Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Canzine Interview Series: Hal Niedzviecki

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Hal Niedzviecki

Zinesters and indie publishing lovers are counting down — Canzine is this Saturday, October 17, 2015!

The 20th anniversary of the fair will take place at the Art Gallery of Ontario and will boast 500+ zines, comics, art books and small press publications on display and for sale.

To celebrate Canzine's status as the country's largest gathering of independent publishers, we're speaking with author and Canzine founder Hal Niedzviecki (and don't miss our Canzine conversation last week with indie darlings Jay MillAr and Hazel Millar of BookThug). Hal's latest book is Trees on Mars: Our Obsession with the Future (Seven Stories Press).

Some highlights at Canzine this year include the Radical Reading Series featuring special guest and Pulitzer Prize finalist Ted Rall, and the 1-2 Punch Book Pitch, where aspiring authors get two minutes to pitch their book ideas to a panel of judges.

Hal tell us about the early days of Canzine, what he's most excited about this year and what lies ahead for the fair.

Open Book:

Tell us a little bit about how Canzine first got started and how you got involved.

Hal Niedzviecki:

Canzine got started in the same year that myself and Hilary Clark (who is now a producer at TVO) founded Broken Pencil: the magazine of zine culture and the independent arts. We had ourselves a magazine but no money or opportunities to put the magazine in people’s hands. So we hit upon the idea of a festival that would celebrate and showcase zines and, at the same time, let people know that Broken Pencil existed. The first festival was held at the now long since defunct Spadina Hotel. It was pretty small by the standards of today, with maybe 30 or so exhibitors and maybe 100 or so people coming by to check it out. But I loved the energy and enthusiasm and so we just kept doing it.

OB:

How would you describe Canzine's role in the Toronto arts community?

HN:

Over the years more and more creators are making stuff just for Canzine. Limited editions, new issues, new titles. So it’s an impetus for the arts community to get creative and meet a deadline with an idea they’ve been toying with but haven’t executed. That’s the beauty of Canzine — it’s a showcase and a gallery and a bazaar; instant democratic feedback on what people like and will be drawn to. Of course there’s the overall role of being one time every year when a lot of people who work in obscurity know they’ll get to come out and be celebrated. That’s more important than we might realize.

OB:

Tell us about a favourite Canzine experience of yours.

HN:

There are so many! The time we ended Canzine with a concert by Godspeed You Black Empire! recorded by CBC’s Brave New Waves. We had no idea what we were getting into. The OCAD publishing class delivering anonymous letters of appreciation written by random drop-ins to Canzine audience members and exhibitors. A packed reading featuring all indie press books on underground music — Sam Sutherland, Liz Worth, Laina Dawes…awesome! I could go on and on.

OB:

Do you think Toronto has a unique indie culture that has contributed to the support and enthusiasm for Canzine, or would Canzine be possible in any city?

HN:

We do Canzine in Vancouver and Winnipeg. But of course it’s different. Toronto is Canada’s biggest most multicultural urban centre and, like it or not, it’s the centre of cultural production in English Canada. We have 200 zine publishers signed up to exhibit and a waiting list! That could only happen in Toronto. The energy and interest is incredible.

OB:

What aspect of the 2015 iteration of Canzine are you most excited about?

HN:

There’s a ton of good stuff going on this year. Highlights for me — the 1-2 Punch Book Pitch in which you get 2 minutes to pitch your book idea (any genre) and the judges get one minute each to respond. Where else can you pitch your book idea to Andrew Scott, curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario and one of this country’s most respected visual arts experts? And oh yea, we’ve got Heather Kanabe, the director of The Word On The Street and the great writer Teri Vlassopoulos. There is still time to sign up at www.brokenpencil.com/canzinebookpitch. Another highlight is our Radical Reading Series this year — Liz Worth on Andy Warhol, Lindsay Gibb on Nick Cage and coming to us from LA is the muckraking cartoonist and journalist Ted Rall presenting his new graphic nonfiction book on Edward Snowden. Awesome!

OB:

What would you love to see from Canzine in the future?

HN:

This year Canzine has moved to the AGO and we were able to offer free admission. I’d love to be able to keep doing that. I’d also love to expand into other areas of the gallery, create some site specific installations, maybe even an exhibit or two. Plus a few off site events as well!


Known for his provocative fiction and penetrating cultural criticism, Hal Niedzviecki is an acclaimed author, and the founder and current fiction editor of Broken Pencil, the magazine of zine culture and the independent arts. A National Magazine Award–winner, he is a contributor of short stories and essays to many periodicals in Canada and the United States.

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