A special Sesquicentennial show celebrating our finest Fiction Writers
With the help of superb author portraits by Anthony Jenkins appearing on-screen, publisher and author Doug Gibson roams the stage talking about our finest authors down through the years. Decade by decade, he chooses our best authors, English and French, and selects their very best books.
Each decade begins with a burst of Canadian music from the time. Then a contemporary photo reminds us of the historical setting, and a series of iconic works of art remind us of the wider artistic scene in which our writers worked. The result is a celebration not only of our writers and storytellers, but of our artists in general. The resulting reading list is now in great demand, and will be distributed at the show.
Already he has given this hugely ambitious show (with an Intermission when we reach 1967, the year when Gibson himself came to Canada) in the nation’s capital, Ottawa, and at the Toronto Launch in the Lieutenant Governor’s Chambers in Queen’s Park. After this Vancouver Launch, he will be taking the show across Canada for the rest of 2017, as his own tribute to our country and its writers, culminating in his praise of his author, Alice Munro.
WHERE Vancouver, at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre, Room 1400
British-born Canadian, Ralph Hancox, a pilot, reporter, Studebaker Silver Hawk owner, editor, publisher, CEO, adjunct professor and professional fellow, teacher, Nieman Fellow, Harvard Management Development Program participant, and fiction and nonfiction book author, has shuffled off his mortal coil and lives on in the fond memories of his former students and colleagues in Simon Fraser University’s Publishing program. He was predeceased by his wife, Margaret (Peg), and is survived by his four children and their families.
As Ralph was nearing retirement from Reader’s Digest, his daughter Alison happened to hear a 1990s CBC radio interview of Ann Cowan-Buitenhuis, who was talking about a new Master of Publishing program at Simon Fraser University that she co-founded with me in 1995. Alison’s view was that such a program would be perfect for her father’s post-retirement career, based on his abiding interest in teaching and education.
Ann and I met with Ralph at his club on a cold, wet night in Montreal. I can still recall fearing for my well-being as we hurtled down the highway in Ralph’s Mercedes station wagon, into a darkness peppered with pelting rain and snow. The purpose of our meeting was to tell Ralph about the program. The result of the meeting was his expression of interest–an expression that led to Ralph’s later suggestion that we submit a proposal for support to the Reader’s Digest Foundation (Canada), which had been created to allow Reader’s Digest Canada to act in conformity with Canadian ownership regulations in Canada’s magazine industry. Previous to this, the foundation had assisted journalism programs, some of the graduates of which, Ralph noted, led such a concerted anti-Reader’s Digest lobby that the company had set aside a permanent office for federal auditors to review its books to ensure that Reader’s Digest Canada was not feeding funds back to its US parent company.
Ann and I welcomed the opportunity, given that we kept claiming that our proposal had the support of industry. Ironically, while that support was real, it was verbal and we walked away empty-handed from pitches to the profitable sectors of the industry. These included educational book publishers, larger Canadian and foreign-owned book publishers (one of which helped us later), and magazine publishers such as Maclean-Hunter (later sold to Roger’s). As Chair of the Reader’s Digest Foundation (Canada), Ralph delivered support of a sufficient amount that the university found itself looking more kindly on the idea of approving the establishment of its first professional social science and humanities-based professional program. As luck would have it, I was able to advise both sides on the conditions of the support, and thereby ensure that the resources the program needed were wisely allocated.
Fast forward to the program’s establishment and its staffing, and we decided that, after due diligence, we would take Ralph up on his offer to teach the publishing management course in the program without compensation. While Ann and I were willing to accept such a personal gift, the university wisely found funds to pay Ralph a token salary.
I did have misgivings about Ralph’s teaching. A major issue was that while Ralph insisted on teaching management techniques, many of our students had never held down a serious job. What utterly convinced me of Ralph’s value to the students was the increasing number of graduating Project Reports that applied Ralph’s framework to the operations in which they participated during their internships. As I read through these reports, I became familiar with the framework, and realized that other faculty members, including me, needed to up our game in providing students with tools that emphasized different frameworks for gaining insight into publishing practice.
In his years with the MPub at Simon Fraser, my colleagues and I got to know Ralph as a gracious and generous man who truly did love teaching. Each year he became more effective in his ability to convince the mainly English-major “candidates,” as he called our students, of the value of his application of process management. As a side effect, I acquired an increased sophistication in my understanding of management, and was particularly interested in hearing the other side of the Reader’s Digest Canada story. I learned how, for instance, constrained by foreign ownership regulations, Reader’s Digest Canada became a training ground for company executives placed around the world. Part of that process led to Ralph’s sojourn in Milan to get the Italian operation back on its feet.
Ralph’s retirement from teaching at 80 created quite a problem for the program. We attempted to recruit business profs. They were only interested in discussing research that critically analyzed general management practice, and might or might not have some relevance to publishing practice. We tried MBA profs, but none of them had any idea what happened within a publishing company. We tried other publishers, but they fell back on war stories. Finally, we turned to one of our graduates who had a business background and had been taught by the master himself. That worked. But then that graduate married a classmate, had a family, and moved to his wife’s hometown, Ottawa. Following that, we arranged for a New York publishing consultant to commute and teach what turned out to be business practice for publishers. That also worked out well in that our students learned lots from him, but they missed out on Ralph’s management framework. All during this time, we would bring Ralph back in an attempt to supplement the shortcomings of others. It worked to some degree, but his absence took its toll.
In Ralph’s second retirement he turned to his first love, writing. Encouraged by one of his sons to dust off a book manuscript for which he had an offer to publish to 1959, he published three books of fiction–one of which demonstrated the ability to write a whole novel using only conversation. He told me that he had to stop watching television because the tension it induced propelled his heart into arrhythmia. Writing was calmer. And of course, for a few years, he chaired his strata council, no doubt with aplomb.
Simon Fraser’s MPub benefitted greatly from Ralph Hancox. He helped to elevate the program to a truly graduate program. As a teacher; as a former executive who had been opened to management theory through his management development training and Nieman Fellowship at Harvard; as an old-school gentleman and grammarian; and as an enjoyable personage, we were all enriched. He was much loved by his students and colleagues. Like us all, however, he was mortal.
It’s been about a month since eBook Craft and Tech Forum, and even that is not enough time for me to have absorbed all the information the conference offered. If further evidence were required to show the sheer volume, consider that I have found myself writing a 1000+ word blog post just to begin describing it. I’ve broken it up into three parts, one for each day, but I only have one thing to say, ultimately: if you’re looking to educate yourself on ebooks and data, this conference is the absolute best place to do it.
Day One: Diving into #eprdctn
My highlight of the day was a rousingly polite discussion on the future of ebook standards led by Dave Cramer. Intended as a stitch-and-bitch session, it manifested with all of the stitching (literally: knitting needles were present) and none of the bitching. I found it both enlightening and refreshingly similar to what we do all the time in the MPub program: talk about problems, brainstorm solutions, extrapolate on trends to try to imagine where things are going. It was also an eye-opening example of how smart the conference attendees really are.
Day Two: The Bigger Picture of #eprdctn
The second day was decidedly less cozy, and the space expanded to accommodate the #eprdctn masses. Accessibility was a hot topic throughout the day, with various speakers weighing in. I learned about the issue from the perspectives of ebook reading apps, librarians, accessibility groups, and production people, and their combined weight went a long way to convincing me that, like ebook production itself, accessibility is not a fringe problem; it belongs at the centre of any conversation about contemporary publishing. It can be a tricky discussion for an industry that often relies on various types of privilege, but if I learned one thing from this conference, it’s that accessibility is not just a question of morality—it’s also a question of efficiency affecting the entire supply chain (and also morality). If we’re going to do something, like make an ebook, let’s just do it right the first time, no?
And again Dave Cramer rose as the eBook Craft conference all-star, at least as far as I’m concerned. He gave a fascinating and thoroughly understandable talk breaking down the process of digital-rights-management encryption. It was riddled with Moby Dick references, which probably went a long way towards comforting the book crowd during the math-heavy parts, and it was paced so perfectly that it would have been hard to avoid becoming absorbed. Not that I wanted to. It was, as I say, fascinating.
Day Three: I Love (Lieutenant-Commander) Data
I began the third day, the Tech Forum day, very poorly indeed. A Toronto transit meltdown resulted in me missing Noah Genner’s breakdown of BookNet data—and that, let me tell you, is a real tragedy for someone who identifies strongly as a <datanerd>. Fortunately, I was met by swag, and from that moment, I knew that Tech Forum would be the best day yet. Cookies, pins, free books: I am eminently bribable.
The free stuff was only the first sign of the great things to come, though. The second was the schedule card, which told me that, at any given point during the day, I was going to have to choose between three different sessions. High stakes, indeed.
The decision was tough, but I can speak very highly of the sessions I did attend. My favourite—of the whole conference, in fact—was Erica Leeman’s investigation of Amazon keywords. Erica, in addition to being an all-around delightful human being, is a librarian-turned-publisher who embodied a spirit of systematic inquiry that I found inspiring. By carefully and deliberately altering metadata, she was able to find a (partial) answer to the perennial question of book publishing: but what is Amazon really up to? The results were both unsurprising and somewhat irrational, but at least now we know that—news flash!—Amazon can’t always be trusted to make sense.
The conference closed with a couple of high-powered speakers, Nathan Maharaj of Kobo and Robert Wheaton of Penguin Random House, whose respective keynote talks on understanding book buyers and facing the challenges of a changing media landscape spoke to two of the most pressing issues in today’s publishing world. The presentations were, truthfully, quite reminiscent of things said at SFU’s Emerging Leaders summit, and not only because the speakers hailed from the same companies. Rather, they mirrored the kind of long-sighted, big-picture approach to publishing that the MPub program excels at. They made for a fitting close to a conference that started with hands-on learning.
This was an incredible conference, and I was so lucky to have the opportunity to attend it. It may have been a lot of information, but it was worth every exhausted brain cell. The balance of practical and theoretical concerns was perfect and the cookie game? That was definitely on point.
To future MPubbers: you should really, absolutely, definitely apply to go. As wonderful as our program is—and after to speaking to several graduates of other publishing programs, I feel ready to assert that our program is, in fact, the best one (#unbiasedopinion)—there is no better place than this conference to learn about ebooks and things that computers can help with. There is certainly no better place to get inspired by the people who do these things every day.
BookNet’s conference isn’t just for the nerds. It’s for anyone who has ever questioned the role that digital technologies can play, now and in the future.
Currently on display outside Special Collections and Rare Books is a selection of recently arrived material from a major collection of modern literary first editions. The collection was donated to Simon Fraser University Library by the former City Librarian of Vancouver, Paul Whitney, a lifelong collector.
The Whitney donation consists chiefly of numerous in-depth collections of the works and various editions of leading modern British, Canadian, American and world writers, including Martin Amis, J.G. Ballard, William Boyd, William Burroughs, Peter Carey, Angela Carter, J.M. Coetzee, Mavis Gallant, B.S. Johnson, Malcolm Lowry, Cormac McCarthy, Ian McEwan, Alice Munro, Haruki Murakami, Rohinton Mistry, Michael Ondaatje, Carol Shields, William Vollmann, David Foster Wallace, and many others.
The collections are comprised of rare and valuable volumes and first editions, including signed and advance copies, as well as more common books. In addition, the donation includes a smaller number of works in translation, plus in-depth collections of several leading literary and fine presses, including McSweeney’s (San Francisco), Gaspereau (Nova Scotia), and Blackfish (Vancouver).
The display will run until May 5, at Special Collections and Rare Books, Room 7100, W.A.C. Bennett Library (SFU Burnaby).
The 2016 cohort has now dispersed to begin the personal projects or internships that they will be writing their project reports on. Students are spread across Canada, working at small presses like Arsenal Pulp and Anvil, large houses like Scholastic and Penguin Random House, literary and lifestyle magazines, content marketing agencies, and non-profits that are building new models and technology for publishing. But before they left, the cohort presented their magazine projects to their classmates and some members of the publishing community. This year the magazine project was combined with the tech project, to expand upon the digital possibilities of marrying print and tech, and to explore the future of magazine publishing in a digital world.
The groups presented to three panelists: Anicka Quin, Editorial Director of Western Living and Van Mag; Michal Kozlowski, Publisher of Geist; and Joanna Riquett, Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Hayo Magazine. The three panelists weighed in on all aspects of the business plans and presentations, including the editorial tone and voice, circulation strategy, financial statements, and digital strategy.
The first magazine to present was Somata, a charmingly-offbeat food culture magazine that encourages you to “play with your food.” They kicked things off with a rousing game of “Mission Statement Mad Libs” which set the tone for their editorial style. They went into detail about their irreverent tone, events-based funding model, digital-first strategy, and in-depth social media plan in a lively presentation which included a PowerPoint that featured many gifs.
Next, Boundless, “the magazine for women wanderers” detailed how they planned to target backpackers as their main audience and differentiate themselves from other more luxury-focused travel magazines. They cited how millennials travel less often, but for longer periods of time, and crave immersive cultural experiences. While they are a print magazine, they have a thorough digital strategy, particularly with creating brand awareness on Instagram.
Lastly, START is a not-for-profit digital magazine that both serves and supports the emerging artist community in Canada. With a focus on art students, they provide an online space for a community of tomorrow’s artists to connect and communicate. Featuring webinars of art skills or career tips, spotlights on recent gallery openings, and a user submitted gallery of art, essays, classifieds, and events, START wants to be as indispensable to artists as sketchbooks.
The presentations made for a day full of entertainment and education, and each of the magazines illustrated the breadth of interest and experience of its group members, and of the MPub itself. This included the different ways publishers are using technology–from entirely digital first strategies to using social media to create brand engagement and awareness. And after the presentation, the cohort mingled with our valued industry guests, and looked towards bright futures in an evolving publishing landscape.
Created in the second half of the 17th Century, journals became the fastest and most convenient way of disseminating new research results, outranking correspondence and monographs. The advent of the digital era then challenged their traditional role and form. Indeed, digital technologies, which are easy to update, reuse, access, and transmit, have changed how researchers produce and disseminate knowledge, as well as how this knowledge is accessed, used, and cited. It also changed how libraries subscribe to scholarly content.
Drawing on historical and contemporary empirical data, this talk will address the past and current transformations of scholarly communication, with an emphasis on the role of journals in this new ecosystem, and present the results of the first large-scale analysis of journal usage in Canada.
About the speaker
Vincent Larivière holds the Canada Research Chair on the Transformations of Scholarly Communication at the Université de Montréal, where he is associate professor of information science. He is also scientific director of the Érudit journal platform, associate scientific director of the Observatoire des sciences et des technologies (OST) and regular member of the Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie (CIRST).
Vincent holds a bachelor’s in Science, Technology and Society (UQAM), a master’s degree in history of science (UQAM) and a Ph.D. in information science (McGill), for which he received the 2009 Eugene Garfield Dissertation Scholarship award.
April 10, 3pm-4:30pm at the Halpern Centre, room 126 (SFU Burnaby)
“This anthology will support Vancouver’s ability to welcome newcomers, symbolically and materially,” says poet laureate Rachel Rose, who is editing the upcoming Sustenance: Writers from B.C. and Beyond on the Subject of Food, to be published by Anvil Press.
“It will support people who are struggling, while celebrating our writers and showcasing Vancouver’s local food heritage.”
Sustenance will bring to the table a diverse mix of Canada’s best contemporary writers, both emerging and established, to celebrate all that is unique about Vancouver’s literary and culinary scenes, as well as British Columbia’s food producers.
“The book will be punctuated by beautiful local food photographs and recipes from some of our top chefs,” Rose says. “Each of these short pieces will shock, comfort, praise or entice.”
Sustenance is, as well, a community response to the needs of new arrivals or low-income families in our city.
All proceeds from the book will support refugee or low-income families with fresh, locally grown produce for while supporting B.C. farmers, fishers, beekeepers and gardeners through the Farmers Market Nutrition Coupon program.
Rose’s call for submissions welcomes works that explore all matter of relationships to food exile and migration, food scarcity, kitchen table healing and more. Deadline: Saturday, April 15, 2017
We are mourning the loss of Ralph Hancox, noted Canadian editor, publishing icon and former Chairman of Reader’s Digest Canada, and one of the founders of the Master of Publishing Program at SFU.
Victoria, British Columbia – 26 March 2017 – The family announces the recent death of Ralph Hancox, latterly from Victoria, British Columbia, on 22 March 2017 at the fine age of 87.
Colleagues and friends refer to Ralph as a remarkable man of letters, of sharp wit and humour, a classic gentleman. He was one who willingly pushed a car out of a snow bank, helped others in formative stages to launch executive careers, held court with an audience and shared sage advice and counsel. The legacy he leaves behind with colleagues, students and family is the gift of using the written word to entertain and improve the lives of those who remain.
Ralph was born in West Hamstead, England on 23 August 1929. Ralph attended the School of Modern Languages, Regent Street Polytechnic in London, where he mastered Pitman shorthand, a prerequisite skill for his early career in journalism. He arrived in Canada in 1955 with his new bride, Margaret (Peg) Frier, newborn daughter Linda and a vintage German Olympia typewriter in hand. His exceptional typing skills of 125 wpm, his sharp and inquisitive mind were tools that launched an iconic career in journalism that spanned 54 years on the Canadian publishing landscape.
Ralph started his career as a pilot in the Royal Air Force, training in Rhodesia, at the tender age of 17. He described the experience of flying the Tiger Moth, Harvard, and the first RAF jet, the Gloster Meteor as “hurtling through the air in a tin can with a ton of metal strapped to his backside.” He flew in the Berlin Airlift in 1948, and later as a journalist covered the building of the Berlin Wall. In 1961, he travelled via the underground from East to West Berlin through the Wall under the conditions that he would not report on his experience.
In 1965, Ralph won a Nieman Fellowship recognizing excellence in Canadian editorial writing at the Peterborough Examiner and attended Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism. Later he joined Harvard’s Program for Management Development as part of the PMD 26 cohort at the School of Business.
In Canada he started his career in journalism writing obituaries for the Kingston Whig Standard. After a career as Editor-in-Chief at the Peterborough Examiner as a colleague of Robertson Davies, he joined the Reader’s Digest where he worked for 32 years. Ralph ended his first career, serving the last 16 years as Chairman, President, and CEO of Reader’s’ Digest Canada and Consigliere delegato and chairman of Reader’s Digest Italy. Post retirement he served as Adjunct Professor and Professional Fellow Emeritus at Simon Fraser University where he published a textbook on Managing the Publishing Process for the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing. There, he was honoured with the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Service for 10 years of teaching before he retired again at the age of 80, in 2009.
Peg and Ralph (aka Hank) lived a life post-World War II in Canada pursuing family and career dreams in Kingston, Peterborough, Boston, New York, Montreal, Milan, Vancouver, and Victoria, with summers at Sandy Lake and weekends of leisure in Vermont. He was inquisitive and over the years Ralph pursued his passion in photography, choral music, madrigals, travelling the world, writing and publishing seven books exploring topics of social conscience, family history and publishing management. Simple pleasures included sautéing the perfect scallop, bird and wildlife watching. A storyteller at heart, he regaled generations of family and students with lessons he learned from his rich life experiences. “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement” he would say, quoting his mother.
He was a man of letters in the classic sense: fountain pen, elegant italic script to paper and daily journaling over the last 53 years. He engaged in written repartees, Olympian literary gymnastics with family and friends, including long time Peterborough friend and librarian, Bob Porter.
He was not an ordinary man. Robert Frost’s words “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world” describes the restless soul, the intimate relationships, the daily inner tension, his ability to question and think deeply and at the same time embrace his life. His mind never rested as he explored life and the meaning of existence, to the day he died.
Ralph leaves behind 4 appreciative children, their spouses and families who live with gratitude across Canada.
Join SFU’s Master of Publishing students as they present their final magazine media projects. This year we have combined the tech and magazine projects to expand upon the digital possibilities in marrying print and tech. Our students have created their own “maga” projects that explore the digital possibilities of magazine publishing today.
Friday, April 7th in room 2270 and running from 1:30 to 4:30.