Smithers Public Library director Wendy Wright (front) with Sheila Peters (left) and Lynn Shervill from Smithers-based publisher Creekstone Press.

Giving northern writers a voice

The founders of small Smithers publishing company Creekstone Press explain why they stay in the business despite industry pressures.

When Smithers author Sheila Peters came across the record of a Wet’suwet’en family who were evicted from their homesite along the Telkwa High Road, she felt it was a story that needed to be heard.

Peters wanted to publish it with archival photographs and illustrations by local artist Megan Hobson, but it was an unusual book concept which was unlikely to be picked up by a big-scale publisher.

To see the book go to print, she and four other people started a small-scale publishing company called Creekstone Press.

With support from the Smithers community, the fledgling company published Peters’ book Canyon Creek: A Script in 1998 .

Starting Creekstone was a way for Peters and the other publishers to share a story that might otherwise have remained unheard.

Now, in 2015, the small company is still helping to share northern stories that might be ignored by major publishers.

Co-founders Peters and Lynn Shervill said big companies like Amazon and Chapters had turned the book publishing industry on its head, making it harder for smaller publishers like themselves.

But a desire to share the work of talented northern authors keeps them in the business, publishing an average of one book every year.

Peters and Shervill said there were no restrictions on the type of works published by Creek stone, but some trends had emerged in the subject matter of the books.

“A lot of the books have to do with a relationship with the environment,” said Shervill.

“Rather than urban living or suburban living it’s about how people relate to their environment and how they’re informed by their environment in their lives.”

Hazelton poet Fabienne Calvert Filteau’s book Second Growth was published by Creekstone Press last September.

She said small publishers had an intimate connection to place, which couldn’t be matched by bigger publishers.

“They tend to seek out writers who reflect a diversity of experience that’s rooted to that place in a way that I think is more particular and more intricate than what a larger press might be able to access,” she said.

“They are able to showcase quite a variety of work and to give a place like the North exposure on the Can-lit landscape, otherwise it can be quite forgotten.”

From April 1-22 the Read Local B.C. project, run by the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia, encourages people to read literature by local authors.

Smithers Public Library director Wendy Wright said she saw a very strong interest in local literature.

“It’s so important for people to be able to place themselves in the environment by reading the perceptions, the views, the experiences of their neighbours,” she said.

“It helps them not only understand more about the place that they are in but more about the people there and Smithers has a strong interest in reading local fiction and nonfiction.”

Wright praised Creekstone Press for helping to ensure readers had access to the work of northern B.C. authors.

“People like Lynn and Sheila here who are dedicated to making the voices of their region be heard, they are not bound by those same restrictions (as larger publishers),” she said.

“I’ve seen first-hand how we can become limited to only those books that we know will be financial successes and then those other voices are not heard.”

The Smithers Public Library is currently running a display of books by local authors as part of the B.C. Read Local project.

The library also has a bibliography of books that tell the history of Smithers.

 

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