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A Press from Scratch: How Hush Harbour makes caring for ourselves and our associates our top priority

Many publishing houses in this country were built on intergenerational wealth or Canadiana rhetoric; both perpetuate a narrative of a nationstate on stolen land. The founders then find successors to continue that legacy.

Our Black feminist queer press Hush Harbour’s inheritance is neither wealth nor predecessor, but audacity. Far beyond representation, we don’t want to be a Black version of some other Canadian presses. We got to do it our way.

Like many Black folks surviving white supremacy in North America, we’ve had parents, guardians, and mentors tell us, “You have to be 10 times better than white people to make it.” That is a high bar. The “industry standard” is not always sustainable for Black folks because it was not created with Black communities in mind. So when does that expectation of excellence end?

The production schedules we experienced before Hush Harbour were those that adhered to the deadlines and rhythms of the publishing industry itself. As we were crafting our press’s own production schedule, a document that was to be a beacon for how we’d move forward, we mirrored what we were used to: models of high productivity, deeply stressful deadlines, and unrealistic tasks assigned to folks on the team who are already stretched thin.

And yet we felt that in order to keep up and exude “Black Excellence,” we had to be competitive to be legitimate. After some reflection and pause, we realized at Hush Harbour we are not trying to create a conveyor belt of product. We want to imagine something else, even if it takes us a bit longer. Our new production schedule is a fluid work-in-progress document that takes into account our capacities, our secured funding streams, and our ability to offer grace toward the entire team.

With these production trials, we are reminded of the importance of upholding a collective space and centring the well-being of our team and community. Re-examining the power relationships within our collective is integral. We recognize that the model we initially adopted was heavily product centred. Inevitably, we risked perpetuating imbalanced power dynamics and enforcing unrealistic expectations within our press. Now, we strive to uphold an environment that allows for concerns, feedback, and revisions to be heard among our collective and implemented in our production goals.

Fortunately for us, we have drawn inspiration from the works of some of our stellar publishing peers: Hajar Press in the U.K. and Metonymy Press in Montreal. They have demonstrated the need to divest from product-centred models and reaffirmed the value of producing quality work at a healthier pace. This new demeanour has also afforded us with multiple opportunities to implement grace.

We understand the importance of centring care now more than ever and we truly believe our vision for a collaborative environment lies within an author-care focus. This allows us to shift the recurring pressures of the publishing industry and fuel new energies within our love for Black stories, diasporic storytelling, and creating platforms for emerging Black writers.

Starting this press almost a year ago, we felt as though we needed to do everything and be everything all at once. Honestly, we’re still recovering from that feeling. Reimagining our production schedule inevitably means setbacks. And that’s okay. Our mission is and always will be to create sustainable Black futures, which we can achieve if we invest in healthy ways to sustain ourselves in order to get there.

In resistance,

Alannah & Whitney


/grās/ the freely given, unmerited favour; the influence or spirit operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

Black women have not been afforded grace, historically. Hush Harbour is a space in which Black folks can both ask for grace and receive grace.

These are three ways in which we use grace:

Recognize that we are our greatest asset

  • Our minds and our abilities are assets as strong as financial wealth, management skills, or traditional business talents.
  • We must take care of ourselves and our team above anything else. Never is a task or deadline more important than the health of our crew.
  • Black folks know the hand we’ve been dealt so we assess and move accordingly.

Meet each other where we’re at

  • We use individualized code words, “flying high” and “low spoons,” that reveal our energy levels.
  • Our check-ins are check-ins; we encourage each other to rest, stop, and take care.

Accountability is not punitive in our space

  • As our business coach, Rochelle Roberts from Concise, has taught us, if it isn’t “open-heart surgery serious,” you can do it at another time. We adjust, we redistribute, we reschedule.
  • People in Hush Harbour need to know that this space can not harm them.

This article is part of a series jointly hosted by Quill & Quire and Hush Harbour Press. Visit hushharbour.com to find more information and ways to financially support Hush Harbour Press.

By: Alannah Johnson and Whitney French

June 14th, 2021

1:36 pm

Category: Industry News

Issue Date: July/August

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