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Scrivener Press writes its final chapter

After 20 years, northern publisher calls it quits
Scrivener Press owner Laurence Steven shows off some of the publishing company's more recent titles. Steven, an English professor at Laurentian, is retiring from both the university and his publishing press. Photo by Heidi Ulrichsen.

Laurence Steven has a big task ahead of him — cutting his collection of 5,000 books down to a mere 500. After 32 years as an English professor at Laurentian University, Steven is retiring. 

He and his wife, Jan, are moving to an apartment in St. Catharine's in July to be closer to their granddaughter, and he's promised to divest himself of most of his books.

Definitely on his “to keep” list, though, are the 65 books Steven put out through Scrivener Press, the publishing company he started 20 years ago.

“I'm proud of what we did with those books,” he said.

With his retirement from Laurentian, 62-year-old Steven is also winding down Scrivener Press, leaving the region with just one publishing company — the French-language press Prise de Parole.

Steven said he's ready to retire, and besides, if he were to continue with Scrivener Press, he'd have to step up his game and produce eBooks and generally make more use of technology.

He did explore selling the company, but said Scrivener Press is too small to provide a full livelihood, and the learning curve and time commitment would be significant for buyers.

Steven started Scrivener Press in 1995 after publishing a booklet of his students' writing.

He followed this up by publishing a collection of short stories by his wife, a book of poetry by Kim Fahner, who's been one of his students, and a poetry collection by Laurentian philosophy professor Roger Nash.

Over the years, Steven published books by many first-time authors.

But he also printed the work of more established writers, including Nash, who's won international awards for his writing, and local horror novelist Sean Costello, who at one time had a book deal with a major publisher.

It's important to give authors from this region a chance to publish their work without feeling the need to leave for larger centres, Steven said. After all, the northern experience that often informs their work.

“I do feel that the voice that is here is a distinct voice in this country,” he said.

“I can't articulate it in a few words how that is, but we still have a degree of living on the edge, whether that edge is resource-based or the fact that we're rubbed up against First Nations communities.”

Steven said he's hopeful someone else will step up and open a small publishing company in the north.

Even so, he said technology has evened the playing field for new authors, although he said good editors will always be in demand.

“There are all sorts of ways to do it that weren't there 20 years ago,” Steven said.

Learn more about Scrivener Press at


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Heidi Ulrichsen

About the Author: Heidi Ulrichsen

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