Monday, 6 April 2009


I'm almost embarrassed to admit that, to date, I've knowingly met only two Canadians.
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.
  • 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:


  1. Great list of publishers.

    As to Canadian writers, you missed a couple of real giants: Robertson Davies and Michael Ondaatje. And I'd throw sci-fi guy William Gibson and fantasy writer Charles de Lint into the mix, as well as mainstreamer Carol Shields.

    There's also Robert W. Service, though I think many Canadians would rather forget about him...

  2. Thanks for that David, I realised almost as soon as I hit 'publish post' I'd overlooked William Gibson and Carol Shields - but as for the rest I remain ignorant. (I never realised Ondaatje was Canadian) But you have me intrigued - why would his fellow nationals want to forget Service? Hmmm... I'll have to go look it up. All the best, regards.

  3. Hi - thank you for coming over to the blog. I'll link to this one the moment I can figure out how - I thought it was you and the location gives it away. I remember a particualrly fine discussion about Rioja and El Bulli many moons ago on another site.

    Very best

  4. Prominent speculative writers Guy Gavriel Kay and Robert Charles Wilson are both Canadian (the latter was American-born, but his parents quickly corrected that misfortune). ;o)
    Yan Martel is another internationally known Canuck. Contemporaries of Davies would be Margaret Laurence (The Stone Angel) and W.O. Mitchell, canonical here in Canada, although I don't know how well-known they are outside our borders. And Mordechai Richler, of course. Douglas Coupland for something a little more cutting-edge.

    That's all I can come up with off the top of my head, although I'm probably missing some of equal stature. As for the cultural protectionism, it's more or less inevitable when living in the wake of the behemoth that is the United States. Obsession with this fact is an essential part of the Canadian identity unfortunately. Perhaps a necessary one, but I'm not going to contribute to it.

  5. Thank you for the site;
    I am a beginner crative writer, and searching for a publisher, (not self publishing) who will accept my first draft of a novel.

    For more info. please contact

    Erma Siteman

  6. I am a Canadian writer have self published one book. The books title is Winds Of Time. It is full of poetry and life lessons learned in midlife. I am looking for a canadian publisher to consider looking at manuscript for my second book. For more info. please contact me at

  7. I am a aspiring canadian writer. I have a facebook page detailing some of my titles.

    Would love for everyone to check it out and maybe provide some feedback :D

  8. Thank you for this list. Helpful and easy to navigate.