UAlberta Press won Publisher of the Year in the Alberta Book Awards in a virtual award ceremony held on September 10. The decision was based on our 2019 year, which also marked our 50th anniversary.
Here is the acceptance speech from our Director and Publisher, Douglas Hildebrand.
Thank you so very much for this wonderful validation of our work. The BPAA is a really special organization run deftly by the amazing Kieran LeBlanc and my gratitude goes out to all of you for this honour, especially our friends a few blocks away at NeWest Press who were also finalists. Molly of the Mall and The Melting Queen were such great books that I steeled myself for disappointment, so bravo to Matt and the team on a great year.
2019 was a year of big change, challenge, and wonderful rewards at University of Alberta Press. It marked only my second full year at the Press and as its Director so in many ways, we were all still getting to know each other.
2019 marked the Press’s 50th anniversary and we recognized that with a new visual identity, including a new colophon, as well as a refreshed website. We also continued the process of moving our offices, although that was ultimately completed in 2020.
We embarked on a project to increase our visibility and had a presence at scholarly conferences in New Zealand, Los Angeles, Montreal, and Vancouver, and also returned to Frankfurt for the first time in a few years.
We saw a good deal of staff change in 2019 and I want to thank our departed colleagues Peter Midgley, Basia Kowal, and Ren Milmine for all they gave to the Press in their time with us. We were also so pleased to welcome new teammates Mat Buntin, Elisia Snyder, and Michelle Lobkowicz.
The Press took the lead in the nomination of not one but two U of A Honorary Doctorate recipients in 2019, both authors of ours. Congratulations to Alice Major and Esi Edugyan for that well-deserved recognition of your brilliant writing.
We’re nothing without the authors who put their trust in us and allow us to be the stewards for their words and the defenders of their intellectual property. I want to thank all of them, past, present, and future. Notably I want to thank Naomi K. Lewis, whose book Tiny Lights for Travellers was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction in 2019. Another title that shone for us was Power Play, about the politics behind and building of Edmonton’s Rogers Place. As that building co-hosts the NHL Playoffs, we should reflect on the conditions of its approval to improve the City’s shared spaces and think about who really benefits.
Power Play is one of today’s winning titles, so thank you to its authors Jay Scherer, David Mills, and Linda Sloan McCulloch. Thanks too to Bill Barr, who edited and introduced the monumental but unfinished autobiography of Arctic explorer John Rae. Congratulations to my colleague Alan Brownoff for his award-winning design of Natalie Loveless’s Knowings and Knots. I also want to thank the authors of books shortlisted today: the late Ted Blodgett, author of Apostrophes VIII: Nothing Is But You and I, and Therese Greenwood, author of What You Take With You.
As some of you know, University of Alberta Press is a unit within the University of Alberta Library and I want to thank Vice-Provost & Chief Librarian Dale Askey as well as the entire Leadership Team and Staff of the Library for their ongoing and strong support of our publishing activities. Thanks as well to our Press Committee, who make sure all the books we publish are worthy of carrying the University of Alberta name.
2020 may not prove to be a year many of us in publishing will want to celebrate. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all seeing diminished sales and a future that looks less than certain. Due to severe provincial budget cuts to the university’s budget, the Press was forced to say goodbye to two cherished colleagues earlier this year and I want to recognize them here today for all they gave to the Press. Mary Lou Roy and Monika Igali: this is your award too. Thank you.
And of course the whole Press team: Cathie Crooks, Duncan Turner, Alan Brownoff, Mat Buntin, Michelle Lobkowicz, Elisia Snyder, and Tanvi Mohile. It’s an honour to call you my colleagues and to work with you everyday. We won this as a team, so congratulations to all of you on your brilliant work.