In House: Anvil Press

In House is a regular column, highlighting the various publishers that have books featured and available for purchase on All Lit Up. Find out things like what sorts of books they publish, where in Canada they call home, and how they got their start.


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Anvil Press has its roots in the East Vancouver neighbourhood it calls home but also in the magazine world, as it started out by publishing subTerrain magazine in 1988. Both these elements still play a large role in the Anvil Press of today.
Publisher Brian Kaufman continues to release three issues of subTerrain while also publishing ten plus titles of unconventional and progressive literary work from Anvil each year. And he and his two Anvil Press colleagues, Karen Green and Shazia Hafiz Ramji, do all this great work from a building in East Vancouver, which they share with fellow indie press, Talonbooks. And the office dog, Mocha.
We know when subTerrain started but what prompted Anvil to begin its journey in indie literary book publishing? The desire by those that started subTerrain was there, they were just waiting for the right piece of writing to cross their desk. It came to them in 1991 in the form of a short manuscript that was extremely funny but also had a scholarly bent to it. They were immediately taken with it and felt that it would find an audience with those looking for new authors writing about contemporary times. And so A Toilet Paper, or, A Treatise on Four Fundamental Words Referring to Gaseous and Solid Wastes Together with Their Point of Origin was published and sales were brisk.
Since that time Anvil Press has gone on to publish dozens of titles and have earned a bit of a reputation for quality book-objects and great prose, such as Afflictions and Departures by Madeline Sonik, nominated for the Charles Taylor Prize and winner of the City of Victoria Book Prize; Frenzy by Catherine Owen, winner of the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry; and Knucklehead & Other Stories by W. Mark Giles, winner of the W.O. Mitchell Prize. But the book they are probably best known for is Heroines, a photographic documentary by Lincoln Clarkes of the addicted women of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, published in 2002. It was a book that compels one to react with its striking images, including the London Observer with “Beauty in a beastly place” and Broken Pencil with “Imbued with powerful and sublime truth.”
A vibrant member of their local literary community, Anvil Press was distinguished with the City of Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award in 2009 and the Jim Douglas Publisher of the Year Award from the Association of Book Publishers of BC in 2013. But it’s not all about the awards! Anvil Press puts on countless events each year (and not just locally) to connect their authors with readers. They even team up with their colleagues, Talonbooks, Arsenal Pulp Press and New Star Books, to host an annual holiday party for their authors, fellow colleagues, and readers.After twenty plus years of publishing, Anvil continues to work at establishing new voices within the Canadian literary landscape, those that speak to what’s happening now and don’t shy away from anything.