When I arrive at the house on the corner of Frontenac Avenue I am greeted by David and Rose Scollard. David offers me a latte. I’ve just had one, but I don’t want to be rude so I accept. After taking a few pictures in Rose’s home-office, and watching them banter the way you’d expect any couple to, I sit at their kitchen table and David hands me a latte in a bowl (I’ve since been told it’s the European way). Lyn Cadence, who manages publicity and marketing for Frontenac, arrives shortly after. Upon letting herself in, David gets up from his chair and almost on cue makes her an espresso.
Soon the four of us are seated and well into the Scollard’s history and the story of how Frontenac came to be. An older couple, their respective histories are not short. David recalls the 1960s where he says the publishing world was a gentlemen’s club, complete with three-martini lunches. He also remembers the day he met his wife, the day he tried to sell a set of readers to an aggressive woman. Rose, unbeknownst to him, had edited the readers.
In 2000 David and Rose founded Frontenac House to publish a historical fiction novel written by Rose’s mother. When opening the press to poetry, they found a selection of four manuscripts they wanted to publish and learned then that four is the magic number when it comes to print costs. The Frontenac Quartet, well known among the poetry community, was born (though sometimes it’s a quintet and in 2010 was a dectet).
Little known fact: The street Frontenac House is on was named Frontenac after the press began operations.
Rose and David chose the name based on the road they lived on, simple as that, and the press continues operations in the same space. As a home-based press I had to wonder if any hopeful poets have ever arrived at the Scollard’s home unannounced to pitch their books. Rose says no but admits that there are times writers hand-deliver their manuscripts in hopes to have a conversation.
Frontenac is in reading season right now; the cabinet along the dining room wall is lined with manuscripts. Rose says that of the ones submitted, over half are good and a quarter she’d love to publish, but there is room for only four. Before I arrived she was reading one that she says she will arm wrestle her way to publication regardless of the opinions of the other readers that offer input on which of the submissions to publish.
I cautiously ask about money. I’m curious if Alberta’s wealth affects publishing in the province. The oil industry here does allot a certain amount of dollars to arts organizations through sponsorships, etc. However, a press like Frontenac House is not on their radar and so there is no oil money going directly into their operations. That said, David did spend 25 years working in the oil industry, which helped to build the financial security that allows them to work for free.
More than once the couple makes a point to mention how grateful they are for the very generous support they receive from granting organizations such as the Canada Council and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.
All factors combined, Frontenac House makes decisions based on quality before economy. They are also adamant that they treat their authors well. Their authors are put up without cost when the books launch, and I’ve heard that the spread at the events is way beyond cookies and tea (the events are free to attend, too).
Our conversation is over two hours long and spans many topics within the publishing industry, too many to cover in a single post. But what I come away with is that Frontenac House is a labour of love, with one’s love. As a couple they balance each other and the challenges and successes of publishing have strengthened their relationship.
“[Publishing] is the best thing that’s ever happened to us.” – David Scollard