Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Residential Zoning: Comics, Poutine, and the Publishing Ecosystem

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Residential Zoning: Comics, Poutine, and the Publishing Ecosystem

Here's hoping you don't learn anything about me this May.

My name is Evan Munday, and if you've heard of me at all, it was probably through my past publicity work at venerable Canadian indie press Coach House Books, where I worked for eight years. I also write a fairly morbid and (maybe?) funny series of books for young readers (ages 9 to 12), The Dead Kid Detective Agency. But all you need to know right now is that I'm the Open Book Writer in Residence (W.I.R., to the kids) for May (Pet Cancer Month), and I'm planning to talk as little about me, my writing, and my thoughts on writing as possible. Sorry. I'm not a big sharer.

Here's the thing: I'm the most uninteresting person I can think of. I am captain (and mascot … maybe even coach) of the Dull Team. The Toronto Screaming Bores. Basically indistinguishable from a pile of broken lightbulbs. Literally every person I know or have met is more fascinating than me. Sometimes I think the only reason I became a writer was professional envy, as I couldn't have imagined I had something novel to say. After pages and pages of book catalogues featuring the smug, smiling faces of published authors, I became so incensed I had to do it myself. That could be my stupid, smiling face in a catalogue. (A real inspiring story, I'm sure. Watch for it on ABC Spark.) Because of this crippling personal mundanity, I'm going to spend as much of this Writer-in-Residency as possible talking to other people.

As I mentioned earlier, I worked for eight years as the publicist of Toronto-based press, Coach House Books. (They're great; check them out.) One of the key things I loved about being part of Toronto's publishing industry – and a thing I tried to perpetuate and encourage – was the sense of community in Toronto's literary scene. There actually is a 'scene' in Toronto: a spirit of mutual support, of celebrating fellow authors' achievements and events, even cooperation among (ostensibly rival) publishers. Obviously, this is not an absolute. There is undoubtedly some bitterness and enmity in the Toronto literary world, and some may feel unwelcome at times. (After all, I'm pronouncing this as a white man in book publishing, so obviously my perspective is privileged.) But, for the most part, book people seem to get along better and are a bit more welcoming than they are in, say, the banking industry. I can't count the number of times, as a publicist, that people at other presses around the country freely offered help and information.

So, in the same spirit of fostering community, I want to fill my Writer-in-Residence blog with conversations with people across the literary spectrum: conversations with authors, with comic books creators (I'm a comic geek) and with publishing professionals – especially those publishing professionals who seldom get interviewed for anything. Watch this space for at least three separate, regular interview features:


  • GUTTERSNIPES – one of the city's best festivals – and the world's best comic festivals – the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (May 6 – 11), is eleven years old this May. Free Comic Book Day is Saturday, May 3Toronto is one of the world's great comic book cities, so I'm hoping to shine a little spotlight on that world. I'll be speaking with some of the dazzling comic writers and illustrators – particularly the Canadian ones – who have brand-new books out in May.
  • WORDS AND CURDS – possibly the most inane literary interview series since Poets Touching Trees, this series will feature yours truly introducing international authors who are visiting Toronto to Canada's national delicacy, poutine, and interviewing them about books and food over a steaming heap of fries, cheese curds and gravy.
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS – with this series, I hope to get the lowdown on the best-kept secrets in the 'ecosystem' of Canadian publishing. Publishing has an ecology, and there are many people who do so much for the world of Canadian literature that remain invisible. Sure, the editors and publicists and even the cover designers sometimes get shout-outs from their authors, but what about the typesetters, the inventory managers, the granting officers, the managing editors, the interns? Who will sing their praises? We will, bra'! Publishing can be an arcane process, even for writers, so I want some of the 'secret' but important gears in the book-making machine to explain what they do.

And that's not all: I'm hoping to speak with a few other people doing unusual but amazing things in the world of books. Stay tuned for some (I hope) entertaining conversations that might generate some interesting ideas about books and literature in our fair city. Please join in with your comments, and if you know of someone I should interview or something I should cover, don't hesitate to drop me a line!

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Evan Munday

Evan Munday is the illustrator of the novel Stripmalling, written by Jon Paul Fiorentino (ECW 2009), and is the cartoonist behind the self-published comic book, Quarter-Life Crisis, set in a post-apocalyptic Toronto. He works as a book publicist for Coach House Books. The Dead Kid Detective Agency was his first novel, and in 2013, he published Dial M for Morna, the second book in the Dead Kids series. He lives in Toronto, ON.

Go to Evan Munday’s Author Page