Fate of the book: crowd turns out for Books Start Here in Wolfville

Wendy Elliott welliott@kingscountynews.ca
Published on March 21, 2016

Seats at the Fountain Commons at Acadia University were full on March 17 in support of the province’s publishing industry.

©Wendy Elliott, Kingscountynews.ca

WOLFVILLE – Voices were raised in support of books March 17 in the hopes the local MLA and his colleagues will heed.

Andrew Steeves, author and publisher at Kentville’s Gaspereau Press, looked out at the audience and said how pleased he was to see “a room full of people acting as if they care about your fate.”

“We’re hoping to gain the ear of the government to make some change for the industry. Governments come and go, but our culture remains,” he said

Steeves was among the number of local book producers, sellers and lovers who spoke through the evening, including fellow publisher Andy Brown. The Greenwich Conundrum Press owner spoke about how he is able to make graphic novels with creative people from all over the world.

Scott’s Bay writer Ami McKay said her play Jerome was published by Gaspereau Press “with their trademark dedication to excellence.”

She noted that an unpublished play is not eligible for a Governor General’s Award, so she was fortunate.

McKay, who hails from the United States, compared the creative community here to an ecosystem. She chose to live in Nova Scotia after taking a workshop by John Terpstra about home.

“Our stories matter,” said the author of The Birth House. “Our communities matter.” Then holding her hand over her heart, McKay stated, “our books start here.”

Writer Anne Bishop explained how her book, Becoming an Ally, was rejected by six publishers before Errol Sharpe of Fernwood Publishing worked with her. Now the book is in its third edition and is read by every social work student in Canada.According to Bishop, books have a terroir - just like wine or cheese - and deserve to be fostered by a well-supported regional publishing industry.

There were young voices, as well. Horton High School student Ben Bush Anderson said culture is the most important part of society as an outlet to express experience.

Wolfville bookseller Hilary Drummond says the region has a rich book industry here and she hopes to convince the provincial government to support the industry at a level other provinces do.  Publishers are looking to expand production, marketing and sales, generating more local jobs and higher profiles for Nova Scotia authors across Canada and internationally, noted Drummond.

Sharpe said the 12 publishers in this province produced 169 books last year and have an important economic impact with $4.5 million in sales, 42 full time staff, 23 part timers working with 74 freelance writers.

Maggie Neilson, academic librarian/director of One Book Nova Scotia, said the point of the third Books Start Here event  was to support “our robust publishing industry receiving much needed help.”

Did you know?

 The Books Start Here campaign was launched in February in Halifax with more than 200 people. A second event was held in Feb. 24 in Mahone Bay.

The government of Nova Scotia announced at budget time last year that, as of April 1, it plans to invest $70 million in the province’s “cultural economy,” with $6 million going towards Nova Scotia’s film, animation, music and publishing industries.

This week, 30 MLAs have indicated they are going to meet with representatives of the publishing industry.