In my New Year’s Resolutions post, I resolved to devote more blog space to discussion of Canadian small press books, and also to better acquaint myself with small presses outside of Canada and to search out and read more of their books. In the past month, I’ve assembled and begun working my way through a diverse and tantalizing array of small press books in furtherance of these goals. I’ll soon begin posting reviews.
In the meantime, I’ve been contemplating what it is that made a small press booster out of me. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
1. I grew up in Saskatchewan where a couple of fine small presses were, and are, an integral part of the literary landscape. There, as everywhere else, big press titles dominated the shelves of the bookstores and libraries, and the book pages of the newspapers. But they were distant entities. The local small presses were part of the community. Indeed, they played a central role in the building of a literary community where I lived. Thanks to them, I’ve always believed that I could create a literary life wherever I am rather than having to escape to some glamorous place to find one. It was the local small presses that got me reading contemporary Canadian fiction and poetry early on.
2. I’m an avid reader and writer of short stories and short stories are primarily the preserve of small presses. There are a few notable exceptions of course. But, for the most part, I credit the small presses, together with the little magazines, for keeping short stories alive. Without them, my reading life would be much poorer, and my own stories might never have seen the light of day.
3. My reading tastes are eclectic. I can appreciate a well-wrought realist narrative, a clever mystery, a magical children’s adventure. All of these things I can get from the big presses. But when I’m after something new, something different, something daring, I look to the small presses. To be sure, sometimes the big presses venture into this territory, but usually with an author that a small press took a chance on first. And of course the small presses also expand the range of well-wrought realist narratives, clever mysteries, and magical children’s adventures available to me.
I’ve followed the example of That Girl Who Writes Stuff and added a list of some of my favourite small presses to my sidebar. Click on the links and check out their catalogues. It’s a mostly Canadian list at present as those are the ones that I know best. Please share your favourites as well. I want to know about more fabulous small presses whose catalogues I should be checking out, and individual small press titles that I should be seeking out to read and review.