A Goodbye Playlist from Publicity Director extraordinaire, Laura Repas

Today is my last day working at House of Anansi. I got the job here in Fall 2002, and barring two years of leave, I’ve been here since. I don’t know how to say goodbye to my friends here, to the memories, to the place that introduced me to my husband, some of my closest friends, and to many, many of my favourite books. So I’ve made a playlist to help me out!

1 – Hey Ya! – OutKast

In 2003, the year this song came out, our then-publisher Martha Sharpe started wearing a super-cute, bright Kelly green sweater. I immediately went out and bought a similar one, and she was cool enough to not mind me biting her look. We called our new favourite colour ‘André Green,’ after the cardigan André Benjamin wears in the video for “Hey Ya!”. Subsequent Anansi staffers started calling their Kelly green stuff ‘André Green’ too, because Andre is awesome, and none of could remember who the Kelly person was. Also, this is the best pop song ever recorded.

2 – French Navy – Camera Obscura

I met my husband, Ken Babstock, right here in the Anansi offices the first month I started work. Various work events kept bringing us together over the following months, as if Anansi was trying to make us fall in love. This song reminds me of him every time I hear it.

3 – Communist Daughter – Neutral Milk Hotel

My close friend Colleen Wormald was our very first intern in the newly-independent Anansi of 2002. That’s how we met. We sat across from each other for four months and discovered we shared a brain. Sure we were separated by an age gap, ethnicity, and some minor socioeconomic stuff, but other than that, it was like we were the SAME PERSON. Not only has Anansi employed me all these years, it also conveniently laid a few soulmates in my path. She introduced me to this beautiful Neutral Milk Hotel CD, and we liked to go to the tiny Dundas Street bar of the same name as this song, when we could fit inside.

4 – Everyday I’m Hustlin’ – Rick Ross

This song reminds me of Sarah MacLachlan, our president and publisher. SURE Ross has some unsavoury controversy around him, and sure we’re not in Miami, and certainly not dealing anything illicit (honest), but every day Sarah Mac is hustlin’. She has an inspirational amount of energy, a talent for seeing all the angles, swears like a thug, and has ALL THE HUSTLE.  Change one word and lyrics can even work:

I’m into distribution, I’m like Anansi
I got them motherf***ers flying across the Atlantic

5 – Have You Ever Had It Blue – The Style Council

Years ago I nicknamed my female colleagues at Anansi the Lifestyle Panel. I found that if I wanted to make a decision about where to eat, what to buy, what shoe looked best with what pants, and other such questions, I could put it out to the group here and get the best feedback. Once I bought two pairs of boots on sale and stomped around the whole office with a different boot on each foot and had everyone here vote on which one they liked better so I could decide which one to return. You don’t find that level of patience and taste just anywhere. I’ll miss my friends. There’s no song I know to describe our relationships, but the name Style Council sure fits.

6 – Dick in a Box – The Lonely Island featuring Justin Timberlake

Do you have a beloved Christmas song that puts you in the mood for the holidays? Is it “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – so sad yet hopeful, poignantly sung by Judy Garland? Is it “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth,” the duet by Crosby and Bowie, their surprising, cross-generational pairing feeling so moving, so right for the season? At House of Anansi we always get into the spirit of the season with a delicious potluck lunch, a staff gift exchange, and “Dick in a Box” on a loop in the boardroom.

7 – We All Lose One Another – Jason Collett

Once, at an IFOA event for our Broken Social Scene book, I tipsily promised the lovely Jason Collett that Anansi would publish anything he may want to write, ever. Novels, lyrics, recipes, pensées, anything. I really feel I should set the record straight… Offer still stands, Jason! Just call Sarah Mac.

8 – 1 2 3 4 – Feist

While we’re on a BSS tip, Sarah Mac introduced me to Leslie Feist when she was one of the judges of our BSS short story contest. Our conversation went like this:

Feist – Have we met before? You look really familiar.

Repas – I don’t think so, but maybe. I’ve been around.

Feist (knowingly, with a hint of ennui) – Yeah, I’ve been around too.

I swooned.

9 – Jenny and the Ess-Dog – Stephen Malkmus

When I first saw Patrick deWitt’s author photo I thought he looked like my long-time crush Steve Malkmus, from Pavement. Then I MET Steve Malkmus in a park in Berlin, and realized he looked nothing like Patrick deWitt. But he was still an indie-rock dreamboat, and genuinely friendly and cool, totally worthy of a two-decades-and-counting crush. And DeWitt’s not so bad either.

10 – Annabel – Goldfrapp

This song is based on Kathleen Winter’s gorgeous novel, Annabel. It was such a pleasure to work on that book, and to get to know Kathleen.

Also, there is an album called February by Joanna Barker, which was partly inspired by Lisa Moore’s novel of the same name. Joanna’s not on Grooveshark, so I couldn’t put her on the playlist, but I recommend her CD. And Lisa Moore is a great friend, and my absolute favourite person to take a drive with, hands down.

11 – To Sir With Love – Lulu

The time has come for closing books
And long last looks must end
And as I leave I know
That I am leaving my best friend

The lyrics say it all, I don’t know a more fitting farewell song.

So that’s my playlist for the end of my Anansi era. If you need me, I’ll be the one crying on the Queen streetcar.

X,
L.


The Anansi crew all put our cellphones together to gather up some of our favourite picture of Laura throughout the years. We’ll miss you, Laura! It’s the end of an era.

#ReadWomen2014

It’s fair to say that House of Anansi has always published great women writers, so when Joanna Walsh of the Guardian began her #readwomen2014 initiative we decided to do a Vida Count of our own. We were pleased and fascinated by what we discovered.

In 1967, our founding year, Anansi published Janis Rapoport’s debut poetry collection, Within the Whirling Moment, in the Young Poets series (YPS) and the young Margaret Atwood’s second collection, Circle Game, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award, was published under the House of Anansi imprint (HAP 3).

This was an auspicious beginning to be sure, however, over the next twenty-two years Anansi published only twenty female authors. That’s not a high number, but in the ensuing twenty-five years, since 1987, the house has published more than seventy women writers — a 300% increase! We’re happy to report that women writers have very strong representation at Anansi, across all genres. Our women authors write about everything: health and wellness, science, history, astrology, memoir, poetry, and fiction.

We have decided to take up #readwomen2014 as our campaign slogan for the upcoming fall season largely because we have a plethora of fabulous women writers on our list and want the world to know about them. More importantly, we want everyone to read their books! So please take a look at what we have to offer you in the coming months. Enter our contest to win wonderful prizes. And please, please read and share these extraordinary writers! #readwomen2014

House of Anansi President and Publisher, Sarah MacLachlan

 

Enter to win!

The Spring 2014 Playlist (or, More Music to Read By)

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The Spring 2014 list from Anansi and Groundwood looks nothing short of fantastic. Editorial Assistant Suzanne and erstwhile Sales Assistant Eva have teamed up once again to choose a few of the books and put together a playlist full of songs that remind us of these fantastic stories. They can be enjoyed while you read, or can be experienced on their own. What other songs would you pick to go along with these amazing books?


El NiñoEl Niño by Nadia Bozak

Available May 2014

Inspired by J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, El Niño tracks the survival of one woman and a young, undocumented migrant as they journey through the no-man’s-land of a remote southwestern desert.

These are the songs we’d want to hear on a lone desert road.

  • Make it Rain by Tom Waits | 
  • Higgs Boson Blues by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds |  (shout-out to Neil Turok, author of Universe Within)
  • Woman King by Iron and Wine | 
  • The Desert is on Fire by Murder by Death | 

Birding with YeatsBirding with Yeats by Lynn Thomson

Available May, 2014

A delicately rendered memoir on motherhood, family, and the beauty of the natural world.

Check out a few of our favourite birdish tunes.

  • Rooster Moans by Iron and Wine | 
  • Fly by Nick Drake | 
  • Pulling our Weight by the Radio Dept. | 
  • Backyard by The Good Lovelies | 

Based on a True StoryBased on a True Story by Elizabeth Renzetti

Available June, 2014

Globe and Mail columnist Elizabeth Renzetti’s debut novel is a hilarious look at what happens when a washed-out celebrity and a tabloid reporter go on a wild trans-Atlantic road trip in search of revenge on a former boyfriend.

Serving up some sweet tunes with an ’80s twist and a generous shot of revenge.

  • Jump (For My Love) by the Pointer Sisters | 
  • Back to Black by Amy Winehouse | 
  • Bang Bang (My Baby Shot me Down) by Nancy Sinatra | 

This One SummerThis One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Available May, 2014

The highly anticipated following up to Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki’s award-winning graphic novel Skim is an investigation into the mysterious world of adults through the eyes of Rose and Windy, two summer friends at Awago Beach.

Everyone loves a summer song — here are a few of our favourites.

  • Animal Tracks by Mountain Man | 
  • Abducted by Cults | 
  • Boyfriend by Best Coast | 
  • Saturday Morning by Eels | 

The Tweedles Go ElectricThe Tweedles Go Electric by Monica Kulling, illustrated by Marie Lafrance

Available March, 2014

Meet the Tweedles: Papa, Mama, daughter Frances and her brother, Francis. It’s the dawn of a new century — the twentieth century! — and the Tweedles have decided to buy a car. But no gas-guzzler for this modern family. Only an electric car will do for them.

The Tweedles aren’t the only ones who’ve gone electric!

  • Odessa by Caribou | 
  • Boy from School by Hot Chip | 
  • Honey by Moby | 

Lord and Lady Bunny — Almost Royalty! by Polly Horvath, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Available February, 2014

Literature’s most endearing rabbits are back in this sequel to Mr. and Mrs. Bunny — Detectives Extraordinaire! While the Bunnys’ human friend, Madeline, worries about saving money for college, Mrs. Bunny is more concerned about how to become a queen.

Here are some sweetly twee but driving hits for our favourite literary bunnies (though maybe we should have included more hip hop?).Lord and Lady Bunny — Almost Royalty!

  • Paperback Writer by the Beatles | 
  • Don’t Stop me Now by Queen | 
  • Girls and Boys in Love by the Rumble Strips | 

New year, new look for Groundwood Books

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Sheila Barry, Publisher of Groundwood Books

Sheila Barry, Publisher of Groundwood Books

I’m a big fan of new beginnings. I still buy all new pens and notebooks at back-to-school time; I look forward for months to the first day of summer; I celebrate all major (or not-so-major) birthdays; and, of course, I believe it’s important to pay attention to the start of a new year. And this year, Groundwood feels especially full of new things that are worth attention.

As always, we are publishing new books — from authors and illustrators we have been proud to work with over many years, and also from creators who are new to Groundwood. Another new thing — and it’s a big thing — is that this season we are launching a new logo for the company. It will appear on all our books and print materials, on our website (more about what’s new with that below!) and in all the digital spaces that we increasingly occupy.

It is no small thing to create a new identity for a company as well-known and well-regarded as Groundwood, and the process of arriving at our new look took many months and involved many people. Historically, only the word “Groundwood” has appeared on our books — in effect, we have been a company without a logo and without a fixed identity, and while there is an understated confidence behind that approach, I believe that for the new environments where books are found and talked about, we need a single logo, one that will work on picture books as well as young adult fiction, playful books as well as serious ones, slender book spines as well as large banners — and in Twitter feeds as well as on business cards. Our goal was to create a logo that reflects our publishing philosophy, one that is flexible, curious, intelligent, and not entirely mainstream. I believe this is what we have achieved with the help of designer David Gee.

The new Groundwood logo will appear prominently on our new website, which will launch in the spring. If you want access to our full catalogue, you can still visit houseofanansi.com, but if you want a sneak preview of what our new website will look like, as well as information about all our Spring 2014 books, please go to our new microsite, which can be found at groundwoodbooks.com. Groundwood blog posts can be found at groundwoodbooks.com/blog from now on. I very much hope that you will like what you find there!

If we had to choose just one Canadian book…

If you had to choose just one Canadian book, what would it be?

This was the question Barbara Howson, our VP Sales, put to the Anansi and Groundwood staff last week. She was compiling a list for a newcomer to Canada who wanted to get acquainted with the literature in her new home. Most of us couldn’t stop at just one. Have a look!

What books do you think we missed? Tell us in the comments.

Hold Fast: the story of a Canadian classic

The evolution of the cover of Hold Fast. On the left is the 1978 Clarke Irwin edition; followed by the 1995 edition published by Stoddart Kids; then the 25th anniversary Groundwood update; and on the right, the 35th anniversary movie tie-in edition.

The evolution of the cover of Hold Fast. On the left is the 1978 Clarke Irwin edition; followed by the 1995 edition published by Stoddart Kids; then the 25th anniversary Groundwood version; and on the right, the 35th anniversary movie tie-in edition.

Thirty-five years ago, I got my first real job, as an editorial assistant at a now-defunct publishing company called Clarke Irwin. The salary was $6,000 a year, and I worked in a little cubbyhole where I spent a lot of time wrestling with carbon paper and Wite-Out, typing address labels on an old manual typewriter, and rejecting manuscripts.

My biggest job perk was that I got to read the slush pile. Clarke Irwin was mainly an educational publisher, but it had started to get into trade books, including children’s books.

One of the manuscripts that came across my desk was a young adult novel written by a schoolteacher in Newfoundland. The novel was called Hold Fast. I was knocked out by it. I sent it on to the Powers That Be, and the decision was made to publish it.

That’s when I was assigned the best task in publishing. I got to tell the author that we wanted to publish his book.

I phoned Kevin Major. He was very nice. Very polite. We talked for a short while and both said goodbye. But in that second as I was putting down the receiver, I heard him on the other end of the line, shouting with joy just before he hung up the phone. I think he screamed “Wahoo!”

An illustration from Hold Fast

An illustration from the first edition of Hold Fast

That was the start. For Kevin it was the beginning of a stellar writing career, with fifteen books, a heap of awards and publication around the world.

For me? Hold Fast was my introduction to YA books, and it spoiled me for anything else. That book taught me everything I needed to know about voice and authenticity, about character-driven stories, about sense of place, about making readers feel something. After that, I knew I wanted to edit books for young readers, and I’ve spent the rest of my own career doing so, with Hold Fast setting the bar.

Kevin? Are you out there? Do you remember that Wahoo moment? It’s been thirty-five years. Can you believe it?

Shelley Tanaka is an award-winning author, editor and translator. She lives in Kingston, Ontario.


Now Hold Fast is a major motion picture produced by Rock Island Productions. The movie premiers in Canada on Friday, December 6th in St. John’s and Halifax. The national release will be in 2014. If you’re a lucky east-coaster, we hope you’ll check it out. The rest of us will have to make due with the trailer for now.

Music to Read By

EvaandSuzanneAlthough we make very good books around here at Anansi and Groundwood, we also spend a lot of time thinking and talking about music. Several members of our staff are musicians, and others have headphones plugged at their desks around the clock.

Stemming from a conversation on Twitter, Eva O’Brien (Sales Assistant) and Suzanne Sutherland (Editorial Assistant) decided it was time for some Anansi and Groundwood-themed playlists to emerge.

These books are some in-house favourites and these songs are what we think the characters might have listened to (ignoring time, location and access to technology almost entirely). We hope you enjoy!


978-1-77089-259-0The Outlander by Gil Adamson

In 1903 a mysterious, desperate young woman flees alone across the west, one quick step ahead of the law. She has just become a widow by her own hand. Two vengeful brothers and a pack of bloodhounds track her across the western wilderness.  Gil Adamson’s extraordinary novel opens in heart-pounding mid-flight and propels the reader through a gripping road trip with a twist — the steely outlaw in this story is a grief-struck young woman.


978-0-88784-234-4Holding Still for As Long as Possible by Zoe Whittall

What is it like to grow into adulthood with the war on terror as your defining political memory, with SARS and Hurricane Katrina as your backdrop? In this robust, elegantly plotted, and ultimately life-affirming novel, Zoe Whittall presents a dazzling portrait of a generation we’ve rarely seen in literature — the twenty-five-year olds who grew up on anti-anxiety meds, text-messaging each other truncated emotional reactions, unsure of what’s public and what’s private.


978-0-88899-753-1Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Skim is Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a not-slim, would-be Wiccan goth stuck in a private girls’ school in Toronto. When a classmate’s boyfriend kills himself because he was rumoured to be gay, the school goes into mourning overdrive, each clique trying to find something to hold on to and something to believe in. It’s a weird time to fall in love, but that’s high school, and that’s what happens to Skim when she starts to meet in secret with her neo-hippie English teacher, Ms. Archer.


Is there a song that reminds you of your favourite book? Tell us about it and while you’re at it, find us on Twitter @houseofanansi, @sutherlandsuz & @evakmo.