canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999


Toronto’s Newest Literary Faction is More Thoroughbred than Clotheshorse

[January 2008]

Visit Pilot Pocket Book’s official site

Read TDR's review of Pilot Pocket Book 2 

by Nathaniel G. Moore

It was a mid December evening, not too long ago, a cold, cruel heartless night in Toronto, and without a recognizable T-Lit Literati hipster within bar, yet alone earshot, I felt at tremendous ease as I walked into the back room of The Savannah Room.

There were assistants and other personalities moving chairs and putting up signs, creating pretty displays and inquiring about microphones and additional chairs.

Within a few minutes, pedestrians began filling up tables and chairs, again, none of the usual suspects were piling in. Had all my contemporaries’ books been optioned by Hollywood? Was I alone in Toronto at last?

I felt as though I was in the future, and in many ways I was. Where was I? The Pilot Pocket Book 3 launch. The event, like the journal isn’t your usual run-of-the-mill literary outing. The work is alive, vivid, weird, gross, and fresh.

And in terms of promotion, they had visuals that were projected behind the authors who read on stage. Even those contributors suffering from stage fright were given a pitch hitter, further proof that this faction is quite a nice bunch of humans.

I’m not implying that other Toronto literary venues don’t offer these ingredients on occasion, but there was something unique and quaint about the launch. Maybe it was how well dressed and behaved everyone was.

Beyond all the vintage tweed the guests and staff were dressed in, the campy pilot hat worn on stage or the beautiful glossy journals (printed by Coach House Press) filled with wild fiction and riffs on classic children’s story Where The Wild Things Are, the concept to publish a journal and create this growing literary faction in the city came way back in 2004.

According to one of the editors, Reuben McLaughlin, Pilot had the intention of supporting and promoting new and emerging writers and illustrators from the get-go. "Pilot Pocket Books originated with our regular Bring Your Own Writing (B.Y.O.W.) nights and through our editing workshops. For the BYOW’s, we invited all in attendance to bring and share work related to various themes, including journals, letters, and fears. Our editing workshops were held at the Old York Bar and, in small groups, writers would read each other’s work and offer feedback."

The editorial collective of Reuben McLaughlin, Bryan Belanger, and Lee Sheppard began releasing the books in 2005, with Pilot Pocket Book 1. "The goal of the publishing end of our collective was to uncover talents and help them approach the marketplace."

Currently, Pilot is distributed by Magazines Canada and, through them, Disticor. Of the five hundred copies of Pilot 3, 250 have made their way out into the world, and if you find yourself in the often vilified Chapters-Indigo chain, or the always good independent stores like Pages or Book City, you can find Pilot amongst The Antigonish Review, Matrix, Taddle Creek and Broken Pencil.

McLaughlin says that in the second issue, they published several established writers and artists including Jack Ludwig, Hal Niedzviecki, and Derek Beaulieu. "We believe that the inclusion of more established writers helps expand the community, promoting greater collegiality.

The submission fluctuate between issues, (the latest issue received between 30 and 40 writers) and work from 20 visual artists. Says McLaughlin, "We are interested in the art of storytelling, and if we do not include work it is, more often than not, because we see no evidence of a strong focus on narrative. Even some of the most abstract visual work we publish tells or suggests a story."

While Pilot is not currently funded, they are in the process of inquiring, and with a vibrant community of co-minglers supporting them, taking notice of them and encouraging them, it would be nice to see these folks kept afloat, and have a shelf life they deserve. 

For information on advertising, contributing, subscribing, donating or carrying Pilot at your establishment, pick up and issue, visit their website, or write them the old fashioned way (e-mail).

The deadline for submissions for Pilot Pocket Book 4 is Friday, March 7, 2008.






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