Dog-Eared Books is Born


The OSCAR - February 2017 (Page 16)
By Larry McCloskey


(Left to right) Dog-Eared Books founders: Larry McCloskey, Jocelyn van Wynsberghe, Max Szyc (Intern) and Tanis Browning-Shelp.


    We don’t always translate our intentions into action. Most of all, we don’t often enough realize our secret passions into reality. I’ve had several books published by traditional publishers, which on balance was a positive experience. But the publishing world had changed dramatically. There is no author development, the idea of fostering author potential towards writing excellence is past. Today, publishers place emphasis on developing writers into entrepreneurs. Publishers focus on their known writers, marketing books with minimal risk, to the exclusion of a wide and varied book list.

    Writers desire an audience. I’ve given many writing workshops, and invariably someone will say that they are content to simply write for themselves. That is possible I suppose, but what I think most people are actually saying is that they feel compelled to write and cannot stop for lack of an audience. Fundamentally, I think writers who are compelled to write carve a readership in order to connect. All my writing has a theme about connection, and really the experiences of gaining or losing connection are the essential stories of our lives.

    For a few years, I have talked to writer friends and colleagues about creating a small, local and independent publishing house. Everyone has loved the concept but there has always been a consensus, which I continue to share, that small and independent goes deeply against the grain of the modern publishing world. Still, while labours of love are not ruled by the bottom line, they do require a liberal application of elbow grease. Intention is not the thing; it is the translation of intention into action that is precisely everything. (I believe it was Mark Twain who said about writing; it is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration).

   So as relates to Dog-Eared Books, the 1% inspiration of my idea, has to be considered against the 99% perspiration of my astonishing partners. Last December, we finally managed to launch Dog-Eared Books in Old Ottawa South at Life of Pie, and in the Glebe at Kaleidoscope Kids’ Books. Special thanks goes to the great people at Life of Pie − surely the best scratch bakery on the planet, and Kaleidoscope Kids’ Books, the only bookstore for kids in Ottawa, run exclusively by the letter ‘K,’ that is Kim, Karin and Kelly. As for the talented members of DogEared Books, the guilty parties are as follow: Tanis Browning-Shelp - author, whose book Crash Course, is one of two books launched in December. Crash Course is exciting and introduces us to some enduring characters, especially Maryn O’Brien a gifted mountain biker whose goal is to scale the heights and go to the Olympics one day. A great read, and the first of what promises to be an exciting young adult series. When Tanis and I first discussed the concept of creating a publishing house, we agreed that for all the challenges to come, we would make sure that we produced high quality books. Tanis is a very good and dedicated writer, as you will see once you begin to read her engaging series.

    Jocelyn van Wynsberghe, created our website, and the very funky little video on the Homepage, featuring a stylized version of my non-listening dog, Zigo. She also illustrated the covers to both our books, from original oil paintings of her creation. Jocelyn is an extraordinary and mature landscape painter at the beginning of what promises to be a big career. Great tip: When you look at her paintings, consider meeting, say Tom Thomson in 1914, before fame, and further consider having a chance to buy one of his paintings. Tanis and I intend to get Jocelyn to paint several book covers for us before that happens.

    Jen Hamilton professionally laid out our books from her perch in Calgary. We never met Jen − technology is the one reason why creating Dog-Eared Books was possible − but with her patience, expertise, and dedication, we feel we know her as a true friend. It is no exaggeration to say that we could not have achieved launch, and would have been lost puppies without her. We have also been fortunate to have Max Szyc as a student intern from the School of Journalism at Carleton University. Max has contributed in many ways, and in fact, won us over with his enthusiasm before he even started.

    My book is entitled Unspoken: Or the Unrefined Art of Communicating at the Top of Your Lungs and Through the Bottom of Your Feet. It features long distance running and a dreaded piano concert, but is primarily the story of a father and daughter who cannot communicate, and for whom too much of their relationship remains unspoken until life offers the possibility of revealing the inarticulate speech of their lonely hearts.

    The story of Dog-Eared Books is the story of every writer, and really, every reader. We want to connect through writing and reading, to experience that connection in print, even far removed in time and space. Young people today are increasingly fed a Netflix, distracted and disturbingly dystopian version of the world. French Philosopher, Blaise Pascal once said something to the effect, “What is wrong with man (woman remaining perfect) is that he cannot sit alone in a room and read.” Dog-Eared Books believes there are positive themes out in the world every day, and what is still right with woman, and even man, is sitting alone in a room, reading and connecting.