Publishing Atlantic Canada - Pottersfield Portfolio

Lesley Choyce began Pottersfield Press in the late 1970s. He operates the one-man company from the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, where he edits 6 to 8 books annually in the backroom of his 200-year-old farmhouse. Choyce moved to Nova Scotia in 1979 from New Jersey and failed to find support in the larger centres for local work, as Danielle Fuller writes: Choyce was an academic “disenchanted with the efforts of national publishers and arts organizations to support and promote the work of Canadian writers, particularly those living outside the large metropolises” (Fuller 49). In an attempt to provide a home for a variety of authors and numerous genres, Choyce created a catalogue which now boasts authors such as Maxine Tynes and Rita Joe. Pottersfield generally focuses on works about the sea, science fiction, biography, popular history, children’s books, regional titles, as well as literary works like fiction and poetry. Many of Pottersfield’s titles are Atlantic-based and sell primarily to readers in the region (Fuller 49). Pottersfield even reproduces local authors who achieved fame long before Pottersfield’s inception. Short-stories by Thomas H. Raddall were published under the Atlantic Classics Series for Pottersfield, resurrecting narratives published in magazines in the 1940s and 1950s. Books are not the only thing published by Pottersfield, as it printed the literary journal Pottersfield Portfolio, which published fiction, poetry, artwork, and essays about the region. Three times per year, it put out work by writers such as David Adams Richards. Lesley Choyce edited the journal from its original printing in 1979 until 1985, but later on, Ian Colford and Douglas Arthur Brown took over the editing. The journal is no longer published.

Despite the loss of Pottersfield Portfolio, Pottersfield has managed to weather difficult financial times because Choyce dabbles in numerous positions beyond his publishing house. Fuller notes that teaching creative writing, hosting talk shows on radio and television, and creating his own extensive oeuvre, means that Choyce’s company is not his sole livelihood (49). Choyce also publishes multicultural works that allow him to receive funding for these particular ventures, and he has emerged as a supporter of well-known authors like Tynes and George Elliott Clarke. Other notable scribes published by Pottersfield include Budge Wilson, Sheree Fitch, Harry Thurston, Alfred Silver, and J.J. Steinfeld. Choyce actually approached Tynes about the possibility of publishing her work, and through a productive professional relationship, Tynes published four collections of poetry with the East Lawrencetown publisher. Fuller suggests that the loss of this partnership may be the reason behind Tynes’s and Choyce’s professional “termination” in the late 1990s (216).

Pottersfield has maintained a diversified catalogue which has resulted in many books that promote a Maritime heritage, whether it be the reproduction of work by Raddall, or the anthology of Mi’kmaq work which Choyce co-edited with celebrated Mi’kmaw poet Rita Joe. At the same time, he has been able to publish some of his own work—a bibliography which is as varied as Pottersfield’s catalogue. Though the name of the company, which derives from the burial ground where paupers are buried, suggests that the publishing company is the last home for authors who cannot publish their work elsewhere, Choyce has managed to publish poets and authors who have gone on to great critical success.

Works Cited

Fuller, Danielle. Writing the Everyday: Women’s Textual Communities in Atlantic Canada.
      Montreal: MQUP, 2004.