Coach House Books
Toronto, ONVisit Website
Founder and Leadership
Publisher Stan Bevington was the founder and the original publisher of The Coach House Press in 1965. He is also the sole proprietor of Coach House Printing Ltd, a printer of fine books for the book trade since 1965. He has won numerous awards for design and is a pioneer in the use of computer technology in the realms of design, publishing and printing.
Editorial director Alana Wilcox is responsible for acquisitions and editing, as well as overseeing day-to-day operations. She is the author of A Grammar of Endings (The Mercury Press, 2000).
Managing editor Crystal Sikma worked at a small press (Bellevue Literary Press) and a big literary agency (Writers House) in New York before landing at the perfectly sized coach house.
Tell us a bit about your press. How did you start? Who are your influences, in Canada and beyond? What is your mission?
In 1965, Stan Bevington began printing versions of the new Canadian maple-leaf flag. With the money he made selling these flags in Yorkville, he rented an old coach house and bought a Challenge Gordon platen press. With Dennis Reid, he printed a book of poetry by Wayne Clifford. Writers and artists soon flocked to the little coach house with their projects. Coach House has always maintained a dual role in Canadian letters by both publishing and printing books.
And now? We’re still pushing the frontiers of the book with our innovative and exceptional fiction, poetry, drama, and non-fiction, including a series of books about Toronto. In 2015 we celebrated our fiftieth anniversary and a Scotiabank Giller Prize for André Alexis’s Fifteen Dogs. We look forward to a future of many more excellent and unexpected books.
What about small press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
Everything! It’s a time of great change in terms of how the publishing industry works and what it publishes, and we’re excited to be a part of both those conversations. We’re eager to find new ways to engage with our readers and our community, and to publish from less-often heard voices.
Translation has come into fashion, and we’re very happy to see our translated titles find keen readership; we’re excited to see where translation will take us and where it will allow us to take our readers.
How does your press work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large?
We have always hosted a lot of events, from launches to our big Wayzgoose at the end of each summer; this has always been a great way to engage with our community and to meet new readers and writers. With the pandemic, this has had to change as everything had to be moved online. So far we’ve held virtual readings and live streams, connected our authors with bookclubs, and co-hosted a conference for aspiring writers and publishing professionals. We’re excited about the seemingly limitless ways we can gather virtually.
Tell us about three of your publications. What makes them special, needed, and/or unique?
Amanda Leduc’s Disfigured: Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space looks at how the ableism of the fairy tales that are the foundational myths of our culture have taught us to treat disability. It’s a much-needed look at what is teaching new generations and how to change it. For the first time, we were able to publish all possible accessible versions (print, ebook, audio, Braille) simultaneously in order to be “born accessible.”
Lisa Robertson’s The Baudelaire Fractal is a breathtaking stroll through the life of a poet. Our narrator, self taught and aspiring to be a poet in a world where all the tropes of poetry are male, wakes up one morning to discover that she has written the works of Charles Baudelaire. A poet’s novel, and one that might not find a home among more straightforward fiction.
Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s Suzanne, translated by Rhonda Mullins, tells – beautifully – the story of the author’s grandmother, who abandoned her children to pursue a life in the arts and on her own terms. A controversial and important consideration of the role of women.
How have the current multiple global crises impacted your work with the press?
The state of the world has left us, like everyone, with lots to be concerned about. We worry for the state of our independent bookstore friends as they try to mitigate the dramatic loss of in-store shopping. We worry for our writers, many of whom have lost day jobs. And we worry a little for ourselves, as it becomes harder for readers to hear about our books.
But we’re also hopeful. This period of uncertainty has enabled many changes in the industry. It’s allowed us to make our books and events more accessible by bringing together readers and writers from across the globe, and has allowed us to reimagine the ways that we connect with the community at large. Most importantly, this time has shown us that the stories we tell are essential. We’re more inspired than ever to continue bringing books into the world.
Translated by Pablo Strauss