canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

TDR Profile: The New Quarterly

A staple of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario’s literary scene for over two decades, The New Quarterly suffered a financial scare in 2000. 

TNQ's Kim Jernigan spoke with Nathaniel G. Moore about what it means to publish a literary journal in Canada at the turn of the new millennium. This interview was conducted in early 2001.



NATHANIEL G. MOORE: As the editor of TNQ, is your mandate to publish both local and non-local authors, writers?

KIM JERNIGAN: The New Quarterly is a national literary publishing work from across the country, but we do like to support local writers when we feel they are deserving. Among the local writers whose work we've published and promoted recently: Sandra Sabatini, Veronica Ross, and Andrew Pyper, all participants in "Wild Writers We Have Known," our recent symposium on the state of the Canadian short story held as part of the Academy Stratford in September 2000. 

Veronica lives in Kitchener, Sandra in Guelph (though she is as of today defending her thesis on images of babies and childbirth in Canadian fiction towards a PhD at the University of Waterloo), and Andrew currently lives in Toronto, but grew up in Stratford. Andrew's first publication was with TNQ and we have published him often since, Veronica has been publishing with us since our first issue. Both she and Andrew have been the subjects of TNQ profiles. Sandra was a finalist for the Journey Prize last year for a New Quarterly story. Another local writer we're excited about is Alison Pick. We published her first poems in the past year and have just accepted a first prose piece.

NGM: How does TNQ represent Waterloo outside of the area?

KJ: The magazine is distributed nationally. We also recently hosted a symposium on the state of the Canadian short story that attracted quite a lot of publicity, articles in The Globe & Mail, The National Post, and the Hamilton Spectator plus a 20 minute spot on CBC radio. That event had the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Stratford Theatre Festival (where it was held), RIM (a local technology company), and all three area universities: The University of Waterloo, St. Jerome's University, and Wilfrid Laurier University. 

We also nominate our writers for a number of national awards--the Journey Prize and the National Magazine Awards. No local winners yet though we have twice taken the National Magazine Awards Gold Medal for Fiction with silver medals for fiction, poetry, and the essay and have had three finalists for the Journey Prize, including Guelph writer Sandra Sabatini whose first story collection, The One With the News, came out this fall from Porcupine's Quill Press. It's a funny, poignant collection of linked stories exploring the impact of Alzheimer's disease on a family.

I've often heard it said that literary magazines are to Canadian culture what minor league hockey is to the NHL--a training ground for new players. Indeed, it's hard to imagine a lively national literature without the experimentation and emergent writing these magazines publish and promote. Occasionally a wonderful new writer will burst onto the national scene without having first made her way in the literaries, but it's extremely rare. So it's important for there to be a kind of creative soup of little magazines, all with different interests, editorial biases, and regional ties. They are a lot of work though, with little compensation beyond the satisfaction of having generated some interesting conversation or having been there at the start of a career. They have a natural lifespan, usually as long as the energy of their volunteer editors lasts. So its important, too, to have new ones starting up from time to time.

NGM: What is your circulation per issue?

KJ: We're pretty small, a print run of 600. Because our budget is also small (we're a grass roots, volunteer run magazine) we've never had the human resources to really build our circulation. However, we've recently found a wonderful young woman with a keen interest in the arts who is willing to work with us to raise the funds towards a small stipend to support her work on circulation development and fund-raising.

NGM: How many writers are on staff at TNQ? Do you have student interns? What does TNQ do to make the student body more aware of this publication?

KJ: We have no paid staff, and this is a huge problem for us as the work of running the magazine has expanded enormously since its inception. We have a small editorial collective, seven of us at the moment, most of whom work full time in other capacities. We were once able to raise the funds to hire a UW co-op student for a term--great for us and a good experience for her as well--and we've once had a high school co-op student. The difficulty is in finding enough time to provide adequate supervision with no paid staff of our own. But we're hoping to remedy that if we can raise the funds for a managerial position (see above). We are also keen to establish an advisory board, people with an interest in the literary arts who might be willing to put some time towards fund-raising. If any of your readers are interested, they may call us at (519) 885-1211, ext. 5090.

But I think our most important contribution to younger writers is through guest spots in campus courses on creative writing or writing in and about the arts and through our involvement in the Waterloo County English Awards, an annual competition and workshops for regional high school students. All of our editors have been involved with that as judges, workshop leaders, or guest speakers - almost since its inception 20 years ago.

Nathaniel G. Moore writes filthy fiction. He also does zine + book reviews for Broken Pencil Magazine. His work has appeared in Urban Graffiti, and B+A New Fiction. 







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