By Olivia Robinson
If the above picture does not give you an indication of how great Douglas Gibson is, I don’t know what will. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to interview the famous editor and publisher who recently added writer to his resume with the publication of his first book Stories About Storytellers. Gibson was quick to urge me to snap the above picture of him with a frog that was hopping around the CBC building because he wanted to make sure that people know that editors and publishers are not boring. I was happy to oblige.
Gibson, who is originally from Scotland but moved to Canada in 1967, established Douglas Gibson Books in 1986, which was “the first editorial imprint in Canada”. Since then, Gibson has edited and published works by famous Canadian authors such as Alice Munro, W.O. Mitchell, Hugh MacLennan, Morley Callaghan, and many more.
Last evening, Gibson gave a compelling and engaging performance at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery. He told stories about his experiences with the authors that are featured in his book. The performance was a combination of stories, music, and caricatures of the authors, which were drawn by Anthony Jenkins. The upstairs area of the Art Gallery was full of people eager to hear Gibson’s stories.
I met up with Douglas Gibson at CBC a couple of hours before the performance to talk about the challenges of making the transition between editing and writing, his reaction to Alice Munro’s Noble Prize win, and what advice he would give to aspiring writers and editors.
Cadre: What did you find the most challenging about writing your book Stories about Storytellers? How is writing different than editing?
Gibson: “Well it’s a very funny story because in over forty years working in publishing, I have edited well over a hundred books and I’ve published thousands. And some of the books that I have edited have been about how to write, such as Jack Hodgin’s A Passion for Narrative and also Harry Bruce’s Page Fright, which is about devices that professional writers have developed to try and keep the words coming. And I knew all these tricks, so with all that background I thought that when I came to actually write a book it would be very easy. Guess what? The blank page doesn’t care if you’ve been involved in editing and publishing scores of books. It’s still blank at the beginning of every day and it doesn’t get any easier. And so I found that I had to work and work and work. My authors were not displeased by the news that Gibson, the fierce wielder of deadlines, was having trouble writing his book. So “harder than I thought” sums it up. I knew right from the start that a book by me wouldn’t be interesting if it said “my fabulously interesting career as an editor”, so it’s Stories About Storytellers. It’s the authors that are the interesting figures. When I finished, people were like, “so are you going to do another book?” And I said, God no! It took me forty years to get the material for this one. And then, in the course of promoting this book I thought, these are all stories, I can tell stories, I can turn this into a stage play.” [Read more...]