The 75-year-old writer and editor, a longtime “part of the literary ecosystem” – he is the author two nonfiction books and one novel, and has served as chair of the Writers’ Trust of Canada and on the board of PEN Canada – had always thought about taking the plunge and figured there was no time like the present. He established Stonehewer Books in 2022, and began signing contracts with writers. The press’s inaugural titles will be published next spring.
“When I told friends of mine in the business that I was doing this – a couple of really experienced people – they both said, don’t do it!” Galt says, laughing. “There are books that are not being published that I thought I could bring to life.”
The press’s debut title is one such book: Mark Abley’s Conversations with a Dead Man: Indigenous Rights and the Legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott is a revised and expanded edition of Abley’s 2014 creative nonfiction biography of the poet and bureaucrat responsible for many of the worst policies of what was then called the Department of Indian Affairs. Releasing on February 13, the Stonehewer edition includes a new introduction by Abley.
“The time was right for a revised and expanded edition in view of what’s happening across the country in terms of reconciliation,” Galt says. “That seemed like an excellent book to start Stonehewer with.”
Abley’s book will be followed by a memoir by novelist Antanas Sileika (The Death of Tony: On Belonging in Two Worlds, March 2024) and a short-story collection by B.C.-based Jann Everard (Blue Runaways, March 2024). Galt says the aim is to publish three to four books a year going forward.
Galt, who lives in Victoria, B.C., developed the idea for Stonehewer and then hired a managing editor, Toronto-based Ned Seager, to help run the press. They have been hiring freelancers as necessary to get the inaugural titles ready for publication.
“Ned is half my age, so he knows stuff I don’t know, and I think I know stuff that he doesn’t know, so it’s working well,” Galt says.
The name came about almost by accident: Galt lives in a stone house and initially wanted to call the press Stone House Books. Unfortunately, that name was taken by the Edmonton press, but Galt was set on the idea of stone; Stonehewer Books fittingly captures the work of creation the press is doing and the intended longevity of the works.
“We’re not publishing toy books, we want books that have some staying power,” Galt says.
Stonehewer’s books will be printed by Friesens, and distributed by LitDistCo. Galt is hoping to apply for Literary Press Group membership – and grants – once the company’s publishing program meets eligibility requirements. In the meantime, he is funding the operation.
“My ambition is not to lose a lot of money,” Galt says. “No one makes a lot of money in small-press land. Everybody knows that. But you know, do a good thing, publish some good books – to me that’s a satisfying adventure.”