Calgary was good to me (it always is). I got to meet great publishers, my friend and colleague Lisa Murphy Lamb (Director of the WordsWorth Writing Residency) let me stay in her design-magazine worthy home, and there were some surprises, too, like an unexpected visit from a friend. The drive home from Calgary seems to NEVER be good to me, at least not in the winter (and until today, it has still been winter in AB). The roads were slick, but I had Alberta’s plethora of radio stations to keep me company on the drive up the QE2.
Edmonton is home, and NeWest Press—on the edge of Old Strathcona—is just up the street. I enter the Noble building, location of the popular Upper Crust Café, and head to the second floor. I pass an empty office space before arriving at 201—NeWest Press. Apparently 2013 is the year to move; NeWest will relocate to that empty space next door in May. It’s bigger and will allow them to store all their books in the single space (NeWest currently has storage downtown as well).
The in-office trio—Matt Bowes, Tiiu Vuorensola, and Paul Matwychuk—are happy to not be moving to a new part of town. Here they are surrounded by some of the best coffee shops and cafes in the city and are a two-minute walk from Edmonton’s River Valley.
What some people may or may not know is that Tiiu and Paul are a couple (there are a lot of couples in publishing). Tiiu is somewhat bashful when I ask about their relationship, but I’m able to coax the story out.
Six months after Paul joined NeWest, turnover placed him in the lead position. Tiiu joined the group shortly after as a bookkeeper. There were a lot of late nights while the two recalibrated the press to its new position and staff. Both Tiiu and Paul felt the spark, but Paul knew the situation was tricky. When he finally decided he wanted to pursue a relationship with Tiiu, he asked the board first. The item went on the AGM agenda and Paul left the room while it was discussed. When he returned, he received the board’s blessing. Nearly three years later, Tiiu and Paul are engaged and will be married in December 2013.
NeWest often publishes first time authors; Tiiu says that of the many pros to the job, one of the best is how exciting it is bringing a new writer’s book to the main stage. That said, they acknowledge the challenges of not being in the hub of Canadian publishing. They aren’t able to hob-nob around with the big guys and it can be hard to get reviews of their books in national publications.
One thing they’d like to see is more submissions. While they are happy with the 150 a year they currently receive, they feel that perhaps writers don’t consider NeWest as a viable option for publishing their book because of its size and non-hub local. So writers, take note. NeWest Press wants your submissions!
Regardless, business is good. The organization has been in the black for the last three years and is excited for the success of recent books such as Cassy Stocks’ Dance, Gladys, Dance, which is currently short-listed for the Leacock Memorial Medal for humour writing.
I appreciate the casual atmosphere at NeWest. My time here feels less like a tour and interview and more like a visit. And you can visit too! While the office is not technically a store, NeWest does sell books in-house. So go! Go buy a book. They take debit.
Fave quote: “There’s a kind of selflessness to [publishing].” — Paul