Richard Dionne is the Publisher of Red Deer Press. The company is nominated in 2015 for Mister Got to Go, Where are you? and was first shortlisted for our Book Award exactly 20 years ago for Mister Got to Go, The Cat That Wouldn’t Leave which was the first in this picture book series for children.
Richard Dionne of Red Deer Press answers our 10 Questions!
We asked Richard 10 questions about how a publishing house from the Prairies, with distribution out of Ontario could create such an iconic series about Vancouver. We also asked how this series fits into the Red Deer Press list, and who should read this book.
1. How/when/why did you get into the publishing business?
I started freelancing in the 1990s following grad school. My first significant job in publishing was with Fitzhenry & Whiteside, revising its popular chronology of Canadian History, Facts and Dates. The next job with Fitz had me on the editorial team that built Canada’s first thesaurus from scratch — the Canadian Thesaurus. Sometime during that crazy fun-filled process a full-time editorial position opened. I jumped at the opportunity.
2. How did Red Deer Press get established?
Red Deer began as an affiliate of Red Deer College in the mid-1970s publishing a handful of affiliated works a year. The house later expanded its editorial focus coming to national prominence with the publication of noted Western novelists such as Aritha van Herk, Rudy Wiebe and Kristjana Gunnars. When Tim Wynne-Jones and later, Peter Carver took over the children’s list, Red Deer quickly became known especially by its fine and unexpected works for young people.
3. What keeps you coming into the office in the morning?
Knowing that at the end of the day the team worked hard to get solid Canadian-authored books into the hands of readers, and perhaps inspired a young person to become a life-time lover of books.
4. Describe a Red Deer Press book.
Like Mr. Got To Go Where Are You? all our books for young people engage readers in ways that are challenging, unexpected and exciting, fun and thought provoking –- and in this case, beautifully illustrated. Whatever tack our authors take, Red Deer Press always respects the intelligence of young readers with stories that draw context and meaning from situations and ideas that are current and never watered down.
5. How did you meet or connect with Lois Simmie and Cynthia Nugent?
I had the good fortune of inheriting Lois’s and Cynthia’s classic Mr. Got To Go, The Cat that Wouldn’t Leave, when I took over Red Deer in 2007. I considered it an honour when they subsequently approached to do the second and third in the series.
6. Why did you acquire the Mister Got To Go series?
The children’s editor at the time, Tim Wynne-Jones, had met Lois Simmie and had admired her poetry – and was therefore delighted when he found this manuscript in the submissions arriving at the Press.
7. What image, phrase, or person from Mister Got To Go, Where are you? stands out for you? Why?
Mr. Foster is the most intriguing character in the series. He’s full of bluster, repeatedly avows he’s going to send the cat away, yet he is absolutely devoted to the cat and worries when Mr. Got-to-Go disappears. He searches high and low and suffers from the absence of the gray cat from the hotel. What he says and what he actually does are at odds – and that’s why he appeals to me.
8. How does Mister Got To Go, Where are you? fit into your company’s list?
Red Deer Press is known for its picture book list – which includes such award-winning titles as Josepha and How Smudge Came. This title is unique in that it is one of a series of three picture books about the cat adopted by the Sylvia Hotel – we have not done any other picture book series. The initial book in the series was so popular – especially in Vancouver – that we were encouraged to continue with subsequent episodes of the cat’s story.
9. What impact does an award nomination have on a company, book, or author?
Award nominations increase author profiles, broaden book audiences, and ultimately get more Canadian books into the hands of readers. From a publisher’s standpoint the City of Vancouver Book Award helps small Canadian publishers and local authors better compete in an increasingly tough marketplace.
10. Who should read this book?
All young and not so young who enjoy a good story, beautifully illustrated and set in the most picturesque city in Canada.
The 27th annual City of Vancouver Book Award will be presented at the Mayor’s Arts Awards ceremony at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre on November 12, 2015. The books on this year’s shortlist cover a range of genres: non-fiction, short stories, poetry, and a children’s book. The short-listed books create a street-level walk through our city to amplify our pride and understanding of the flawed and beautiful, young but wise city we inhabit.