The drive to Montreal from Toronto, at five hours, seems quite short after northern Ontario. For the first few hours, things are great. The sun is out (dare I call it… spring?), the tunes are blaring, and I just snagged one of the last Roll-Up-The-Rim cups from the Tim’s. (Please Play Again…sigh.)
But as soon as I drive past the Quebec border sign I’m hit with a wave of anxiety. I’m in Quebec. I’m probably going to have to speak French. Here’s the deal: I’m an editor. I HATE making mistakes. In French, I KNOW I’m making mistakes.
And my vehicle, oh my vehicle. I’m not good at cars, but I can feel something wrong. I place both my feet on the floor (cruise control) and can feel grindy vibrations through my flats. I’m terrified that at some point a seam beneath the car will rip and the undercarriage will spill open all over the highway. In fact, I’m certain that this will happen. Just hopefully—I plead with the universe—not today.
After getting lost and finding my way again, I finally park. As I turn the engine off, I wonder if it will turn back on again in a couple hours. No matter. The task at hand is an afternoon date to meet Linda Leith in her workspace—her apartment.
Linda Leith Publishing
Linda Leith Publishing (LLP) is a one-woman operation. Having founded the company in 2011, LLP is the youngest of the publishing houses on the tour.
It seems that every publisher I meet apologizes for the “mess.” Linda is no exception, somewhat self-conscious about her dining room table that is covered in books and manuscripts. They aren’t all submissions; on top of running her company, Linda is also on a couple of juries, including for the Commonwealth Book Prize.
My first curiosity about Linda Leith Publishing is the name itself. Many houses follow the tradition of using the name(s) of the founder(s), however they (traditionally) tend to be masculine.
Yes, I know, they are (for the most part) last names. But last names are names passed down from our fathers and many of those names are also (traditionally) used for boys (Simon, Stewart, Douglas, etc.). To me, it felt like a bold move to include her first, and clearly feminine, name. Linda. Wondering what came into play when making the decision, I ask her about it.
And she hadn’t ever thought of it that way. In fact, it never occurred to her at all until I mentioned it.
For her, she knew that her name was one of her assets. Recognizable as the founder of the Blue Metropolis Festival as well as a novelist, an educator, and many other things, people in the literary community know her name, so it made the most sense to use it for her company.
At its heart, Montreal is truly a bilingual city. Linda founded the Blue Metropolis festival as a way to develop dialogue between both English and French writers. She has since left organizing the festival, but a strong writing community in Montreal (in all languages) is important to her and she intends to continue acting as a bridge, now via her publishing company.
But as a new publisher, there was a steep learning curve; Linda needed to learn how to publish in English first. While she does have a book of cartoons that is bilingual, her other books are English. With these she is finding much success. Peter Kirby’s The Dead of Winter has been shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel, and Felicia Mehali was nominated for Canada Reads 2013 with her novel The Darling of Kandahar.
This recognition hasn’t gone unnoticed. Linda has recently learned that she will start receiving grants from the Canada Council’s emerging publishers program, meaning she will be having a second look at her budget for the coming year and will look to her options for either publishing books in French or translating some of her English books into French.
I admire Linda for what she’s achieved and what she continues to achieve, based on her own values and under her name (and from the comfort of her own home, cluttered dining room table and all!).
Also, her business cards are the best business cards I have ever seen. She said I would faint when I saw them, and I nearly did. At about 80 cents a piece, I’m honoured to take one with me.
I’m also stoked when my car starts as I go to leave. It jerks spastically every time it switches gears, but it gets me to my B&B and is therefore something I don’t need to worry about for at least another day and a half.