Pack up your poetry chapbooks and start flirting with your local copy shop boy/girl—the Toronto Small Press Book Fair is upon us once again. The spring fair will be held at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, 750 Spadina Avenue on Saturday June 7 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
In this time of scant profits for major newspapers and magazines, getting a small magazine off the ground is a challenging enterprise. The phrase “herding cats” springs to mind, along with “snowball’s chance in hell.” In spite of this, there are some great independent magazines and small publishing houses on the go in Toronto, and for one day they’re all going to be helpfully assembled under one roof.
“It’s a great place to dip your feet into the sometimes scary and seemingly closed writing community,” says Halli Villegas, one of the fair’s organizers. “It’s a much more intimate venue for first-time writers and the buying public to meet publishers and writers.”
Last year’s fair was the subject of some controversy, with a few of those involved claiming that Villegas and her co-organizer Myna Wallin hadn’t done enough to advertise and promote the event. A spat broke out on Facebook, but now all of that has been cleared away for this year’s more cheerful announcements.
“People were used to the old ways of postering all over town, and it upset them that there weren’t posters,” says Villegas of last year’s outcry. “But it’s ecologically crazy to do that, and posters get ripped down.”
Instead, they have focused on promoting via Facebook, radio announcements, and other media. This year they have also been able to buy an ad in NOW with additional funding from the Toronto and Ontario Arts Councils. With the move to a larger venue and over 70 exhibitors, Villegas says they’re hoping for a much better turnout.
This year’s Toronto-based magazines include Broken Pencil, a magazine dedicated to indie arts and underground culture, quarterly literary and visual arts journal Descant, feminist teen girls’ magazine Shameless (full disclosure: Cate Simpson is Shameless’ web editor, but would think it was awesome even if she wasn’t), and former zine and now full-blown arts and culture magazine Kiss Machine.
There will also be tables from small publishers like Fathom Productions, a micro-publishing house now in its fifth year; feminist publishing organization Inanna Publications, run out of York University; Insomniac Press, which has a special focus on new writers; as well as larger houses like Coach House Books.
Zinesters might want to check out the Great Worm Express Distro, or urban exploration zine, Infiltration, started by late Toronto legend Ninjalicious and continued by his wife, Liz.
The organizers have stepped up their focus on youth this year, with tables for youth arts group DareArts and Frontier College. “It’s more inclusive than it has been in previous years,” says Villegas. “We’re trying to spread the joy around.”
If you’ve got something of your own to promote, registration for the fall event will open in the summer at $15 a table.
Photos of Mark Laliberte (top) and Luciano Lacobelli (bottom) from the Toronto Small Press Book Fair website.