Jazmin Welch graduated in 2021 from SFU’s Master of Publishing program. She now owns and operates her own book design studio, fleck creative studio and design books for Arsenal Pulp Press. Jazmin spoke with us at SFU Publishing to share more about her experience with the program and the impact it has made on her career to this day.
Tell us about your background before applying to SFU’s Master of Publishing program.
I went to school for fashion communication at Ryerson University and I always knew I wanted to be in art or design. As someone who spent much of my youth drawing and painting, I applied for the fine arts program at the Ontario College of Art & Design University, but I decided that I would prefer to keep art as a hobby, and try to get into design instead.
At Ryerson I was learning about colour theory, typography, photography, web design, and all sorts of fun design skills.
When I graduated, I just started trying to pick up odd jobs as everyone does, and I thought I would get a quick job in graphic design but that was definitely not the case. There were just so many other graphic designers who were entering the job market. So I did other things like photography and anything I could get my hands on. I eventually got a job in a really tiny creative agency, and started working in project management and then switched around a little bit and worked as an account manager in corporate marketing working on our projects for some fortune 500 companies. I worked with a lot of freelancers to do our production work and that was slightly soul crushing because I was always wanting to be the creative person. Because of my typography experience in my undergrad, I was hoping I would end up doing editorial layout for magazines. So I saved up to eventually quit, and started my own business — I wasn’t 100% sure that it would be in the book world, but I knew I loved everything to do with paper and book design.
Why did you choose to apply for the master of publishing program?
While I was at my marketing job, I interviewed for a couple of design positions, but the feedback was always like, “We liked your portfolio, but we want to go with this other person who actually has book design experience.” No one would hire me on the basis of having design knowledge. And of course, I didn’t have much of a portfolio for book work yet. I knew I had to do something that would actually get my foot in the door.
I was also going on LinkedIn to look at all the people who had jobs that I wanted, and looking at what their experience was. It pretty much came down to just the Ryerson University Certificate in Publishing or the SFU Master of Publishing. I wasn’t very interested in some of Ryerson’s classes so I moved from Ontario to BC for the Master of Publishing. It was always a dream of mine to end up in Vancouver, so it wasn’t a hard sell for me.
The Master of Publishing program was good for me because I just felt like something solid needed to be put on my resume to actually get a job in book design. So that’s what landed me at SFU.
What was your most impactful experience in the SFU Publishing program?
Meeting a lot of people in the industry had the biggest impact. The idea of meeting CEOs of massive companies was so terrifying at first, but the professors and people in the industry that came to the school were all there for us, and were very easy to talk to. It made me realize that we’re all in this together.
The greatest thing was just meeting people and knowing that they are people that I could reach out to, and that I shouldn’t be afraid to make connections. Having the master’s degree on my resume became a huge bonus that also gave me the confidence to be able to reach out to people for work as well.
What was your biggest takeaway from the MPub?
Honestly, my biggest takeaway has been learning to think more critically about the industry, because I think publishing is such a traditional industry in the sense that so much of what we do is the way it’s always been done. I think the program did a good job of training us to think more broadly about societal and systemic issues happening in the industry. Of course, there are a lot of tangible skills — like learning how to do a profit and loss sheet — but I think the critical thinking piece is the most important element. It’s not something I’m necessarily acting on now in my business on a day-to-day level, but it is something that’s always running through my head — like, how can we change the way things are being done? How can we bring more inclusivity and diversity to the industry?
The critical thinking component has impacted the way that I respond to the people around me and the type of work I take on. I wasn’t expecting the masters to actually touch on many of these things, but they did a good job of recognizing the destructive role that publishing has had on colonization in Canada. There are human issues and there are so many issues to address, no matter what part of the industry you’re in! I think that the critical thinking piece stayed with a lot of us when we left.
What skills did you gain from the MPub that you find yourself applying to your day to day work?
I think the biggest one for me was editorial. I came into the program with a fairly robust design understanding, so there were definitely a bunch of book design skills that I brushed up on and enhanced through the program that I do use on a day to day basis, but I really learned a lot about specific skills like editorial markup, which I now use. Publishing is a very traditional industry and things are done in quite a systematic, straightforward order, so learning all the steps in how things are done, and the phases of editorial has been really integral for my role as a designer and where I fit into the publishing process.
Do you have any professors that stood out and impacted your education?
I feel like John Maxwell was such a great resource for us to sit and talk through anything. His Text & Context class was the critical thinking piece that I mentioned, though all the professors incorporated it as well. I feel like it’s always the teachers with the hardest courses that I like the most because they’re really encouraging us to dive way deeper than we would on anything else. We had to write 1,000 word essays, which is so short, but so difficult to get right because we had tackle important issues with so little space while researching it well and creating a good summary. I think the beauty of the course was that we were trained for situations where we’d need to speak out about important issues — you can’t just get into a long rant about something, you have to make it accessible for a larger audience and be concise. So having someone like John who has an endless wealth of knowledge, but also encourages you to look for the answer to your own question was awesome.
All the MPub professors were accessible and available and I knew they were always there for us. Anyone from the program could tell you how much they loved Jo-Anne who wasn’t a professor, but a manager for the program. She’s always there to help us with admin questions, but she’s also just a fantastic resource for pretty much everything. She’s the number one cheerleader for all the students.
Tell me a little bit about your work with your fellow MPub grad Leanne Prain. What was it like to design her book?
Her book is coming out this spring, and it just arrived like the other day from the printer! It’s called The Creative Instigator’s Handbook and Leanne was so lovely to work with. We did the cover and layout together. and then the layout on the inside.
It used to have an illustration only cover, but when the sales representative recommended that we add photos. So we revamped the cover and changed the book title. I’m very happy with where it landed! The whole book from front to back is so bright, fun and cheery with a lot of little icons within it’s pages as well.We’re trying to make all of our books more accessible, so Leanne wrote the alt text for all the images for us, which is a lot of work, but she was all hands on deck. I love this book. It’s such an exciting read for people that have any love of craft or art but want to use it for their own activism!
What kind of advice do you have for people thinking of pursuing the Master of Publishing degree?
My one piece of advice is that you’ll get out whatever you put in. And I think that’s always a tricky balance because everybody’s got their things going on outside of school. I worked the entire time that I was in the program, and of course many of us have bills to pay, but I think it’s important to put your all into projects, go to extra meetings, and use the extra library help. It’s also good to know that if you have a specific thing you’re passionate about, you can talk to your professors about adjusting certain projects to focus on what you specifically want to learn.
For example, I had already done an undergrad in design, so in one design class I asked if I could research something else for one of the projects that I was interested in. My professor was happy to accommodate and I really enjoyed getting to learn something new!
Making connections is incredibly valuable as well so getting the most out of the program also involves meeting as many people as you can!
In a small program like this, you can really take advantage of so many learning opportunities. That would definitely be my biggest piece of advice — just know that you have control over what you get out of the program.
Juan Pablo Alperin is an Associate Professor in the Publishing Program, the co-Scientific Director of the Public Knowledge Project, and the co-Director of the Scholarly Communications Lab. As a leading voice on issues of developing regions to the scholarly community through a combination of published research, presentations, and membership in the board of major international initiatives, Dr. Alperin was recently awarded a SSHRC Connection grant of $21,695 for research on “Broadening our understanding of Open Science.” Juan Pablo spoke with SFU Publishing about his plans.
Tell us a bit about your work on “Broadening our understanding of Open Science.” What will the research surrounding this topic entail?
The goal is to host a series of events, both in-person and online, that serve to feature Latin American experiences with Open Science, especially those that extend beyond the academic community
How do you plan to conduct the research for this?
The plan is to host 3 in-person events this year, if the public health situation in each country allows: one in Argentina, one in Brazil, and one in Colombia. These events will be targeted at the local populations. We will also host a series of online events with an international audience. The goal is to advance the conversation about OS within the region and to use them to shape the global OS agenda.
How will the SSHRC connection grant help with the research for this subject?
SSHRC funds will be used to hire a program coordinator and to subsidize travel so we can bring speakers to the national events, and so that we can help more locals attend from beyond the capital cities where the events will be held. We also intend to put in place simultaneous translation at the online events.
In what way does this research relate to the courses you teach in the SFU Publishing program?
In the last few years, I have taught a course on Public Knowledge that has been small, but very well received. The course built on the work we did in the President’s Dream Colloquium in 2018. This series will help grow the global dimensions of that course, with the focus on Latin America.
How would students benefit from taking your courses?
The undergraduate courses that I teach help students understand the potentially powerful role that universities play in society. I like to think they finish my courses feeling more proud of attending university, and with a strong sense of the responsibility to society that comes with the privilege of gaining and creating knowledge.
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!
It is with great pride and pleasure that the SFU Publishing Program announces the establishment of The Greg Younging Publishing Award Endowment.
The endowment will create a fully funded opportunity for an Indigenous student to complete the Master of Publishing (MPub) degree at Simon Fraser University.
This award honours Dr. Gregory Younging, who was the first Indigenous graduate of the MPub. It was during his studies at SFU that Greg began his work on what would become the influential book, Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guidebook for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples. The guide is fast becoming a staple for writers, editors, and publishers throughout North America.
“Greg was a huge presence in publishing in Canada. We worked very closely with him here at SFU and following his passing on May 3, 2019 we knew we wanted to establish something lasting that would further his life’s work, which was to build a stronger Indigenous publishing infrastructure in Canada. Greg was very aware of the opportunities that education can provide, and we hope this endowment will be one of those opportunities. Having the support of publishers from across the country has been affirming. We are thrilled to announce today our first multi-year commitment: a three-year, $45,000 donation from Penguin Random House of Canada,” said Suzanne Norman, industry liaison for the SFU Publishing Program.
The endowment will be built over the next three years, with the goal of welcoming the first award recipient in fall, 2025.
The Master of Publishing Program is an 18-month professional program comprising academic and professional experiential learning. It was founded 25 years ago in consultation with members of the Canadian publishing industry which continues to strongly support the program’s students through hosting professional placements and as new hires, as well as teaching as guest faculty and serving on advisory boards and funding projects.
Applications to the MPub close each Feb 1, with successful applicants beginning their studies that fall.
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.
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.
The year 2020 will long be remembered for the global Covid 19 pandemic. Lockdowns impacted work spaces as people scrambled to reorganize their work and home lives.
The whole world suddenly seemed to be online and publishers and retailers had to quickly up their game in the virtual space. Ironically, demand for books skyrocketed. Everyone was stuck at home and desperate for ways to pass the time. The 2021 Emerging Leaders in Publishing Summit reflects this changed world by going virtual and through discussing the many ways book publishing led innovation and embraced entrepreneurship, as well as the many challenges still left to meet.