Message from the Publisher: A Great Year - and More to Come
2018 has been a wild, nonstop ride for us at the press - and we are grateful. One of the best parts of our job is working with young and/or first-time authors and seeing their work evolve and eventually go on to become embraced by readers. Lightning struck twice this year when we published two books by extraordinary young writers that ended the year as buzzy, awards-worthy bestsellers. Joshua Whitehead is one of the smartest, NICEST writers we've ever worked with, so it was such a pleasure to see his book Jonny Appleseed longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and shortlisted for the Governor General's Award. How gratifying to see a novel featuring a Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer young man as the protagonist be so widely appreciated - but as anyone who's read the book knows, it's hard not to love Jonny. The book is entering its fourth printing after just nine months, and it couldn't have happened to a more deserving author.
The same can be said for Lindsay Wong's extraordinary memoir The Woo-Woo. She mailed us the manuscript after having been rejected by a number of other publishers, and I loved it immediately - Lindsay's disarming, tragicomic story about mental illness in her Chinese family is one for the ages, and one we as readers have not heard before. Soon after it was published, the book was shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction, which put Lindsay and her book on many people's radar. It's already been reprinted after two months; we're confident that The Woo-Woo will continue to enthrall readers for years to come.
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is one of the most passionate and hardest working writers and activists we know, and we were proud to publish her groundbreaking book on disability justice, Care Work. The disabled community and its allies rallied around Leah and this book; her launch in Seattle was so popular they had to add a second event the following night. Care Work sold out after only one month; the second printing is now available. We're looking forward to publishing Leah's extraordinary new poetry book Tonguebreaker in 2019, and seeing her at Vancouver's Growing Room Festival in March.
What fun to work with Vancouver true-crime expert Eve Lazarus for the third time. Murder by Milkshake originally had the deeply prosaic title of The Secret Poisoner (my fault), but Cynara convinced us and Eve that Murder by Milkshake was the way to go. It proved correct - Eve's book, about 1960s radio personality Rene Castellani who was accused and then convicted of murdering his wife, possibly by adding arsenic to her favourite meal of hamburgers and milkshakes. The book is less of a whodunnit and more of an intriguing character study, complete with reprehensible 1960s cads. It's been a BC bestseller for over two months, and like the titles above, has already been reprinted.
I first worked with Larissa Lai back in 2004 when we published a new edition of her novel When Fox Is a Thousand. How great it was to reconnect with her this year for her visionary feminist speculative novel The Tiger Flu, which has been embraced by critics and landed her on the cover of the November issue of Quill and Quire. Like so many of our authors, Larissa is fiercely intelligent and passionate about her work, and so supportive of other writers. (And we'll fondly remember the Chinese feast she treated us to last summer ...)
There's so much more, such as getting to work with the amazing Amber Dawn for the sixth (!) time this year, on her unsettling, ravishing second novel Sodom Road Exit. Her next project with us is a stunning anthology of poetry by sex workers, Hustling Verse, co-edited with Justin Ducharme, which will publish in fall 2019. And then getting to know and work with Casey Plett was another particular pleasure; in her debut novel Little Fish, we all fell in love with her complex, vulnerable characters. By day, Casey is the publicity and marketing manager for Biblioasis, one of Canada's very best literary publishers; we still don't know how she managed to write her novel, go on an extensive publicity tour, and continue to work tirelessly on behalf of other fantastic Canadian writers. One of the highlights of our year was sending out Amber Dawn, Casey, and Joshua on a hugely successful joint tour that saw them read at festivals and venues in Montreal, Ottawa, New York, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. How great that all three of their books landed on this year's "Globe 100" list of the Globe and Mail's best books of the year (as well as The Woo-Woo)?
We also published graphic artist and activist Gord Hill for the third time. His book The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book, a graphic history of Indigenous resistance in the Americas over the last 500 years, published in 2010, remains one of our most consistent bestsellers, both at retail and as a course adoption text. His latest book, The Antifa Comic Book, was inspired by his work with and enthusiasm for antifa activists committed to defeating racists and fascists at every opportunity - as important now as it ever was. The book was Gord's first in full colour, and he worked tirelessly to get it to us on time; the result, a visually stunning history of fascism and antifascist movements over the last 100 years, includes a foreword by Mark Bray (author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook) and has received great notices in such venues as Time and Vulture. We published another graphic title this year, Lisa Maas' debut book Forward, a touching graphic novel about a lesbian learning to find love again after the death of her spouse. Forward is very much in keeping with our interest in graphic titles by women artists; Lisa appeared at comic book festivals in both Toronto and Vancouver.
And what can I say about Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore other than she is one of the most talented and tireless authors we've ever worked with? I've known her work for years, so it was an honour and a pleasure to be able to publish her book Sketchtasy, a fevered dream of a novel set in Mattilda's hometown of Boston in the mid-1990s. She embarked on a stacked schedule of readings and interviews up and down the American east coast throughout the fall, and will set out to conquer the west coast beginning in January, with appearances in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, and Seattle. The result? NPR named the book one of the best of 2018: "Sketchtasy is a powerful firecracker of a novel; it's not just one of the best books of the year, it's an instant classic of queer literature."
And so much more: getting to work with Charles Demers and Kevin Chong again; both are writers for whom the class distinctions and complex histories of the city of Vancouver are central to their work. Charlie's sly crime novel Property Values (a BC bestseller) manages to send up both criminal gangs and overpriced real estate, and Kevin's novel The Plague (his second with us, following Beauty Plus Pity) is a contemporary and politically astute retelling of the Camus classic, set in Vancouver. Shannon McFerran is the latest debut YA author to publish with us; her novel Synchro Boy is a touching exploration of gender and sexuality through the eyes of a young man who joins the synchronized swim team in high school. (Shannon is also the first Arsenal author to launch her book at a public swimming pool.) The Scent of Pomegranates and Rose Water is a beautiful tribute to the history of Syrian cooking, written by Habeeb Salloum (the oldest writer we've ever published, at the age of 94) and his daughters Muna and Leila; it reminds us of the human connections made available to us through food. And finally, we published a new edition of the late Jim Wong-Chu's Chinatown Ghosts, a poetry book that we first published 32 years ago, in 1986; the new book includes Jim's evocative photographs of Vancouver's Chinatown, and is a tribute not only to Jim's talent as a poet and photographer, but his generosity as a mentor and supporter of Asian Canadian writers across the country.
In addition to all of this publishing of books, we attended the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival in May, the American Library Association's conference and trade show in New Orleans in June, and the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany in October; we'll be doing more of the same in 2019, including appearances at the Association of Writers and Writer Programs (AWP) conference in Portland in March, and the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in May. See you there?
We also managed to bring our website out of the Paleolithic age and into the modern world, with lots of new bells and whispers (hope you like). Our thanks to Craig Riggs and Doug Plant of Readerbound for helping us get there.
And one more thing: if it's not already clear, let me thank our writers, not only for trusting us with their work, but for their willingness to stand on the frontlines of many difficult battles currently being waged in Canlit: from #MeToo and the support of women writers and women working in the publishing industry; to Indigenous issues resulting from last year's appalling "appropriation prize" debacle; to the support of trans people besieged by "terfs," conservative organizations, and the US federal government alike. We stand with you, and pledge to continue the good fight at your side.
2019 is going to bring us another year of fantastic books and authors, but we'll keep you in suspense for now. See you on the other side.