Winnie and Chris Reed of Small Print. Photo courtesy of Chris Reed.
With the closure of Pages Books a couple of months ago, Toronto lost one of its great literary institutions. As we reported at the time, however, the news wasn’t entirely grim: “There is, fortunately,” we said, “the silveriest of silver linings, which is that Pages’ much-loved programming, run under the banner This Is Not A Reading Series (TINARS), will continue.”
Continuing it is, and we are very pleased to report that it has now sprouted an offshoot, designed especially for kids: Small Print. TINARS co-director Chris Reed is shepherding this new series as well, and we sat down with him yesterday for a chat about the venture.
Torontoist: What is Small Print?
Chris Reed: Small Print is a new literary series that offers budding readers and sprouting writers hands-on opportunities to enrich their understanding of how stories work. We run two programs: Tot Studio, for curious minds between two and eight, and Teen Beat, for writers between twelve and sixteen.
Why are you focusing on those particular age groups?
My creative partners—Don Kerr and Ibi Kaslik—and I decided to start Small Print by focusing on these age groups simply because we knew how to program for them. Ibi works with teens as a creative-writing instructor, and Don and I worked on TINARS For Tots. In November we are running the Volume One Program at Humber College, a test pilot for a program targeted to kids in the eight-to-ten age group. They will spend a day doing group writing and emerge with their first books. Natalie Kertes worked with Roddy Doyle on a similar project, Fighting Words Dublin, and will be guiding the proceedings.
How did Small Print get started?
Small Print evolved out of a test pilot that I ran last year at my day job planning events for This Is Not A Reading Series (TINARS). TINARS For Tots applied the non-reading aesthetic to children’s literature. The first show of the season drew about fifty people; Totstock, the last show, attracted about 1,100.
For those who aren’t familiar with TINARS, can you explain a bit about the kind of programming you’re running? What’s the premise underlying the “non-reading aesthetic,” and what purpose does that aesthetic serve?
TINARS provides writers with a forum to experiment with styles of presentation that are more performative than a traditional reading. By removing the reading element, we hope to shine a light on the concerns and creative process behind a given text. Readers can explore the text on their own—what an event provides is an opportunity to connect with the writer. Small Print shares this concern for exposing audiences to the creative process. Importantly, though, writers can read aloud. You can’t show someone how stories work without telling stories.
Your first major event is coming up this weekend. Tell us about the return of Winnie-the-Pooh.
For the first time in 80 years, the Trustees of the Pooh Properties and A.A. Milne Trustees have given an author permission to write a follow-up to Milne’s The House At Pooh Corner. David Benedictus spent ten years crafting the tales collected in his Return to the Hundred Acre Wood. Some of his topics made the cut; many more didn’t fit what they considered to be Milne’s vision. For instance, he penned one about Rabbit having a mental breakdown and believing he was a pirate. That, sadly, is in the bin.
So what’s happening this weekend?
We are staging “Winnie-the-Pooh’s Homecoming Party.” Don Kerr has written some new songs and reinvigorated vintage Hundred Acre grooves. An all-star cast of readers (Lisa Ayuso, Richard Crouse, Rachel Harry, Mary Ito, Ibi Kaslik, Richard Poplak, Shoshanna Sperling, and Michael Winter) will present some of the new tales from Return to the Hundred Acre Wood. We’ll have activities like the Tigger Toss and Pin The Tail On Eeyore. And Pooh himself will make an appearance!
(How) is programming for kids different than programming for adults?
Kids events are the Mount Everest of literary programming. Whereas adults will quietly pull out their cellphones and Blackberrys if they need distraction, kids will yell out “I’m bored” and walk away. If you don’t believe in what you are presenting, kids will sense it. And everything is divided into twelve-minute segments. Focus for twelve minutes. Jump around for the next twelve. Repeat. Doing a TINARS show after a Small Print one can be relaxing.
Winnie-the-Pooh’s Homecoming Party—which Torontoist is a media presenter of—will be held on Sunday, October 18 (shows are at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.) at the Gladstone Hotel.
Illustrations from Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by Mark Burgess, and provided courtesy of Penguin Canada and Small Print.