I attended a conference a few years ago in which a Canadian agent recommended Canadian authors set their books in the U.S. if they wanted to get sales in that market. In her experience, she found it very difficult to sell Canadian settings to U.S. publishers. Unless we were Atwoods or Munros, she said, we should do what we could to get our books sold in the U.S.
I bristled. Before Atwood and Munro were Atwood and Munro, they were Canadian writers facing the same hurdles Canadian writers face today--with one exception: they had a gutsy publisher in their corner. Atwood and Munro would not be Atwood and Munro if it were not for Jack McClelland--a publisher of such grit that he would plug his Canadian authors to riders on the streetcar. Because of his courage and faith we have the literary legacy we enjoy today.
Canadian culture has always had a fight on its hands. I remember the seventies. I was in high school and our Social Studies class debated the issue of compelling radio stations to give Canadian bands more airplay. I recall it was a foaming-at-the-mouth-big-deal for many stations who claimed they'd lose listeners. They didn't and we gained Canadian musicians, talent, inspiration, world-class songwriters, and a healthy stream of revenue from a thriving music industry.
I guess what I'm trying to say is I hope the new owners of M&S are as gutsy as Jack. I hope they nurture that subtle difference that is Canadian in our literature and a whole new crop of Atwoods and Munros are birthed into the world.
(The beautiful lady pictured in the article is my publisher, Kim McArthur)