A Lasting Legacy

Text of speech presented at Cynthia Wilson's Memorial on June 8, 2005 at the Prince George Public Library by Kathy Plett, College of New Caledonia Library Director

A few months ago I had lunch with Cynthia. It was a sad day for me. We were saying goodbye. She was moving to Pender Harbor.

"Cynthia, how can a northern press operate in the south?" I asked. "How on earth will authors get hold of you?"

"Don't worry, Kathy," Cynthia replied. "People will still find me. I get about 400 manuscripts a year. I won't mind getting a few less!"

Four-hundred manuscripts a year! I had no idea we had so many writers in the north. After we said goodbye, I went away inspired, inspired by Cynthia's work, by Caitlin's publications, and by our writers.

Cynthia established a quality press in Prince George, one that was accessible to northerners. This gave writers incentive to write because there was a chance of publication. She gave them hope.

It was hard for Cynthia to choose which manuscripts to publish. She often told me how badly she felt that she couldn't publish more.

She did, however, publish a great deal! In the 14 years that she operated the press, from 1991-2005, she produced 67 books, some literary and some non-fiction. They were mostly books about the north, written by northerners. All the books were quality productions. Some were on the BC bestseller lists. Some won prestigious awards. This year, Surveying the North was short-listed for a BC Book Prize.

However, my relationship with Cynthia was not only social. I indexed all of the non-fiction books that she produced. Being a librarian, I knew the importance of indexing. I convinced Cynthia, early on, that if she was going to publish non-fiction, she needed an index.

Cynthia, with a devilish smile and a gleam in her eye, agreed with me. "You Kathy, since you know so much about it, can do the indexing."

So we made a deal. I would index the books, on my own time, in exchange for two free copies that would go to the College library. This arrangement continued, from 1991 to her last book, From the Chilkotin to the Chilcoot. The best part was that every time a book was ready, we would have lunch and celebrate.

It was a good deal that we made. The College library has a complete collection of Caitlin Press titles and I have a tremendous collection of memories - memories of lunches with a friend who gave me insights into the world of publishing and into the world of books. She made me realize how a small northern press could make such an imprint on our culture. The books she published that will live longer than her, represent this.

I would like to thank Vivien Lougheed and John Harris for organizing this event. It is a wonderful tribute and Cynthia's life is worth celebrating.

I would like to thank Howard White for starting a scholarship at the College in Cynthia's name. Cynthia worked at CNC for 17 years and I know that everyone who worked with her will appreciate this and want to contribute to it. Cynthia always put students first, and she would be so happy to know about this award which will benefit students for years to come. For more information about the scholarship, please go to h

And finally, I would like to thank Lynda Williams for coming up with the idea of putting together a special issue of her online journal, Reflections on Water, dedicated to Cynthia and Caitlin Press.

It's a pleasure to be able to contribute to the journal. As well as this short piece, I would also like to submit two extra things to the journal.

One is a story published in the Prince George Citizen newspaper in 1992, when the press was first starting. It really captures the excitement of those early days, and I especially like the photograph of Cynthia and her husband Ken Carling who worked side by side with her for many years before he passed away. [Click for Larger Image]


The other is a piece of Cynthia's own writing. It's called "A Raincoast Cruise" and is about a boat trip she took with her partner Don Smith up to Alaska in 2002. When I first got it, I just loved it. It is full of Cynthia-isms, lots of dry humour, fun to read. I told her she should submit it to a magazine for publication. I think she'd be happy, knowing it really did get published.

I hope you will all consider contributing something to this online journal. I can't think of a nicer way to celebrate Cynthia's life and her many successes and achievements. We'll miss you Cynthia!

I believe that this is Cynthia's best, and most lasting legacy.