In 1987, The Ginger Press publishing program began in response to the lack of local books for our bookshop. Andrew Armitage, chief librarian at the time for the Owen Sound & North Grey Union Public Library, was particularly supportive in getting us started. We have continued to publish five or six books a year since then and many of them are still in print. In response to the needs of a variety of clients over the years, we now have a backlist of dozens of Ginger Press books--published both conventionally and on a contract basis. In 2002 we added some digital publications to our list and we are pleased to see the new options this technology provides our publishing program. With a mandate of giving voice to our community, we continue to search out and respond to the many books lurking in the minds of local writers.
The following article is a lovely profile piece about the Ginger Press's 2007 publishing season written by Andrew Armitage for the Owen Sound Sun Times:
“Lately, I have begun to fear for Canadian publishing. My concern began with the announcement that Raincoast Books would discontinue publishing new Canadian titles this summer. My concern then grew as I poured over spring and summer catalogues, checking new titles that I wished to receive for review. Where just a few years ago, I could choose among a score of new Canadian releases, now there are only a handful.
Publishing is a risky business in a country with a population as small as Canada. To coin a phrase, there are so many books and so few readers. Which brings me to the subject of this review - regional publishers such as Owen Sound's Ginger Press.
Over the past two decades, the Ginger Press has published a wall of books: novels, essays, mysteries, memoirs, poetry, travel guides, children's books, histories and anthologies of short stories. And, as printing technologies change and improve, the brains behind Ginger Press - Maryann Thomas - has been able to up her annual count of newly published titles.
The year that has just passed was particularly notable for the Ginger Press. I haven't kept count but I am sure that there have been a dozen or more new books by local authors. And, as I receive catalogues from other regional presses such as Coteau, NeWest, Goose Lane, Breakwater, ECW and Harbour Books, I can't help but compare.
For this reviewer, the highlight of the 2007 Ginger Press year is the sequel to Portrait of Owen Sound: Photographs by J. James 1905-1955. Obviously buoyed by the success of the first book, editor Richard Thomas along with Robert Cotton and Peter Ciokan of Foto Art Camera Shop, have once again combined to give Owen Sound another invaluable illustrated history.
Owen Sound: The Community View (Ginger Press, $100) is an extraordinary collection of photographs of the Scenic City from 1866 to 1957. And don't be afraid of the price since it is for the numbered hardcover edition - a popularly priced paperback version will, I am sure, soon be on the market.
The dozens of images in Owen Sound: A Community View were submitted by Owen Sound residents and then selected for publication by Richard Thomas, who also wrote the informative captions. Organized into somewhat of a logical sequence, they offer a bird's eye overview of Owen Sound's history over the period of a century.
While some of them are familiar, most have never been published before, obviously coming from those ubiquitous boxes of photographs kept over the years by Owen Sound families. Following a touching dedication to the late local historian, Melba Morris Croft, Robert Cotton offers an introductory essay on the development of photography and its place in Owen Sound's past.
And then it is on to the images. Once again, I approached this book much like the last - with a magnifying glass in hand. The many photographs are crisp, clean and clear, offering a portal to the past. Look closely as you turn the pages since there is much to see as you step through the camera's lens to another time.
There are Orange Day parades, a butcher shop complete with worn butcher's blocks, a tabacco shop selling Golden Key 10 cent cigars, Carr's transport fleet of trucks, an interior shot of an audience in the Roxy Theatre, McClean's grocery store, a cattle auction, the old arena, horses and sleighs and carriages, and a main street stationary shop.
Taken individually, one might think the photographs to be mundane, everyday snaps. Reproduced with care, however, the images are sheer magic, consisting of a visual history of a small Ontario town. And for each image, there is a caption, a mini-story told by Thomas, himself somewhat of a storyteller.
There is little doubt that those who bought and cherish the first volume of this ongoing visual history will be adding Owen Sound: A Community View to their collection. For that is what it is - both a delightful tour of a town and a collectable to be handed down through generations.
But that is not the only book that the Ginger Press published in 2007. There's Stealing Christmas (Ginger Press, $9.95) by Richard Thomas. Originally appearing in The Sun Times and intended for young readers, it introduces a 14-year old D. B. Murphy, the hero of five previous mystery novels set in Owen Sound.
And then there is Indian Summer (Ginger Press, $14.95). If there is any justice in the publishing world, this children's version of the indelible poem by William Wilfred Campbell with amazing paintings by Louise Moore should walk away with whatever prizes there are for Canadian children's books. It is so good that it deserves to be in every Canadian collection of kid's books, personal or public.
Equally notable is Bonita Johnson de Matteis' Going North: The Story of Geraldine's Great Great Grandfather (Ginger Press, $18.95). Launched for the 145th annual Emancipation Celebration Picnic at Owen Sound's Harrison Park, this children's book features the author's original paintings and recounts the true story of her ancestor's escape from slavery via the Underground Railroad in the 1840s. A choice title for children's libraries everywhere.
There are others but space is limited. And I still wish to get in a plug for the many publications of the Bruce-Grey Plant Committee of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists. Over the years, they have published invaluable guides to the area's nature: ferns, orchids, trees, geology and landforms, rare and endangered species, asters, goldenrods and fleabanes, and a checklist of vascular plants.
Compiling such books is one thing and the people behind the committee do their work well (please, a shrub guide to Bruce/Grey). But getting their product out to a reading public is another matter, especially for amateur publishers. Quietly, since 2005, the Ginger Press has taken on the distribution of these unique regional nature guides. Now, they can be found in bookstores throughout the area or by mail.
Owen Sound's Ginger Press is an example of healthy, valuable local publishing that offers to writers an exceptional opportunity to have their words or images see the light of day. Like their neighbour, Bruce County's Brucedale Press, the Ginger Press has and will continue to make a valuable contribution to life in the twin counties."