February – Independent Publishers Month

Feb 26, 2021

By Hayley Anderton

In my part of the book blogging world this February has been about celebrating independent publishers. It’s also been the month when you’ve unveiled your own new publishing project, which makes it the perfect time to ask you a few questions about your plans for 60 North Publishing and how they’ve come about. It’s a project I won’t be alone in being really excited about. I am very happily anticipating adding further to my Shetland library, and really looking forward to seeing what your books will look like as well as reading them, so thank you for finding the time to do this.

The best place to start is probably by asking you to introduce yourself, and say a little about what bought you to Shetland?

I’m originally from the Czech Republic and my first encounter with Shetland was in 1999 when I came here on a short high school exchange trip. And I fell in love with the place instantly. I was very lucky as my host family were keen walkers so during my stay they showed some wonderful places and the rugged beauty of Shetland got under my skin. I became very good friends with the host family and I returned to Shetland for summer jobs during my university studies. And straight after my graduation I moved to Shetland, but that’s another story… I studied tourism and marketing I was very lucky to be able to pursue my career in this field. I worked for local tourism and destination marketing bodies as well as in the heritage sector so the things very close to my heart are sustainable tourism as well as developing new tourism products and preserving and promoting local heritage.

Did setting up your own publishing business seem like a natural progression from founding the Shetland Wool Adventures Journal, or is it something that you’d been thinking about for a while separate to that?

Sometimes I stop myself and I wonder how it all happened; when I step back and think about the last year’s events, setting up my own publishing business seems like serendipity. But in reality it is a natural progression from running my tours and founding the Shetland Wool Adventures Journal. Starting the journal was a gamble but I knew there were many people out there that either have been to Shetland or dream of visiting one day, and along with my knitting tours audience I knew there was demand for inspiring and beautifully produced publications from Shetland. So in a way the first volume was a test to see if this venture could work on an ongoing basis. And thankfully volume 1 was a real success and is now sold out. I can now build on this foundation and my plan is publish the journal on a regular basis twice a year, as well as work with other Shetland authors and help publishing books that might otherwise not be viable.

As a reader one of the things that I like most about independent publishers and presses is the house style they can build. What do you see the look and feel of 60 North Publishing being?

My priority is high quality content and beautifully produced print that the readers will treasure and will want to return to. One of the best compliments; in fact there have been several of the same nature; is that the journal provided people with countless hours of being able to escape to Shetland from the comfort and safety of their homes. Since travel is not always possible, in particular these days, I would like to produce publications that will bring Shetland closer to those who dream of visiting our wonderful isles.

Do you hope to collaborate much with other local designers and creatives in Shetland, if so, and without giving to much away are there any dream projects or publications that you’d like to bring into print from other people?

Very much so! For me Shetland is a wonderfully inspiring place and I love collaborating with local artists, photographers, writers, knitwear designers, crafts people, and other creatives. I’m also very keen on promoting local food and seasonal locally grown produce. So the future publications will very much reflect these interests.

What books by Misa might we see? I really enjoy your ‘My Shetland Garden’ posts and would love to see an extension of that in book form, which I think is something you might have mentioned doing in the past – is there anything like this in the pipeline?

Thank you for this lovely question! It’s been my dream for a long time to publish a small book of recipes and growing tips from My Shetland Garden. It’s always been my dream to grow my own fruit and vegetables. I grew up in a block of flats in a city so moving to Shetland and finally having access to a garden was wonderful… until I started with my first plants and realised that growing anything in Shetland is much more challenging than I imagined. In fact the first few years were a steep learning curve. So the book would be something like a diary and notes of what I’ve learned along the way. I’m also really interested in food photography, so my dream is to do some of the dishes photography myself. But I still need to practice a lot as well as learn photo editing too. This book is a big personal project dream of mine and I feel I owe it to myself to make it happen.

Something that always strikes me about Shetland is that it’s a place that encourages creativity and lets it thrive in all sorts of forms and through all sorts of arts. Do you feel this too, and has being in Shetland helped realise some creative dreams?

I completely agree! And I wonder if living here allowed me to pursue my creativity in a way that wouldn’t have happened elsewhere. I think there is a great network of people who work in the creative industries and run small businesses. This network is very supportive, and I always feel there’s someone to turn to when I have a new idea. Like I said earlier, I love working on collaboration projects and I feel grateful I have been able to start my own creative business. I know that the biggest challenge for many who would like to start a new creative venture can be a struggle with confidence. It certainly had been the same with my work but over the time, by taking little steps, I’m gradually learning to overcome the fear of ‘what will people say’. The other day I took a note of a brilliant quote that really resonated with me: “You can attract luck simply by sharing your work publicly.”

How important do you feel a measure of creativity is to living in a place like Shetland? Your work so far has connected with people across the world in all sorts of ways – how important is that connectivity to you, and do you see this project as a way of building on that?

Shetland can be a challenging place to live at time due to various reasons – remoteness, long dark winters, wind, and rain that can feel never-ending at times, being away from your family for many of us. But all this hardship and struggle is compensated by living in a beautiful place that inspires to create. Whether it’s fine art, craft, knitting, writing, or starting a business. I know I am privileged to live in a place like Shetland and that many dream of having similar lifestyle we have. But I definitely do not want to paint a rosy picture only. I believe you can pursue your creativity wherever you are, in many possible ways. And yes, it’s been amazing to be able to connect with so many interesting people around the globe though my work. In fact this kind of connectedness is what thrive on and what fuels my creativity further.

I think, and hope, that you’ve created the job you want for yourself in a place you want to be – and I can’t think of a better definition of success. Do you have any advice or thoughts for people wondering if they can do the same?

Another brilliant question – thank you for making me stop and think about my work and job for a moment. Everything seems like such whirlwind these days so there’s hardly time to think about these sort of things. It’s a real honour and joy hearing your kind words about my business as often I feel I’m failing at what I do. I never seem to be on top of emails and work tasks as there is always a lot. But that’s the nature of running a small business. And I hate when people have to wait to hear from me. Also with the homeschooling thrown into the mix at the moment everything seems more challenging at times.

But I’m learning to be kinder to myself and try not to put as much pressure on myself. I’m a list writer so the trick is not putting too many tasks on the daily list. I write a list of weekly priorities and then try to achieve three bigger tasks every day. Recently I have started doing Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages and I feel it’s really helping me to focus, gain clarity and prioritise. Every morning, after waking up, I do three A4 pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing and it’s amazing how much less anxious and more determined and decisive I’ve been feeling since I started.

But my advice to anyone who would like to start a business is to take small cautious steps and work on their dream alongside their daytime job. It might take a little longer but it’s much safer and it helps you to build sound foundations. It will be a lot of hard work at the beginning but it’s all worth it. I’m a believer in taking risks but they have to be calculated. And my former boss once told me: ‘You can make a mistake but only make it once.’ So that’s what my motto is. And I’m always open to new ideas. In fact my head is full of them. And I’m always reading self-development or business books…


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