Goose Lane Editions
Fredericton, NB , New Brunswick
Founders and Current Leadership
Fred Cogswell was a poet, translator, editor, and scholar. He founded Fiddlehead Poetry Books in 1954, laying the groundwork for what would become Goose Lane Editions. He was deemed “A Friend of Poets,” and in his honour, the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry was founded in 2014.
Originally from Manchester, England, Peter Thomas found his way to the University of New Brunswick where he acquired Fiddlehead Poetry Books from Fred Cogswell for $1. Soon after, he expanded the company to include fiction and nonfiction titles and gave Goose Lane its name.
Susanne Alexander, the current publisher at Goose Lane, and Julie Scriver, the company’s creative director, both joined the company as owners in 1988. Julie began as a part-time readers and typesetter. Susanne jumped aboard to help Thomas reorganize, leaving her provincial government position after putting in place the New Brunswick Arts Board. Susanne and Julie expanded the publishing list — particularly the non-fiction titles — to include trail and nature guides, art books, and books on contemporary ideas. Now the majority shareholders of Goose Lane, Susanne and Julie have kept the company strong, even in the midst of a global pandemic.
Tell us a bit about your press. How did you start? Who are your influences, in Canada and beyond? What is your mission?
Tucked in a garden shed on a laneway in Fredericton where a farmer once ran her geese, Goose Lane Editions found its name, but it began long before that at the University of New Brunswick. Now Canada’s longest surviving independent publishing company, Goose Lane Editions began as Fiddlehead Poetry Books in 1954 and has since expanded from poetry to also include fiction, non-fiction, trail and nature guides, art books, and books on the important ideas of our time. Throughout its growth, Goose Lane has sought to represent a balance of voices and continues to share stories that challenge, startle, and enlighten readers.
What about small press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
People want to support local, and we want to support them. As a small press, we often find amazing personal stories that would be overlooked by larger presses as being too specific, too localized. We’ve found, however, that good writing and interesting stories well told captivate readers from all over the world. We love publishing a diversity of voices and authors from all parts of Canada, from indigenous, settler, or immigrant writers, who may have sometimes gone unheard.
How does your press work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large?
As a small publishing press, we understand the value of support and do our best to highlight indie bookstores when we host book launches and author events. We want to connect readers to the wonderful communities that develop out of small bookstores. We believe in community: in our blog, we share stories and news with our readers; in our newsletter, we focus on trends and ideas that might be of interest. We also communicate with a large community of readers via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and we talk, write, and visit with whomever comes our way.
How have the current multiple global crises impacted your work with the press?
With the onset of the global pandemic, offices quickly shifted to working from home. As a small, united team, it was difficult to adjust to the distance, but we equipped our staff to work from home and we kept our strong sense of community. Although production schedules had to be relaxed and a few titles shifted seasons, we managed to work through the spring at a distance. We transitioned to online communications, meeting with each other in digital environments and reinventing the way that we communicated with our readers. We also observed that as people shifted their attention online and as bookstores closed, our customers turned their attention in our direction — our online orders increased dramatically as did our communication with our readers.
For our authors, this was a double whammy. Book launches were cancelled, book talks and festivals put on hold. The promotional campaigns for their books evaporated overnight. But we didn’t stay dark for long. Working with our authors, we devised new ways of communicating with readers, authors found new channels for their voices, and we’ve discovered ways of reaching audiences through new means, whether digital launch events, readings, podcasts, or blogs. Some of our writers have turned to video, others to Instagram to introduce their work in story form, and some are now participating in drop-in visits to indie bookstores to sign copies of their books.
The events of the pandemic have also turned our collective attention to issues of racism and the lack of diversity in our institutions. We consider that this shift in attention is critical: it has given us a renewed resolve to continue to address these issues in our staffing and in the selection of works for our publishing program.
We are now seeing people returning to bookstores and we’re witnessing a surge in interest in supporting local business, local suppliers, local economies, and local authors. This, perhaps, has been one positive outcome of the pandemic. It has made large segments of the population more aware of the interconnectedness of their well being and their local economy – a welcome change from disposable fashion. Let’s hope that it lasts.
Unicorn in the Woods
As a publishing company that grew from the minds of UNB graduates, this book feels particularly fitting as it tells the under publicized story of how a quiet coder for a university IT department managed to create two start-up tech companies that sold for a combined $1 billion. Unicorn in the Woods tells the story of a new knowledge economy growing far from the reaches of Silicon Valley. It reminds us that innovative thinking can be found in unlikely places: for these east coast geeks and dreamers, success began in their basements and has seeded hundreds of new companies throughout North America.
Goose Lane’s origins are rooted in poetry, and as we’ve grown, we’ve never forgotten that. Jessie Jones’s debut book, The Fool, is our latest poetry collection and it is striking, particularly in our current climate. In Tarot, the Fool is associated with zero—a literal loop. As many have found during the current health crisis, days seem to loop on and on, and Jessie dives into that in her poems. She examines the sensual, cruel, depraved state of being human in the twenty-first century and is ready to upheave it. A riveting collection designed to course correct our lives.
A unique take on fiction, Catherine Bush uses her novel to examine our current climate through the lens of a fictional island off the coast of the North Atlantic. Bombarded with climate change news and theories in the media, Bush offers a unique avenue through which to examine our fears for the future. As a mammoth category five hurricane sweeps up the eastern seaboard — the North Pole melting, and climate deniers up in arms — a father risks everything on a chance to make a future for his daughter, a future she never asked for.