Meet the Presses Indie Literary Market

by Shealah Stratton

Published at 2010-06-10

On Saturday June 5, TEC editors Beth McAuley, Jennifer Day, Nadine Bachan, and Shealah Stratton attended the Meet the Presses Indie Literary Market, a showcase of small publishing houses from across Canada. The market was held in Toronto at Clinton’s Tavern located at Bloor and Clinton, one block east of Christie Pits Park.

Tables snaked through the back room (an established concert venue), lined with presses ranging from well-known publishers (such as Coach House Press and Brick Books) to newer additions, including The Serif of Nottingham and The Emergency Response Unit. Most of the presses provide a venue for poets, avant-garde fiction, and creative non-fiction.

Beth talked shop with Wolsak and Wynn’s publisher Noelle Allen. She’s happy to report Secret Identity Reader: Essays on Sex, Death and the Superhero, a manuscript TEC staff provided substantive edits for, will be going to press in the coming months. Jennifer was entranced by the chapbooks on offer from Gesture Press, with hand-sewn bindings printed on cream-coloured paper that had a satisfying weight. A tiny anthology of four poetry books was assembled entirely by hand.

Nadine met Jim Johnstone, now Editor-in-Chief of Misunderstandings, a quarterly magazine that provides a platform for first-time authors. She had seen his work published in Existere when she was the submissions editor for the literary magazine. Jim encourages submissions from anyone interested in writing, a refreshing offer, considering most authors now need a well-known agent to get their work noticed by publishers.

Shealah noticed Shawn Micallef’s new release from Coach House, Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto, which includes a colour fold-out map of the city. She was captivated by the remarkable combinations of graphics, text, and line drawings that make up Fatal Distraction by Sonja Ahlers, a graphic novel offered by Insomniac Press.

As an interesting way to encourage patrons to visit all the publisher’s displays, the market guide urged guests to “build your own anthology.” Each press offered a double-sided printed page which could be folded into a collection of poetry and short fiction, so that patrons ended up with a little chapbook of original work to take home with them.

In a world where the almighty dollar squeezes the publishing industry in new and painful ways, it is refreshing to see so many people passionate about small, independent presses. These publishers and those who work for them continue to produce books that achieve both financial success and critical acclaim.