12 Completely Made-Up Books Created by 2019’s Master of Publishing Students

Every year, graduate students of the Master of Publishing program at Simon Fraser University present their fall book projects in a format that instructor Scott Steedman describes as “sales conference meets thesis defences with a bit of Dragon’s Den and Canada’s Got Talent thrown in.” The public is invited to attend, though the total audience doesn’t usually exceed thirty or forty people. The students’ presentations are critiqued by three panelists from the book publishing industry. This year (2019), the panel included Vici Johnstone, publisher of Caitlin Press and Dagger Editions; Iolanda Millar, Account Manager, British Columbia, Yukon & Northern Territories at Manda Group; and Mike Leyne, editor at Figure 1 Publishing, in addition to operating a micro-press.

Below are the highlights of the presentation. Given that the majority of books the students conceptualize include real-life authors with real-life careers, Publishing @ SFU has scrubbed all author names from this recap article. Likewise, we can’t display the cover art for the concept books for the same reason. 

Please note: all references to real literary organizations, awards, and world instances are entirely made-up/fictitious, created to simulate a “real world” industry experience in book publishing for the Master of Publishing students.

RISE: A Concept Imprint of Canadian Book Publisher, Greystone Books

Katia, Amy, Vishakha, Lakota, and Melissa made up the team at RISE, a concept imprint of of Greystone Books. According to their printed catalogue, required in both the MPub’s educational setting as well as in the real world of the book publishing industry, RISE endeavours to “bring exciting emerging voices to the forefront on pressing societal issues.” They remain steadfast to Greystone’s environmentally conscientious production mandate. RISE publishes accessible non-fiction titles about feminism, climate action, LGBTQ topics, immigration, race, and celebrating differences. We champion underrepresented perspectives and often introduce humour and hope even when there may seem to be no light. 

Their concept books included:

  • Where Are You Really From?: 10 Cultures. 10 Lives. 10 Canadians, an anthology of experiences by ten young, first- and second-generation Canadians edited by a Canadian journalist who also anchors for CBC News as well as award-winning Canadian poet and short story writer.
  • Be Gay, Do Comedy: A Memoir of Getting the Hell Out of Your Small Town, written by an award-winning Canadian comedienne. This book was presented as an intimate, hilarious exploration of growing up queer in a small town and coming into her own in the big city in this unforgettable memoir.
  • Swipe Wrong: Hookups, Heartbreaks, and the Horrors of Modern Dating: hilarious online dating horror stories from the creator of the viral social media account who also launched a YouTube Channel and her own line of swag.
  • Earth is Enough, a personal collection of ecopoetry that unearths heartbreak and hope in the wake of the 2013 Alberta floods. While in this case the author wasn’t a real person, RISE created a stand-in author with a history of writing poetry, some award-winning, who would have had a direct link to the natural disaster that bases this book.

Aranea: A Concept Imprint of Canadian Book Publisher, House of Anansi Press

Kankana, Emily, Lauren, Mahima, and Nadya make up Aranea Press, home to established and emerging authors experimenting with their voice. Through their compelling stories, they focus a constructive lens on the toughest sociocultural issues facing young Canadians today and invite their readers to learn more about our national community.

Their concept books included:

  • Fit to be Tied, the first novel by a very accomplished nonfiction writer of Polish and Ojibwe descent that tackles the ongoing practice of forced sterilization of Indigenous women. Borrowing from true stories and writing in the haunting voice of a victim-turned-survivor, the author brings to life the insidious crimes perpetrated in past and present time.
  • Women Aren’t Funny (And Other Jokes): Comic Takes on Cultural Calamities from Canada’s Funniest Femmes is an anthology including ten Canadian comedians who explore contemporary culture, intersectionality, and how women are taking over—both onstage and off. This book is edited by the co-creator of a hit female-fronted sketch comedy series and includes a foreword by a popular late-night talk show host(ess).
  • Splintered Spirits is a graphic novel written by an award-winning Oji-Cree poet about Dakwaa, an Oji-Cree Indigiqueer teen, is at his wits’ end being bullied by his peers who don’t understand his identity. A chance encounter with a two-spirit Cree Elder helps him find his place in the all-but-forgotten history of two-spirit peoples across Turtle Island.
  • Mending from Within is a novel appealing to Millennial and Generation Z readers’ interested in zero-waste and anti-fast fashion ethics. The author is recognized by her works in The Walrus and Refinery29 for her sustainable designs and activism against the fast-fashion industry.

Aisling Press: A Concept Imprint of Canadian Book Publisher, Biblioasis

Ryann, Amy, Anastasia, Ashley, Hailey, and Paige created Aisling Press to “provide an inclusive and supportive environment for writers to engage their audiences in broad conversations about contemporary social issues such as feminism, Indigenous rights, and mental health.” 

Their concept books included:

  • Unmasked: My Ancestor’s Spirit. His Transformation Mask. Our Fight for Repatriation. This memoir of an Indigenous elder contextualizes the controversy around colonial theft of Kwakiutl culture and the subsequent repatriation process. With an 8 page insert containing 12 photos, this paperback book saw sales potential in the trade and educational market.
  • Herland: A Graphic Novel is an adapted Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s vision of a feminist utopia come to life (see the original here). This new edition features beautiful illustrations from the illustrator of a popular, Canadian graphic novel released in 2019. It would be the first in the Aisling Press series, Feminist Graphic Classics.
  • Comeback Polka is a novel about a young woman who stumbles across a busker with an accordion at Toronto’s Bloor-Yonge subway station—who turns out to be an old music teacher of hers. 
  • Waken is a powerful, must-read poetry debut by a Tsilhqot’in writer, editor, and storyteller that addresses issues plaguing Indigenous youth, from homelessness and addiction to the fight to keep tradition alive. With a striking cover, this book certainly jumps off the shelf.

If you’re interested in getting the kind of education in publishing that allows for cultural analysis, historical reflection, and diving deep into imaginary worlds, consider applying for the Master of Publishing Program at Simon Fraser University before February 1st.

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