LivingArts: Live From Ottawa

It’s 9:00 on a Monday night, I’m in a hotel room in Ottawa and I’m writing a blog post about arts administration. I’m in Ottawa to advocate for publishing. About a dozen publishers are going to traipse around Parliament Hill in the next few days, meeting with various Members of Parliament to talk about the importance of publishing, of having Canada produce its own literature, and celebrate its own authors.

I see this as advocating for my authors. I do this a lot. One of the things an arts administrator does is work to make things happen for the artists in their organization. They write the grants to find the funds to pay for the musicians, the stage design, the advances, the book printing. They chat up reporters, talk to booksellers, realize they’re boring their neighbours when they go on and on about this fabulous show, song, book. They try and make the space for the artist’s work to happen, and then they try and spread the word about the work.

I recently had an author say that I’ve always been there for her writing. It’s a wonderful thing to have someone say that you’ve given them what they need to keep writing. I believe this is the point of working with a publisher, and likely a label or a theatre company and not going it alone. To have someone who is there for your art in tangible and intangible ways, to have someone helping to find the breathing room in our rather competitive society to allow an artist to create.

We often focus on the nuts and bolts of getting art into the world when we talk about arts administration, and we should because it’s much more difficult than most people realize. But we should also remember that it’s lonely being an artist, and that artists need to be vulnerable to create something that touches other people. The publisher’s job is to give their authors a place to be messy on the page, to take risks and find the story, while the publisher gathers the resources necessary to make the story into a physical book and put it into readers’ hands. To make the story public. Call it publishing or championing. It’s all advocacy at its heart, saying this art is important and we should pay attention to it.

So this week I, along with several other publishers, are going from meeting to meeting in Ottawa saying these books and stories are important. Let’s keep making it possible to share them.