Stuart Woods of the Quill & Quire blog interviewed me about Meet the Presses by email a couple of weeks ago. Here is the exchange:
When was Meet the Presses originally launched (i.e., back in the 1980s)?
Meet the Presses was a Sunday-evening event, created by Nicholas Power and me, that ran monthly throughout 1985, at Scadding Court Community Centre. We had about a dozen small presses selling their wares, and then a sort of shotgun reading, and other events, including the screening of Eli Necakov's documentary film Street Writers.
Why did it go on hiatus?
Quite simply, it was a huge amount of work for two people who also had to make a living on the side! After a year, we threw in the towel, but we fully expected another small presser to take up the gauntlet. It never happened. And then in 1987, the National Book Festival people approached us to run a big small-press fair, and that's where our energy went. Over the years, though, Nick and I have often looked back fondly on the small, grass-roots, anti-glitz feel of Meet the Presses.
What prompted the relaunch?
This version of Meet the Presses is really just a relaunch in name and spirit. A group of us wanted to create a strictly literary event where we could sell our books and mags and broadsides and recordings. A sort of one-stop shopping for people interested in independently published fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. And then we wondered what would happen if we formed this loose collective where everyone could work as a free agent, creating events under the Meet the Presses umbrella. The only criteria is that the events will include a component in which indie and small-press literary publishers can promote their products.
The collective itself consists of Gary Barwin, Paul Dutton, Maria Erskine, Ally Fleming, Beth Follett, Maggie Helwig, Leigh Nash, Nicholas Power, and me.
How many events per year will it be organizing?
That will be up to the members of the collective — we expect that, after the Indie Literary Market, individual members of Meet the Presses will cook up their own ideas and run with them, with the organizational support of the rest of the collective.
Is Nov. 29 the kickoff?
Yup. November 29 is the first event.
What/how many presses will be attending the fair?
We have space for 28 presses. The invitations just went out yesterday, so it's hard to say right now who will be there. So far we have Rampike, Mercury, Coach House, Existere, Insomniac Press, Pedlar Press, Proper Tales, Serif of Nottingham Editions, Um Yeah Press, Mansfield Press, Underwhich Editions — and we're especially excited about the launch at the Indie Literary Market of a new poetry-chapbook press, The Emergency Response Unit, run by Andrew Faulkner and Leigh Nash. We're going to keep updating our list of participating presses at http://www.meetthepresses.wordpress.com.
Can any publisher/zine-maker apply?
Our events will all be curated — we're inviting specific publishers rather than putting out an open call. Our space in the back room of Clinton's is limited, so we're making some really hard choices. But our criteria, again, is that we want to promote literary publishers of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. And while the invitations for the November 29 Indie Literary Market have already gone out, we'll keep a running list of other presses that might be interested in our future events.
Will there be readings/performances?
Our focus for this event is on selling publications. Future Meet the Presses events may well have those components. That said, who knows what will happen on November 29. I have something up my sleeve that I'd like to see happen there, so if the atmosphere is right, I'll spring it on the room.
In the future, will you be seeking any form of funding?
Right now, our funding for the Market will come strictly from table rental and a donations jar. It's possible the members of the collective will also reach into their own pockets a bit. We don't have any plans at the moment to apply for arts-council funding, but we're not ruling anything out.
Not to bring up that old unpleasantness, but I sort of have to ask: Is this event meant as an alternative to the Toronto Small Press Fair?
"Not to bring up that old unpleasantness, but let me bring up that old unpleasantness...."
The Indie Literary Market fills a void: there is no strictly literary book fair in this city. The kind of people who fall into paroxysms of ecstasy at the poetry wall at This Ain't the Rosedale Library, or the Independent Presses shelves at Pages, or the fiction wall at Type are going to love our event. People looking only for personal zines or music mags or comics or buttons will have to wait for the next Canzine. The Market is an alternative to *everything* out there.
Why do you think the controversy surrounding how that fair was run struck such a nerve with people?
I have my theories, but I'm not about to speak for all those people and their respective nerve endings. It was a really ugly situation. Right now, I'm glad to be working on a project that really excites me, a project with endless possibilities, and a group of people who are wildly diverse and full of ideas and energy.
Are you at all concerned that all that acrimony might have soured people on what should be such good, clean fun – namely, DIY publishing?
Nope. But I'd like to stress that Meet the Presses is attempting to promote the full spectrum of indie and small-press publishing, from DIY operations like Serif of Nottingham and Um Yeah to bigger literary presses like Insomniac, Mansfield and Pedlar. And everything in between. As for "good, clean fun," I'm not sure that's the motto of every literary press in Toronto.
Over and out.