Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Taddle Creek, with Conan Tobias

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On Taddle Creek, with Conan Tobias

Conan Tobias is the founder, editor-in-chief, publisher, art director, and many other things of literary magazine Taddle Creek. With the future of Taddle Creek and other such publications uncertain due to funding cuts, this summer, in a Taddle Creek first, the magazine will hit the road with a multi-city tour. Conan talks to Open Book about his vision for Taddle Creek and gives an in-depth look at the magazine.

OBT:

Tell us about the history of Taddle Creek. What made you decide to start a literary journal?

Conan Tobias:

Taddle Creek started in 1997 as a literary annual for the Annex neighbourhood and the surrounding area. It wasn’t drastically different than it is today, it’s just a lot better now. Eventually we expanded to encompass all of Toronto, moved to a twice yearly schedule, and launched a Web site, among other offshoot projects. We also eventually became available on newsstands throughout Canada and, more recently, in the U.S. It’s still a very literary magazine, but there’s more non-fiction now than there used to be. It’s kind of a literary general-interest city magazine. I started it for a whole bunch of reasons that don’t really matter much any more. The easy answer, it was the easiest kind of magazine to start, and I really didn’t think there were a lot of good literary magazines out there. I guess I felt I could do better.


OBT:

What makes Taddle Creek unique?

CT:

Well, for one thing there aren’t a lot of magazine-sized literary journals out there. Most are digests, which, personally, I find kind of unappealing. The magazine format allows for a sense of fun that digests don’t. They also get more attention on the newsstand. I guess mainly, Taddle Creek has a strong voice of its own. It’s a magazine with a personality. Some people don’t care for its personality, some do. I hope that reading it is a unique experience. I also think it’s open to certain kinds of literature other magazines might not be, and, as I mentioned above, it’s a literary magazine but has a lot more to it than that in terms of content. I also think it’s more visually appealing than a lot of other literary magazines. Taddle Creek is a magazine first. Other literary journals seem to pay attention only to the words and ignore the visual element.


OBT:

Who reads Taddle Creek? Can you fill us in on some details about your print run and circulation?

CT:

I used to think it was mainly younger people reading the magazine, but I’ve met such a wide variety of people who like Taddle Creek over the years that I don’t know if there’s a typical reader. Basically, people who like what we do. It’s not for everyone. Our current print run is 1,500 copies per issue, and I’m pleased to say that, aside from a few office copies, every single copy makes its way into someone’s hands. We even try to get back as many of our newsstand returns as possible and sell them at press fairs. Nothing gets thrown out, and there isn’t a roomful of old issues somewhere.


OBT:

Literary journals have been having a hard time lately because of the cuts to government funding. How does Taddle Creek keep going?

CT:

Ask me in a year. We just finished up our last issue that received funding under the old Canada Magazine Fund. We’re now going into a year with a budget that’s 40% smaller, thanks to Heritage Minister James Moore’s decision to cut small magazines out of the new Canada Periodical Fund and exclude them from the postal subsidy. We’re not prepared to cut back on quality in any way, so things like what little promotional budget we had will get cut. Basically every cent now has to go into nothing more than the basics involved in getting a copy of the magazine into people’s hands (content, printing, postage). That said, we’re currently looking for new funding opportunities. But the magazine will continue, in no small way thanks to the people who work on it for little or no money.


OBT:

In addition to the print magazine, Taddle Creek has an online presence. What can readers find online?

CT:

At the moment, mainly just the basics: news and general information, submission guidelines, contact info, contributor bios, that kind of thing. The centrepiece right now is the archive: nearly every piece from the magazine since Day 1 is available for viewing on-line, including the CD we did in 2000, the on-line-only issue from 2001, and the “talking issue” from 2008. We’re pretty proud of that. We’ll likely get more into multimedia content soon, as money, time, and reader interest allow.


OBT:

Taddle Creek has a great variety of content – art, poetry, essays, fiction. How do you select what goes into your journal?

CT:

It’s kind of random. For the fiction and poetry, we keep an open submission policy, and the associate editor and I read every piece that comes in. We don’t end up using a lot of unsolicited work, however. I usually end up approaching people who have been in the magazine before, or whom I’ve read or seen read somewhere and liked. The essays usually cover certain aspects of life in Toronto. I think they have a certain Taddle Creek–ness, if I can coin that phrase. The comics and art are just kind of my personal taste and interest. Having done this for so long now, for me, there’s just a kind of art that fits in Taddle Creek and a kind that (though it may be perfectly good) doesn’t. It’s not something I can easily put into words.


OBT:

What other literary journals do you read?

CT:

Not very many. As I mentioned, I find most of them kind of dull. They can be very grey and uninviting. Subterrain publishes a lot of great writing. Tin House is fun, and McSweeney’s has its moments, though I don’t often read either. I really like the fiction in the Walrus and Maisonneuve, and often in This.


OBT:

For the current issue, Taddle Creek decided to “remove its Toronto-centric restrictions.” What made you decide it was time to have an “Out-of-Towner” issue?

CT:

Nothing special. We’ve run at least one piece by or about a non-Torontonian in every issue since 2002. We publish mainly Toronto authors because our mandate is to be a city magazine, not because we hate other cities. We did an issue focused on our illustrated fiction (comics) section recently, so doing one focusing on our Out-of-Towner section seemed like a good idea. There are obviously a lot of great writers outside of Toronto, and this was a chance to work with a bunch of them at once. We’ve also long-wanted to do a tour and it made sense to tour with this issue, so we’re touring a handful of cities in Canada and the U.S. this summer.


Conan Tobias lives in the Annex. He is the founder, editor-in-chief, publisher, art director, and many other things of Taddle Creek. He is also the managing editor of another popular and respected magazine. His work has twice been nominated for a National Magazine Award, once for the other magazine and once for the “words” portion of the Taddle Creek article “Night of the Sewist”. He contributed a chapter to the essay collection uTOpia: Towards a New Toronto (Coach House, 2005), which was nominated for the Toronto Book Award. He is a former staff member of the Acta Victoriana literary journal, the oldest magazine still publishing in Canada.

For more information about Taddle Creek please visit their website.

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