Accession A1990-064 - Thistledown Press Ltd. fonds

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Thistledown Press Ltd. fonds

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CA UMASC MSS 116-A1990-064

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10 m of textual records and other material

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Administrative history

Thistledown Press was founded in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in 1975 to publish and promote the poetry of both new and established prairie writers. One of Canada's premiere literary presses, Thistledown was formed by Glen Sorestad (1937-), a writer, editor, and teacher who earned his Master's in English at the University of Saskatchewan, and Neil Wagner, a prairie artist who was also a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan.

Thistledown grew from modest beginnings during meetings in the kitchens of the Sorestads and the Wagners into a series of business offices to having a staff of employees. From the outset, its goal has been to publish new and established writers, especially from the prairies, and to produce a consistently high-quality literary product. At the time of its formation, its founders believed that there were not enough outlets for Canadian poets and that Canadian publishing generally had not created "a wider reading audience for poets."

Thistledown Press was one of a number of publishers which developed in the mid-1970s as a response to a proliferation of quality poetry (be it lyric, narrative or experimental) from mostly young writers throughout the western provinces of Canada. The creative writing movement which took root in the prairies was responsible for bringing to light such poets/writers as Bert Almon, Peter Christenson, Lorna (Uher) Crozier, Lorne Daniel, Joseph D. Fry, Patrick Lane, William Latta, Andrew Suknaski and many others. Among Thistledown's most prolific writers were John V. Hicks and Gertrude Story, both of whom began to be published later in life.

As a Canadian literary publisher, Thistledown quickly earned a national reputation as a company willing to give young or new writers a chance. Recognition in the form of awards for publishing quality works soon followed. Among others, Thistledown won the Canadian Authors Association Award for the best book of poetry published in Canada in 1980 (Leona Gom's Land of the Peace ).

Thistledown became known for organizing special community events including editorial workshops and poetry readings and especially, an annual autumn gala in Saskatoon. Thistledown proudly considers itself part of western Canada's business, cultural and artistic community, taking special delight in publishing an author's first book. Many evenings of readings by such articulate, entertaining authors have been held under the auspices of Thistledown.

Through the financially-responsible efforts of the Sorestads and the Wagners, Thistledown kept its financial head above water. Sonia Sorestad and Susan Wagner (a University of Saskatchewan graduate), spouses of the founders, had the responsibility of working with an outside accountant for the purpose of planning, updating and overseeing all financial objectives. Several government agencies, such as the Canada Council, provided essential financial support.

To maintain its high standard of book publishing, Thistledown established an editorial board consisting of Allan Forrie, Patrick (Paddy) O'Rourke, Raymond Penner and Glen Sorestad, all University of Saskatchewan graduates. This board ensured that every submission considered for publication was thoroughly appraised, that fair criticism was provided the author and that the original objectives of Thistledown were maintained.

Currently, Thistledown concentrates primarily on publishing poetry and fiction, both for adults and young adults, exclusively by Canadian writers. They also publish a series of teachers’ resources. They have also published several anthologies for both adults and young adults, including one commemorating their 20th anniversary of publishing. They have currently published over 250 books, with 170 still in print. In 2002, Thistledown published their first creative non-fiction title.

As of 2001, Thistledown Press had received a total of 12 awards. The most notable being the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book, won by Jeffrey Moore’s Prisoner in a Red-Rose Chain .

In 2000, Glen Sorestad, one of the founding members of Thistledown, was named as Poet Laureate for the province of Saskachewan. He retired from his position at Thistledown in 2000. The company is currently owned and operated by Allan Forrie and Patrick O'Rourke, with a staff of four.

Custodial history

The Thistledown Press fonds was purchased by the University of Manitoba Libraries in March 1990 and shipped from Saskatoon to Archives & Special Collections a short time later.

Scope and content

The Thistledown Press Ltd. fonds documents all of the activities of this Saskatoon-based literary publishing house from its inception in 1975 until 1985. Its business records consist of daily office journals (1977-1985), budgets, business correspondence (with granting institutions, governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta, arts councils and literary presses), legal, accounting, marketing and taxation records.

Of the fonds' important literary holdings, there are a substantial number of original manuscripts and a collection of every book published by Thistledown Press at the time of processing the fonds (101 titles in all, many of which are in both hardcover and softcover). These are all in mint condition (some are signed) and have been included after each series of manuscripts.

Also included are submission and rejection records, literary correspondence with poets, editors and other writers, author tours, workshops and book launchings. The overall coverage of the fonds is its greatest strength. The number of original manuscripts is most significant. Contained in literary correspondence records are letters from such luminaries as Earle Birney, W.P. Kinsella, Robert Kroetsch, Margaret Laurence, Dorothy Livesay, John Newlove and Alden Nowlan.

The Thistledown Press Photograph Collection consists mainly of authors' photographs as they appeared in the published books. In some cases there are photographs which were used in the book itself. The collection is fairly complete until the early-1980s. The records indicate at the beginning of press, author's and book photographs were retained, but by the early-1980s, they were routinely returned to authors.

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This collection is arranged into four series: Business Records; Literary Records; Published Works Post-1985; and Photograph Collection (PC 118). The Business and Literary Records Series are comprised of numerous sub-series.

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A finding aid can be downloaded by clicking on the “Download’ link under “Finding Aid” on the right hand side of the screen.

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Finding aid created by John E.L. Richthammer and Meaghan Buchanan (July 1996; July/August 2002). Encoded by Brett Lougheed (June 2006).
Revised by N. Courrier (December 2019).

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