A bounty of books: Piles of cool, local writing await at the Small Press Fair

The crowds at the spring edition of Ottawa's Small Press Fair (Photo credit: Pesbo via Flickr

Kathryn Hunt  is a displaced Maritimer who first arrived in Ottawa 15 years ago. A published poet and freelance writer, Kate blogs, performs and talks the city’s budding literary scene at every opportunity! She also enjoys cycling and rock-climbing in her spare time.

For a lot of people, there’s something deeply satisfying about browsing through tables loaded with stuff you just can’t find anywhere else.  There’s just something cool about it: you think of flipping through vinyl at a record store looking for that rare find, or being part of the ‘in crowd’ before the rest of the world catches on to the next big thing.

And then there are people who love small presses because, face it, almost every writer starts in a small magazine, or with a chapbook, or even by publishing themselves. (For example, H.P. Lovecraft, the famed horror writer and author of The Call of Cthulhu, was a prolific self-publisher of small press chapbooks, newspapers and journals, under a multitude of pen names.) All those different forms of the small-to-micro-press lover will be in attendance at the fall edition of the Ottawa Small Press Fair on November 5.

Started in 1994 by Ottawa poet rob mclennan and his colleague James Spyker, the Small Press Fair has evolved and grown over the last 17 years. Spyker is no longer involved with the fair, but it has been faithfully nurtured by mclennan and has steadily grown in popularity. As a university poet many (many) moons ago, I remember bringing the hand-photocopied and stapled books I’d produced for the Carleton English Literature Society to the fair, and later attending with Dusty Owl Press: our biggest publication was the novella Tattoo This Madness In, by Montreal writer Daniel Allen Cox, who went on to garner nominations for the Lambda Award for his novels Krakow Melt and Shuck, and for the ReLit Award for Shuck. Which just goes to show, you never know what future award winner’s work may be on the tables at the small press fair.

Some of the offers from Comix at last year's Small Press Fair (Photo credit: Pesbo via Flickr)

The fair usually contains exhibitors with poetry books, novels, cookbooks, posters, t-shirts, graphic novels, comic books, magazines, scraps of paper, gum-ball machines with poems, 2x4s with text, etc; vendors at previous events have included Bywords, Dusty Owl, Chaudiere Books, above/ground press, Room 302 Books, The Puritan, The Ottawa Arts Review, Buschek Books, The Grunge Papers, Broken Jaw Press, BookThug, Proper Tales Press, and others. It’s a great place to pick up brand-new literature at a bargain price, to discover your new favorite local artist, and to meet others in the literary community. Besides, you get to poke through piles of bleeding-edge, cool, local writing!

The small press fair’s fall edition will be held on November 5 at the Jack Purcell Community Centre, room 203, on Jack Purcell Lane (just off Elgin Street), from 11:00 to 5:00 pm. (And if you stick around till 5:00, there’s usually a traditional mass-exodus to the James Street Pub for drinks and bookish conversation afterward.)

Sounds like a perfect sale for a beautiful fall Saturday. Why not make weekend plans the priority for the start of the week? Thanks for sharing, Kate!