In House: At Bay Press and the Manitoba publishing scene

Known for gorgeously crafted books since their start in 2008, Manitoba-based publisher At Bay Press continues to add new literary fiction, poetry, and non-fiction from emerging and undiscovered authors to their catalogue of books—all of which are printed and bound in Canada. At the helm is Publisher Matt Joudrey who shares with us some highlights from At Bay Press as well as the ever-vibrant Manitoba publishing scene, below. 


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At a recent local book launch, Publisher Karen Haughian of Signature Editions and I were discussing how we started our publishing houses in other cities before moving them to Winnipeg, starting out in Montreal and Toronto respectively. Both presses now reside in Winnipeg and the move to this wonderfully resilient and artistic city has proven to be a fruitful one. 
The aforementioned book launch was for C.C. Benison’s newest mystery novel release for Paul is Dead (Signature Editions). A veteran mystery author, Benison’s wit and lively prose brings the theme of guilt to life, as the characters struggle with their longstanding feelings that have remained buried for over forty years. Benison’s ability to tell a good story and masterful control of pace make the novel an exceptional read as a decades old mystery is unearthed.At Bay Press has discovered exceptional writing and storytelling talent here in this city. One such discovery was truly serendipitous. Karen Clavelle, author, poet and chapbook enthusiast, was introduced to me by Jane Dalley, from whom I’d been purchasing fine handmade Canadian papers for our limited-edition handbound chapbooks. On Jane’s urging to speak with an author and fellow book artist, I reached out to Karen.The result of this introduction is a wonderful relationship with an extremely talented author, and an At Bay Press upcoming release of the epistolary novel entitled The Mother Goose Letters.
The famed character of Mother Goose takes it upon herself to tackle modern subject matter of emigration and immigration, aiding the well-known fairytale characters to consider the Manitoban Prairies as a viable option to start new beginnings. Clavelle manages to temper the subject matter with clever helpings of humour. Mother Goose proves she is still crafty and able to ruffle some feathers.Of course, not all Manitoba publishers started out in other provinces. Some have roots that date back to a time when the CanLit industry was a mere fledgling trade. From humble beginnings (it’s claimed that the press started out in a Winnipeg pub), Turnstone Press has been churning out quality fiction, poetry, and non-fiction for over forty years. And they are still growing. Publisher Jamis Paulson and I have had many conversations about the Manitoban publishing scene and its impact on the Canadian literary landscape.
Never reluctant to shy away from a challenge, Jamis also designs all the covers of the books Turnstone publishes. One of these wonderfully designed books by Turnstone is also a magnificent collection of poetry. Starland by Brenda Sciberras, is a beautiful book in more ways than one. This author’s second collection concerns itself with pop culture, fame, and stardom. Sciberras’s poems sort through all the facets, twinkling and bright, faded and forgotten.One of the many exciting things about publishing in Manitoba is the diversity of storytelling voices. Founded in downtown Winnipeg in 1996, ARP Books has a mandate to publish a dynamic combination of cultural, fiction, and non-fiction titles with an emphasis on progressive political analysis of contemporary issues.
One such title, Stolen City: Racial Capitalism and the Making of Winnipeg by Owen Toews focuses on the settler colonialism that has formed Winnipeg and the Canadian Prairies. Through the lens of both historical and contemporary analysis, this book exposes the themes of racism and dispossession that have shaped Winnipeg’s downtown and that have existed for too many years.All four books are engaging and masterful in their own right and although they seem to share no relation to one another, they all demonstrate how Manitoba publishing, writing, and storytelling shine.  * * *Our thanks to Matt at At Bay Press for shining a spotlight on the artistically vibrant Manitoba publishing scene.