(This article is appearing in the Bridgetown Reader on April 30, 2021)
In 2019, Perotte author Brenda Thompson founded Moose House Publications, a small press with a goal of publishing books about, or written in, rural Nova Scotia. “Authors from our towns and villages deserve a chance to find audiences for their stories,” she said.
Thompson recruited Clementsport editor Andrew Wetmore and set up a distribution arrangement for Moose House books. “Booksellers within a drive of Annapolis Royal call us and place their orders, and I put the books in the car and deliver them,” she explained. “I log a lot of hours behind the wheel, but I get to meet a lot of great people.” A national distributor, IngramSpark, makes the books available to thousands of bookstores beyond Thompson’s driving range.
“At the start,” Wetmore said, “we had no idea where the authors were, and if we could find enough good manuscripts to build up a catalogue.” Thompson, author of best-sellers about Rose Fortune and Nova Scotia poor farms, had a collection of short stories about West Dalhousie, and that became the press’s first book: Tales from the End of the Old Military Road.
And then the manuscripts started arriving. Among the first submissions was Two Crows Sorrow, a novel by Kentville author Laura Churchill Duke about a murder on the North Mountain in 1904. Miramichi Reader called Two Crows Sorrow one of the best historical novels of the year.
In 2019 Moose House published four books, including a short-story anthology that gave several rural writers their first publication credits. In 2020 they published seven more.
“Seven felt like a lot,” Wetmore said, “especially during the start of the COVID crisis when it was hard to hold book launches or other gatherings. Some of the books never really got the send-off they deserve.”
Undaunted, Moose House has plans to publish at least 15 books in 2021, including historical and contemporary novels, a memoir of growing up on Brier Island, the story of Antigonish’s iconic Pleasant Valley Nurseries, and Granville Ferry artist Helen Opie’s illustrated journal of a trip on a tall ship. Each book comes out in print and e-book editions, and Moose House plans to add large-print editions of its whole catalogue over the coming months.
Among this year’s releases, Poor Farm, Ronan O’Driscoll’s harrowing and hopeful novel of an autistic boy caught in the poor-house system of the late nineteenth century, is already causing a stir. O’Driscoll, from Cole Harbour, said that even though Poor Farm does not release until June, he has been invited to read excerpts and speak about the book at several major events.
Part of the Moose House magic is the intensive editing process each manuscript goes through. “Authors send us their book in the best form they can deliver it,” Wetmore said. “Then we go through it with the author, line by line and chapter by chapter, to bring the text to the best possible condition to tell the story and engage the reader.” Author Carol Ann Cole, who brought her Paradise series about a Mavillette Beach detective to Moose House after publishing seven books elsewhere, said, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know about writing until I started working with Moose House.”
Readers can buy copies of Moose House books from their favourite local booksellers, from online stores like Amazon and Kindle, and directly from the publisher’s site, moosehousepress.com. To celebrate its second birthday, Moose House is offering a 10% discount from May 1 to 5 on all books purchased at its online store.