Whether it’s for my a misFit book imprint, or any other ECW title I acquire, I look for smart, culturally-, socially- and politically-engaged writing that takes risks, pushes limits, colours way outside the lines. (I have little time, however, for reactive, mainstream literary or publishing fads/flavours.) The poetry and fiction I read and want to publish typically kicks convention and genre and everything in between to the curb—but never does so at the expense of a damn good story or a great poetic line. Lately, I’ve come to think that rhyme is the most cutting-edge language assignment a poet can choose to accept. There’s still as much room for August Kleinzahler and Lisa Roberston as there is for Phyllis Webb and Thom Gunn on my bookshelf. I love powerful, epic novels and simple precise tales: the Amises (Martin and his dad) will always make me laugh, uncomfortably and in a good way; Hemingway will always make me think he always wrote near-perfect sentences; Barbara Gowdy still makes me wish I’d published everything she’s ever written; and when I meet folks from other countries Dionne Brand is always the Canadian writer I tell them they must read.
If we’re talking non-fiction, I’m proud of being responsible for most of ECW’s fight-sports-related, hockey books and sports memoirs. (I find myself searching for a truly great addition to my golf-book shelf at the moment.) Whether it’s Canada’s game, or the world’s or pro-wrestling, I’m looking for well-researched, clear, informative and thought-provoking books that give the reader new insight while discovering or uncovering the way things work. (I’m probably never going to be looking for novels about the world champ or a potential 50-goal sniper, or list-books about your all-time favourite matches or fantasy team.) I’m also responsible for a number of ECW’s music-related titles: things like Michael Barclay’s bestselling biography of The Tragically Hip, The Never-Ending Present, Greg Renoff’s works on Van Halen and Ted Templeman, David Less’s cultural history of music and Memphis, Mark Howard’s ruminations on producing and engineering some of the greatest performers of the last 50 years, and Emm Gryner’s brilliant new guide to finding your voice and living your best life. My playlists tend to run a gamut that starts somewhere near either Black Sabbath, Cab Calloway, Curtis Mayfield, Siouxie and the Banshees or Fleetwood Mac, moves through the Clash, the Minutemen, Bad Brains, Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney, spends quality time with Dre, Ice Cube and Kendrick Lamar, and always returns home to Judas Priest, Metallica, Motorhead, Bad Religion, Django Reinhardt, Steely Dan and London Grammar. I like the surprise of shuffling every song I've ever downloaded. (Bits and Bites: it's a whole new ballgame...) So yeah, don't be afraid to pitch me on what you love. And: I think Patti Smith’s Just Kids is pretty much the closest thing to the perfect memoir. If you can write like that—I’ll want to publish you. Go figure: I read and like books about where stuff comes from and how humans get to where they are.