With a name and logo steeped in clever allusions and literary tradition, Biblioasis is taking the publishing world by storm. On October 2, Mark Medley for The Globe and Mail took a look at the Windsor, Ontario based press and chatted with founder Dan Wells about the press’ roots and future prospects, and highlighted that two of Biblioasis’ titles (Martin John by Anakana Schofield and Arivda by Samuel Archibald) are on the shortlist for the prestigious Giller Prize!
Biblioasis has previously had titles on the longlist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, but this year two of their titles were selected as finalists for the Giller Prize. While Dan Wells is trying not to concentrate too hard on the outcome, the Giller Prize is a huge deal: it is the Canadian equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. The Giller Prize awards $100,000 to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection and $10,000 to each of the finalists. The winner will be announced on November 10.
Biblioasis first opened as a bookstore in 1998 after Wells bought up “a giant room of books… chock full of first editions” at an auction house in Ontario. Wells discovered he was extremely successful as a bookseller, and after acquiring the talents of editor, critic, and author John Metcalf and publishing veteran Dennis Priebe, Biblioasis the press was born.
In Wells’ days before publishing, he worked as a welder, where he received the nickname “Panic.” While this doesn’t seem like a great characteristic for someone working with hot metal, Wells’ dislike for big events and award ceremonies works to his advantage as a publisher: instead of focusing solely on awards (like those Giller finalists) he actively supports all of his authors and strives to uphold the press’ mission to “publish unabashed literary fiction (with an emphasis on short stories), discover untapped talent, rescue lost or forgotten books, and introduce North American readers to the work of authors around the world.” Kathy Page, a Biblioasis author who was longlisted for the Giller Prize in 2014 for Paradise and Elsewhere, summed up Wells’ attitude: “there’s a certain spunky, devil-may-care attitude to the wide world.”