Remembering Dave Godfrey, 1938 – 2015

Dave Godfrey was truly a man of diverse interests and talents. Born in 1938 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he acquired a BA from the University of Iowa and an MA from Stanford University in English literature in the early 1960s. At Stanford he met his future wife, Ellen, and also enrolled in Wallace Stegner’s celebrated creative writing program, numbering among his fellow students soon-to-be famous authors such as Larry McMurtry, Ken Kesey, and Robert Stone. Armed with a subsequent MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa, he taught with Canadian University Services Overseas in Ghana in the mid-1960s, then returned to North
America to earn a PhD from the University of Iowa and teach at the University of Toronto.

Godfrey’s two years in Africa provided the inspiration for a number of his short stories and his novel The New Ancestors, which won the Governor General’s Award for fiction in 1970, besting Robertson Davies’s Fifth Business. His time in Africa also introduced him to a powerful and enduring icon — Anansi, the trickster of folktales who often takes the form of a spider. That creature became the colophon for and lent its name to Godfrey’s first venture into publishing: House of Anansi, the small press he co-founded in 1967 with Dennis Lee to publish contemporary Canadian poetry and literary fiction.

Next came New Press in 1970, a company he launched with Roy MacSkimming and James Bacque to publish books on political and social issues. Ever restless and searching, he founded a third publishing venture in the early 1970s with Ellen and moved to Erin, Ontario. Like Anansi, Press Porcépic (renamed Beach Holme Publishing in the early 1990s) focused on poetry and literary fiction with the addition of drama and some non-fiction. In the mid-1970s, the Godfreys took Press Porcépic with them when Godfrey was appointed head of the Creative Writing Department at the University of Victoria, eventually adding to their list young adult titles in the form of the Sandcastle imprint as well as science fiction and children’s picture books.

For Godfrey’s generation the afterglow of centennial year led to a confident and new Canadian nationalism. Godfrey played a major role in developing the Canadian-owned publishing industry. He was a founding member of the Independent Publishers’ Association (later the Association of Canadian Publishers), helped set up the Association for the Export of Canadian Books (now Livres Canada Books), lobbied successfully for federal and provincial government financial support for Canadian-owned publishing houses, and co-authored, with Robert Fulford and Abraham Rotstein, Read Canadian: A Book About Canadian Books, a guide to the best writing about Canada in a number of different areas.

In the 1980s, Godfrey’s creative and ceaseless intellect took him to computers and the role they could play in the cultural industries. He wrote Gutenberg Two: The New Electronics and Social Change, and with Ellen created software for distant learning as well as an Internet service provider company.

After retiring from teaching in the late 1990s, Godfrey turned his attention to wine and became a vintner on Vancouver Island. He is survived by his wife, Ellen, and his daughter, Rebecca, both talented, award-winning authors, and his son, Samuel.

Kirk Howard, President & Publisher, Dundurn
Past President, ACP
July 2015

Remembering J. Gordon Shillingford

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

Canadian publishers endorse federal initiatives supporting Indigenous arts

At its 2016 Annual General Meeting, held June 8-10 in Winnipeg, the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP) voted unanimously to endorse initiatives announced recently by the Canada Council for the Arts and Department of Canadian Heritage, which make support for Indigenous arts and Indigenous peoples a funding priority.

Read the press release