College Street’s Alexandrina block: the future home of “Of Swallows, Their Deeds, & the Winter Below” and the Toronto New School of Writing. Photo by Remi Carreiro/Torontoist.
Coming out of a year that saw one long-standing institution buried and another putting out a last-ditch S.O.S., you’d be crazy to get into the independent bookselling business in Toronto right now.
Jason Rovito is opening a bookstore at College and Spadina. He isn’t crazy, but he does have a crazy-beautiful vision—one that’s either off-the-hook whimsical or firmly pragmatic.
Recognizing that economic conditions make it near-impossible to just sell books, Rovito is creating a many-hat-wearing studio in which space rental and partnerships sustain a bookstore while also allowing different imprints of Toronto’s indie-lit scene to play and piggy-back off of one another. The space’s lovely sounding but quirky moniker—Of Swallows, Their Deeds, & the Winter Below, or 283 College—rambles just enough to suit the fluid, discursive project.
The first renter to stake out some collaborative square footage at 283 College is the much-anticipated Toronto New School of Writing. Founded by Jay MillAr and Jenny Sampirisi—also the faces behind the publisher BookThug—the TNSoW picks up in the space between where academic leaves off and marketable begins. Their intriguing first slate of writing and close-reading courses delve into pockets of avant-garde Canadian writing (yeah, it does exist) most often ignored by literary juries and annexed to the academy.
Rovito, who is a doctoral candidate in a joint York-Ryerson program, is also one of the founders of LOT: Experiments in Urban Research, one of the collaborating forces behind last summer’s popular Leona Drive Project. Through his work with LOT, Rovito has also been a co-editor of an issue of the art and culture journal Public, another project that will be sharing the 283 College space.
If you think you’re hearing a lot of “collective” this and “collaboration” that, you’re not wrong. When you start to unpack the machinery behind what’s coming at 283 College, you find a tangled web of people regularly working and playing together. We think that’s what you a call a community. It’s high time they had a space to call their own.
Of Swallows, Their Deeds, & the Winter Below opens its doors March 1. The Toronto New School of Writing’s spring courses are currently open for registration.