Author Archive

Thinking about the Legacies of Colonialism in Publishing

Wet'suwet'en Strong march, Jan 11, 2020

In the vast European colonial project, from the 15th century onwards, three institutions – church, school, and book – formed the non-military means by which European empires and cultures established social and economic dominance over practically every continent on earth. Publishing has been central to this; the rise of print culture in Europe coincides neatly with the rise of imperialism and colonialism.

In 19th-century Canada, this played out as part of a nation-building project: an effort to secure an enormous resource base, which involved explicitly racist efforts to centrally control both the First Nations and the waves of diverse immigrant populations that already had and continued to move into North America – while at the same time working to resist American “manifest destiny.” Colonial and later national governments in Canada promoted a curriculum and a school system designed to assimilate and normalize British culture across a diverse and dynamic population. That the earliest publishers in Canada were the same people that designed the Residential School system is not coincidental; these were parts of the larger nation-building project.

It began with religious, government, and educational publishing, but in the 20th century, as “colonialism” ceased to be an orienting term in public life, the project was articulated more in terms of class and social mobility. Books and literature had long been the markers of class distinction and indeed self-improvement for the middle classes. The ways in which trade and mass-market publishing shaped up in the 20th century reinforced notions of what it meant to be cultured, educated, well-read.

The idea of a best-selling book – the book that everyone reads – comes out of the colonial paradigm: gathering and sustaining mass audiences around a small number of texts in heavy circulation. The “economy of scale” in mass production means that the more copies of a book that can be printed and sold, the greater the profit. So, while publishing has often prided itself on plurality and freedom, the economic logic of the best-sellers can’t help but to reinforce cultural hierarchy: the big book, by the star author, that everyone reads, succeeds both in making money and in generating cultural capital for the author, the publisher, and the ideas — this is the force behind all the “cultural industries.” 

But that means that exclusion is part of the mix; it’s a constitutional part of how cultural markets work. It doesn’t have to be exclusion by design or intent, but exclusion is a result of choosing what to include, and what to take a risk on. If as a publisher I decide that a particular thing is worth publishing, that means I am also deciding that something else isn’t. As we elevate certain things to the status of cool or desirable or important, we are making a distinction in favour of those things and against other things. We can call this “curation,” but the other side of it is “gatekeeping.”

So, if by its very nature publishing is trading in distinction, then it always risks participating in and trading on the forms of oppression that are shot through the social order of the day. Our social order is pre-conditioned by racism, by class structures (or the legacy of class structures, if you want to deny that class still exists), by gender normativity, and by the persistent capitalist mass-market reification of all sorts of “norms” – all of which serve to guide a publisher’s ideas of where a profitable market is likely to be. And here is where the systemic, hidden racisms are most dangerous: in the unspoken, unexamined assumptions about what and who is important, and where so-called “colour-blindness” is such a liability, because it leads back to an unexamined white normativity.

The result is a nasty feedback loop, as in the incredibly oft-reported claim that “people [who aren’t white] don’t read,” which then discourages publishers (who are mostly white) from taking risks on any books that don’t assume the usual white audience. Which means those books don’t get published, and by extension, that readers of colour remain invisible (while invisibly reading those same white books). A recent piece in The New York Times, “A Conflicted Cultural Force: What it’s Like to Be Black in Publishing” provides a stark illustration of this pattern. 

There isn’t a straightforward way out of this loop. Five years of Lee & Low’s Diversity Survey tell the publishing industry over and over again that it is shockingly homogeneous, and publishers claim to have heard the call. But It’s hard to get out of the rut because a good deal of economic energy is devoted to staying in the rut. And because this is such a ‘constitutional’ problem to the publishing industry, it’s not easily solved via any means already sitting on the desk of industry insiders. 

Rather, it is going to take a lot of different actions and agendas working in concert. Yes, publishers can make more informed and proactive decisions, both about acquiring books and about hiring staff. Affirmative action-style plans help because they directly address patterns of marginalization; this is necessary but not sufficient. There also needs to be a diversity of publishing organizations themselves: Indigenous publishers; Black publishers; LGBTQ+ publishers – and booksellers too. And the cultures of literature and reading themselves have to change – the recent calls for white readers to go find and read books written by people of colour are important because this addresses that invisibility and also helps to broaden the discourse across formerly distinct reading audiences.

The late Greg Younging – Publisher at Theytus Books, Professor at UBC Okanagan, and tireless advocate for Indigenous publishing – made me believe that a decolonized kind of publishing was possible; that it was possible to escape these colonial legacies and the logics that perpetuate them. His optimism — and his dogged work on this — inspired many of us. The surge of activism and awareness around racial justice in 2020 also inspires me. This defines the work to be done right now — by everyone in publishing, but especially those of us in publishing education — to bust open these old assumptions and hide-bound ways of thinking about publishing, and markets, and culture. We need to understand these legacies and how they shape us, and we need to tell ourselves new stories about what writing and publishing mean in today’s world, about who it’s for, and why.  

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What Are We Talking About When We Talk About ‘Care’?

By Hannah McGregor

There’s an awful lot of talk about care these days. I’m paying attention to it, because I’m a scholar who has worked quite a bit on care as both a feminist ethical framework and, frankly, a problem

In the broader field of normative ethics, an ethics of care is a feminist intervention that grapples generally speaking with the problem of the other and how we ought to treat them. There are different approaches to producing a normative ethics—an idea of how we ought to be towards one another—such as utilitarianism, which holds that we should make choices that benefit the greatest number of people. The feminist force of an ethics of care lies how it values the kinds of emotional labour and care work that build and sustain networks and that are often responsible for keeping the most vulnerable—those who might be tossed aside in a utilitarian model—alive. 

“Suddenly, everywhere, it seems like care trumps structure. Deadlines, grades, and rubrics have become laughable, their arbitrariness impossible to ignore.”

But care has also been the subject of much critique, particularly by Black and Indigenous scholars who have pointed out how feelings, especially feelings that cluster around the concepts of compassion, empathy, and care, can be used as justification for great violence. Care is often the name in which children are separated from parents, in which state power is extended into the lives and homes of BIPOC and disabled people, in which power decides whose lives matter. The capacity for empathy is the name in which white women extended the guiding hand of colonialism and imperialism that encoded white supremacy in churches and libraries and schools and hospitals. 

This is the context in which I find myself paying particular attention to how we’re talking about care right now. I keep thinking about Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer here in B.C., crying at a press conference in early March. An act that, perhaps, in another time, might have been leveraged against her, a woman in a position of medical authority, was instead praised as a welcome sign of compassion and empathy. These are times, we all seem to agree, when we need a lot more compassion and empathy. These are times when knowledge and expertise, necessary though they may be, come accompanied by feeling. 

That’s as true in the university as it is in public health. In this moment of global and (unequally) shared crisis, the idea that intellectuals and experts need to model disinterestedness or unemotional objectivity is crumbling around us. Academics insisting on a business-as-usual adherence to traditional notions of rigour look more and more out of touch. In the spaces of the university, our classrooms and our conferences and our associations, calls for care are being sounded everywhere. Those of us who teach at universities and colleges are suddenly, unavoidably being reminded of our students’ humanity and our own, in the context of institutions that are invested in us becoming a little less human so we can be a little more efficient. Where a utilitarian approach to the current crisis in post-secondary education might celebrate the efficiencies of digital pedagogy or the “free time” some academics seem to be finding right now, calls for an ethics of care emphasize the networks of connection that make our research and our teaching possible and encourage us all to nurture those networks, even if it’s at the expense of efficiency and utility.  

Suddenly, everywhere, it seems like care trumps structure. Deadlines, grades, and rubrics have become laughable, their arbitrariness impossible to ignore. And these transformations are not unique to the university. As the Canadian government implements wage subsidies that underline the need for a guaranteed basic incometelecommunication companies are suddenly waiving overage fees—all in the name of care. BC is finally opening pathways to a safe supply for drug users, seeming to recognize at last, as so many advocates have been arguing for so long, that drug users are part of our community, and that we cannot let some parts of our community suffer without all of us suffering. In the university, as in the world, we are perhaps realizing that our institutions, our systems, our rigour will not save us. We are being collectively called upon to reimagine these systems in terms of an ethics of care. 

But care as deployed by corporations or by the state in the interests of oppressive systems will not save us. We need to be suspicious when institutions claim to care, and when care is being used to maintain, rather than dismantle, fundamentally dehumanizing systems. As the many inequities and injustices in and beyond the university are being laid bare, care may be leveraged as a way to patch over them. What if we refuse this? What does it look like, as Christina Sharpe puts it, to “think (and rethink and rethink) care laterally, in the register of the intramural, in a different relation than that of the violence of the state”? What forms of care might we enact that are not economized by the state or the university or for-profit ed tech companies? 

Alongside calls for care and empathy, we need to be asking: what does this care look like, and where might it be, to quote Billy-Ray Belcourt, actually in service of the settler colonial state’s “economization of emotion”? We might also ask: who does the burden of care fall on, and how might a depoliticized call for empathy be invisibilizing the very real inequities this crisis lays bare, particularly the urgency of the many forms of underpaid, precarious, and often gendered and racialized front-line work, and care work, that has been declared urgent and essential? Is our care being leveraged to ensure that the university maintains its institutional and imaginative force in the midst of this crisis, rather than being exposed as a site of neoliberal profiteering?

This post was first published in Hook & Eye

Art (used with permission)   

Dr. Lucia Lorenzi (B.A. Hons, Simon Fraser University; M.A. Simon Fraser University; PhD, The University of British Columbia) is a scholar, activist, and writer based out of Vancouver, B.C. Her current academic appointment is as SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University, working under the supervision of Dr. Amber Dean. She specializes in trauma theory and Canadian literature and drama, with a broad focus on sexualized and gendered violence in literature and other media. Her dissertation project was a study of the literary and dramatic uses of silence as a subversive technique for representing sexual assault. Her current research focuses on representations of the figure of the perpetrator, with a specific emphasis on perpetrators’ own narratives. Lucia’s research has been published in West Coast LineTOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, and Canadian Literature. You can find her art on Instagram @empathywarrior

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Publishing@SFU in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

We stand in solidarity with protesters who are resisting anti-Black police violence. Black Lives Matter. Here are some places to donate if you have the means (h/t to @canlesbrarian for gathering these): 

Bail Funds in US states: https://www.autostraddle.com/43-bail-funds-you-can-absolutely-support-right-now/

Black Lives Matter Vancouver: https://www.gofundme.com/f/blmvan

Black Lives Matter Toronto: https://blacklivesmatter.ca/donate/

Anti-Black violence is part of the ongoing crisis of white supremacy and settler colonialism. It is our responsibility to stand against anti-Indigenous violence and to recognize how these different forms of oppression are intertwined. 

We also recognize the ongoing crisis of anti-Black racism in Canadian publishing, and would like to highlight the urgent work being done by organizers, educators, and activists who are working hard to transform this industry. Follow the work of Breathing Space Creative @BSC_AuthorCare, @cicelybelle’s https://www.cicelyblainconsulting.com/, BIPOC of Publishing in Canada @BIPOCPub, People of Color in Publishing @PocPub, and Ebonye Gussine Wilkins (https://egwmedia.com/) to learn more. 

We also recognize that, as part of Canada’s publishing community and university system, we have a responsibility to address anti-Black racism in our own practices. We commit to:

  1. Undergo anti-bias training at a faculty level; 
  2. Continuously revisit our curriculum to ensure that we are centring the legacies of colonialism and racism in Canadian publishing as well as our own institution;
  3. Encourage BIPOC enrolment in our Master of Publishing program by reducing barriers to access, including targeted funding and the discouragement of unpaid internships; 
  4. Continuing to learn about our own complicity in anti-Blackness as well as settler colonialism by reading and listening. 

To better understand the history and present of anti-Black violence in Canada as well as the strength of Black art and storytelling, we recommend: 

Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard (@policingblack), published by @fernpub

The Skin We’re In by @DesmondCole, published by @PenguinRandomCA

How She Read by Chantal Gibson, published by @caitlinpress

The Gospel of Breaking by Jillian Christmas, published by @Arsenalpulp

The Black Prairie Archives: An Anthology by @karina_vernon, published by @wlupress 

I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to My Daughter by David Chariandy, published by @PenguinRandomCA

Brother by David Chariandy, published by @PenguinRandomCA

A Map to the Door of No Return by Dionne Brand, published by @PenguinRandomCa

Blank: Essays and Interviews by M. NourbeSe Philip, published by @bookhugpress 

The Hanging Of Angelique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montreal by @afuacooper, published by @HarperCollinsCa

The Outer Harbour by @WaydeCompton, published by @Arsenalpulp

George and Rue by George Elliott Clarke, published by @HarperCollinsCa

The Dyzgraphxst by @canisialu, published by @PenguinRandomCa

Dear Current Occupant by Chelene Knight (LWEstudio), published by @bookhugpress 

100 Days by Juliane Okot Bitek, published by @UAlbertaPress

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Publishing School in the Pandemic: Making plans in uncertain times

Cherry blossoms in Vancouver, April 2020

Are we disrupted by the pandemic? Hell yes, we are all disrupted. But we remain committed to our students and our mission and to the well-being of our communities. As an academic institution, we are in a position to keep going, even if it means adjusting how we operate.

In mid-March, Simon Fraser University made the decision to suspend all in-class instruction. That meant we scrambled to pick up all of our existing courses — both graduate and undergraduate — and keep them going online. SFU is invested in the Canvas LMS, which provided a core infrastructure to rely on. And of course, we have expertise in online education, digital publishing, and web-based communications, so this didn’t prove too much of a hurdle for us technically. As with everything in this pandemic, many of the biggest adjustments are social.

For summer term at SFU, the official policy is to continue online instruction. So all our regular courses this summer will be offered digitally as well, and they are seeing healthy enrollments; students want to take courses and complete their degrees, and so we’re offering our summer undergraduate curriculum online.

What will all of this look like come September? No one can say exactly, though we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to be back in the classroom. British Columbia’s relative success at flattening the curve is one source of optimism. But it’s not the whole story; the dynamics of the pandemic could surprise us yet, and it’s possible that we’ll continue to deliver courses online during the fall semester. We are actively planning for that contingency.

A crucial issue for us is our international students. Many of our classes, and especially the Master of Publishing program, have lots of international students. So we also have to think about a scenario in which it is possible to be back in the classroom here in Vancouver, but where travel restrictions mean our international students can’t join us. Here, it’s might help to think about offering our fall courses in a “blended” mode, combining in-class and online interactions. That might allow our international colleagues to join us virtually at first, and in person when it becomes possible to do so.

Because it’s impossible right now to plan for any one situation, we’re instead planning for multiple scenarios and preparing to iterate and make changes as the situation in the world evolves. 

So plan we will, and we’ll keep you updated as things become clearer. Stay tuned!

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Humour and Anger and Uncompromising Truths: A Conversation with Lindy West, Author of The Witches Are Coming, at the Vancouver Writers Festival

Hannah McGregor of Publishing @ SFU sat down for a conversation with acclaimed author Lindy West at the 2019 Vancouver Writers Festival, held at the Vogue Theatre on Dec 3, 2019. Publishing @ SFU sponsored this all ages event and handed out MPub (Master of Publishing) buttons, made by Publication Design lecturer, Mauve Pagé.

Photo credit: Dillon Byrne

Writer, comedian, and activist Lindy West is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman (2016, Hachette Books) as well as the brand new essay collection The Witches Are Coming (2019, Hachette Books). In 2018 she wrote and executive produced Shrill as a half-hour comedy for Hulu, which just wrapped its second season.

West was interviewed on stage by SFU @ Publishing’s very own Assistant Professor, Hannah McGregor. McGregor’s research and teaching focuses on the histories and futures of print culture and new media in Canada, with a focus on Canadian middlebrow magazines, and podcasting as both self-publishing and public pedagogy. Read more about Hannah here.

Photo credit: Dillon Byrne

A big thank-you to Lindy West and everyone involved in this production for all the laughs, insightful commentary, and a chance to inspire the next generation of feminist thinkers and writers.

If you’re interested in getting a one-of-a-kind education in publishing, consider applying for the Master of Publishing Program at Simon Fraser University before February 1st.


Final Days until Application Deadline for 2020 Master of Publishing Program

The Master of Publishing (MPub) program is the only program in Canada to offer a postgraduate degree in publishing, and is the country’s premier training ground for publishing professionals.

The deadline to apply is Feb 1st, every year.

If this is your first time encountering the SFU Master of Publishing Program, you’ll want to watch these two videos, as they’ll give you a sense of what you can expect:

 

You’ll also want to read “12 Completely Made-Up Books Created by 2019’s Master of Publishing Students”

If you’re interested in reading about MPub alumni, here are some articles:

If you’re interested in getting to know the faculty, go to the faculty page. If you’re interested in getting to know their scholarship and work inside and outside SFU, here are some articles:

So, if you’re read to apply to the Master of Publishing Program at Simon Fraser University, remember to do so before February 1st!


Alumni Profile: Michael Despotovic, BC Book Marketer and Digital Marketing Data Analyst

Before I Was a Student of SFU’s Master of Publishing Program,

I was doing my undergraduate degree, also at Simon Fraser University. I majored in World Literature and did a double-minor in Publishing as well as Interactive Arts & Technology. Originally, I thought I was going to be a fiction writer, but a funny encounter with local author, Douglas Coupland, made me rethink my plans. After a Vancouver Writers Fest event, I asked him if I should become a writer. His answer was a simple, and curt, “no”. When I stared blankly, he followed up by saying, “go live your life, do something else, become old…and then you can write.” While his advice may not have made sense to many others, it entirely made sense to me.

And given that I had to do something after my undergraduate degree, you know, while I waited for a story (or stories) to find me in life, I reasoned that helping writers get published would be just as meaningful as being published myself.

While I Was a Student of SFU’s Master of Publishing Program,

I thoroughly enjoyed every moment and every aspect of my education. I was in the 2013/2014 cohort and both the faculty and my colleagues were uniquely aware that the rise of social media, Web 2.0, and other new, digital technologies were going to have a lasting impact on the publishing industry. So, in addition to learning all the foundational—and by definition, “traditional”—components to book and magazine publishing, we were also schooled in things like online marketing, the emerging ebook market, and digital means of production and dissemination.

It was specifically because of my high aptitude for digital technologies that I was recommended for an internship with Penguin Random House Canada’s digital department, which would serve as my third, “professional placement” semester for the MPub program. I wasn’t “handed” the internship, by any means, as I still had to interview and otherwise qualify for the position. But it certainly helped that my then, soon-to-be-manager/mentor was an MPub alumna herself, and knew the benefits and expectations of this program.

Soon After I Was a Student of SFU’s Master of Publishing Program,

I either freelanced or worked for various local companies that were in the Canadian publishing landscape, such as ZG Communications, Page Two Strategies, and Clevers Media, before finding a special place at Caitlin Press, a general trade book published located on the Sunshine Coast. Although I worked remotely, from Vancouver, I often would visit headquarters for a week, perhaps every month or so. My role was to market, do publicity, and manage author events for approximately 20 new books a year, in addition to the backlist, which I proudly accomplished for three years. During this time, I also helped launch a new imprint dedicated solely to queer women’s voices, called Dagger Editions.

Each season, I experienced “favourite” moments, but perhaps the most notable one was when Caitlin Press published Gently to Nagasaki, the one-and-only memoir by Joy Kogawa, one of Canada’s most celebrated authors. It was an honour to serve such a powerful voice of peace and truth, and in the context of Douglas Coupland’s advice to me, I felt like I was part of the success of a truly great writer with an incredibly important story to tell.

Now, as an Alumnus of SFU’s Master of Publishing Program,

I have one foot in and one foot out of Canada’s publishing scene. Since moving on from Caitlin Press, I’ve started a marketing and analytics agency called Apples & Oranges. We help to grow small to medium size organizations that express culture, which includes publishers such as UBC Press and others like the Association of Book Publishers of BC. Our portfolio also includes businesses rooted in social value, such as end-of-life planning, diversity and inclusion training, and bicycles for those with mobility challenges.

Much of my career path is similar to the alumni and the faculty of SFU Publishing. I can never pass up an opportunity to give thanks to instructor Monique Sherrett, who runs Boxcar Marketing, for demonstrating the career path of someone who bridges traditional and digital modes of marketing in Canada’s publishing industry. Nowadays, I can call her my peer and am very fortunate to have her support in helping Apples & Oranges succeed. Thank you, Monique!

If you’re interested in getting the kind of education in publishing that allows for entrepreneurship, innovation, data-driven decision making, and elevating author success, consider applying for the Master of Publishing Program at Simon Fraser University before February 1st.


Three Questions My Audience Asked at My Talk on Podcasting as Feminist Method

Publishing @ SFU Instructor Hannah McGregor Answers Questions About Accessibility, Peer Review, and Audience Backlash During Her Presentation Green College, UBC

During the Q&A period for her October 3, 2019 presentation at Green College (UBC), SFU’s own Hannah McGregor, Assistant Professor of Publishing, elaborated on the potential and pitfalls of her podcasting work, both as a feminist and a scholar. Speaking at length on a range of questions from the audience, McGregor spoke with characteristic levity and intimacy about difficult subjects. McGregor’s presentation was centred upon the possibilities of scholarly accountability when podcasting is employed as a feminist method, and led to questions about accessibility, the peer review process, and navigating backlash when producing high risk public work.

Hannah McGregor is an Assistant Professor of Publishing at Simon Fraser University, where her research focuses on podcasting as scholarly communication, systemic barriers to access in the Canadian publishing industry, and magazines as middlebrow media. She is the co-creator of Witch, Please, a feminist podcast on the Harry Potter world, and the creator of the weekly podcast Secret Feminist Agenda, which is currently undergoing an experimental peer review process with Wilfrid Laurier University Press. She is also the co-editor of the book Refuse: CanLit in Ruins (Book*hug 2018).

– – – – – – – –

Q: If podcasts do become an acceptable academic endeavor, do they become [institutionalized and de-radicalized inherently]? Is there a possibility they will be put in a position of less accessibility, just like journals are today (e.g. paywall, jargon, etc)?

HM: For sure, such is the endless hunger of the institution, right? That it takes anything that’s, like, interesting and it’s like [chomp!] “It’s mine now! It’s mine now and guess what it’s in the university so it’s bad now!”… So yes, absolutely, we need to think about institutionalization and the impact that it has, and we need to think about, whether or not, you know, podcasting will just get sucked into exactly the same systems… which is why it’s been really important to me in this project to make my podcasts as podcasts first – that they live on the open web; are published and circulated via RSS feeds; are accessible everywhere [to anybody] who would get podcasts; are never paywalled;…you don’t have to know how to access scholarly systems in order to find them – you find them the way you find podcasts. And that has been really fundamental to me, that “I am making a podcast, and then we are peer reviewing it,” rather than “I am doing scholarship, and then we’re putting it onto a podcast.”

– – – – – – – –

Q: I was just starting to think about the difference between public and your peers, and I just wonder if you have plans in the next season for trying to challenge who are considered “peers” and sending [an invitation to critically review your podcast] out to the public…as opposed to waiting until people come to you?

HM: We actually did that in Season 1. So right up front, I was way more skeptical about peer reviewing the podcast than Siobhan was, [who had] great faith in peer review as an actual mechanism to make work better… via the process of this project, I have come on board … because the peer reviews that I’ve received have [been] so genuinely helpful. So at the end of Season 1 [of Secret Feminist Agenda], I put out a call to my listeners to say, “I would like a peer review from you, and here are my three questions… please post your responses in the comments.” And I got, like, 75-80 responses, from people… answering the questions and thinking it through, and really explicitly saying that they loved being involved in the process… [and of being told] that I was thinking of them as public and peers… I asked for that again at the end of Season 2 and got very little response… (and I didn’t even try it at the end of Season 3). And the reason [for the little response] I think, is that I now have an active and ongoing engagement with my listenership such that they’re giving me that feedback constantly, right? They are responding to episodes, they are asking me questions, they are commenting, they’re suggesting readings… so that interaction is now… just now an iterative part of how I engage with my listeners and they engage with me.

– – – – – – – –

Q: I was thinking about a public who does come to your podcast with very aggressive anti-feminist agenda. As scholars we’re [expected to make our scholarship accessible, [but] we’re not really given training on dealing with [that backlash]…what are your thoughts on the drawback of doing scholarship publically on this subject?

HM: So we are increasingly demanding that academics do our work publicly – particularly young graduate students…[are pressured to], like “be public! Be public facing! Be on Twitter! Be out doing things! Be in the media!” and then it’s like, “but if people get mad at you… you’ve got nothing”… We want people to be public until there’s any consequences to the publicness of their work… We need to have better conversations about how departments can support faculty members when there is backlash for their work… The more that we are interested in engaging publics, the more we need to understand what the consequences look like when we do that work.
[…]
What I will say is that…for the most part, podcasts are very hard to troll. [They] are significantly less trolled than a lot of other media, and there’s one really good reason for that – and that is that you cannot, like, command+F and look for words that make you angry in a podcast recording. And that’s mostly what people are doing when they’re trolling women’s public work, or public feminist work, right? They’re looking for the word “feminist”…they’re looking for words that make them mad, finding that word, and then going after you based on that word, and you can’t do that with a podcast—you would have to listen to it. And the fun thing about misogynists is that they don’t want to listen to women talk! So, it’s like, it’s great! All of my ideas are hidden here in my lady voice! And you would have to listen to it, to like, get to the ideas!

– – – – – – – –

If you’re interested in getting the kind of education in publishing that allows for challenging yourself and others, consider applying for the Master of Publishing Program at Simon Fraser University before February 1st.


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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