Report from SFU Publishing Immersion, pt. 2 (I’m home!)

Caleigh Minshall

Last night I finally returned to good old Caledon, Ontario. It was nice to go to bed without worrying about the hooligans partying outside (my Vancouver hotel was right in the downtown core). But I still found myself missing the wild, high-pressure challenges of the SFU workshop! Truly, it would be too much to summarize the entire two weeks in one blog post. The whole thing was a whirlwind of emotions and experiences and information — often contradictory. If you have specific questions and find yourself wondering what the workshop is like and whether it’s for you specifically, don’t hesitate to email me and I’d be happy to answer them.

But that’s not very helpful on a public blog! What I can do is say that for me, personally, I had a blast and would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in publishing — especially if you’re enjoying an internship at the time, since a little background in publishing (and writing copy!) was very helpful to me and made finishing projects a little easier. The hours are long and the breaks are short, but I didn’t find that too troubling, although some other people did. Like I said in my last blog, though, the hardest part is really just figuring out a way to get along with your group. After the first two rocky days, I had settled in pretty well with my group and now can say that I am really! truly! proud to have worked so hard with them and produced our fabulous catalogue (more on that later), but one person quit midway through the workshop and there were plenty of other snits and tantrums and fights — all understandable when you think of the long hours, short breaks, and little time to sleep. How to deal with all of that?

The first thing to do is to figure out your priority. Is your priority to make as many friends and connections as possible, like mine was? Because if that’s the case, you need to swallow that ego and refuse to get involved in any unreasonable arguments and be willing to compromise on things you may feel quite passionate about. You may even want to skimp on the project work and instead spend more time socializing with your peers. Is your priority to impress the faculty members? If so, you may want to be more forceful about creating the best list possible and spend more time on your own perfecting that list, even if your group might not be as dedicated.

Part of my group’s working agreement was to remember that we are all role-playing and none of this is real life. I think that’s so important to remember. We’re here to learn, have fun, make mistakes, and get feedback on those mistakes from people who know this industry far better than we do. Ditch the ego. Don’t get attached to any title ideas, because chances are your group will hate it (and if they don’t, the faculty will). Be creative and fearless! Volunteer to do things that you aren’t familiar with so that you can gain some experience in new areas. Support your fellow group members and don’t belittle them, no matter how much they may frustrate you or how terrible their ideas are. (I’m happy to report that my group members only came up with the most brilliant ideas, so I didn’t have too much trouble there.) A cheerful attitude is so important to maintain, for your own health and others’. If that means you need to step out the room, do so — better to take a ten-minute breather than burn out and rampage for half an hour. A couple different people took breathers in my group and everyone was better for it, and I think our willingness to take care of each other helped not only our sanity but the quality of our work.

I’ve come away with some genuine friends and contacts for when I return from France in 2011. I also had a blast — the Saturday night boat cruise was such a fabulous party to finish off the workshop! Sometime this week I hope to upload my photos to a Flickr account; I’ll be sure to post the link. There are too many photos, and to be honest none of them are good enough, for me to post here.

As for Robson House’s seven (imaginary) titles, here they are: Outside the Noise, a ‘vulnerable and revelatory’ autobiography by Michaelle Jean; Heartbeat, a compassionate look at one man’s odyssey through the hospital and through memories of his father, written by Ian Brown; I Ate Precious, an outrageous and hilarious book ‘with a chaser of inspiration’ by celebrity Trey Anthony; Otherhood, edited by Anne Kingston, which is a series of conversations by twenty Canadian icons (from Kim Cattrall to Roberta Bondar) on their decision to live a childless, fulfilling life; The Science of Snow, and Other Cold Hard Facts About Winter, a quirky, informative book all about winter by Bob McDonald of Quirks & Quarks fame; and … two more titles I can’t tell you about, because one of our group members may be publishing them in the near future!

That was one long sentence, eh? Despite all the stress of the first two weeks, everyone’s titles came together beautifully. The final sales conference on Saturday morning was a lot of fun and also inspirational — the ideas and book covers were all so wonderful, almost miraculously so, considering the stress of the previous two weeks.

Looks like I owe you another blog this week, since I missed last week altogether. As always, don’t hesitate to email me with questions!

Caleigh Minshall

About Caleigh

Intern at the Porcupine's Quill.
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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.