One was an actor-writer, self-consciously modelled on Sam Shephard and determined to break into British theatre; he had a thing about kayaking though hated the outdoors.
The other I met last summer on the A.V.E. (Spain's high-speed train) between Madrid and Barcelona. He was an ideal journey companion - keen to impart his impressions of Europe, share his food and drink, and answer naïve questions about his home country.
Two very good friends did their post-grad research in Canada, and a distant cousin, possibly three or four times removed, was former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's wife.
I can name twenty Canadian musicians, including one of my favourites: Glenn Gould, I can name ten Canadian film-makers and animators, ten Canadian scientists and thinkers, ten Canadian choreographers, dancers and circus acrobats. But writers?
All I can confidently name are Margaret Atwood and Marshall McLuhan.
Does it matter?
Well, based on the cursory research undertaken for this post, it obviously matters to a number of Canadian publishers, particularly those in receipt of financial assistance from Canadian government sources. 'Canadian writers only' and, as a subject, 'Canadiana', bely a supposed frailty or lack of confidence at the core of Canadian literary enterprise.
Perhaps these generous support systems for writers as they exist in Canada and Catalunya, (and England, Wales and Scotland at both national and regional levels) are too tipped in favour of playing to the home crowd and only encouraging a pretence to an international readership.
Given the complex, and possibly fraught, nature of the relationships between common tongues and distinct cultural differences in Canada, the timidity of its cultural administrators is possibly understandable. However, I would argue that same rich diverse mix of cultures could be Canada's strength.
Given its linguistic proximity to both Anglophone and Francophone literature and its physical proximity to the U.S. market, Canada could build a useful role as an entrepôt for European writing.
A strategy could yoke the import-export of content, talent, skills and experience to themed support for works based in the experiences of French settlement, the Scottish diaspora, Aboriginal displacement and new wave Asian settlement. Canadiana certainly - but Canadiana of an ilk that could find markets in Europe, and beyond.
And where is Canada House in Madrid or Barcelona? We have Casa Asia (which did an excellent job of promoting Australian cultural stuff a couple of years ago), the Goethe Insitut, the British Council, and French, Italian, Portuguese et al equivalents. Unfortunately Canada House is better known in Spain as a chain of shops selling trendy clothes for kids.
I would genuinely like to read the views of Canadian writers, publishers and readers on this.
Do you think Canadian agencies should offer more or less, or more focussed, support for Canadian writers, translators and publishers? Please share your experience and views.
So, here it is, a partial list of Canadian publishers who will look at work submitted by writers.
I repeat again the preamble to the U.K. list below. PLEASE READ IT:
The links I've posted here will take you straight to the appropriate page on the publisher's website detailing their submissions policy and instructions. PLEASE read these carefully and do as asked.
While on any site I strongly recommend you browse around a bit and familiarise yourself with the publisher's list, seek out their blog (if they have one) and gather clues on their current acquisitions policy.
If a publisher has a newsletter, and they seem as though they could be a possible home for your work at some point in the future, then sign up.
PLEASE, don't just smash, grab and send; give careful thought to your query and show consideration.
You know the drill - but if you don't, don't send, otherwise a few more doors may close.
- Acorn Press - about Prince Edward Island by Prince Edward Islanders.
- Alire - in French.
- D & M Publishers Inc.
- Ravenstone Books -an imprint of Turnstone Press as above; mysteries, thrillers, hard-boiled crime.
And, while we're here, here are a few potentially useful Canadian organisations which could further illuminate the literary scene in Canada:
- The Writers' Union
- and CanLit Publishers - who have a useful database of publishers and who are in the market for well-written articles and reviews; here are their submission guidelines.