Happy 400th, Patchy Squirrel!
In late 2006, Toronto poet Dani Couture and I started up a weekly email blast called The Patchy Squirrel. Every week since then, Patchy has sent out detailed listings of literary events happening in Toronto — readings, launches, festivals, fairs, signings, workshops, courses. There would be no website containing the listings: you could only get them by subscribing, which was free, and a plain old texty email would land in your in-box at the start of each week, with listings going from the Tuesday to the following Monday.
Rising to prominence around the same era was Facebook, and this made us even more determined to stick with the old-fashioned email approach. Somehow Patchy has survived for 400 weeks — I sent out mailing #400 today. There are nearly 1,200 subscribers now: people who have asked to be the list and who are interested in literary events in Toronto. The vast majority of the listings come in from event organizers; this is sometimes supplemented by info Patchy finds elsewhere.
Dani worked with me for about a year and then moved on to other things. Eventually another Toronto poet, Carey Toane, joined me for Patchy, but soon she moved to Brooklyn and turned in her badge. I've been Patchy's sole operative since then. (Though Dani has subbed for me a few times when emergencies have arisen.) Patchy is thus named, by the way, because Toronto squirrels are brawlers. It's a tough city for a handsome tree-leaping rodent. But it's been exciting to see Patchy become almost a household word among Toronto literary people.
Now, I moved from Toronto to Cobourg in fall 2010 (with a few months' detour when I was writer-in-residence that season at Queen's University). Since then I've wrestled with the Patchy issue. I don't get a ton of feedback, and I don't get a ton of thanks. Each week, Patchy invites tips — donations — for her volunteer Operative. And occasionally Patchy does get a tip: some people are wonderfully generous and appreciative. And I'm sure there are also appreciative people who can't afford to make a contribution, and that's fine too. Anyway, when I lived in Toronto I went to an awful lot of literary events, and I organized an awful lot of them too. So doing Patchy from way over in Cobourg can be frustrating: I'm helping to publicize events that I will mostly miss. But I feel like I've made a commitment, and for the time being, I'll keep doing it. It usually takes an hour or two a week. Sometimes a little more. It's my contribution to a community that has been very good to me (except for a couple of weasels).
If you don't subscribe to Patchy Squirrel, and you'd like to, just drop a note to patchysquirrel [at] gmail [dot] com and put "Here, Patchy Patchy!" in the subject header. If you want to submit a listing, get it to Patchy by Saturday evening of the previous weekend. Put the event title and date in the subject header. In the body of the email, include: Event title; date & time; venue & address; admission cost; detailed description of event; contact info. No attachments allowed. Patchy reserves the right to edit for whatever reason.
A couple of other features of Patchy: Leaping to Future Branches: this is where Patchy lists upcoming workshops that ask for pre-registration. If you're sending in a listing for something that qualifies, please put "Future Branches" in the subject header. And then there's the Weekly Nutable, which I think was Dani's idea: a little squirrel-focused proverb to help guide readers through their week.
If you like Patchy, please consider making a contribution of any size. The encouragement is thoroughly appreciated. If you can't make a contribution, it's nice to just get a word of thanks, so Patchy knows people are using the weekly listings.
I wish Harbourfront would send in listings. And I wish the Art Bar series would send in listings so I don't have to go to their calendar every week. Sometimes this Operative just doesn't have the time or will to do that. If you know of any event organizers or literary fans who might not be acquainted with Patchy, please send them her way.
Over and out.