Jeremy Luke Hill is the heart of Vocamus Press. From his first foray into self-publishing a book for his children, to supporting those who came to him for help in their literary endeavors afterward, Hill and Vocamus Press have worked to make the literary arts and the publishing world accessible.
Vocamus Press has developed from Hill’s initial efforts into a multifaceted endeavor with both business and non-profit arms. There is Vocamus Press proper, which publishes works that contribute to the literary culture of the city of Guelph. There is also Vocamus Editions, an imprint of Vocamus Press, that promotes the literary heritage of Guelph. Then there are Vocamus Community Publications, which are books and articles that are published with the assistance of Vocamus Press on behalf of other authors and organizations in Guelph and the surrounding area. And finally, there’s Friends of Vocamus Press, a non-profit community organization that promotes local literary culture.
Hill explained the challenges of the publishing market. While it may seem that fewer books are being sold, in reality there are fewer books taking up more of the market. There is a great disparity between the dominating bestsellers and then the sheer number of micro-presses and independent publishers. “You have so much noise and oversaturation from one market,” explains Hill, which makes it very difficult for new or non-traditional artists to get exposure for their work. Vocamus Press works to create the middle ground and get the work of Guelph authors published and promoted at a high quality level. Hill noted, “If we give people a little bit of big-fish and small-pond time they are able to distinguish themselves and then go on to the traditional publishing industry.”
Hill explained that Guelph offers a unique opportunity for a strong literary community. Events like Eden Mills Writers Festival and Vocamus Press’s own Book Bash show a passion for the literary arts, and there is definitely no shortage of talent. Guelph is home to many of Canada’s best writers, the best selling children’s book author in Canada, Robert Munsch; the best selling Young Adult author in Canada, Eric Walters; a finalist for the 2015 Governor General’s Literary Awards, Clifford Jackman; and the previous recipient of the Governor General’s Award for fiction, Thomas King; among many other notable authors. Hill noted that he has heard Guelph described as a unique incubator space, because of the opportunities and resources here to for creatives to start their projects. However, more engagement and participation from the community at large is always needed.
The long-term dream for Hill and Vocamus Press is to create a literary arts space in Downtown Guelph at the street level. The building would have a partnered café or bar that is big enough to hold events and would specialize in launches and free readings, as well as selling locally published books. The second floor is envisioned as an office space for writers to hone their craft and where local micropublishers can pool resources and have access to equipment.
In the meantime, Hill and Vocamus Press are kept busy with their work and local literary happenings. Most notably, The Book Bash Festival is an annual celebration of Guelph books presented by Friends of Vocamus Press. It’s an afternoon of music and prizes and fun in recognition of books published by Guelph and area authors over the previous year.
The 2016 edition will be held from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM at the Red Papaya Restaurant (55 Wyndham Street North) on Sunday, October 16. Over twenty local authors will be in attendance to introduce their books, sell copies, and mingle with the audience to chat and sign their work.
The event will be hosted by local culture maven Jen Rafter, and will include live music by teen musical phenom Madison Gallaway.
Book Bash 2016 will also be the launch event for The Rhapsody Anthology 2016, the annual collection of Guelph poetry and very short prose that Friends of Vocamus Press publishes to increase public awareness of Guelph authors.