The New Quarterly’s 30th birthday bash was end of last month (November 23), and if you missed it I am so, so sorry for you. You can look at photos of the event here >
I’ve moved from being a full-time part of the office team back to Volunteer Extraordinaire (but I’m really hoping I’ll continue on in the masthead as Office Nerd). Do you ever read magazine mastheads? You should, they’re important and at times contain a little fun. But I digress. I wasn’t involved in the execution of this fine event, although I did pitch in—I put together maybe 6 display boards of TNQ memorabilia—but I did bring my mother with me (I needed a DD), and consequently had to entertain her.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that since I wasn’t terribly involved in the execution of the party, it meant I was asked to blog because rumour has it that some in-office people are experiencing a little PPLMD – Post-Party Lost-Memory Disorder. That’s totally real, by the way.
So here’s my recap.
The Button Factory in Waterloo, Ontario, played host to TNQ’s birthday bash, and it is a fine establishment for such. There was lots of room for the 80+ party-goers (readers, members of the publishing industry, editors past and present, writers, and families there of) who turned up to eat cake and raise a glass to our 30 years of publishing and promoting Canadian writers and writing.
Doors opened at 6:30 p.m. and I swear by 7 p.m. the place was buzzing. Mum mentioned she was standing near the door when two ladies entered and Maddy welcomed them and, intending to pull up a name tag, asked, “Did you RSVP?” And one lady answered quite delightedly, “Of course not!”
TNQ’s soon-to-be Board Chair, Doug Woodley, kicked the night off by thanking everyone who has helped TNQ on its long journey into the top ranks of Canadian literary magazines. The most stirring part of his speech was the announcement that Kim Jernigan—long time Editor of The New Quarterly—is ready to step down, and that she would be introducing the next Editor that night.
I’d be lying if I told you that I hadn’t seen that one coming. I’m not completely out of touch. Heck, I’d told my mother before we left the house. I’d even told Mum who was taking on the role, but swore her to secrecy. Mum revealed on the drive home that she overheard a lady telling someone that she thought she’d heard Kim was stepping down, and wondered if the next editor would be announced that evening.
And so Kim took the stage and spoke with love about the past 30 years of The New Quarterly—she knows the history better than anyone considering she joined the TNQ family before the second issue was printed! First she regaled everyone with tales of TNQ throughout the decades starting with how she thought Founding Editor Harold Horwood (also Founder of the Writers Union of Canada and instrumental in Newfoundland’s decision to confederate) decided she had editorial potential when she was found hand-collating 500 issues while nine months pregnant. No wonder her daughter Amanda has such love for the written word!
Kim explained that the next Editor would work with her on the next two issues and navigate a round of grant writing, contests, and Writers’ Reserve adjudication before the passing of the torch would be complete. With that Kim welcomed The New Quarterly’s next editor, Pamela Mulloy, to the stage. Nova Scotia native Pamela, who has a Master’s in Fiction Studies and an undergraduate degree in business (“I made a mistake!” she claimed, but a handy one for anyone who runs a small mag), was involved in the launch of an arts & culture magazine in England, has been a TNQ fiction editor for a couple of years and, I can attest first-hand, is a warm, delightful person and a writer herself, so she knows something of the hills and valleys of the writing life. As editors past and future embraced, I regretted not having invested in waterproof mascara.
Poetry editor Tristanne Connoly, who also sits on the TNQ Board of Directors as ex-officio representative for St. Jerome’s University, announced the latest writing contest to join the TNQ collection: The Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award. Named for a beloved former TNQ Editor and retired English professor, the prize, funded by the SJU English Department, is for writers in the early stages. Details coming to tnq.ca very soon! Delightfully, Peter was able to attend the party and shake Tristanne’s hand as an official contest opening.
The readings were fabulous. First up were Amanda Jernigan and John Haney. Their duet of writers’ metaphors for the writing life, published in our 100th issue, was charming, witty and poignant. I honestly can’t remember the order of the rest of the readers, but I can tell you who they were and what they performed. Leesa Dean read Lisa Moore’s “I’m in a Phone Booth,” the TNQ story that made Leesa want to become a writer herself (she debuted in our pages in 2010). Claire Tacon read Myrna Garanis’s poem “Inheriting the Spoons” from our Lists issue. Miranda Hill read from “Better Living by Plastic Explosives” (issue 113) by her friend and mentor Zsuzsi Gartner whose first publication was also in our pages. Andrew Borkowski read a segment of his own story “Babayaga” from issue 117—I had the pleasure of attending the launch party for that issue where he also read, so I knew I was in for an energetic and delightful reading (all of the characters’ lines delivered in their native accents) and he did not disappoint. He was also looking especially stylish in his signature hat and TNQ t-shirt! Erin Bow read from Stephanie Bolster’s Alice poems (issue XXI:1) which went on to win a Governor General’s Award for the then aspiring poet. And Rae Crossman, a poet and former editor who launched our Falling in Love with Poetry series, wowed the audience by reciting, so movingly, one of Alison Pick’s Question & Answer poems (XV:3) and the Mary Oliver poem that inspired it.
My mother went on for days about those readings, especially Rae’s, as I had introduced them prior to his performance and she had the opportunity to ask him, “Why doesn’t so much contemporary poetry rhyme? Why are the lines all over the place? I can’t make a connection to the work.” Rae wonderfully engaged in conversation with her—many thanks Rae! So imagine my surprise when, on the drive home, she said to me, “Then he turned around and performed New Poetry and I totally enjoyed it!” Many thanks to Tristanne too, because Mum asked her the same questions and Tristanne was equally as delighted to talk to Mum about the diversity and allure of contemporary verse.
Mum also cornered Andrew Borkowski after the readings. I believe she started the conversation with, “You are only one of three people here wearing your New Quarterly t-shirt. I should have worn mine!” After that she had a great discussion with him about his performance, asking whether his characters were written with the accents with which he performed them (she hasn’t caught up with issue 117 yet, cut her some slack).
And there was music! The silken-voiced Shawna Caspi, sending her nifty lyrics out over the crowd, wonderful despite the recalcitrant sound system, the general hubbub, and the squeaky floor boards. Kim is a big fan of her first CD “Paint By Numbers” (she tells me she’s twice had dinner guests interrupt the conversation to ask, “Who’s that?” when it was playing in the background). Shawna’s newest CD is due out this spring. You can preorder it via Kapipal and also get some amusing (though also useful) tips on how to save energy and cash.
And then there was cake! Really, really good cake! I’m talking fluffy vanilla cake with pear puree filling plus some miniature glacéed pears atop the chocolate icing delicately whipped on top. Mmmmmhmmm! (local readers take note: the cake was by Noughat Café)
Another highlight of the night, at least for me, was being presented with the opportunity to right a wrong I committed. I got to apologize in person to a TNQ writer whose work I had lost about a year ago. I know, I can hear you: “*Gasp* You LOST someone’s work?!” Okay. I’m human, I make mistakes. This one was right up there with the time I opened an alarmed exit at my high school—when I was there as a visiting elementary school student. And although everything worked out in the end with said writer (I should point out that apologies were made via email to the gracious Miranda Hill, winner of this year’s Journey Prize, immediately upon discovering the mishap), my mistake continues to haunt. She was not only understanding, but super sweet and put my mind at ease immediately.
Were you there? Tell us your favourite part of the evening. Thanks to my mum who is a great sport and for being my DD! And, of course, thanks to everyone who came out and celebrated with us!
— Catherine Muss