Two Wolves Press, a project run independently by Toronto author and teacher Alexandra Leggat, launched its first release in May 2016. Since then, Alexandra has released a second title and has two more in the works. I spoke with Alexandra about her exciting new titles, mentorship, and what’s to come!
Fawn Parker: What led you to launch Two Wolves Press?
Alexandra Leggat: It has been something I have wanted to do for a long time, even subconsciously I think, because throughout my writing career, the big influences for me have always been the great editors and independent publishers as much as specific writers, like John Calder of Calder Publishing, Samuel Beckett and Margeurtite Duras being two of my all-time favourite writers and Calder’s writers. Another of my favourite writers Virginia Woolf, and her first novel, The Voyage Out, was published by Hogarth Press which she started with her husband Thomas Woolf. There was a DIY attitude in the great eras in publishing from editors who treated it like a craft and art in itself: Albert Camus’ editor Michel Gallimard; Kafka’s Max Brod; Carver’s Gordon Lish; Thomas Wolf and Hemmingway’s Max Perkins. For me as a writer, the art and craft of publishing, editing, and freedom of ideas has been just as much a driving force in what I do. That said, it seemed this was the time in my writing life to give life to other writers’ books as well as mine. Just another branch in the amazing tree this art is.
FP: Can you talk a bit about your current releases?
AL: Yes, Quarry is Catherine Graham’s debut novel. She is known in the literary scene for award winning poetry. She asked me to read Quarry a few years ago, as a friend, a fellow writer, to give my opinions. The story never left me and when I started the press, I said, I want it for Two Wolves Press! We had an amazing editing process. We are so like-minded and both being poets, it was so important to us to maintain that poeticism, to not shy away from it in novel form. Catherine had done so much work on the novel, and I feel she really trusted her poeticism to nail the structure, the imagery, and the emotion of the story. It has been a pure joy partnering with Catherine on this book. The first book I published was by a former student of mine Aileen Santos. I was drawn to and believed in her writing immediately and helped her to revisit and resurrect a novel she had written that she lost faith in. That novel is Someone Like You and she did an amazing job revising and sticking to her intention to help us bring the story to life. My plan is to reprint it with the original cover we wanted and to enhance the physical appearance of the book.
FP: What kind of work are you looking for? I see that you’ve published two titles by women so far—Someone Like You and Quarry—which is great. Do you have something specific in mind when you read manuscripts or do you wait and see what inspires you?
AL: Because I am such a micro press, I am not taking submissions at this point. I need to know the writer and their work and, yes, to wait and see what inspires me. Which is a big part of Two Wolves. I want to establish, nurture, and create that one-on-one editor to writer experience that influenced me as a writer and a reader. I need to really connect with the writing and the person.
There was a DIY attitude in the great eras in publishing from editors who treated it like a craft and art in itself …
The next book the press is doing in the spring is a posthumous re-release of my brother Graham Leggat’s sci-fi novel The Western Gate. My brother died of cancer five years ago. He was an amazing writer and the director of the San Francisco Film Society. His book was published in 2006 and the publisher changed the title, changed other things he wasn’t happy with, and the look of the book did not match the calibre of the content. When Graham died, I couldn’t write for a long time, and that was the true impetus for the press to be born when it was, and I knew then, that I would republish his book with its original title and the content as Graham wrote it and intended it to be. He left me the original manuscript, and if I have to type out all 400 pages of it into my computer, I will.
Nine Wire Road by Joe Vermaire will be next and I love that novella and can’t wait to bring it out, again as it was meant to be. I just want to publish brave, honest literature, and make beautiful books because book as object is huge to me, too.
FP: You were the first creative writing professor I had, when I was still a teenager. Your experience teaching and publishing “up and coming” writers makes you a valuable mentor in the literary community. Do you think mentorship is a crucial part of becoming a writer?
AL: I absolutely do and I remember you well, even where you sat around the table. Again it goes back to my influences, the true editors and publishers and writers that weren’t afraid and were also generous and caring about the craft and those who truly have an innate gift to write. There is only one thing I have always disliked about my love of being a writer, of writing, is the selfishness it takes to do it. What I love about mentoring, teaching, editing, and publishing is I get to be selfless and work with the writer’s voice and their natural talent.
FP: What can we expect for the future of Two Wolves?
AL: A lot, I hope! I want to keep going “our way,” believing in and following instinct and intuition, developing the craft of writing, and sustaining true literature. I want to publish the type of work that inspired me to write, and to read. And I know, having been a bookseller, hand selling, word of mouth, is everything. People want to be told what to read, passion for books is infectious, and to be another source than the mainstream—another bridge to the people, awesome! And films, I want our books to be films, to hit the screen.
Alexandra Leggat is the author of the novel The Incomparables (Anvil Press), the poetry collection This is me since yesterday (Coach House Books) which was noted as a Time Magazine upcoming poets feature, and three short story collections: Animal (Anvil Press), short-listed for The Trillium Book Award, Meet Me In The Parking Lot (Insomniac Press), and Pull Gently, Tear Hear (Insomniac Press), short-listed for the Danuta Gleed First Fiction Award. Her articles, reviews, and creative non-fiction have been published by The Globe and Mail, Toro Magazine, The Danforth Review, and Celtic Times. In Spring 2016, Alexandra started her own small publishing house Two Wolves Press. She teaches creative writing courses at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. She is at work on her next novel We Are Not The Fischers, to be published Fall 2017. She lives in West Hill with her ‘two wolves’ Lupa and Giacomo.
Fawn Parker is a writer based in Montreal. Her collection Looking Good and Having a Good Time was released in 2015 by Metatron Press. She is co-founder of BAD NUDES and edits poetry for Hybrid Heaven.