Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Canzine 2008

Share |

By Monique Mathew, a budding writer, curator and OCAD graduate. She lives in Toronto.

Broken Pencil magazine’s annual Canzine, tagged as the largest Zine Fair and Festival of Alternative Culture, took place at the Gladstone Hotel on Sunday, October 26. The festival, which took comedy as its theme this year, featured over 150 Canadian zines and a full day of programming that included readings, a workshop on starting your own zine, art installations, video screenings and, naturally, comedy performances. The non-stop activities, coupled with rows and rows of zine creators, their zine tables and the zineophiles who shyly read their wares, made for a cacophonous and fun afternoon at the Gladstone.

Shuffling somewhat counter-intuitively through the crowd, I took in several of the art installation rooms upstairs. One room featured art video games in a pseudo arcade, while in another crowded room, there was a raucous sing-along led by musical duo High Heels Low Fi, both clad completely in pink and surrounded by yards of draped pink chiffon. The event was incredibly crowded, and the various rooms of the Gladstone featuring zine tables and installations offered little moments of respite to leaf through the varied publications.

The staggering number of zines at Canzine could provide hours (or months!) of browsing, and the zine creators are there to chat and answer your questions (and sometimes peer at you for a reaction as you flip through their publication). The zines range from high production bound publications to fragile, photocopied little books awash with tiny handwriting and line drawings. Just to convey the diversity of the zines - I flipped through one comic zine about a moustache that granted men supernatural powers and a few moments later was immersed in a tiny zine journaling its writer’s daily struggle with psychiatric medications and illness. The event allows visitors to connect with new literary and artistic voices in a very direct and unfettered way. Hand-crafted zines, prints, postcards and buttons are all available to take home at extremely modest prices. The do-it-yourself ideology of zine culture allows people to create and produce their own publication, and through events like Canzine, directly offer it to their audience, sans editor, publisher, agent, bookseller, etc.

Not to say that zine creators don’t want editors, publishers and agents, however. The One-Two Punch Book Pitch, a new event at Canzine, involved hopeful unpublished writers pitching their book ideas to a panel of these very people - ECW Press editor Michael Holmes, literary agent Samantha Haywood and writer Hal Niedzviecki. The participants, who signed up in advance, had a panicked two minute spot to sell the judges on their unpublished works. The judges would then respond to the pitch with feedback, criticism and advice. The participants climbed on stage and pitched their books of poetry, zines and eco-friendly guides for urban women, some clutching their notes with visibly shaking hands. The judges responded with genuinely helpful suggestions, ranging from stylistic tips to recommending the right type of publisher for the contestants’ genre. The earnest pleasure of the writers at receiving feedback and encouragement from an established writer, literary agent and editor was lovely to witness. The event was upbeat and participatory, and it also performed a really valuable function of bringing emerging writers in front of a supportive audience and sending them away with useful feedback from publishing professionals. The comedic aspect of the event also helped to take some of the scary out of the publishing process. The event was a great idea, and I hope to see some incarnation of the One-Two Punch Book Pitch at next year’s Canzine.

On the whole, Canzine was extremely varied and provides a huge amount of entertainment, sensory stimulation and value. Best, the small five dollar entrance fee also gets you a handy tote and the latest comedy-themed issue of Broken Pencil, with articles discussing alt-comedy across Canada, the internet as a burgeoning platform for sketch comedy and a hilarious excerpt from Stacey May Fowles’s new graphic novel Fear of Fighting (Invisible Publishing).

Related item from our archives