canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

TDR Interview: Carousel

For over 20 years, Carousel has been putting out a steady stream of writing and visual art from its home in Guelph Ontario. Recently, TDR correspondents caught up with Mark Laliberte in this mini-profile exclusive.

(February 2006)


TDR: When did Carousel begin?

Carousel was founded in 1983, and has published eighteen varied editions to date. In that time, the magazine has gone through a couple of pretty distinct editorial cycles and format changes. For the largest part of its existence, the journal was aligned to the traditional tactics used by most academic journals, and was roughly keeping to an annual publishing schedule. This lasted for about 15 years, and the teams involved throughout that time (there were several of them) produced thirteen issues; but I guess the energy eventually faded, and the magazine fell into a state of dormancy at the end of the 1990s. When Carousel returned in a resurrected form in 2001,it was really a different animal. I'm not sure if there is a generational difference at work, but volume 14 marked the beginnings of a set of dramatic visual and philosophical changes that would guide the magazine to where it is today. We also increased our publishing scheduleto twice annually new issues are now published in the Spring and Fall.

TDR How big is your circulation per issue?

We currently print 1200 copies; our print run has been slowly increasing over the past few years as we've focused on diversifying our distribution. In our new incarnation, we've put a great deal of energy into expanding our distribution efforts. Dependable and target distribution is a slow and difficult task, and takes a great deal of energy to accomplish; it happens a store at a time.

Our current distribution network places us in specialty stores throughout North America. In Canada, we flow through Magazines Canada and Disticor Direct Retail Services; in the USA, we have recently begun working with Bernhard DeBoer Inc. and Ubiquity Distributors, Inc.

What have been some of the highlights as of late?

We really appreciated being nominated for 'Best Design' in Canada last year by The National Magazine Awards Foundation, that was a positive acknowledgement of the work we're doing. The other nominated magazines we were competing with all have huge budgets comparatively, so it was interesting to see that our design choices stood out enough to get that kind of positive attention. V19, our upcoming issue, will be a real highlight. It will see us more directly interacting with the comics world, which we've only been dabbling with so far. We have interviews with Seth and Gary Panter, and an 8-page comic by Marc Ngui, who's had a few graphic novels come out with Conundrum Press. In 2006, we are beginning to release a unique silkscreen poster whenever a new issue comes out. It will be a beautiful object created in collaboration with one of our featured artists. The first one will be done by Michael Deforge, a young artist originally from Ottawa but currently living in Toronto. He has a few works featured in the new issue, and his poster will be an exclusive 3-colour design created in a very small edition, and it will be made available at release parties and book fairs.

How many people work for Carousel?

Currently, Carousel has not a single paid staff member, it's fully a labour of love! We pour most of our small budget into the production of the magazine, and we also make a full effort to pay each creator we work with a nominal professional fee... which is something even a lot of staffed publications don't bother to do. Our creators get paid first; we value the content on our pages. About twenty people float around the magazine, some more seriously than others. We have several dedicated volunteers sitting on various small editorial committees, helping to steer the best content possible into our pages. As Managing Editor, I'm playing at about a dozen tasks myself that in a more professional system would be taken on by a number of paid part-timers, but right now that's the only way to get things done. We'd love to have a staff-system, but we don't have the energy to put towards chasing down more money to make it happen yet. We're focusing all our energy on the product.

What is your opinion on the state of print journals and magazines of arts and letters in Canada?

In general, I think the diversity of journals we have in Canada offers a healthy mix for the market: most of the magazines seem to be doing a competent job at publishing a portion of the literature our country has to offer. Only a few magazines are being really daring, I think, challenging the old models and trying to find more efficient and exciting ways of doing things. I'd like to think that Carousel is at the forefront of this effort. I think many Canadian journals are, however, doing a poor job on at least one front: I don't understand why more magazines aren't revisiting their budgets and finding ways to sacrifice internally in order to allow for the payment of their writers or artists when they publish a poem or short story; even the slightest financial gesture works wonders for a struggling artist. Many magazines, even ones with paid staffers, don't seem to prioritize this kind of professional nurturing of their content-providers. Instead, most seem to think that a complimentary copy is all it takes. I think this is backwards thinking; a magazine is blank paper without its content. It shows a lack of vision, for it seems obvious that any financial investment into the creative pool will only generate out new and better works... and what journal doesn't want to see that happening? Water your plants, Canada, and they will grow!








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