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The Art of Asking with Nav Nagra, Publisher of Room Magazine

On March 11th, Room Magazine is hosting its fourth annual literary and arts festival celebrating diverse Canadian writers and artists, Growing Room. The festival was created in commitment to deepen learning about inclusion and accessibility, both within the systemic structures of the festival and the creative curation. Growing Room is a celebration, a protest, a reflection, a re-visioning, a gathering, a question, and a dream.

Nav Nagra, who was recently appointed as the new publisher of Room Magazine is no stranger, having been a collective member since 2014 holding various roles. Her passion for the publishing industry has taken her through various initiatives and organizations throughout the province including consultancy with Breathing Space Creative, serving on the board of Vancouver Art Book Fair and the Professional Development Committee of AFP Vancouver.

We speak to Nav about her journey with Room Magazine and multi-disciplinary skills that have afforded her a wealth of experience in British Columbia’s publishing industry.

 

 

Tell us a little about yourself, your work and Room Magazine.

I’m a first-generation Canadian and I feel like this and the culture I was raised within really informed my interest in storytelling. Most of my life was spent living in a multi-generational house with a Grandmother who loved sharing stories and quite frankly, gossip and I think those interactions made me want to become a storyteller. I made sure my education was always centered around books and writing and then shortly before I graduated from university, I found out about Room Magazine and inquired about getting involved with the magazine. I started at Room Magazine in 2014 as the Advertising Coordinator, moved onto our Editorial roster and now am extremely humbled to be Publisher. I have published a few small pieces of poetry and hope this year will bring about a lot more writing for me.  I’m also currently working on what I hope will be a novel.

 

For those who may not be familiar with B.C.’s magazine publishing industry, what are your thoughts on the ever-evolving landscape? What does the future of magazine publishing look like?

I think the future of magazine publishing will see magazines appearing on more than one platform in more than one format. We’re seeing it now with magazines starting podcasts, YouTube channels, and other types of audience engagement. I don’t think print is dead and I may be naive in thinking so, but I don’t see print going anywhere for a while. I do think that magazines need to be a bit nimble going forward and work towards becoming as digitally accessible as possible while maintaining a print presence.

 

What were the early days of your career like? How did you get to where you are now?

The early days of my career were really formed by me asking a lot of questions and finding ways of getting involved in editorial work. I have an accidental art history background and this led to my work at an art gallery and creating artist catalogues for emerging and established artists. I was almost rabid in my university days trying to find any publication that would allow me to write an article or blog post about pretty much anything. As I moved within my career, I always made sure that I could do something that would bolster my editing abilities and allow me to write. I guess I am where I am now because I would always say yes and then scope out the next opportunity. And though I acknowledge that not everyone has the privilege of doing this, I am very glad I was able to.

 

What inspires you as a creator?

I am very inspired by music and movies. I love reading but I find that I am so baffled by the talent of the writers I read that I never feel I can create such amazing works so I take the emotions I feel from movies and music and translate that into my writing and other creations. My influences change so quickly it’s really hard to narrow it down. Right now, I would say from a writing standpoint, I am most inspired by Carmen Maria Machado, Roxane Gay, and Chelene Knight. Oh! And Fleabag – I found so much inspiration from that show.

 

 

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?

Ask questions! The art of asking is real and if you’re able to, ask lots of questions. One thing that I like to do if I’m interested in a certain aspect of the industry is I ask if I can go to coffee with someone just to find out how they got where they are or if they have any advice. For the most part, folks are more than happy to sit down with someone to share some wisdom. I know that I would not be where I am if I hadn’t just asked.

 

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

As of now, it’s definitely becoming the Publisher of Room Magazine. If you had asked me in 2014 where I thought my path would lead with Room, I would have never thought I would end up as Publisher. I am so humbled in my role and by the team at Room.

 

Are there any upcoming events or initiatives in the pipeline for Room Magazine?

Yes! Our Growing Room literary and arts festival is happening in Vancouver from March 11th – 15th and features so many amazing artists and writers. You can find out more and get your tickets at festival.roommagazine.com.

 

Visit Room Magazine’s website for more information.

Kristina Stanley, Founder & CEO, Fictionary

Kristina Stanley grew up in a household where reading books was very important. “I’ve had a lifelong journey with reading, and that comes from my mom. She was born in Italy, and throughout World War II she didn’t have access to books. When she came to Canada, books became a really big thing.”

When she was in her 40s, Kristina decided to write her own book with the hope of writing something that gets a reader so involved they can’t put it down. She went on to write a series of books, and in that process, she discovered that it’s actually quite hard to document all of the different characters and settings. “I would use a huge spreadsheet to keep track of all of the different elements in my story. I thought there must be an easier way, but I couldn’t find it.”

 

 

Kristina decided to build Fictionary with her husband and brother to solve some of the challenges writers were facing. Fictionary transforms editing through deep story analysis software.

She went to conferences and interviewed hundreds of writers and editors, asking them how they edit and keep track of their work. They took all of that learning and spent months building an alpha prototype to help writers display their story arc and keep track of their characters, settings, and plot lines. As any entrepreneur knows, it can take some time to go from idea to launch. “We had the idea in 2014, but we didn’t come out with the first product until January 2018.”

Since they launched, they’ve heard from many of their writers that while they love the product, they want more automation and more visual tools. In order to get Fictionary to that next level, they realized they needed more funding. “Through their support, Creative BC is helping us focus on getting to that next level of wow, so we can make Fictionary more beneficial to our writers.”

Kristina found out about Creative BC by accident. “We were at a dinner party when someone told us to apply for a grant. Applying for the grant itself made us take a hard look at what we were doing. We had to do our due diligence, thinking hard about how and where we wanted to spend the money. When we received the grant, we were able to make it public on our website and in a news release, and that helped our credibility.”

While writing is typically thought of as a lonely profession, technology has changed that. “There are authors out there who have been successful and are willing to help the next writers coming along, showing them what worked and what didn’t. Writing can be a lifelong joy, and my philosophy is: the more writers we help, the more likely they’ll continue to write.”

 

Kristina knows better than most that a book can open up the world, especially for young people. “Kids that are read to by their parents are more confident and social. Storytelling is an important part of our lives, and the more we can do to help people tell good stories, the better it is for us all.”

While Fictionary currently focuses on supporting writers, they plan to adapt their technology to support editors as well as other forms of storytelling. “We built this to help writers because we believe that storytelling can positively impact a person’s life. That’s the driving factor behind all of this.”

 

Fictionary is a creative editing software for fiction writers and editors.

Michael Neill and Brian Lam of Arsenal Pulp Press Named 2019 ABPBC Award Recipients

Yesterday evening the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia (ABPBC) honoured the recipients of two awards recognizing outstanding contributions to British Columbia’s publishing industry. Vancouver’s Arsenal Pulp Press received the Jim Douglas Publisher of the Year Award, and Kelowna-based Michael Neill, bookseller and owner of Mosaic Books and TBM Bookmanager, received the Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award. The recipients were honoured at the annual Book Publishing Conference in Vancouver on February 13, 2020.

The Jim Douglas Publisher of the Year award is presented to an active British Columbian book publishing company that has in recent times earned the respect and applause of the community of publishers for a specific publishing project, an extraordinary contribution to the B.C. publishing community, and/or its extended commitment to excellence in publishing. This year’s recipient, Arsenal Pulp Press, started in 1971 as an alternative small press specializing in literature and politics. They have evolved over the past decades to become one of Canada’s leading independent presses, specializing in LGBTQ literature, books by writers of colour, graphic novels, books on cultural issues, and literary fiction. Some of Arsenal Pulp Press’ recent notable works include Aaron Chapman’s Vancouver After Dark, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s Care Work and Louis-Georges Tin’sThe Dictionary of Homophobia, a personal favourite of Brian Lam, founder and owner of Arsenal Pulp Press.

The Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award is presented annually by the Association of Book Publishers of BC to an individual or individuals who have made a significant contribution to the book publishing industry in the province. Named for the pioneering publisher and founder of Gray’s Publishing, the Gray Campbell Award recognizes the importance of the many individuals who comprise the book industry; their energy and creativity are essential to the continued creation and dissemination of books that tell our stories. This year’s recipient is Michael Neill, founder and president of Bookmanager and owner of Okanagan’s largest independent bookstore, Mosiac Books. Bookmanager is a leader and invaluable point-of-sale provider that has provided bookstores across North America the ability to advance their services

For more updates on the BC Book Publishing Conference visit ABPBC’s website.

Arsenal Pulp Press
Book Manager
Mosaic Books

Chelene Knight, CEO #LearnWritingEssentials & Breathing Space Creative 

“Sometimes being a leader means creating space by giving up your space.”

 

 

Chelene Knight knew fairly early on that she was a storyteller. “I was a really quiet kid, I wouldn’t talk a lot, but you could pull things out of me with a paper and pen. In school, there was always this fear of getting it wrong or saying things people didn’t want to hear. In my 20s, I threw that out the window and started to break some templates and get creative.” 

Once Chelene threw away her need for structure, doors started to open. She uses a variety of formats in her writing to address her own experiences with mixed ethnicity and belonging and often speaks about her desire to build community through authentic storytelling. As a mentor, teacher and entrepreneur, she encourages her students to think about their message before they focus on their structure. “I want them to think about what they want their community to take away from the book, how they will engage with it.”

Growing up, Chelene felt isolated. “I was shy, and my family wasn’t the closest. I didn’t have that close-knit community.” Yet, she found that when she attended SFU’s The Writer’s Studio in 2013, suddenly, she felt safe to explore the stories she wanted to tell. She also realized that there were conversations taking place behind closed doors and decisions being made that had restricted access. “I came into the publishing world really fresh. I had no idea what it meant to publish something. I just knew that the industry was really hard to break into without an MFA or someone leading you behind those closed doors.” 

Chelene started volunteering with Room Magazine, and that’s when she got a behind-the-scenes look at what was happening in the industry. “I was let into so many private rooms; I got to hear the conversations taking place amongst writers and publishers. I saw the gaps of what was missing and what was starting to take shape.” 

As Room’s former Managing Editor and now owner of her own writer’s boutique studio and author care consulting firm, she has that opportunity. She works with emerging writers to not only help them produce better work but also to better prepare them for the opportunities they’re presented with. “We have this huge responsibility to filter down what we’ve learned. It can be life-changing to bring someone into a community they didn’t know existed. My goal is to help bring people into worlds they’ve not seen before. Organizations like Creative BC help us try new things and connect with communities in different ways. They give us permission to explore.”

For Chelene, one of the most important things we can do in publishing is to take better care of our authors. For so many new authors, they’re asked to travel to new cities and speak on panels in rooms full of people they don’t know. Chelene wants to support emerging authors too, especially those from marginalized communities who might be too afraid to ask questions like she was. That’s why she started Breathing Space Creative, an author care consulting firm where artist care is rooted in building resilience, community, and trust through authentic communication (launches fall 2019).

“I remember sitting in front of an audience feeling like I was going to vomit, and being asked questions I didn’t want to answer. It’s so important to help writers navigate all of that, and prevent situations where they feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. Trust and safety are so important when you’re sharing your story.”

 

Learn more about Chelene and Breathing Space Creative.