s sermon, skip to 12:50. To hear his brilliant reading of “William Shakespeare 1616-2016”, skip to 22:08. The sonnet in its epic choral version arrives at 23:10.

However, if (like me) you prefer to read than listen, then Paul’s rich, heartfelt, thought-provoking sermon appears in its entirety below. If you consider yourself an atheist, I would ask you to try and put aside your skepticism towards Christian language and ideas for a moment. Paul’s words are at bottom about things which matter to us all: compassion, inclusiveness, “the will to go on living and loving.” His is a fitting tribute from one gifted poet to another.

It feels as though we are as close as possible to genius. A few steps away from me, is the grave of William Shakespeare. Over the centuries, millions of people have visited Stratford-upon-Avon, to stand where Shakespeare stood, and to reflect at his graveside.

It is understood that Shakespeare was born on Sunday 23 April 1564. He died on that same date, aged 52, a fateful day he happens to share with the Patron Saint of England: 23rd April is St George’s Day. It might be tempting to think of Shakespeare as a quintessentially English writer, but his mind, encouraged by the outlook of his age, was broader than that. Shakespeare looked to European stories as well as to English ones for his inspiration; he was as equally at home with Latin literature as he was with the chronicles of English history. And well Shakespeare knew that St George was no Englishman, but a truly international saint, a patron and guiding star for at least nineteen countries, including: Georgia, Egypt, Rumania, Ethiopia, India, Iraq, Palestine, the Ukraine, and Russia.

Shakespeare participated in a shared European culture and has become truly international. His great liberal-mindedness and life-giving sense of freedom, continue to speak to people in cultures very different to Shakespeare’s own. In the words of his own Cassius in Julius Caesar:

‘How many ages hence

Shall this our lofty scene be acted over,

In states unborn and accents yet unknown!’ (Act 3.1)

Shakespeare’s underlying project was to entertain, break moulds, and to do this by feeding the mind as well as the heart. And he is always on the side of life: ‘Simply the thing I am shall make me live’, says the broken Parolles in All’s Well That Ends Well.

If we go looking for a spirituality in Shakespeare, we’ll probably find it in his determination to love people just as they are, in the vivid lives he bodies forth on stage.

This is surely the gift of Shakespeare’s big heart: he shows us how to approach life, and art, with love. Shakespeare’s overall achievement is one of extreme inclusion and passionate particularity. That’s no less than the cream of all our hearts as human beings, which Shakespeare’s poet-priest contemporary, George Herbert, expresses in our next hymn, ‘King of Glory, King of Peace.’

Picture the scene. Shakespeare and his family are returning home to their house, New Place, the largest dwelling in the borough of Stratford-upon-Avon. He was only ever an intermittent lodger in London and, New Place his family home from 1597, offered him space in which to think and write.

Imagine that it’s Easter Day, 1610. The family has returned from Holy Communion, and Shakespeare is thinking about his next play, The Winter’s Tale.

Those words from St Paul, about Jesus’s resurrection, are ringing in his ears: ‘then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.’ Shakespeare knows only too well the pain that the death of loved ones brings, and, like all of us, also hears an inner voice of doubt: ‘Ay, but to die, and to go we know not where’, says the condemned Claudio in Measure for Measure.

But, he has dramatised resurrection stories throughout his career: Hero in Much Ado About Nothing, the twins Viola and Sebastian in Twelfth Night, and Claudio himself in Measure for Measure. All of them are supposed dead, but we see them come back to life; they return to live among their loved ones.

In The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare’s resurrection scenario is even more moving than his previous ones. Queen Hermione died sixteen years ago. Her statue is presented to her guilt-ridden widower, King Leontes. We then hear the line from Paulina (whose name reminds us of St Paul): ‘it is required you do awake your faith.’ And the statue comes to life. Hermione, her husband, and their long-lost daughter are all reunited, and the forgiveness of past wrongs is now possible. In Shakespeare’s source story for The Winter’s Tale there is no reunion or resurrection, and the King Leontes figure kills himself. Instead Shakespeare shows us how lives can change because of love, loyalty, and nothing short of an apparent miracle.

We’ve moved from grief to glory in today’s worship. Whatever your religious belief might be – or even if you feel you have none – we are all of us united by the will to go on living and loving. It is certainly my belief, that the Christian story of the resurrection expresses the deepest hope for our common humanity. Whatever our faith, or lack thereof, life and love will always – eventually – have the victory.

Four hundred years after Shakespeare’s death, his inclusivity and generosity of spirit, like St George himself, brings together many people, and from all over the world.

It was in this spirit that I wrote a sonnet of my own, which I’ll read, and then we’ll hear it set to music by Philip Stopford. It has been specially commissioned by Holy Trinity Church for their annual Shakespeare Service.

“William Shakespeare 1616-2016”

Imagine that you see him looking out
above you from a window at New Place,
there’s music in his mind, the people shout
and cheer to see their hearts beat in his face.
His book, brimful with lovers, clowns and kings,
spills over, dances down his window sill —
a silken thread of ink still spinning sings
and weaves our tongues together with his quill.
Tonight his words will nest in rhyming trees,
quick syllables trip moonbeams on the land,
his pages, stirred with rhythms of the seas,
break tempests of the mind upon the sand:
our muse of fire, water, earth and air
in Stratford-upon-Avon — everywhere.

You can pre-order Paul’s debut poetry collection, Destination Shakespeare, here.

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MattMatt is Chief Editor at Misfit Press. Alongside overseeing all activity at the Press, he is in the latter stages of a PhD, working on a thesis examining the intersections between literature, neuroscience and the philosophy of consciousness. Soccer, snowboarding, prog metal, Dostoevsky, a good Chianti and strangers' dogs all rank amongst his favourite things.

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