Ron Smith will now have time to focus on his writing after selling Oolichan Books. He will stay on with the company as an editor and plans to publish a biography of a Canadian sports great later this year.

Ron Smith will now have time to focus on his writing after selling Oolichan Books. He will stay on with the company as an editor and plans to publish a biography of a Canadian sports great later this year.

Award-winning book publisher sells company

Ron Smith retains job as editor in Oolichan Books, aims to focus on his own writing with biography of sports great out soon.

Ron Smith will finally have time to focus on his own writing, after almost 40 years of publishing the books of other authors.

Smith sold Oolichan Books, which was based in Lantzville, to former Fernie mayor Randall Macnair.

Smith will stay on as an editor, while Macnair takes over the day-to-day operations and decision making of the business.

“I’d been thinking about it for a number of years,” Smith said. “There were sides of it I wasn’t interested in anymore – the business side of it.”

Smith met Macnair, the grandson of Canadian poet Dorothy Livesay, at a B.C. Arts Council meeting in Cranbrook.

Smith, who was thinking of retiring, learned Macnair was interested in getting into the publishing business.

“It happened very quickly,” he said. “You don’t expect these things to happen.”

Smith created Oolichan 37 years ago with the goal to publish books from established and emerging writers.

Oolichan’s first four books were printed on the small press at Malaspina College on Kennedy Street with the volunteer help of some of his colleagues.

“I felt there was a need for another press on the West Coast,” said Smith, who taught English and creative writing at the college for 28 years. It is now Vancouver Island University.

Rhonda Bailey, also a professor at VIU, helped Smith run the press for more than 20 years, taking over one year so that he could publish a book of poems.

Among the books Oolichan published was a collection of Tommy Douglas’s speeches, edited by Dale Lovick; Lynne Bowen’s popular local history collection Boss Whistle; A Sleep Full of Dreams, by Edna Alford, which sold out its print run in one day; and poet Win Baker, who won international awards for haiku.

Oolichan books have won Governor-General Awards, B.C. Book Prizes, Writer’s Trust and more. Elf the Eagle, a children’s book written by Smith and illustrated by Ruth Campbell, was a finalist for the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize in the 2008 B.C. Book Prizes.

Smith is finishing up his latest book, a biography of Gerry James, also known as Kid Dynamite, one of Canada’s greatest athletes. James played for the Winnipeg Bluebombers, winning a Grey Cup, in the same year the Toronto Maple Leafs went to the Stanley Cup final, which they lost.

“I’ve always wanted to do my own writing,” Smith said.

For more information, please visit www.oolichan.com.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com