The Canadian literary community is fondly remembering Gordon Shillingford, Manitoba publisher and champion for the province’s authors and playwrights, who died on Jan. 25 at the age of 55 following a brief battle with cancer.
“He was a friend and colleague to many across our industry, and had a sharp eye for talent. It’s hard to believe he’s gone,” says Kate Edwards, executive director of the Association of Canadian Publishers.
Shillingford co-founded the now defunct Blizzard Publishing with Peter Atwood in 1986, before branching out to head J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing in 1992. The press focused mainly on drama and literary titles, but also published poetry and some non-fiction. The imprint Scirocco Drama went on to become the second-largest publisher of the genre in the country, boasting a number of award-winning and nominated works, including Kate Hewlett’s The Swearing Jar, Ian Ross’s FareWel, and Beverly Cooper’s Innocence Lost.
Shillingford’s poetry imprint, the Muses’ Company, was behind such lauded titles as Governor General’s Literary Award–winning North End Love Songs by Katherena Vermette and this is a small northern town by Rosanna Deerchild.
“He simply loved and believed in the work he was doing,” says long-time friend and colleague Michelle Peters, executive director of the Association of Manitoba Publishers, of which Shillingford was a former president and long-time board member. “He had an easy-going, approachable nature, and yet he was incredibly driven working in support of Canadian playwrights, poets, and writers. His work had a huge impact. He helped bring local stories to readers in Manitoba and beyond, and contributed greatly to Canadian literature.”
Shillingford shared a home in Winnipeg with his wife, Karen Haughian – also a book publisher, at literary press Signature Editions – and their son, Griffin.