A Short History of the Press

Catchfire Press is a Hunter Valley publishing house located in Newcastle, incorporated in October 1998, when we commenced book publication. Our overall purpose is to publish writers from the Hunter area, in books wholly designed and illustrated here, and we have deliberately set a slow pace to maintain standards in book design and editing, as well as literary quality, comparable with anywhere in Australia. Local as we emphatically are, our authors are paid royalties at Australia-wide rates; and to seek wider distribution and sales for them, we now have an Australasia-wide distributor. But we stay focused upon our work in our own place!

The idea of setting up an independent ’boutique’ press to publish local writers of merit was conceived by Lisbet de Castro Lopo in 1996, and soon supported by Don Cohen, Lucy Dougan, Norman Talbot and Ron Vickress. The first meeting of ‘Coal River Press’ was held in August 1997, discussing plans to cooperate with the Newcastle Community Arts Centre in publishing the Newcastle Poetry Prize anthology. That proved unfeasible, and the Arts Centre wanted to retain the name. With a new name, Leading Light Press, manuscripts from local writers were sought for publication, and the committee decided to publish a series of occasional writings under the title Seamark. The first of these appeared in June 1998, and in August that year the final name, Catchfire Press, was adopted, derived from Hopkins’ sonnet, as kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame.

The first major publications, the short story collection Is That Love? and the novel The Goblin Child, were launched in October 1999, with initial financing for publication given by Lisbet. This first gift, along with money from sales, fund-raising activities, membership fees and submission fees, has sustained the press.

As a non-profit, community-based press, all our executive are volunteers from our membership. This includes committee, publishing and editorial staff. However, our covers are chosen by competition between senior design students at the University of Newcastle, and paid for as part of the prize.

The Catchfire Press ISBN prefix is 0 9577330; we also publish small occasional books by local writers in the Seamark pamphlet series; their ISSN prefix is 1440-9089, and they are designed to give, in celebratory style, a small outlet to local writers and a sample of local writing to readers.

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