Pilgrims-Progress

Here at The Puritan, the road goes ever on …

As another year draws to a close and 2014 begins, we cannot help but reflect on how far the magazine has come since its inception, and in so doing, think ahead to where we hope to be at year’s end.

These past 12 months have seen numerous milestones for the journal. And the more things have changed, the more we’ve come to recognize The Puritan‘s passage through a number of stages—or Ages—in its development. These Ages have been characterized by tangible moments of growth and progress, each building upon the last and each laying the foundation for things to come.

In the spirit of The Town Crier’s recent end-of-year reflections, we’d like to frame our high hopes for the next year in publishing by taking a tour through the transitions and milestones that have defined the journal since late 2006.

The First Age, 2006–2009

Roughly speaking, The Puritan‘s First Age was one of bewilderment, blunder, and discombobulation. This period saw us through seven occasionally strange-looking print issues devoted to fiction and interviews, sold and distributed in the city of Ottawa exclusively. It was a time of pure drive and ambition with little in the way of discipline, clear direction, or infrastructure.

This developmental stage prepared us for the challenges ahead; it allowed us to establish countless bonds and relationships with other writers, editors, and publishers, many of whom we idolized while we were still emerging as literary upstarts. It gave us the opportunity to sit on numerous panels, make appearances at festivals, and publish, edit, and interview some of our heroes. And while it allowed us to hone our editorial skills, it was doomed to failure: a lack of funding, a move to a new city, and a whopping staff of only two dopes meant that we were forced to evolve into something new.

Luckily, something did indeed rise from our literary ashes, moving us into …

The Second Age, 2009–2012

The most fundamental change marking our evolution into The Second Age came with the casting off of our ponderous print format and a leap onto the web. Early 2009 saw The Puritan become an entirely online publication. It also meant we expanded our mandate to include poetry, reviews, and essays, in addition to our interview and fiction mainstays.

The move from Ottawa to Toronto also introduced us to a number of like-minded, equally assiduous individuals to help us remake the magazine into something much better. By the end of this era, our staff had risen to nearly 20 people, all of whom lightened the literary load and added essential new voices and ideas to our ongoing conversation.

So much happened in this period: we created and awarded our first ever literary prize, The Thomas Morton Memorial Prize in Literary Excellence. We became one of two online magazines to have a short story featured in the Journey Prize Anthology. We reached a wider and more diverse audience of readers and contributors than ever before, and made the leap into the world of social media. We capped off 2012 with a nod to our print history with a magnificent tome: The Puritan Compendium I, an anthology featuring 18 issues’ worth of incredible work. These achievements culminated with the celebration of our now-annual Black Friday event—the journal’s first live event since the infamous “Throwdown in O-Town” from 2008.

The stage was now set for our next evolutionary leap into …

The Third Age, 2013–Present

The Third Age truly allowed us to reach epic levels of experience, beginning with Issue 20: Winter 2013. “The Epic Issue” was a critical hit, heralding a new era for the magazine that boasted more interviews and reviews and a higher quality of work than we’d ever been able to feature. The Puritan also saw a record number of hits and submissions, shattering all previous figures and making us a truly international venue.

This period would also prove to be our most monumental with regard to infrastructure and staff involvement, bloating the number of people involved with the mag to 26. Many of these volunteers have since taken on more and more responsibility, carving out totally new positions within the masthead.

As E Martin Nolan points out in his year-in-review post, 2013 saw the inception of The Town Crier, our bloggy, arm’s-length appendage, now well into its tenth month of production, and this piece being its 151st post. The Crier represents a true embrace of the digital format, and has involved a whole new crop of contributors and writers under our puritanical banner. Thanks to all who’ve blogged on this platform, and especially Tavish McGregor, Quintin Peirce, E Martin Nolan, Phoebe Wang, Andrew Sullivan, Jess Taylor, Jessica Bebenek, Andy Verboom, Jason Freure, Tracy Kyncl, and André Babyn.

During this period, The Thomas Morton Prize blossomed into an annual affair, seeing a greater share of prizes (including more of Canada’s best indie and literary presses donating books) and a far superior round of submissions, which we hope only to top with future Prize incarnations.

At this stage, we can now look ahead to a few of the things we want to accomplish in 2014. These include:

  • A brand-spanking new website, due to launch this February, incorporating a sleek new design aesthetic and platform sure to ease us from the 17th into the 21st century. 
  • New supplemental material for our issues, which will better incorporate immediate and contemporary concerns within diverse literary communities. Our first, “Bridging the Literary Border,” will be included in our next issue, Winter 2014, also due in February. Another upcoming supplement is tentatively titled “LITtered T.O.,” and promises a look at the city of Toronto from a literary perspective.
  • A greater number of non-fiction included in each edition, with particular focus paid to marginal voices and opinions. The Puritan is looking to unite and draw from a steady cohort of reviewers and interviewers to expand The Puritan‘s mandate and to explore savvy new perspectives on publishing.
  • An even greater use of social media to drive the magazine’s many projects and to link the journal with other exciting initiatives.
  • Greater visibility and appeal for our now Third Annual Thomas Morton Memorial Prize, which will feature as judges for 2014 two great names in Canadian literature: Margaret Atwood (for poetry) and Zsuzsi Gartner (for fiction).
gentleman-tipping-hat

Hats off, worthies!

None of this would be possible without our dedicated staff of readers, editors, bloggers, and bakers, a full list of which can be seen here. Hats off to our many wonderful contributors and readers, too. Here’s hoping we can live up to the goals we’ve set and to see The Puritan through and beyond its thrilling Third Age.

Happy reading in the year to come.

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