A.A. Parr always knew she wanted to be a writer.
She wrote her first book as a young child in elementary school and adopted the initials “A.A.” rather than using her first name Aleisha.
A.A. Parr also had another dream that she recently fulfilled, partially due to the pandemic.
“Establishing a literary press has long been a dream of mine,” says Parr.
“When the pandemic hit and my other business, Naturally Fabulous, an all-natural locally-produced-by-me cosmetics company wasn't able to operate reliably due to issues with raw ingredient suppliers shutting down or restricting shipments… I decided what better time than now to launch my true passion project.
She launched Type A Media this summer.
Parr originally thought she might edit and publish a quarterly literary magazine, but the more she spoke with northern authors and artists, it became clear to her that the region deserved more than that.
“We needed a platform, a means of empowering the incredible creative minds at work and at play here to share their stories in meaningful new ways.”
Parr notes that the publishing industry can be difficult to access, especially inaccessible for members of northern communities.
“Many writers and artists living in the north are held back by issues such as lack of funding, cultural concerns, family obligations, inconvenience of travel, [and] lack of industry connections.”
Parr feels that northern voices offer a different perspective from those of writers and artists working in and around the Toronto area, where most publishing activities occur.
She would know.
Although born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, she lived in Toronto for over fifteen years.
Two years ago she decided it was time to return to her hometown.
As a published professional writer and artist herself, Parr wanted to get involved in the local literary scene.
“I joined some local writers groups and connected with other artists and writers,” she says, noting the region is brimming with talent with diverse perspectives.
Parr feels that “northern” perspective goes largely unnoticed or underappreciated without legitimate opportunities for publication or exposure.
“[T]he media coming out of our region has not kept up with this progress, and does not currently reflect the incredible variety and scope of voices creating work here.”
Parr’s mission for Type A Media is to break down barriers and allow a greater number of voices to participate in the creation of our cultural legacy.
Type A Media’s first major project will be a pandemic-themed anthology, featuring both writing and art, called Isolated Together.
“I wanted to showcase the variety of voices, of talents, that are right here in our own local communities. Moreover, the demand exists for work from Indigenous, Black, queer, disabled, gender diverse, intersectional, minority writers and artists...”
Parr wants to clearly offer marginalized writers a safe writing platform.
“These voices deserve to be amplified, to be given the opportunity to be heard, to be seen, to be acknowledged and legitimized,” she says.
“Putting your writing or your art out there is a brave act. It is literally the sharing of intimate secrets” she says.
Parr notes that it has sadly become commonplace that certain individuals in power have used their positions to intimidate, harass, stalk, or abuse others working in this industry.
“At Type A Media, we are committed to standing by our authors and artists, who often are from vulnerable segments of our population, and to standing up and speaking out against any forms of violence, abuse, intimidation, or assault. We also will absolutely not consider work that is ableist, misogynistic, queer-phobic, or racist or work that seeks to harm, humiliate, or demean.”
Parr feels Type A Media can help support work from minority authors that have “been held back due to gatekeeping.”
In addition to leveling the publishing field, she also feels publishing these works will give back to the region in other ways.
“It will provide jobs, unique on-site industry experiences and opportunities for students and emerging writers and artists, and new interest and business coming into the region.”
Parr hopes that in the future, Type A Media will publish a wide variety of types of books and “book-like products,” including manuscripts of all lengths and formats.
“I like to say we're 'intentionally small', because that means that we have the flexibility to do things our way, and to forge a relationship with each of our authors to create a unique piece of literary art that both speaks to its intended audience and pushes the boundaries of what literature is and what it can be… We want to substantially contribute to the co-creation of our cultural heritage. We want the work to inform the format, the artist to inspire the art.”
Parr feels that accessibility is a huge concern in the North, as is racism and other forms of discrimination, both systemic and overt.
Despite this, she believes that living in small, northern communities has the potential to create a collective strength.
“[There’s] a willingness to support one another against outside forces, something that rarely happens in larger centres,” she says.
“When we support one another, we all rise together.”
Part of supporting one another includes establishing a paying market for emerging Canadian writers and artists.
All writers chosen to be included in Isolated Together will be paid for the use of their creative work and will maintain full copyright.
“We are committed to the creation of stimulating, culturally-relevant, and necessary local income opportunities. Writers and Artists in North America are chronically undervalued and underfunded,” says Parr.
“New and emerging creatives, in particular, are often expected to give away their work for 'exposure' or to build a following, but all this really does is take advantage of their immense talents, teach them to devalue their own work, and force them to pursue other avenues for work.”
Parr notes that there has been a rise in the consumption of arts and culture since the pandemic began.
“It's clear that we as a society value these types of creative output, especially during times of crisis, and yet, we are unwilling to pay money for them, we are unwilling to support the artists and writers who create these things we want most,” says Parr.
Parr says Type A Media isn't able to pay its contributors nearly as much as she wishes she could yet, but its current rate is in excess of what many other publishers offer. And while, like most small presses, they can't offer large manuscript advances, authors of standalone works can expect a very generous royalty rate.
“We're committed to paying them in excess of the current industry standards,” she says.
“We want them to know that their work matters, that they matter.”
Submissions for Type A Media's anthology Isolated Together are being taken until Friday, Sept. 4.
'Isolated Together' is expected to be available in print and digital formats in late September and can be pre-ordered here.Follow Type A Media on Facebook or Twitter for the latest information.