Answers to a questionnaire

Who is Media Vaca composed of? What is your and Begoña’s background? What made you become publishers and start Media Vaca? Where does the name of the publishing house come from? Who designed its logo?

Only two people work at the publishing house: Begoña Logo and Vicente Ferrer. Begoña is a lawyer and deals with asylum and refugee cases; I studied Fine Arts for three months. We both took a scriptwriting course and have worked as scriptwriters. We became publishers to publish the books we could not see in bookshops. Twenty years ago, when we started out, illustrated books were mostly pocket editions that did not pay much attention to visual aspects. The name Media Vaca comes from somewhere, surely; I invite readers to find out for themselves. The logo was designed by me through a life drawing of a cow called Blanquita. 

Twenty years ago, illustrated books did not have the same recognition and exposure they have today. Why did you decide to publish ‘very illustrated books for readers of all ages’?

As a reader who co-exists with books, you inevitably come up with ideas to improve them. In principle, the books we make, we make them for ourselves, for our own amusement; then, for friends: for those we know and for those we have not met yet.

Media Vaca states that the publishers’ personal and capricious taste of the editors have more weight than commercial criteria. What should a book have for you to want to publish it?

It should keep you awake at night or, at least, make you think about it for some time after reading it. When this happens, when you cannot get an idea or a series of images out of your head, you know you have no other option but to work on that project for as long as it takes, to achieve the best possible result.

‘Books for young readers should meet the same criteria as we grown-ups have for ours’. Tell us about your greatest hits for children: My First 80,000 Words, Children’s Literature from A to Z, or Painting and Construction Workshop.

My First 80,000 Words is a dictionary of favourite words that is on its third edition. In this third and last edition, 333 illustrators from over twenty countries participated. They were asked to pick their favourite word, in their own language, and make an illustration in square format using only two colours. Children’s Literature from A to Z was originally a speech Bernardo Atxaga gave to a group of teachers. In this text, which includes numerous fragments from literary works, Atxaga talks about some themes and authors that are of particular interest to him. We shared his tastes, which is why we have adopted that list of interests as a sort of editorial programme. Painting and Construction Workshop reflects the starting points and some of the results of the children’s workshops taught by César Fernández Arias over the years. The book shares some tips on how to work with children in the classroom, in the workshop, or at home; this activity does not require expensive materials, only the utmost interest and to show a good dose of imagination.

You defend artisanal publishing and handmade works. The originals in Book of the Flaws of Others, for example, are photocopies of a rag doll that the author, Chu-li Chen, placed on the screen of a photocopier to achieve the effect of movement. To what extent is handcraft present in your books?

Nowadays, making books entails assuming an industrial process that is impossible to escape, even if the object of a book is rag dolls. In any case, the meticulous care with which we carry out most of the publishing house’s tasks brings us closer to some form of craftwork. It is not only the result that is important, but also every step taken until the end of the process. There are many possible choices, about many matters, and these choices are also an integral part of making a book.

The Unknown El Persa, Welcome to El Cabanyal… these are books that unmistakably tie you to Valencia. Do you pay special attention to Valencian authors and themes, or do you come by them by chance?

We live in Valencia; it is natural we would connect with Valencian authors and themes. When we made Welcome to El Cabanyal (currently out of stock, but we hope to reprint soon), we felt that it was necessary to do something to contribute to the defence of a place and people that were under serious threat of disappearing. We mobilised, with our limited resources, to lend a hand. Many Valencian authors deserve to be better known by their neighbours. I am convinced the Valencian language also deserves better treatment, and for a long time now we have had plans to publish in Valencian.

In the collection Books for Tomorrow we find books of social and political content first published forty years ago. What attracted you to them?

By chance we came across the book There Are Social Classes, of which we already had a copy in our library. The book, published in 1978 by La Gaya Ciencia, mentions some titles in the making, including one titled ‘Corruption is everywhere’. We thought we should find out if such book had ever been made, because at that moment (at any moment, really) the topic seemed very timely. We located other titles in the series (not that one) and decided to publish them because we found that the texts were completely relevant. It is sad to admit, but the substance has not changed all that much, which is why the collection is still called Books for Tomorrow.

We know you are preparing an exhibition at Las Naves in December to celebrate your 20th anniversary. What will we be able to see in it?

We are going to exhibit some complete books: My First 80,000 Words, Exemplary Crimes, and Media Vaca Museum, a new book that will be released soon. These are three collective books, which we have framed page by page. We will also show the material we have used in various projects, notebooks, sheets that have come out of the printing press, etc. In short, part of what is the secret life of a publishing house.

La Nau has recently dedicated a very interesting exhibition to female Valencian illustrators, both old and current. Which of them would you like to work with and why?

I have seen the ‘Ocultes i il·lustrades’ (Illustrated and Hidden) exhibition. I would say that the illustrators are more interesting than the whole. To start with, I find it strange to label women we want to make visible as ‘hidden’. We have already worked with some of them. Also with others who do not feature in the exhibition, such as Marta Pina.

In recent years very interesting independent publishing houses have been emerging in Spain. Could you recommend two so we can keep track of them?

It is true that many publishing houses have arisen in recent years. I would also need that recommendation. Instead of giving you two names, I invite readers to attend two book fairs that will take place in Valencia in December and January: Baba Kamo and the Tenderete festival. They will surely find many things of interest there.

Vicente Ferrer

Vicente Ferrer's answers to a questionnaire sent by Sara Mut, editor of AU Agenda Urbana, for an article on the publishing house appeared in December 2018. Photograph by Daniel García-Sala.