An aerial view shows you all the wayz you can Wayzgoose.
Thursday, Sept. 5 saw a large segment of Toronto’s literary scene gathered under one roof, or rather, under one roof and in the back parking lot for a staple event in Toronto’s Fall schedule.
Despite sounding like a new and exciting addition to the duck family, a Wayzgoose is actually (as stated on Coach House Books’ website) a party “historically given by a master printer to his workmen at the summer’s end, when the season of working by candlelight began.” This is an appropriate event, then, as Coach House is now one of only three publishing houses in Canada that also prints its own works. Rather than restricting itself to its cozy staff, Coach House opts to spread the good times around, hosting an evening of cheap booze and free grub for those in the Canadian and Toronto literary spheres. Word of mouth and a strong local reputation ensures that people get the invite to this traditional party that kicks off the Fall publishing season.
Still being a so-fresh-it’s-bleeding Publicity Agent at The Puritan, this was my first time attending an event boasting such a wide variety of people in the CanLit scene, and it was also my first time being at the Coach House itself. Not a University of Toronto native (as many publishers and authors in Toronto seem to be), I ended up walking past and then around bpNichol Lane before finally stumbling through a rabbit hole that contained what looked like a small cottage with an old fashioned hanging sign printed with the Coach House logo. Still feeling very much like a character in a Lewis Carroll children’s book, I wandered through yet another alley before walking directly into the party, bordered on three sides by caution tape and a barbecue.
In spite of being intimidated by the sheer number of talented people I was suddenly surrounded by, the easygoing atmosphere and non-fussy way things were handled made it easy to grab a free hot dog, sit at a picnic table, and feel comfortable. Even with the early start of 5 p.m., it didn’t take people long to get comfortable. At the book table, I saw David Seymour’s For Display Purposes Only only to see the author himself standing five feet away. Attendees could nonchalantly glance at and buy the latest Coach House offerings, complete with the small but beautifully-made chapbooks that make Coach House great.
There was little agenda to the evening, allowing for those like myself still new to the scene to meet and mingle amid the genuinely happy greetings of old friends and acquaintances. With the help of Mansfield Press poet (and Coach House’s editorial director) Leigh Nash, I was able to associate the myriad faces with the popular local blogs, magazines, and presses they represented. Publicist (and author) Evan Munday of Coach House sold me my drink tickets; author of DOOM: Love Poems for Supervillains Natalie Zed Wolschots chatted amiably nearby; National Post Books editor Mark Medley stood near at hand. While intimidating at times, everyone was easy to approach and even easier to talk to. Ron Nurwisah (community manager of Huffington Post) was quite candid about his stories of once working for the National Post, while Jeremy Hanson-Finger of Dragnet Magazine alluded to his next book being an absurd medical drama.
Much to my delight, guests were given free rein to wander through the halls of the building, with some of us even being given a tour. We stood back and watched as large sheets of artisanal paper were placed in a series of antiquated machines, where they were folded, cut, and finally bound in a uniquely hands-on process, proving that Couch House keeps its history alive while still working in the present, a fact further evidenced by the bookshelves crammed with ancient editions of past Coach House contributors.
Engaging with the printing process indoors lent a deeper tint to the engaging conversation outdoors, fusing each experience into a genuinely enjoyable night which I happily spent mingling amongst some of the best, brightest, and hardest working people in Canadian literature.