Okay, I’ve only been in the publishing business a few weeks and it may be a little early to be talking about “dream jobs,” but it isn’t too soon to talk about it never being too late to start something new.
Bundoran Press was founded about seven years ago by Virginia O’Dine. She began in 2006 with a collection of short stories: The Best of Neo-Opsis, which, as it turned out, included one of mine, A Song for Morning, originally published in 2005, only the second story I had sold since moving from Calgary to take a new job at the Canadian Senate in 2002. Virginia was looking for novels and I happened to have one that had been sitting in a drawer for a year or two. I polished it up and sent it off and, in 2008, my first novel in 15 years appeared. Defining Diana was nominated for an Aurora Award for the Best Canadian SF Novel of 2008 and spawned two more Aurora-nominated books that made up the Steele Chronicles. In 2010, Virginia accepted a proposal for an anthology of short stories on near future resource conflicts. Blood and Water was launched in August 2011 at When Words Collide in Calgary. It garnered pretty good reviews and whet my appetite for more editing work.
So when Virginia asked to meet me to discuss business at World Fantasy Convention in Toronto last November, I thought it was so I could pitch an idea for another anthology. Imagine my surprise when she offered to sell me the publishing house! It wasn’t a decision she came to easily; Bundoran Press was very important to her and she had poured a lot of work and emotion into bringing it to where it was. But she had to make changes and one reluctant one was to give up the Press.
I had a lot to think about and a lot to discuss with my wife, Elizabeth Westbrook-Trenholm. Money was a consideration, of course, but not the only or even major one. The real question was: was I prepared to take on a 7 to 10 year commitment at the age of 57? Liz and I had already made plans for retirement – only 3 or 4 years away and they didn’t include running a small business, especially not one as complex and fraught as book publishing. Everyone has heard how publishing is dead, how indie e-books were taking over the world, how small bookstores were closing everywhere. Yet, the more I looked into it the more it seemed that these were not so much challenges as opportunities.
I also recalled my theatre days back in Calgary. I was never more than an indifferent actor – whose only real talent was a flair for improvisation. It was only when I got the chance to direct and then produce shows that I really felt comfortable and capable. While I think I’m more than an indifferent writer (and have a few awards to prove it), the idea of moving onto another stage – editing and publishing – seemed suddenly intriguing.
Of course, I asked a few friends and colleagues what they thought. A common sentiment: why would you spend all that money and energy when you could go to Italy and drink wine or Mexico and lie on the beach? I simply wasn’t ready to accept that I was past starting something new. I was ready to take on a new challenge. And I was ready to succeed. Even tearing the meniscus in my knee a week after agreeing to the deal didn’t dampen my enthusiasm – though it did send me scurrying to the hardware store for a heavy duty trolley.
Am I crazy? I’ll let you know when I find out.