Between the Lines was founded in 1977 – a joint project between Toronto’s Development Education Centre and Dumont Press Graphix of Kitchener, Ontario – with a mandate to publish non-fiction books by Canadian authors on a range of social and cultural issues featuring non-mainstream viewpoints. Then, as now, Between the Lines had no publisher, no boss, no owner – it remains the product of a consensus culture borne of ’60s idealism. A traditional corporate tome or oral history to celebrate BTL’s upcoming 40th anniversary would seem out of step. Instead, Robert Clarke, a longtime BTL editor and collective member, collaborated with Vancouver-based writer, artist, and designer Kara Sievewright on Books without Bosses: Forty Years of Reading Between the Lines, a company history told in graphic novel format, to be published this October.
Clarke and Sievewright began working together in January, using email to bridge the geographical gap between them. “Robert hadn’t written a graphic novel before. He started writing the story and turned it into a script, then I helped make it more visual and figured out how to make it flow on the page,” says Sievewright, who draws her panels by hand before editing them digitally. “He had some ideas about visuals too, and since he’s been here from the beginning he had some historical photos I used for reference.”
Sievewright says a lot of her time was spent doing historical and visual research on period fashion and everyday items. “Robert would describe things to me. I’d also probe him: ‘What would people be wearing? What would people look like?’ He was really great to collaborate with and really open to ideas.”
Books without Bosses is expected to publish in October – despite the authors not officially having a boss hovering over them to enforce deadlines.