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Ottawa Small Press Fair promises bookish delights for local readers

By Alejandro Bustos on October 9, 2013

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A treasure trove of literary gems will be on display this coming Saturday, as vendors from the National Capital Region and beyond set up shop in Centretown to sell their valuable wares.

Since 1994, the Ottawa Small Press Fair has offered local bookworms a chance to purchase rare, limited edition works, as well as becoming familiar with many great writers in our region.  The successful event consists of two fairs per year, one in the spring and the second in the fall.

The fall 2013 edition, which will take place in Room 203 at the Jack Purcell Community Centre (320 Jack Purcell Lane off Elgin), will once again give book lovers the opportunity to find wonderful surprises.

“The fair has roughly 30 to 40 exhibitors with works of fiction, poetry, memoir, comics, genre and non-fiction and other works (we even have the occasional zombie novel) for sale at the event,” says fair organizer and local writer rob mclennan in an email interview.

“You might find a letterpress or otherwise printed work for $50, to jwcurry’s hand-printed single poems in his 1cent series that he sells for a penny, or even publishers that produce small works for free distribution.  The range is considerable.”

While the majority of the fair vendors are from Ottawa – e.g. Room 302 Books, Apt. 9 Press, Bywords,  AngelHousePress, BuschekBooksIn/Words Magazine and Press – some sellers from outside the region will also be present.

“This time around, we’ve got Buffalo small press publisher sunnyoutside coming for a repeat appearance, which is quite cool, as well as a whole range of small and smaller poetry, fiction and comic book producers from Toronto (and) Montreal,” says mclennan, whose name is spelled all lowercase.

Previous fairs have included exhibitors from across Canada, as well as various parts of the United States.  The biannual fair is often the only place that local readers can come across these sometimes hard to find literary works from North America.

For readers looking for new works, mclennan says that AngelHousePress, Apt. 9 Press and mclennan’s own above/ground press, among other publishers, will be releasing new publications this coming weekend.

Since co-founding the fair 19 years ago with James Spyker, who has since moved to Toronto, mclennan organizes the fair by himself.  Given his immense experience, he is the perfect person to comment on the state of small press operators.

“The small press is pretty lively, and strong, I would say,” says mclennan.  “Events such as this help give publishers a venue to get their work out there, discover and/or expand their audience, and discuss publications, writing and other ideas with the public, various friends and authors and even other vendors.”

The Ottawa Small Press Fair will take place this coming Saturday, October 12, in Room 203 of the Jack Purcell Community Centre (320 Jack Purcell Lane off Elgin).  The public can attend from noon to 5 pm and admission is free.  A pre-fair reading is scheduled for Friday at the Carleton Tavern (223 Armstrong Street at Parkdale; upstairs), with doors opening at 7 pm and the reading starting at 7:30 pm.

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