Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Week We Wayzgoosed

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The Week We Wayzgoosed

Publishing is back in session. And we know this because last week, we Wayzgoosed.

Every year, after a summer of taking it easy/speed reading to get a jump on the fall, the Toronto book crowd comes together on the Thursday after Labour Day to Wayzgoose it up at Coach House Books HQ. A Wayzgoose, for those unfamiliar, was a party traditionally given by a printer to his staff to mark the end of summer and the beginning of working by candlelight. Here in the heady days of 2014, when the Coach House is fully equipped with electricity and fancy items such as iMacs alongside its Heidelbergs (that’s Heidelbergs, not Heisenbergs), working by candlelight is a thing of the past, but the party tradition — thank the lord of kerning — continues.

The Coach House Wayzgoose features free hot dogs, cheap beer, a Coach House merch table, and a non-partisan publishing spirit only really matched by... well, by other Coach House Books parties. Staff from all publishing houses and literary organizations are there soaking up the comradely, back-to-schooly spirit, as are writers, literary award administrators, booksellers, students and readers (very important people).

Upon arrival I was sold beer tickets by an acclaimed short story writer and served a cold one by the editor of a literary magazine. At the merch table piled high with Coach House’s front- and backlist titles, I watched a smiling Jeramy Dodds accept payment from someone buying... Crabwise to the Hounds by Jeramy Dodds.

As the evening wore on and further beers were served to me by first a novelist and later an editor, I chatted about all the fun of fall in publishing with two CBC book mavens, and got immersed in heated but friendly discussions with members of Teams Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House and HarperCollins. We talked about the important things, such as: Is Eimear McBride’s highest-of-brows buzz book, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, actually any good? Is there a continuity error in part one of The Bone Clocks? Are you an en dashes or em dash user? And, um, Drake....

By the time I hopped on my bike to go home, I’d also given two sets of relationship advice, received a bit from someone else and been asked very politely by Team Coach House to kindly refrain from having sex in their bathroom (not me specifically — there was a general sign (pictured)). You know you’re at a proper party when....

As always, the Wayzgoose was the perfect way to kick start what we all know will be a busy publishing season ahead. The morning after the event I caught up with Sarah Smith-Eivemark, who took over the reigns as Coach House publicist earlier this year, to ask how she was feeling the day after her first Wayzgoose on the other side of the party equation. She sounded extremely cheerful, despite being in the midst of after-party clean-up and prepping for sending Coach House authors to the following day’s inaugural High Park festival.

(this interview has been edited for length)

Becky Toyne: You’ve been at the helm of Coach House publicity since March. How was your first Wayzgoose as organizer instead of guest?

Sarah Smith-Eivemark: (laughs) It was an experience. It was actually our most successful Wayzgoose yet: we had at least 500 people throughout the evening. We went through all 400 hot dogs, and we ran out of beer twice. It was so great. There were so many new people there as well.

BT: What's your personal favourite thing about the Wayzgoose?

SSE: Just seeing all those people there who care about Coach House and Canadian publishing as much as we do. It’s just really a relaxed way to celebrate everything that we’re doing, especially as we head into the craziness of fall. It’s just nice to sit back, have a beer, enjoy ourselves and think, “Alright, bring it, Fall!”

BT: Tours of the Coach House are on offer to everyone at the Wayzgoose. What’s your favourite stop on the tour?

SSE: Oh hands down the magical sleeper chair. It’s not as comfortable as I imagine it was in the 1960s. But being able to sit there and know that people like Allen Ginsberg, William S Burroughs, Margaret Atwood, all those big names, people who were movers and shakers, not only in Canadian literature, but in world literature in the ’60s ’70s and ’80s, sat there. It’s just where all the cool editors used to party. I may not be using the magical sleeper chair for its original purpose though. You know those people were not exactly sober when the chair was given its name....

BT: Who did you meet at the Wayzgoose for the first time and have an interesting conversation with?

SSE: You know what, it was really great for me because there are so many people that I’ve been emailing with since I started this job and I finally had the chance to put a lot of faces to names for the first time. I got to meet some lovely people at the Walrus, for instance, in person, which was really awesome.

BT: I always enjoy seeing and meeting some of the graduating Humber Publishing students at the Wayzgoose. As a former Humber grad who attended this party as a student, then as an intern, and now as someone who helps organize the event, what advice would you pass on to this year's students, who are just beginning their intern placements?

SSE: Go to as many events as possible. Just get involved in the community. And have fun. Become a familiar face. That’s how you make contacts and get jobs in this industry.

You know last night it was actually kind of special for me because I was first at the Wayzgoose as a Humber student and last night a bunch of my Humber classmates were there. It was really kind of, “Huh, we’ve made it, we’re all here working in the industry and oh my goodness I’m helping to run the Wayzgoose!”

BT: Now one big party is over, any upcoming Coach House stuff you want to plug?

SSE: We’ve got two upcoming parties that I’m really, really excited about. The first is happening on October 1 at Type Books. It’s the Sleepworker launch. We’re having a pyjama party, but it’s also going to be mashed with an Andy Warhol themed warehouse party, minus the orgies.

And then our fall launch is Wednesday, October 15 at the Garrison and it’s a dream list of poets: Lisa Robertson, Ken Babstock, Jeramy Dodds, Rachel Zolf and Sarah Dowling. It’s going to be a true party.

Becky Toyne is a publishing consultant specializing in manuscript development and book promotion. She is a regular books columnist for CBC Radio One and Open Book: Toronto, and a freelance publicist for many of the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s literary award and fundraising programs. One or two days a week Becky works as a bookseller at Toronto indie Type. You can follow her on Twitter: @MsRebeccs

You can find past columns by Becky Toyne in the Open Book Archives.

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