When SFU School of Communication alum Casey McCarthy received a promotional email about the master of publishing (MPub) program, she decided to pursue the program to upgrade her strengths and abilities.
“I just wanted to take my skills to the next level. I was looking for something more transferable. I didn’t want to focus on one set path, but focus on things that I really enjoy doing — which is writing, research, and conveying information,” McCarthy says.
She was intrigued by the MPub’s media project which involved putting together proposals, a business case, and coming up with an original media business. She was able to apply what she learned as a communication and publishing student to this project while further developing other skills.
“It was time to try something new, while using my existing skills in a different way,” McCarthy explains.
Not only did the Master of Publishing program teach her the process of writing, publishing, and selling a book, but McCarthy expresses that it also helped her learn more about herself on a deeper level.
“I’ve learned more about what my values are, the kind of career path I’d like to see myself have, the kind of organization I’d like to work with, and the kind of people I’d like to work with,” she shares.
In addition, the program helped her work on her decision-making skills. Receiving criticism on her projects from different industry guests taught her to make solid decisions and understand why she made them.
In these scenarios, students would present, pitch, and defend their ideas in a way that made people understand it clearly.
“I learned that you cannot please everyone. Not everybody is going to agree with you, so you need to be able to explain your rationale for making your decision, and try to persuade them about why it’s a great idea. You need to stick to your guns,” McCarthy emphasizes.
Although she has been pursuing her masters degree online, she says the program helped her develop interpersonal skills through group dynamics.
“In the program, you learn a lot about working in a respectful and collaborative way. Great ideas come out of this positive, collaborative, creative environment.”
Drawn to work on communications and publication projects for an institution like SFU, McCarthy hopes to also explore her passion for writing and research in her long term career.
If you have an interest in hosting a Master of Publishing student for their professional placement, please contact Suzanne Norman at firstname.lastname@example.org
During the Summer, Claire Cavanagh, a current MPub student moved from Vancouver to Newfoundland to complete her thirteen-week professional placement with Breakwater Books, a publishing company with a focus on trade and celebrating the unique stories of Newfoundland and Labrador. Claire has now completed her professional placement as a Foreign Rights Consultant and has transitioned to a full-time position as a sales coordinator.
For many students, one of the most challenging tasks in the MPub program is securing a professional placement.
One piece of advice that Claire gives is to research the company you are interested in and network with employees from there, even if there are no job postings online.
For Claire, that is exactly what she did. While doing her research, Claire found that Breakwater Books had an outstanding Foreign Rights Program. With guidance from the SFU Publishing Program, Claire was able to talk to Rebecca Rose, CEO of Breakwater Books. Although Claire had no prior experience with foreign rights, Rebecca was impressed with her interest and their conversation. Eventually, Claire was offered a professional placement as a Foreign Rights Consultant.
Initially, Rebecca never thought of reaching out to SFU Publishing for professional placements because it was very far from Newfoundland. One of the challenges at Breakwater Books was the difficulty of finding qualified trained publishing professionals in Newfoundland. Many departments required one person to do two roles. The Program’s industry liaison, Suzanne Norman, a native of Newfoundland, has long wanted to work with Breakwater Books and was overjoyed to finally work with the company.
Moving forward, Rebecca says that she would recommend and look into the professional placement program at SFU when hiring.
One of the things that Claire enjoys about Newfoundland is the beautiful scenery and culture of the city, which is similar to her home country of Ireland.
“There are so many artists, plays, authors, book readings, literary festivals and galleries that make the place so unique and special,” she says. In addition to this, Rebecca is also proud of their community and literary festivals that allow them to showcase their local authors.
One of the exciting initiatives they are working on is the preparation of the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest trade fair for books, which is happening in October 2021 in Frankfurt, Germany. Canada was the Guest of Honour at the fair in 2020, but due to Covid, the Honour continues into 2021.
Frankfurt is the premier industry event during which authors, agents, and publishers run through frantic days of selling and buying rights internationally. For Breakwater attracting interest in their titles can make a huge difference in yearly sales.
To prepare for the Frankfurt Book Fair, Claire’s tasks have ranged from contacting different agents, setting up pitch meetings, working on subsidiary rights (which can include translations, language, geographical among others), and preparing for non-stop meetings and networking. Although everything felt very new in the beginning, she honed many different skills such as pitching and navigating the international diversity of the publishing industry. In this role, Claire worked independently and developed deep and lasting connections within the industry.
Through her professional placement, Claire has realized that she loves working on deals and foreign rights, and this is now her career aspiration. As Claire digs into her first full year at Breakwater Books, she offers this advice to publishing students or even those who are just entering the industry:
“Consider jobs in smaller cities. There are great publishers all over Canada and taking the chance to do something different can be a fantastic opportunity for a person to grow professionally and personally.”
If you have an interest in hosting a Master of Publishing student for their professional placement, please contact Suzanne Norman at email@example.com
Established in 1973, Breakwater Books was founded on the principle of preserving the unique culture and stories of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Maritime provinces.
Since that time, Breakwater has developed into a high-quality trade publisher, releasing twelve to sixteen titles a year – including children’s picture books, young adult fiction, educational curricula, literary and commercial fiction, non-fiction, and poetry – while continuing to support its culturally significant backlist titles.
Breakwater takes pride in fostering the careers of emerging and established writers alike. Many authors and titles maintain strong links to Newfoundland and Labrador and the North Atlantic, while other Breakwater authors hail from all parts of Canada. A burgeoning translation and foreign rights program makes Breakwater’s list of both national and international interest.
We kicked off the day with introductions followed by “The Gift of Never Landing” conversation with Juliane Okot Bitek and Sophie McCall. In this conversation, Acholi Canadian poet Okot Bitek talks about her experience being a poet, finding her voice, writing and publishing on social platforms, her award-winning book 100 Days, navigating the publishing process, and working in collaboration with other Black and Indigenous artists.
Growing up, Bitek never came to know what it meant to come from a country and live in it. Most of her life, she lived away and struggled with the idea of belonging. Lately, she came to understand that it’s ok not to be from somewhere, and to never land. Thus, the name of the conversation “The Gift of Never Landing” was inspired by her experience growing up.
As an author and poet, Bitek has written many notable works such as Sublime: Lost Words, Gauntlet, and 100 Days. The process for writing 100 Days was quite different compared to her other works. Inspired by a photo posted on social media by Wangechi Mutu in memory of the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, Bitek decided to write a poem each day for 100 days and posted it on social media. These poems were written to commemorate the Rwandan genocide and drawn on her own family’s experience of displacement under the regime of Idi Amin. As a witness to genocide, Bitek felt a sense of responsibility to spark meaningful conversations and have others think about what happened in the past.
One way to remind others about the past and to learn and inspire others about important issues is to have the message conveyed through art. Recently, Bitek collaborated with Chantal Gibson to create the new street-facing art on the windows of the SFU Library called “un/settled.” Un/settled aims to centre Blackness and celebrate Black thought & creativity in a climate of systemic violence against Black, Indigenous, and people of colour.
The authors spoke about the importance of having a premise and a pitch when writing a story. Most importantly, the premise must be “sticky,” meaning that you must be passionate and invested in your story that you are willing to spend the next couple of years building the storyline. As Catherine notes, “If it’s not going to be sticky to you, it’s never going to be interesting or sticky to a reader.”
One concern that upcoming authors have is whether their story will be able to sell in the market. Samantha advises to “never write to a trend because the trend will be gone by the time you write half the book.” She also emphasizes on the significance of passion and how “it has to be the story that you would want to read, so others will read it.”
Another challenge in the writing process is having writer’s block. Amy suggests overcoming this challenge by understanding your capacity, writing in a shorter time period, and setting a goal. She adds that “If your capacity is 5 minutes, then figure out how to write for 5 minutes. Don’t think about the novel you haven’t written yet.”
Throughout the event, attendees were delighted to have their questions answered by their favorite authors, with topics ranging from their writing inspiration to their writing process.
1.How has the MPub degree helped you with your career and role as the Development Manager at the Vancouver Writers Fest?
The MPub program gave me a solid understanding about the different aspects of publishing and allowed me to build valuable connections with industry professionals. Since the program gives such a broad overview of the publishing industry and allows you to work with different students on many projects, I felt well informed and prepared to work upon graduating. As an MPUB student, I had the opportunity to attend events like the Vancouver Writers Fest, where I learned more about the organization, built meaningful connections, and eventually ended up working there!
As the Development Manager, my tasks include overseeing the fundraising, getting sponsorships, working with community partners, and managing donors and grants. Although this role is different from my initial role as a marketing and development coordinator, the MPub program allowed me to understand the different aspects of publishing and develop a diverse set of skills that has helped me with my career.
2.There are a few MPub alumni working at the Vancouver Writers Fest. What makes this organization such a good fit for our alumni and co-op students?
What makes the Vancouver Writers Fest so fascinating is that you get to work in such a broad and special space where everything is always changing. There are always new programs, different authors, and exciting events throughout the year. For co-op students, you get the opportunity to work on many different tasks and talk to a wide range of teams such as marketing, administration, etc. This is a space where everyone’s opinions from the team are valued and so many unique voices can be heard.
3.How has the Vancouver Writers Fest evolved since you joined in 2018?
Since I joined in 2018, we have added many events such as Books and Brunch and Free Saturday. I especially love Free Saturday, because it allows those with financial barriers to attend events at a pay-what-you-can rate. This is especially important as a non-profit organization because we want to be more inclusive and allow as many people to attend as possible. With that in mind, we made many of our programs such as the Youth Education Program more accessible during covid-19 by transitioning them from in-person to virtual spaces. Every year, we continue to evolve and ask ourselves what role we want to play in the publishing industry, while keeping our values of accessibility and inclusivity in mind to best serve all members of our community.
4.What will this year’s annual Festival look like?
This year we are hoping to have a hybrid Festival with more international authors holding events online and domestic authors in-person on Granville Island. We are currently planning some very exciting events for attendees.
Stay tuned to our website for more updates on the upcoming events and the annual Vancouver Writers Fest happening from October 18-October 24, 2021!
5.Who do you think should attend this year’s Festival and how can they make the most out of it?
Since the Festival has a wide range of authors and events, I recommend anyone who would like to engage in meaningful conversations and hear about important dialogues of today to attend the Festival. Regardless of what you are interested in, the Writers Fest has so many different opportunities for you to explore and discover what you could potentially like. To make the most out of your experience, try attending an event that you normally would not think of attending.
6.What advice do you have for MPub students interested in working for an organization such as the Vancouver Writers Fest?
My main advice is to be open-minded and explore different areas that you can work in. Many of the MPub students that I graduated with ended up in a different career than they had originally envisioned. Try gaining a deeper understanding of the different aspects of publishing by attending events and building connections with members of the industry. You never know until you try!
Dr. Greg Younging was a nationally and internationally renowned expert on Indigenous publishing and a tireless voice and advocate for raising Indigenous voices in Canada.
In celebration of his work and his life, the Canadian Institute for Studies in Publishing and the SFU School of Publishing are deeply honoured to launch The Greg Younging Conversation.
This annual event will celebrate all aspects of Greg’s work from poetry to music to building toward a robust and thriving Indigenous publishing industry in Canada.
Greg was a true bridge-maker and could bring together even the most disparate voices, even if just for a short conversation.
One of Greg’s earliest mentors was Jeannette Armstrong, founder of the renowned En’owkin Centre in Penticton. Jeannette is this year’s featured speaker and will talk about his work as a publisher, poet, scholar and advocate.
In true Greg style, this event will be a conversation and Jeannette will be joined by Deanna Reder, chair of Indigenous Studies at SFU. Time will be provided to open the conversation to all in attendance.
The Greg Younging Conversation will take place annually on the first Wednesday in May.
Jeannette Armstrong is Syilx Okanagan, a fluent speaker and teacher of the Nsyilxcn Okanagan language and a traditional knowledge keeper of the Okanagan Nation. She is a founder of En’owkin, the Okanagan Nsyilxcn language and knowledge institution of higher learning of the Syilx Okanagan Nation. She currently is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Okanagan Philosophy at UBC Okanagan. She has a Ph.D. in Environmental Ethics and Syilx Indigenous Literatures. She is the recipient of the Eco Trust Buffett Award for Indigenous Leadership and in 2016 the BC George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award. She is an author whose published works include poetry, prose and children’s literary titles and academic writing on a wide variety of Indigenous issues.
Deanna Reder (Cree-Métis) is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Indigenous Studies and the Department of English at Simon Fraser University. She is a founding member of the Indigenous Editors Association (see www.indigenouseditorsassociation.com); currently, she is co-chair, with Drs. Sophie McCall and Sarah Henzi, of the Indigenous Voices Awards. (see indigenousvoicesawards.org)
Greg Younging may best be known more broadly for his work as the author of “Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guidebook for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples” a seminal work that began during his time as a Master of Publishing student at SFU. The guide is fast becoming a staple for writers, editors, and publishers throughout North America.
His reputation in Canada as a leading scholar in Indigenous Studies often led him to take on important but sometimes very difficult work, including as Assistant Director of Research for the Canadian federal government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada.
Greg’s passion for making more space for Indigenous writing and publishing led him to complete a PhD focusing on copyright and Indigenous stories and at the time of his death in May 2019, he was a professor and co-ordinator of the Indigenous Studies Program at the Irving K Barber School of Arts and Sciences at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan.
A member of the Opsakwayak Cree Nation, Greg was the managing editor of Theytus Books, Canada’s oldest fully owned Indigenous Publisher from 1990 to 2003, returning to the role in 2016 until his death in 2019.
Congratulations to Alex Krilow, a third-year Communications and Publishing student who has won the first-ever Greg Younging Undergraduate Award in Publishing!
The Greg Younging Undergraduate Award was established in honour of Dr. Gregory Younging, who devoted his life advocating for Indigenous publishers, creators, writers, and designers across Canada. This $1000 award is granted annually to an Indigenous undergraduate student enrolled in our minor in Print and Digital Publishing to encourage the training of emerging Indigenous publishers in Canada.
Below is our interview with Alex Krilow, who is the recipient of this year’s award.
1.How do you feel as the first-ever recipient of the Greg Younging Undergraduate Award?
I am very honored to be the first-ever recipient of the Greg Younging Undergraduate Award. Throughout his life, Greg Younging has made incredible contributions in many different spaces such as publishing, the Indigenous community, the art council, public services, federal initiatives, and much more. I am thankful to win an award that has been dedicated to such an amazing man.
2.Why did you apply for the Greg Younging Undergraduate Award and how will it impact you?
I received an email from the Indigenous Student Centre at SFU and applied because I met the qualifications and thought it would be a good opportunity. This award will allow me to concentrate more on my studies and continue school without being stressed about my finances. As well, I hope to attend graduate school in the future, so completing my undergraduate degree without having any debt would be a great foundation.
3.How does Greg Younging inspire you and why is the award meaningful to you?
Seeing how much Greg has accomplished in his lifetime is inspiring because he motivates others like myself to follow in his footsteps and shows us what we can possibly achieve. This award is meaningful to me because much like Greg Younging, I want to support the Indigenous community. Currently, I am working for the Indigenous training program with Canada Border Services Agency, where I help with federal initiatives related to Indigenous studies. I am also volunteering as a social media assistant for the North Fraser Metis Association
4.Why do you think it is important to have more Indigenous voices in the publishing industry?
Throughout history, Indigenous voices have been put on the backburner, and in many situations, our voices have been under shadowed by other prominent figures in society. In the past, many Indigenous voices were suppressed, especially those who attended residential schools. Moving forward, it is so important to have our voices be heard and encourage more Indigenous writers and publishers to tell their own stories. Having more Indigenous voices and acting as a role model for other future Indigenous writers can inspire them to accomplish their own goals.
Recently, our MPub students had the chance to share their Magazine Media projects with industry professionals and classmates of the publishing community. The three teams presented their plans to a panel of industry experts: Jessie Johnson, publisher, and editor-in-chief of Asparagus Magazine; Anicka Quin, Editorial Director of Western Living and Vancouver Magazine; and Tania Lo, CEO & Co-founder of Tandem Innovation Group. The three panelists gave their feedback and advice on the different aspects of the team’s business plans including their mission, audience, competitors, business goals, marketing channels, and sustainability strategy.
The first team was The Modern Local, a digital publication that encourages readers to live local and connect with their neighbourhoods by sharing stories about community issues, arts and culture, and activities. As an online lifestyle magazine for a community-minded generation, their mission is to serve readers exclusively in the tri-cities: Langley, New Westminster, and Maple Ridge. The panelists praised them for their creative tagline, “Find the good life close to home” and for their workshop idea of creating a “best of local” award show to cultivate sponsorships.
Next to present was Spoil, a sumptuous web and print magazine showcasing food and cooking culture from across the world. Spoil is committed to fostering curiosity, connection, empathy, and diversity through a deep and nuanced passion for food. In particular, the panelists were impressed by the team’s chic design and quality of their magazine, noting that it was “delicious to look at.”
Last to present was Sprouts, an accessible hub of trusted information for parents with research-based content that contains actions and activities to help include kids in the conversation about the world we live in. Sprouts aims to curate actions and activities to do together to help kids learn and shape their future. Specifically, Sprouts was applauded for their content creation and audience personas.
The presentations allowed the teams to showcase their months of hard work to the publishing community and a panelist of industry professionals. Thank you to everyone who joined, we are looking forward to seeing you again for next year’s Magazine Media Presentations.
With the Emerging Leaders in Publishing Summit coming up from February 9-February 12, we had a chance to speak to one of our keynote speaker’s Craig Riggs. As an MPub alumnus and former MPub instructor at SFU, we are excited to have him back to speak with our students! See what he has to say about the Emerging Leaders in Publishing Summit and get a sneak peek of his presentation on February 11.
1) How does it feel to be back at SFU as a speaker and how has the MPub program helped you with your career today?
It feels great to be back as a speaker! I have always had a strong attachment to the Master of Publishing program, both as an alumnus and also having taught in the program for about four years. It is a pleasure to be back and I’m always happy to contribute in any way I can.
Prior to the Master of Publishing program, I had no experience in the industry. I was looking for a way to transition to a career in publishing and that’s exactly what the MPub program was for me. It was a great way to begin to build a network in the industry and to learn about the different aspects of publishing and the publishing process.
2) Could you tell us what your presentation will be about and what attendees can look forward to?
My presentation will be about direct-to-consumer sales channels and how the landscape is changing in the publishing industry. The focus of the presentation will be on the shift in sales from brick-and-mortar stores to online channels. The session will also look at some of the important changes in book marketing, especially in online spaces. Historically, most book marketing has had a business-to-business orientation, but there is a shift there too and most publishing houses now give a lot more weight to consumer marketing and engaging directly with readers. Attendees can look forward to learning more about the changes in book marketing with respect to the shifts in consumer behaviour and technology.
3) The theme for this year’s conference is about driving change and innovation. As a partner at Turner Riggsand the founder of Readerbound, how do you drive change and innovation in your organizations?
With Readerbound, we were trying to establish a platform that could efficiently produce purpose-built websites for book publishers. The idea is to give publishing houses a toolbox so that their website is more powerful, but also more affordable and easier to manage.
It’s fair to say that book publishing has not always had an easy relationship with new technologies and tools. New systems and tech projects often cost more, in terms of dollars and staff effort, than first expected. The industry is full of examples where publishing organizations run out of either time or budget before their goals are fully realized. Against that backdrop, we think the key to selecting and successfully adopting new technology is to partner with a vendor that offers both industry expertise and technical know-how. That is what we are offering with Readerbound, and we believe that that combination of technological and industry expertise creates a space where innovation happens.
Readerbound has helped some of the industry’s most respected publishers with their websites. Learn more about Readerbound by visiting their website.
4) Who do you think should attend the Emerging Leaders in Publishing Summit and how can they make the most out of it?
I think anyone in the publishing industry should attend! It’s always exciting coming back as an alumnus and learning new ideas and perspectives. If you are early in your publishing career and looking to build a network and gain insight, an event like this is fantastic. If you have more experience in the industry, you can still learn at events like this. This is a valuable opportunity to learn more about publishing and exchange ideas together. Since we are all working remotely nowadays, it is especially important to get the industry together and share ideas.
Thank you to Craig Riggs for allowing us to conduct an interview with you! Visit his websites to learn more about Readerbound and Turner Riggs.
For more information about the Emerging Leaders in Publishing Summit, visit our post here.
It’s often said that the pandemic has accelerated changes already underway in business, and that’s proven especially true for book publishing. Even though the industry is often considered slow and not as susceptible to technological change (and print just enjoyed its most robust sales in more than a decade), it’s been a transformative time for the business of books.
In the end, no one will go unaffected—not authors, editors, marketers, or booksellers. Jane will discuss the big-picture changes still unfolding, the questions it raises for the industry, and what to watch for in the months and years ahead.
The confluence of voices, languages, and poetic traditions in Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek’s poetry reflects her sense of belonging and migration across many places. In this wide-ranging conversation, Acholi Canadian poet Okot Bitek will talk about her writing process as a poet, her experiences with publishing in Canada, her collaborative projects with poets and visual artists, and her practice of listening across histories, identities, continents.