Neem Tree Blog

Amazing Authors, Prize Shortlists, Grants and Testing Democracy

We’ve been mesmerized by the incredulous twists and turns in the 2020 US presidential election saga. It made us appreciate the strength of the US judiciary and brought home how precious democracy is and that it should never be taken for granted.

London is still under lockdown. With darkness setting in close to 5p.m. and with just a few restaurants open for takeout or delivery, the streets are eerily quiet where normally you’d expect a bustling crowd. Weekends still see a huge number of cyclists in the streets due to the relative paucity of cars, one good thing to have come out of the Covid crisis. The recent vaccine announcements are certainly welcome and provide some illumination on the horizon and hopefully, a pathway to normality. As the UK contemplates cutting it’s overseas aid budget, and with economic pressure on all world economies, we wonder what the employment situation will be like in Spring and beyond.

Among all this though, we have a lot to be grateful for. We have been so much in awe of many of our hard-working authors. Phil Bowne has been tireless in seeking out avenues to promote Cows Can’t Jump. His enthusiasm and drive has lead to some wonderful reviews and opportunities for publicity. The book trailer is really quite marvellous Cows Can’t Jump Book Trailer and his podcast on BBC Radio Gloucestershire has landed him a four hour slot on their evening show! The reviews have been wonderful, from Tripfiction “We read a huge number of books throughout the year. Sometimes we get a debut author with a stand out talent and I think this is one such example”; from The Express UK  “A fabulous debut steeped in the wit and prose of a bullish veteran…almost impossible to put down” and many Goodreads reviews note the perfect balance between humour and tragedy, the poignancy in the novel and almost universal connection with the protagonist. As a Waterstones reviewer summed it up, “At times witty and at times profound, at times outright kooky, I’d recommend this to all book lovers.” Phil is already working on this second book.

Hafsa Lodi, author of Modesty: A Fashion Paradox, tireless, steady and always willing to engage with podcasters, reviewers, press. She has systematically continued to promote the book while of course continuing her work as a journalist and being a mother to a high-energy little one. Her IG live interview with @summaiyyabooks was wonderful. Take a listen. Hafsa Lodi’s Interview with IG @sumaiyyabooks

We are also thrilled about our translators Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp and Sue Copeland’s addition to the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize shortlist for their wonderful translation of Ahlam Bsharat’s Trees for the Absentees. For a (very) small press, to sit next to books by university presses and large publishers, is very exciting indeed! The Banipal Translation Prize 2020 Shortlist And Ahlam is also running a creative writing workshop at the now online inaugural Ahlam Bsharat – Palestine Writes Festival!

Paula Darwish, translator from the Turkish of Children of War by Ahmet Yorulmaz, did a fabulous review with Intralingo on YouTube:  Intralingo Interview  and the interview also features on the Intralingo World Lit Podcast. Of course, the ramifications of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the Treaty of Sèvres, the resolution of territorial divides post WW1 with the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, as well treaties in place after WW2 still keep this history very much in the news. And, of course, a different refugee crisis now rages in the region.

We also know that Keith Carter, author of The Umbrella Men, is hard at work on his second novel and we can’t wait to see the first draft!

And we are really excited to have just learnt that we’ve secured a translation grant from the Romanian Cultural Institute for our translation of The Book of Perilous Dishes by Doina Rusti! This is such a magical and atmospheric book and we can’t wait to publish it in our Autumn list next year!

The Awakening

We’ve been a little paralyzed by the lock-down and have found ourselves navigating Dr Seuss’s surreal Waiting Place. We too have been ‘waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No’, but of course, our hair certainly grew! We have, however, recovered fully from this reverie and are focused on our autumn publications and beyond.

The lock-down dealt a severe body-blow to our first non-fiction book. With events being key to raising the profile of a debut author and a young publisher, having to cancel talks at SOAS, the London Fashion Institute with Professor Reina Lewis, attendance at the Muslim Shopping Festival and the Stella Live event, among many others, was truly gutting. Even as we list all these, and there were radio interviews set up that also had to be cancelled, we realize we will just have to stop moping, dust ourselves off and push onwards.

We are incredibly lucky with Hafsa Lodi, the author of Modesty: A Fashion Paradox. She has been truly tireless and amazing with her persistence in seeking out podcasts and any and all online events for publicity purposes during these tough times. With help from our US and UK publicists and with perseverance from Hafsa, the book has secured an amazing mention from  Harper’s Bazaar US under ‘ The Best Fashion Books Of All Time — Fashion Memoirs, Coffee Table Books‘ (see slide 3!) and  An Excerpt From Fashion Journalist Hafsa Lodi’s Book | Teen Vogue and numerous other outlets. Here Hafsa lists all the publicity the book has received to date, Modesty: A Fashion Paradox | Journalist in a Jumpsuit . We’d also love to ask everyone that we’ve sent review copies to please write and add the reviews on any and all online platforms. Reviews are the life-blood of small independent publishers and books can sell, or not, based on reviews.

We are very excited about our new author, Phil Bowne, debuting with Cows Can’t Jump in September. His work has been aptly described as ‘youthful, irreverent and topical’ and will be a much-needed antidote to the gloom of Covid. In addition, Children of War will come out in the US in October. We’ve received some fabulous reviews from Anne Cater’s book tour in late March. From @MeredithRankin2, “This book dazzled and fascinated me. I felt as if Yorulmaz and I were sitting in a cafe, chatting over strong Turkish coffee. And then I fell silent, mesmerized as the old man recounted stories from his life, leisurely…I highly recommend this book to those who like historical or literary fiction, or those who like to read about immigration/immigrants.”

We’ve just finished an instagram blog tour for The Three Hares: The Jade Dragonball by Scott Lauder and David Ross. Again, some absolutely fabulous reviews, and we hope these wonderful social media reviews lead to book sales. The second book in the series, The Three Hares: The Gold Monkey Key, will be out in Spring 2021. We will also be publishing the Arabic Trees for Absentees by Ahlam Bsharat and will promote the books together to Arabic departments at universities looking to add more accessible and shorter novels to reading lists.

We are actively seeking submissions for literary fiction, historic fiction and non-fiction proposals, and would love to receive submissions from minority writers. We will be putting out a call on social media next week and hope we can continue adding to our growing list of wonderful authors!

Spring Fever

We are hunkering down in central London and had been venturing out to a few (small) meetings, but as of tomorrow, this will be stopping completely for a while. It’s certainly a very surreal time. We’ve been amazed at the prescient TED talk that Bill Gates gave in 2015 Bill Gates: The next outbreak? We’re not ready | TED Talk. As we all do our best to follow directions to minimize the spread of the virus, particularly to vulnerable family and friends, we would ask everyone to remember that not having access to food, shelter and healthcare is the norm for the vast, and growing, number of refugees worldwide. Not in any way at all to minimize the scale of the Coronavirus’s impact in our own communities and its potential devastating effect on our elderly and medically vulnerable population, as of 2019, there were over 70 million refugees worldwide and undoubtedly, should the virus run rampant through a refugee camp, the results would be truly catastrophic.

As we see small and large businesses suffer and the negative trajectory on all stock markets, our thoughts go out particularly to those who rely on daily cash wages to make ends meet. Even without being affected directly with the virus, there will be many lives in all our communities that will need a helping hand. We wonder how long it will take for our lives to normalize and whether this is a true watershed moment which will truly impact how we deal with each other in the future.

We have two books launching into this Spring fever in the UK and Europe – Modesty: A Fashion Paradox by @hafsalodi on March 19th and Children of War by Ahmet Yorulmaz translated by @PaulaDarwish_en, on March 26th. We hope to reschedule the events that have needed to be cancelled and recognize publicity and marketing will undoubtedly be affected by the current situation.

We’ve received a starred review for Modesty by the American Library Association! We are unable to link to the review till early April, but can say that “Starred ReviewsThe Booklist star indicates an outstanding title of a particular genre. All starred reviews are approved by the appropriate editor.” We’ve also had a great review from Publisher’s Weekly! “Journalist Lodi debuts with a nuanced and insightful study of the “modest fashion movement” in the Muslim world and beyond.” And so far, all five star reviews on Goodreads.

Children of War is the first translation into English of the book by Ahmet Yorulmaz. It is one of very few books written about the Greek / Turkish population exchange resulting from the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. The book’s authenticity lies in the fact that the author drew inspiration from three diaries left by a refugee who had undergone this journey. We are looking forward to the #RandomThingsTours blog tour for the book starting on March 26th organized by the amazing @AnneCater! We will be doing a US blog tour for the book with @HFVBT and the lovely Amy!

We look forward to talking about our Autumn list later but wonder if publishing (and other) calendars will need to be pushed out into 2021?

Wishing everyone a very safe and healthy few months ahead.

‘Modest Fashion’ Is An Emotive Phrase

This is our first blog post of the new year and it’s already February 3rd, Brexit ‘has happened’ and we’ve had a national press article by the author of our first non-fiction book, Modesty: A Fashion Paradox. Hafsa Lodi Shares Her ‘Modest’ Fashion Hacks As soon as the article came out, we saw the comments and shares climb. Many comments were positive, some quite the opposite. The word ‘modest’ as related to women’s clothes is very contentious. What is ‘immodest’ and who decides? I would urge you all to read the book and gain an interesting insight into this huge and growing retail category! And we are so excited to be going to Dubai for the Emirates Literature Festival and are looking forward to attending the panel discussion on the book.

Children of War, to be published in March, is a beautiful novel set during a traumatic period in Crete’s history, the ramifications of which are still being felt today through Muslim refugees from Syria retracing their roots to Greece or the Greek islands. The novel asks us to consider notions of identity – what makes us Greek or Turkish or British? How many generations does it take before you are considered to be ‘from’ a place? This is an interesting article highlighting how era is still so relevant today: Europe’s Forgotten Greek Muslims .

We are looking for 11-12 year old reviewers for the first book in our Three Hares Series – The Jade Dragonball. If you have any suggestions – please let us know! The best way to contact us is through social media @neemtreepress.

We are submitting Trees for the Absentees for a number of awards and keeping our fingers crossed! And we are collating wonderful reviews for Toletis – a book we feel is so much in sync with the times with its message of eco-activism.

We’ve been hard at work signing up or commissioning books for 2021. We are also in the market for someone interested in getting involved with all aspects of the business! Running a small publishing is incredibly hardback – but very interesting and rewarding!

Till next week!

Marketing Mode and Nike’s High-Tech Modest Swim Wear

We’ve been trying to figure out what are the best marketing and publicity tactics – what will actually make people press the buy button and, importantly, which ones are the most cost-effective. Without the huge marketing machine of the behemoths, we are testing and venturing into all sorts of waters: school reading groups, blog tours, library email lists, online publications, endorsements (preferably from famous personalities), traditional publicists to secure reviews and radio interviews with major national (if we are lucky) and local news outlets, Christmas lists, giveaways and whatever else we can think of.

We have an update for Distant Signs with a wonderful interview by Anne Richter on The Author’s Show Anne Richter on The Authors Show . Our publicist for The Umbrella Men and Distant Signs, Literally PR, have added the books to this Christmas List They have also entered  The Umbrella Men for this competition at 50 Connect to win signed copies of the book.

50 Connect Competition

Hafsa Lodi, the author of Modesty: A Fashion Paradox, moderated a panel of Arab women athletes at the launch of Nike’s new high-tech modest swim wear. Watch the official Nike Make Waves with New Inclusivity Swimwear Range Watch the official Nike Make Waves with New Inclusivity Swimwear Range


Till next week!

Fugit Inreparabile Tempus

We were dismayed by the tragedy that unfolded on London Bridge and the senseless death of two beautiful souled young people who lost their lives while trying to help rehabilitate prisoners back into society. What a terribly sad loss for their families and such a loss for society. There was a break of just one day for this tragedy and then the UK continued with the election campaign. We are sobered by this event and in great appreciation of all those ‘ordinary’ people who charged the attacker and averted an even greater disaster.

The advanced review copies for Children of War and Modesty: A Fashion Paradox arrived during this sobering period. We’ve thankfully booked #RandomThingsTour by Anne Cater for UK focused blog tours for both books. The US-focused Historic Fiction Blog Tour for Distant Signs received some wonderful reviews which we still need to add to our website. There was also an amazing response to the giveaway with 944 entries. We have no idea whether this is more or less than average on Amy’s tours, but we are suitably impressed and can’t wait for her to start on Children of War for next year.

Modesty: A Fashion Paradox by Hafsa Lodi has had an auspicious start with an inclusion in an article by Layla Haidrani in CosmoUK’s ‘ Best books by BAME and POC authors to read in 2020’. Best books by BAME and POC authors to read in 2020 And Hafsa, a journalist by training, also wrote this article for Female First. Ten Things You Need To Know About Modest Fashion

Till next week.

Blog Tours And Giveaways – And A Plea To Everyone To Wear Bright Colours In Dreary Autumn Weather!

In grey London autumn weather, we are always surprised that everyone contributes to the dreariness by wearing dark blue, black and brown coats. Today on the tube we saw only two people who had brightly coloured coats, one an electric blue and one a bright red out of a carriage of around thirty people. We so wish everyone would dress in bright colours in autumn and winter. Imagine how the streets would look dotted with ochres, magnolias, flame reds, turquoise and bright greens!

We’ve had to deal with the limitations of the very physical side of publishing books this week. It’s taken longer than we expected to transfer books where they need to be. We’ve also packed boxes, addressed and filled envelopes, requested printer quotes for our next few books, trekked off to the post office or dropped off packages to the little newsagent two doors down that is, rather conveniently, a UPS drop off.

We’re also delighted to be getting great reviews on the blog tour for The Three Hares: The Jade Dragonball via @annecater’s wonderful #randomthingstour. Here are some of them:

I flew through the pages and did not want to put it down, it was a fantastic read and I can see this being such a hit – it was great and I loved the mix of fantasy and history! by @dmmaguire391;

‘everyone will enjoy The Three Hares – The Jade Dragonball just as much as I have, it’s packed full of adventure and magic a bit like Harry Potter.’ by young Eva through her mother’s blog @Lentlesslypurpl; Her mother tells us Eva has already read the book twice – so high praise indeed!

‘a marvellous adventure tale… so well written and will appeal to any age… There’s Chinese history, art, culture… Charming, twisty and very engaging…’ by the lovely @lelbudge;

An exciting, new, middle grade, historical, fantasy fiction series…The Three Hares series will educate as well as entertain. With both female and male protagonists, historical and cultural and a plot that promotes values such as grit, inner strength, resilience, empathy and confidence, this is sure to be a huge hit in and out of the classroom.’ by The Magic of Worlds ; and, from the USA,

An Excellent Middle Grade Fantasy Novel to Add to Your TBR from AwkwordlyEmma’s post.


We’ve embarked on a month-long blog tour with @HFVBT for Distant Signs. The tour has kicked off with some superb reviews: by  @booksinTNH, ‘I was not prepared for how much this book would stir my soul… By the end of the book, you find yourself thinking back about how profound it was…’

‘Distant Signs is a beautifully written novel that will stick with the reader long after closing it.’ by @ABookGeek

‘With Distant Signs, Anne Richter created a deep story with well-written characters and beautiful prose.’ by @CometReadings

And we are so happy that to date 441 people have signed up for the giveaway. We think we really need to send the book out to at least three people and not just one!

And on a very exciting note, Neem Tree Press will be represented by Hafsa Lodi at the February 2020 Emirates Literature Festival, the author of Modesty: A Fashion Paradox, our first non-fiction book. Almost weekly we see articles on the growing modest fashion industry, and this week was no exception: Modest fashion: ‘I feel confident and comfortable’ – BBC News and in late October, ‘The Co-opting of Modest Fashion – The New York Times’ .

Till next week!

I don’t know that I’ve read a more moving piece of postwar German fiction…

We are almost done slotting into Casemate’s distribution infrastructure bar a few last-minute tasks, books are moving to new warehouses and we are relishing engaging with the UK and US teams.

We noted that the right wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party more than doubled its share in the state of Thuringia with 23.5% share of the vote, coming in second to the Left Party and ahead of Angela Merkel’s CDU. Distant Signs is set in Thuringia and the paperback will be published this week on November 7th. Here are some recent fantastic reviews on the book that we hope will compel you to order your copy!

A very recent Netgalley reviewer writes, ‘I don’t know that I’ve read a more moving piece of postwar German fiction – and this includes Gunter Grass’s best efforts…I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone wishing to see how an author has captures the spirit of the divided, then reunited, Berlin through common, yet uncommon, people.’

And from Liz Robinson at LoveReading, ‘A fascinating and truly memorable read…I always know that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a novel when I want to research the history and time it is set in. ‘Distant Signs’ set my thoughts thrumming, it is so intriguing, compelling and beautifully readable too.’

And from the latest MidWest Book review by senior reviewer, D. Donovan, ‘astute and lyrical’ ‘Richter’s ability to capture the sights and sounds, and effects of social and political changes as they reverberate throughout Germany and the world…is thought provoking and revealing’ ‘Anyone who would understand the East German experience and psyche will relish Distant Signs for its ability to pick up the pieces of a shattered nation and era and recreate them in all their complexity, as a legacy for future generations’ .

And some recent ones from Goodreads, one from Amy, ‘A compelling read that I could not put down. I give Distant Signs five plus stars…a must read for readers who love history.’ And here is one from Lori, ‘A very beautiful story… a very deep read and thought-provoking detail about GDR, the post war and the fall of the wall in Berlin.’

We are looking forward to the #historicalfiction blog tour @HFVBT for Distant Signs later this week.

And we will reveal next week which of our authors has been invited to speak at the Emirates Literature Festival in February 2020 in Dubai!

Fires In California, UK Radio Interviews And The Rise Of The AfD In Thuringia

As wind speeds from 30 to 40 miles per hour and gusts of 60 to 80 miles per hour are forecasted, up to 2.3m people will have their power cut off in California as a precautionary measure and at the last count, up to 180,000 people have been asked to evacuate their homes. We have family in the region and are concerned for their safety. Should real estate developers have been allowed to set up developments near forested areas? These developments, cost cutting by running power lines through trees rather than burying them underground and the lack of rain leaving dry, crisp branches has exacerbated the wildfires. So, what’s next? This article notes that, ‘the area burned in California wildfires has increased fivefold from 1972 to 2018’ and suggests that blackouts will become a regular occurrence in an attempt to prevent the spread of these fires: More Blackouts

Keith Carter author of The Umbrella Men has had two radio interviews this week, one with Northern Manchester Radio and with Men’s Radio and one scheduled with Glastonbury FM for Monday evening, all thanks to the team at Literally PR! We’ll load up these interviews as soon as we can. Royal Bank of Scotland remains in the news as Derek Sach, prior head of the Global Restructuring Group (GRG) at RBS, is called as a witness in a case between a property developer and RBS. The case attests that the government asserted pressure on the GRG to ruin small businesses so it could claim their assets and sell them to boost the bank’s profits. That is quite an incendiary allegation. There is a wonderful scene in The Umbrella Men that must resonate with many small business owners who had taken out loans with RBS.

As the 30th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall approaches, we note very interesting articles in the press.  A new start-up offers a virtual reality tour that recreates the wall: Berlin Wall In Virtual Reality . One article particularly caught our eye and your views on its conclusion rather depends on which side of the Brexit Wall you sit: Thatcher’s fear of an overmighty Germany lives on in Brexit via @financialtimes. We keep an eye on the rise of the far right in the same region that Anne Richter’s novel is set in, Thuringia. Resentment from downward mobility due to poor economic policies post reunification and influx of refugees is fueling this support. The AfD is expected to make substantial gains in impending elections: Rise of the AfD

We’ve finalized the covers for Book 2 and Book 3 for The Three Hares series, thanks to Mark Ecob and Lee Gibbons for fantastic colours and object designs. Please take note of two impending blog tours for our books, one for Distant Signs by Anne Richter kicking off on November 7th in the US and one for The Jade Dragonball by Scott Lauder and David Ross on November 11th in the UK. Our format issues with Lightning Source are almost resolved. And, of course, we continue to follow up on leads from Frankfurt.

Till next week!