Monday, August 13, 2012

Small World

In addition to doing freelance development/copy editing, I'm also senior acquisitions editor for Five Rivers Chapmanry. About 18 months ago, I signed H. A. Hargreaves to reprint his classic 70's SF collection, North by 2000 (the first SF collection ever marketed as "Canadian SF".) I wanted the collection because I often give lectures on Canadian SF to English teachers, etc., and often use Hargreaves (especially his, "Dead to the World" story) as the exemplar of Canadian / US differences. In one of my more recent talks, someone had pointed out that if the book had been out of print for 30 years, they could hardly use the story in their classrooms. So I either had to acquire the reprint rights and make the collection available to a new generation of readers, or--you know--update my lecture notes.

Six months later at the When Words Collide festival (Calgary), I met horror writer Bill Schnarr, and he said, "Hey, I hear you're reprinting Hargreaves' book!" This surprised me because we hadn't actually announced that yet, but Bill went on to explain, "He's a coworker of mine." Turns out that Bill Schnarr is a reporter at the Claresholm Local Press where Hargreaves--a retired English professor -- comes in once a week to proofread the paper. A few months later, Bill signed on with Five Rivers to bring out Things Falling Apart, a phonebook-thick collection of his short stories. I'm sure that part of his decision to go with Five Rivers was because Hargreaves was having a positive experience with the press, but still, kind of a coincidence that two of our writers not only come from the same small Alberta town (population 35,000) but even work in the same office.

At the same When Words Collide festival I met Schnarr last year, I held a pitch session in which eight or nine author's pitched their novels to me so that I could help them refine their pitches. Out of that number, I actually invited one woman, Susan Bohnet, to submit a manuscript. She did, and after she made some revisions we had requested, I offered her a contract. We then agreed to meet at this year's When Words Collide festival. So, she turns up Friday night at the session I'm hosting with H. A. Hargreaves. And Hargreaves points to her name tag and says, "I know that name. I proofread your column every week." And she confesses that she is indeed that columnist, and that when the editor of the Claresholm Local Press had been away that week, she had handed her column into acting editor, J. W. Schnarr. So you tell me: what are the odds that a micropress based in Neustadt, Ontario would end up with three writers from Clarseholm Alberta who all work in the same office?

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