Earlier this week, a celebration of publisher J. Gordon Shillingford’s life was held at Winnipeg’s King’s Head Pub. Friends, family and colleagues gathered to share our memories of Gordon, and many more were there in spirit! The King’s Head was one of Gordon’s favourite hangouts and often served as his “satellite office.” I can see him working away on his laptop or taking meetings at his usual table, which has now been immortalized with a plaque marking it as “Gord’s office.” He also frequently dropped in to our office, just across the street from the King’s Head. We will miss his visits.
At the celebration, many people praised Gordon’s support of poets, playwrights, and Indigenous writers. He was known for his willingness to take risks on books and writers and his instincts were often right, as evidenced by his many Governor General Award nominations and wins. He was remembered for his intellect, generosity, love of music and literature, wry wit, and trademark hoodie!
Gordon was born in Saskatchewan in 1960, and even after many years of living in Manitoba, still cheered for the Riders. He entered the publishing world in 1986, when he teamed up with a friend to start the Winnipeg drama publishing house Blizzard, using his student loans for start-up money. He left publishing for a short time, and went to work for the Manitoba Arts Council, but returned to publishing in the early 1990s, establishing J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing Inc, a respected literary press comprised of several distinct imprints including Scirocco Drama (theatre), The Muses’ Company (poetry), Watson & Dwyer (Canadian social history) and J. Gordon Shillingford (politics, religion, true crime, biography).
Gordon made a huge contribution to Manitoban and Canadian literature. He was a passionate volunteer in support of the industry, having served as president and long-term board member of our association. He was genuinely passionate about books.
Gordon passed away on January 25, 2016 after a brief illness.
Our thoughts are with his wife Karen Haughian (Signature Editions) and son Griffin.
We miss you, Gordon!
Michelle Peters, Association of Manitoba Book Publishers, February 5, 2016