Douglas Gibson: Keynote Opener at the EAC Conference 2014

Taking up tomato growing

Douglas GibsonIn embarking upon the task of writing about the eminent Douglas Gibson, it is important to start by thanking this member of the Canadian publishing elite for his edifying view of how to be a Canadian published author. It seems that all it takes is to have a stupendous publisher, such as Gibson, and an unusual hobby, like tomato growing.

The latter, Gibson advises new authors, is for the type of interview where the resulting “article concentrates on your interest in growing tomatoes… while completely ignoring your book and your writing.” The need for the gifted publisher is, of course, somewhat necessary for getting published, but appears to be far more crucial for post-publication problems—from poorly attended book signings to the neighbour who has only ever spoken to you to complain about your dog peeing on his lawn but now expects a free, signed copy of your book. According to Gibson, one of the most important things an author can do once his or her book is published is to blame all such problems on the publisher—so best to have a good one! And, if possible, one like Gibson who has a dramatic flair and dry sense of humour.

The above advice is an excerpt from his most recent book and play of the same name, Stories of Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Others (October 2011, ECW Press). In this work, Gibson reveals behind-the-scenes tales from top-tier Canadian publishing history; in other words, the dirt, the skinny, the low-down, but also the terrible truth about what happens after your book is published and why Mavis Gallant once said, “I’ll kill him!”

“If you are interviewed about your books for a magazine or newspaper article, do not be surprised if the article concentrates on your interest in growing tomatoes, or on the happy warmth that pervades your household, while completely ignoring your book and your writing; these interviews are intended to add colour to the dull fogies that we all know authors to be.”

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