J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing Inc.
Winnipeg, MB , Manitoba
Founder and Leadership
Our founder, Gord Shillingford, got his start in the publishing business by establishing Winnipeg’s Blizzard Publishing with a partner, but struck out on his own in 1992 to found J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing Inc. Initially Gord’s vision for the press was to publish drama, but then he acquired Watson & Dwyer and expanded into non-fiction, focussing on social issues, sports, biography, and prairie history. Later he acquired poetry press The Muses’ Company and added poetry titles to his list. Gord had a particular interest in literary work that pushes boundaries, and in books dealing with Indigenous issues.
Following Gord’s untimely death in 2016, his wife, publisher Karen Haughian, took over the press. Karen is also the founder and publisher of Signature Editions.
Scirocco Editor Glenda MacFarlane studied Drama and English at the University of Saskatchewan. She worked in the theatre as an actor, administrator, director, teacher, and playwright before joining J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing in 2001.
Tell us a bit about your press. How did you start? What is your mission?
J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing is primarily a literary publisher. Our press includes four imprints, each with a particular focus:
- J. Gordon Shillingford (politics, religion, true crime, biography)
- Scirocco Drama (drama)
- The Muses’ Company (poetry)
- Watson & Dwyer Publishing (Canadian social history)
J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing was founded in Winnipeg in 1992 and published four drama titles the following year; it now publishes an average of ten titles annually in the genres of drama, poetry, and literary non-fiction. We have established not only national but international sales and distribution networks and built an active backlist of close to 300 titles. Our books have won numerous prizes including Governor General’s Literary Awards, Canadian Authors Association Awards, provincial book awards from several provinces, the LAMBDA Literary Award, and more.
Our mission is to: • Support the development of new Canadian literary talent in a number of genres • Make a significant contribution to the publishing and dissemination of Canadian drama • Bring marginalized voices to wider markets • Provide relevant commentary in the areas of contemporary social issues, politics, and history • Maintain strong ties to the local literary and theatre communities
What about small press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing Inc. has always been committed to publishing unique and edgy voices, including those on the margins of the mainstream, and today’s political movements are bringing focus to BIPOC writers, writers with disabilities, trans writers, and others. The enhanced attention to a wide range of voices is exciting, and aligns so well with JGS’s core values.
How does your press work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large?
We connect to the literary community in a number of different ways, including through writers’ events, partnerships with writers’ organizations, online outreach, and, in our case, also through attending live theatre and theatre events, since so many of our writers are playwrights. We engage the community at large through book displays at events such as Word on the Street, through launches and readings in cities and towns across the country, and through online literary events.
How have the current multiple global crises impacted your work with the press?
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant finding new ways to connect with our writers and readers. We are learning to celebrate and market books online, as well as spending time in digital spaces presenting readings and working on manuscripts. Since theatres have mostly been shuttered for the foreseeable future, our drama editor has seen a drop in the number of manuscripts submitted. We have always been mindful of global political movements, including civil rights movements and the fight against climate change, and we continue to look for work that champions these causes.
Scirocco Drama, 2020
Controlled Damage is a play that examines the effect of Viola Desmond’s courageous stand for civil rights in 1948 Nova Scotia. This examination of Desmond’s act of Black activism in mid-twentieth century has startling relevance to today’s world. The play was so popular when it premiered at Halifax’s Neptune Theatre that the entire run was sold out before the play opened.
North End Love Songs
The Muses’ Company, 2012
Katharena Vermette’s poetry collection North End Love Songs very clearly reflects the city of Winnipeg, where J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing is based. As a Métis author, Vermette’s is an important voice during this period of national re-evaluation of relationships between settlers and Indigenous peoples. North End Love Songs by Katharena Vermette won the 2013 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry.
Scirocco Drama, 2020
Dragonfly is an original and poetic play that tells the raw and heartfelt story of Rae’s half-century-long (and counting) gender odyssey. Two voices, one male, one female, illuminate the inner life of a trans woman from her Scottish childhood in the 1960s to the present day. This play is an important addition to trans literature, bringing the inner life of a trans person to light, and helping to build bridges.