Although technically the date was yesterday, it was ten years ago this Sunday when the 10th Anniversary Issue of ESR debuted at Toronto's Word on the Street. To commemorate the occasion, we brought cake to give free to all patrons who bought the new issue, while it lasted. It was a gorgeous day, and it was so great to reconnect with many old friends. After this issue made its debut, I received a lot of emotional support, and some very nice letters, which encouraged me to continue in the small press world. I shall be eternally grateful for the love and kudos we received in those ten years, and especially on this day.
In hindsight, no one really knew it was the beginning of the end. It is weird to think how quickly the so-called "small press" scene changed after that Fall 2011 season. The Toronto Small Press Fair would have its last gasp that winter, with really underwhelming attendance (not helped by lack of advertising, and plopping it in the middle of snowbanks), which seemed to presage what followed. But still, we were oblivious to this at the time. As far as we were concerned, based on the overwhelming response we got on that beautiful Sunday and beyond, ESR was still worth doing. The Fall 2012 release of our 25th (and to date, last) issue was a financial disaster. After some lacklustre tour dates, I quietly decided to retire, letting this enterprise end (to paraphrase T.S. Eliot) not with a bang but a whimper. Indeed, a lot of fellow small pressers that I knew and looked forward to seeing every fall had similarly vanished within that year, as the scene either got younger, or more corporatized, depending on which venue you attended.
While I was preparing the tenth anniversary issue, I was secretly considering it to be its last. I made no mention of it even in my editorial. This decision was not borne out of dissatisfaction, but rather my ambition to get into longer formats. In hindsight, I should've ended it on a crescendo. Lest I be accused of being a "glass half empty" guy (although I'd prefer to call it "realistic"), I will end this post on a hopeful note.
After ten years of false starts, personal and professional calamities (to say nothing of our current situation), it is nearing the time for ESR to rise again. Yes, the website's official launch date keeps getting pushed back, as my time is now spent more on finding work, but rest assured that it will happen some time this fall, still in keeping with our 20th anniversary. If dishing out the cake ten years ago signalled the beginning of the end, then let the tenth anniversary of that presage a new beginning.