Perspectives on publishing and raising voices from the newest member of WLU Press
Maia Desjardins, our Digital Projects Coordinator, is new to publishing and also involved in some of our newer ventures like audiobooks and podcasting. She agreed share her experience and perspective on working at the press and on these initiatives.
I joined WLU Press in spring of this year – certainly a bizarre time to make any kind of transition, although my press colleagues and Laurier’s ICT department made it as seamless as it could be. I come to academic publishing from a background in library and information science and, in fact, my current role is still shared between Wilfrid Laurier University Press and the university library as part of their partnership. Starting at the press during work from home has meant that the digital aspect of my job has been especially prominent as I have yet to physically set foot in my press office and Teams has become one of my most used apps. It also means that communication and projecting authors’ voices has been more important than ever.
Many of my projects revolve around creating and disseminating digital formats of our titles. These include not only a variety of ebook formats but also recent ventures into audio by way of audiobooks and, most recently, podcasting with the Amplify Podcast Network (in partnership with Simon Fraser University).
While I don’t often interact with authors as directly as some of my colleagues, I do have the opportunity to make sure their work is represented regardless of the format. Ebooks have shown a significant increase in popularity this year, allowing readers immediate access to books without leaving their homes. We’ve made sure our book launches for 2020 have gone virtual as well with virtual launches for both Literatures, Communities and Learning: Conversations with Indigenous Writers (Aubrey Jean Hanson) and Tiff: A Life of Timothy Findley (Sherrill Grace). These events have given myself and others a chance to speak with authors directly and gave authors the chance to expand on their work and be heard by readers across Canada and around the world.
The ability to listen to narratives and research is something WLU Press has been especially focussed on recently as we work to bring researchers’ work beyond the written word. This year we dove into audiobooks, bringing six of our titles to this format, and there are more to come! We also announced the Amplify Podcast Network. The network expands on WLU Press’s previous work in peer-reviewed podcasting (with Hannah McGregor’s Secret Feminist Agenda), opening podcasting up to researchers eager to share their passion with academics and casual listeners alike. Among the list of podcasts set for the network is Creaturely Conversations from Daniel Heath Justice, professor of Critical Indigenous Studies and English at UBC and author of Why Indigenous Literatures Matter. As the network grows, it will give an opportunity for other researchers to share their work and utilize podcasting as a new and openly available format for academic research. My role in digital materials has assured my involvement in both these new projects and I’m certainly excited to help them grow and see each of them taking off.
As much as I look forward to someday going back into the office and having book launches in person, I do think that our reliance on digital avenues this year has made for a very unique beginning for my career in academic publishing. Adapting to social distancing has generated new avenues of getting creators and researchers’ work to the public, and I think a lot of these adaptations will last beyond the circumstances that created them. I look forward to being part of that shift.