Canzine and the Canzine Symposium 2013

Photo: Broken Pencil

Canzine, Toronto’s largest zine and underground culture festival, returns this Saturday and Sunday at 918 Bathurst. To hear more about this weekend’s events and the Toronto zine community, I sat down with Lindsay Gibb, Editor at Broken Pencil and one of the Canzine organizers this year. 
Photo: Helen Yousif

JS: I was researching for this interview and you seem to have lots of different jobs, so if you could introduce yourself that would be great.

LG: Sure. I’m the Editor of Broken Pencil Magazine, which means that I also program Canzine and the Canzine Symposium. I’m the Library Services Coordinator (well one of them) at the Beguiling. What else do I do? I work at OCAD’s library and I just got a new position there, so I’m the e-reserves technician there. For now, that’s what I do.

JS: So for people who’ve never heard of Canzine before, what is it? What should they expect?

LG: Canzine’s a zine and small press fair. What you get at Canzine is a lot of tabellers who’re selling their self-published, small magazines, art, and comics. There are hundreds of people who’ve tabelled. It’s been around since 1995, and it gets bigger every year.

JS: What counts as a small press? What are the criteria for getting into Canzine? What kind of stuff do they usually bring out? Is it only magazines?

LG: No, it’s not only magazines. Some people bring fiction, books. Small presses are things like Coach House and other independent presses that only put out a few titles per year.

JS: Is there anything you’re particularly excited about this year?

LG: Yeah, we always have events at Canzine, and this year we decided to pare down because we’ve been running events during the entire fair. Before, if you liked the events then you would have missed the tables, or if you’re at a table you might miss some of the events. So we have one less event this year than we normally have. For the past, I don’t know, four or five years, we’ve been doing this thing called 1-2 punch, which is a book pitching session. People do it live in front of everybody and they get tips from people who’ve published before or literary agents or people who work for small presses. At the end, whoever has the best pitch wins a prize pack and they get advice on their work.

We always have a reading series as well.

JS: What kind of readings are they?

LG: One is Sarah Liss, who has a new book about Will Munro, who’s an artist in Toronto. I think the theme this year was urban stories.

A zine maker named Dave Cave has turned his zine into a musical. He’ going to perform that. His zine’s about mental health and his life and experiences. I think this is the first production of it. He just pitched it to us in writing and I’m 99% sure he’s never performed it before. I think when he was pitching it he was like, “This is just an idea I have and we’ll see what it’s like.” I think it’s going to be great because he’s very funny and has a lot of interesting things to say. Plus I’ve never seen a zine turned into a musical before.

JS: You’ve been involved with the festival for a number of years. What’s your all-time highlight? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen?

LG: The thing that comes to mind as an all-time highlight was the first time I helped program it as editor. We had a food issue as the theme. We had an indie Iron Chef competition. There was no food. There was just making things. We gave them craft stuff and three people made things and showed their items to the judges. There was no specific thing they had to make, and so it was really cool to see what they came up with.

One of the things we’ve been doing the last couple years is where we ask zine makers to come in and make a zine based on a movie in front of a group of people. And we don’t tell them what the movie is till the day when they’re standing in front of everyone. Then they make it, present it, and the crowd votes.

JS: Why do you think Canzine is still relevant?

LG: I guess the reason that zine’s are still relevant is because, on the creators’ side, it’s a creative outlet. It’s a way to express yourself and share information about your own community or about things you don’t see in other media; or represent yourself in ways you aren’t seeing, whatever part of yourself you’re not seeing being represented anywhere else. On the other side, people come to see these things to find new artists, people they find interesting, but also to find someone’s writing that’s inspiring or to connect with and actually be able to see the person who creates that work in front of you. It’s also just to find things that you’re not going to find shopping along Queen Street.

One thing that I haven’t mentioned yet is the Canzine Symposium, which is the day before. The Symposium is a new thing that we’ve been trying based on feedback that we got. One thing that people wanted was more opportunity to meet and talk to people, especially other zine makers because at Canzine you’re behind your table. You might talk to the people beside you, but you don’t get a whole lot of opportunity to meet other people. There was also some feedback about people wanting to have opportunities to learn things. Last year we put together our first symposium, and the idea behind it is that it’s a skill share event where people will talk about how to lay out zines or how to do various things.

This year we have how to write grants and how to use social media, how to create diversity in your community or how to create community beyond zine fairs. We’ve pulled together all these different people. They’re not all zinesters, some people are gamers or comic people or book publishers. We also have a lunch that’s a meet and greet, kind of like speed dating. You sit at a long table with other people in front of you, and then you meet a lot of people over the course of lunch, and we feed you.

Canzine and the Canzine Symposium run on Saturday and Sunday (October 20th-21st) this weekend at 918 Bathurst.

Interview by Justin Scherer

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