Vici Johnstone has worked in the arts her whole life, but it hasn’t always been a straight line. She went from high school drama classes, to working in theatre production, to being a rock’ n’ roll roadie for a sound equipment company. From there, she worked at the Banff Centre and then at CBC Radio.
Along the way, she met Howard White and started working at Harbour Publishing. “I worked my way up and learned the nuts and bolts of publishing.” Vici was given a crash course in the business of publishing, which proved serendipitous a few years later. While she was working at Harbour, Howard’s sister, the owner of Caitlin Press, sadly passed away. There was an opportunity for Vici to buy the publishing house, and she jumped at the chance to build upon its longstanding history.
Caitlin Press was originally named for Caitlin Thomas, the wife of Dylan Thomas, yet its feminist roots don’t end there. While Vici doesn’t solely publish books written by women, there is definitely a focus on women. “We have a stronger focus on women’s stories then the politics of feminism. The problem has always been that women’s stories haven’t been well documented. So much has been written about men, but I’m more interested in what lies in the trunks of our grandmothers’ attics.”
Over the years, Vici’s brought her own personality to Caitlin Press. She’s especially proud of her latest initiative, Dagger Editions, which focuses on queer women’s stories. “We’re trying to create a national voice for queer women. We want it to be a voice for the community.”She also hasn’t lost sight of one of Caitlin Press’s original mandates – to give voice to people in rural parts of B.C. “I’m especially interested in stories taking place in rural areas with connections back to larger cities.” Located in the coastal community of Halfmoon Bay, Vici understands the challenges of being both connected and disconnected from the big city. She also understands the importance of bringing the stories being told in rural settings to light. “The community is really supportive here on the Sunshine Coast, but export remains our biggest issue.”
Creative BC has been instrumental in helping Vici promote her books overseas. “Export is on everyone’s mandate because we’ll be the guest host at the Frankfurt 2020 Book Fair. Livres Canada Books and Creative BC sponsored my trip to Germany because they see the value in getting our stories out into the international market.”
Publishing is an art form, and there are so many nuances to consider. “I think publishing as an industry is really reaching outside itself – there are so many books now that are breaking the boundaries, pushing the edges. It’s not just love stories – our narrative here in Canada is different. There’s something like 10,000 books being published in Canada each year. What people read, what people write, it’s all changing. What doesn’t change is our desire to know people.” That’s what Caitlin Press continues to explore.Publishing is an art form, and there are so many nuances to consider. “I think publishing as an industry is really reaching outside itself – there are so many books now that are breaking the boundaries, pushing the edges. It’s not just love stories – our narrative here in Canada is different. There’s something like 10,000 books being published in Canada each year.
That’s what Caitlin Press continues to explore.