Thoughts Around Taddle Creek’s 20th Anniversary

Taddle Creek cover

Taddle Creek was the first magazine to publish a story of mine, a very fortunate turn of events.

For years, I’d become isolated in the cold of Saskatchewan. I spent all day in a dark room, surrounded by videos of grieving families and gruesome crime scene photographs. I was never sure why my bosses gave me those photos of an eight year old girl’s severed head or her hacked apart body being reassembled as police dug it up bit by bit in the woods. I once asked a producer where these photos came from, and was surprised to learn so many police departments had no qualms about handing them out to anyone making a cheesy, low-budget TV show.

Because I was always drunk in the evening, I started writing stories in the office lunchroom, fifteen minutes at a time. I’d been sending these to my friend Adam, whose enthusiastic response encouraged me to keep creating. My own poor decisions had led my mental and physical health to near ruination, but thanks to Adam, these stories offered the chance to change.

I moved back to sunny, warm Southern Ontario, writing long after the money ran out. The distance between Toronto and St. Catharines had grown enormous. Though we spoke often on the phone, responsibilities and exhaustion kept me and Adam from meeting up in the big city. I nearly cried when I looked up one day and realized two whole years had passed since we last saw one another in person.

The appearance of “Only the Bear Survived” in Taddle Creek in 2014 remains the most satisfying moment of my writing “career”. The editor’s notes were helpful, and the fact checking so thorough, Conan uncovered the tiniest details of where I’d deviated from historical accounts. I appreciate how much Taddle Creek invited me into the process of preparing the story for their pages. It was a blast.

Turns out not all publications are equal. I’ve since learned that some editors will go to print without first sending the writers galleys to catch very noticeable spelling errors. Shit, I’ve even learned some editors will tweak a line or two lines of your work and publish it under their name.

I was invited to read at the launch party for Taddle Creek 34, which finally forced my hand to get organized so I could return to Toronto.

Although cold and nervous, the reading went great. I was astonished to see so many people crowding the bar. I remember my jokes getting laughs. I remember meeting the poet Chris Chambers and having a conversation about bees and book stacks.

Most of all, I remember it as the last time I saw Adam, who is now gone, and I miss very much. Since those cold Saskatchewan days, every story I’ve written has been a letter to Adam. Even the stories I’m working on today, I write with Adam on my mind. What would his thoughts be about this one? What great ideas have escaped me that Adam would have pointed out?

I hate to think had Taddle Creek not forced my hand, I would have allowed another two years to drift pass, pushing my last memory of Adam and I together even further away. I feel like I owe Adam so much, who probably really did save my life.

Happy 20th anniversary to Taddle Creek, and a big thanks to all those forces out there that, intentionally or not, give support and encouragement to those who struggle.

The great, late Adam Dale reading Taddle Creek

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