Vivek Shraya and Arsenal Pulp Press Launch Dream Mentorship & Publishing Project for Emerging Writers Who Are Black, Indigenous, & People of Colour

Last month multi-faceted artist Vivek Shraya (author of She of the Mountains, The Boy and the Bindi, and Even This Page is White) and Arsenal Pulp Press announced a dream collaboration:

A mentorship and publishing opportunity
for an Indigenous or Black writer, or a writer of colour,
between the ages of 18–24 living in Canada

VS. Books

The opportunity takes the form of a new imprint at Arsenal run by Shraya called VS. Books. On her website, Shraya explains that the idea behind the name “VS.” emerged from the idea that “it suggests versus, or against the grain, against the mainstream.” The project involves in-depth one-on-one mentorship with Shraya that culminates in a publishing contract with Arsenal and VS. Books slated for spring 2019. When I say in-depth, I mean it: the mentorship includes editorial feedback and writing support; advice and support on so many of the other aspects of writing such as “grant-writing, CV-writing, social media, promotion, organization, self-motivation, the publishing process, touring, performing”; assistance developing a marketing and promotion strategy including a book launch; and an after-publishing debrief to help decide where to go next. The publishing contract also comes with a $1000 royalty advance!

This project is just so beautiful and generous and also so necessary (unfortunately). Although plans for the future of the imprint after its first publication will depend on how the first book goes, the hope is that the imprint would continue to publish a new Canadian writer of colour every year, according to this Quill & Quire article.

Shraya describes in detail what led her to approach Arsenal Pulp Press with the combined mentorship/publication deal collaboration:

as I enter my fifteenth year as a professional artist, I have been reflecting on the kinds of supports I required in the first decade of my career to push through systemic barriers in relation to cultural production in Canada. In particular, I have thought about how my lack of success at acquiring institutional funding required me to have a day job to fund my own work. Working full-time at a day job gave me the kind of economic privilege that allowed me to fund self-publishing my first book, God Loves Hair. For all the criticisms and challenges of self-publishing, I do believe that God Loves Hair—both the book itself and the responses to it—helped solidify my value as an artist and writer worthy of commercial investment.

Vivek Shraya VS Books

Vivek Shraya / image via

She writes that VS. Books is born out of “recognition of the barriers I faced, and of my desire to support young writers who are Indigenous, Black, or people of colour—in overcoming the barriers to publication they face.” I’m always excited to see what exciting work by authors of colour and/or queer authors Arsenal Pulp Press is putting out (look for a post highlighting their fall titles soon!). But I know I’ll be extra eager to see what book comes out of this partnership, especially given how much of a fan I am of the work Shraya has already done. (Check out my review of Even This Page Is White for evidence!).

For more information on applying for the project, like what kind of deliverables you’ll need to send, go to the VS. Book webpage. Shraya says in the interview with Open Book that she’s looking for “work that is unpredictable and takes risks.” And remember, the deadline is September 15th, so get cracking!

About CaseytheCanadianLesbrarian

Known in some internet circles as Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, Casey Stepaniuk is a writer and librarian who holds an MA in English literature. She lives and works in the unceded territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation (Nanaimo, BC). Topics and activities dear to her heart include cats, bisexuality, libraries, queer (Canadian) literature, running, and drinking tea. She runs the website Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, where you can find reviews of LGBTQ2IA+ Canadian books, archives of the book advice column Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian, and some other queer, bookish stuff. She also writes for Autostraddle. Find her on Twitter: @canlesbrarian. Some of her old reviews, especially the non-Canadian variety, can be found at the Lesbrary.
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