As It Happens

Ellen Seligman, celebrated Canadian editor and publisher, dies

Over a career that spanned decades, Ellen Seligman worked with the likes of Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje. On Friday, the celebrated Canadian editor and publisher died. Canadian writer Michael Redhill reflects on Seligman's impact on Canadian literature.
Ellen Seligman. (Credit: Ian Crysler/CNW Group/Penguin Random House Canada Limited)

You may not know the name Ellen Seligman. But, you likely know the names of the authors she nurtured and brought into your home. 

Over a career that spanned decades, Seligman worked with the likes of Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Jane Urquhart and Michael Ondaatje. She edited 23 books that won the Governor General's Literary Award. Seligman was also the president of PEN Canada from 2009 to 2011.

On Friday, the celebrated Canadian editor and McClelland & Stewart publisher died. Seligman's death was announced by Kristin Cochrane — president and publisher at Penguin Random House Canada. 

(Credit: Ian Crysler/CNW Group/Penguin Random House Canada Limited)

"Though we are in the business of words, I find it next to impossible to express the grief I know we all feel with the loss of this incomparable woman. But while we mourn, we also celebrate Ellen's momentous career and all she achieved in her close to four decades at McClelland & Stewart," Cochrane wrote in the release.

On Friday, As it Happens host Carol Off spoke with Michael Redhill — a Canadian poet, author and playwright. 

"She was one of the greats," says Redhill. "She affected a lot of different lives. Not just the people she worked with and the authors she worked with, but the thousands upon thousands of readers who her choices affected." 

"She was absolutely ferocious as an editor ... Every author that worked with her felt her love for their work and for them. But, she was a private person. She didn't crave attention. She wanted to just be involved with the work in a pure kind of way." 

To hear more, take a listen to our full interview.