Salute to a fallen Canadian cultural institution

I was going to make this week’s post a self-indulgent look back at the past year on my bloggiversary (as the kids call it), but given the sad news that D&M Publishers has filed for creditor protection, I wanted to say a few words about the company—and the people—that made my years in book publishing so rewarding.

I started at D&M during my Master of Publishing degree as a lowly intern (though pretty much everyone there did their best not to make me feel lowly at all), doing all manner of random tasks, from sending out review copies and archiving editorial material to staffing the front desk while the receptionist was away. Getting to spend time in several departments gave me a solid appreciation for the effort everyone was making. It really was, as Brenda Feist, sales and marketing assistant at the time, said, “amazing to see how many people it takes to make a book happen.”

My main tasks, though, were editorial—proofing inputting, proofreading books and marketing materials, and a bit of indexing. I learned from the best: Nancy Flight and Lucy Kenward patiently showed me the ropes, insisting on the highest standards and gently but firmly nudging me to improve myself. From Managing Editor Susan Rana I learned the best practices in book production as I watched her shepherd project after project through multiple hands and to tight deadlines. The company’s art department was also an inspiration: headed by Peter Cocking, D&M’s team of designers produced gorgeous books that routinely swept the Alcuin Awards.

During my internship, I embarked on a project to produce an informational handbook for authors to guide them through the editorial process, explaining the steps and the people involved in transforming a manuscript into a finished book. Little did I know that working on the handbook would sow the seeds of my interest in editorial efficiencies and systems. Later I would carve a niche role within the company of improving documentation and communication with authors and freelancers and developing quality-control methods to continue the company’s tradition of high editorial standards.

D&M offered me a contract to stay on once my internship was over, and I gladly accepted. There I was exposed to brilliant, inspiring authors and to books on a wide-ranging array of topics, from Aboriginal art to Vancouver architecture, from mouth-watering cookbooks to eye-opening biographies of influential Canadians, from history to current affairs and public policy, from environment to sport. I wish I’d retained more of what I read over those years.

To Scott McIntyre, thank you for all you have done. Thank you for trusting me with some of your best authors, thank you for recommending me to your friends and colleagues once I decided to strike out on my own, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn and develop alongside some of the best editors in the country. I can only imagine how heartbreaking this development must be—perhaps it feels like the loss of a child or the loss of a legacy. But please know that your fervent passion for and enormous contributions to Canadian culture endure—in the fine books that you’ve published, in the authors you’ve fostered and encouraged, in the people who’ve been able to learn from you by working for you.

What I value most from my time at D&M are the relationships I’ve forged with some of the smartest, funniest, hardest-working people I’ve ever met. To my good friends at D&M—who are too many to name here—please stay in touch. Now that I can no longer come into the office for the occasional visit, I’ll try to do my part and be better at reaching out in other ways.

Sorry; I guess this post did end up being self-indulgent after all. I didn’t think I would be as emotional about this turn of events as I am. I feel deeply for all of D&M’s employees and authors, and I’m here to offer my help wherever and whenever it’s needed.

Look out—the market’s about to be flooded by some amazingly talented people.

3 thoughts on “Salute to a fallen Canadian cultural institution”

  1. Not so fast, Iva! This marvelous company may be teetering, but it hasn’t yet fallen. Creditor protection is not bankruptcy. A new investor or owner may enable the company to continue contributing to Canadian culture for a good while yet.

  2. Regardless of whether it’s jumping the gun or not, I really appreciated this heartfelt ode to D&M, and as a former employee too, I share many of the sentiments you so eloquently expressed. Let’s hope the company lives to see another day. [sigh]

  3. PS: I forgot to say, Happy Bloggiversary! And in the year to come, I think you should write more self-indulgent posts. 😉

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