The Ex-Puritan began in 2007 as The Puritan Literary Magazine, an independently funded print journal dedicated to publishing fiction, essays, and interviews in Ottawa, Ontario, and was sold in bookstores across the city. In its early years, The Puritan was Ottawa’s only quarterly prose journal. After a brief hiatus, the magazine returned to publishing, now in the form of an online magazine run from Toronto. Since expanding its mandate to include poetry, reviews, and experimental work, The Ex-Puritan now seeks to publish the best in all forms of writing.
If you’re interested in supporting the magazine, check out our Patreon and learn about the perks you can get as a supporter, including feedback on your work and free entry to the Austin Clarke Prize in Literary Excellence.
The Puritan Literary Magazine is founded by Spencer Gordon and Tyler Willis as a print quarterly in Ottawa, Ontario.
The Puritan moves online and to Toronto, Ontario.
The Puritan launches its annual writing contest. Past judges have included Ian Williams, Margaret Atwood, Miriam Toews, and Rawi Hage, among others.
The Town Crier, our bloggy, arms-length appendage, is launched. Until its closure in February of 2021, The Town Crier operated as a hub for criticism and commentary, connecting a community of writers, readers, and commentators through social media, and focusing on the interplay of literary opinion in and around the city of Toronto. You can access any of The Town Crier’s pieces in its archive.
Our first special issue, Bridging the Literary Border Part I, is published. All of our special issues are guest-edited and themed; past special issues have included Minority Vibration, The Alkebulan Mixtape, What does it mean to be a Muslim Writer?, Literature in Translation, and ‘Membering Austin Clarke, among others.
Our publisher, Kelly Baron, rebrands our annual writing prize with the consent and help of Austin Clarke’s family. The inaugural Austin Clarke Prize in Literary Excellence was judged by Jordan Abel and Francesca Ekwuyasi, and included a reprint of Paul Barrett’s On Austin Clarke’s Style, the introduction to ‘Membering Austin Clarke, Barrett’s edited collection that began as a special issue in our online pages.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Sanchari Sur, helps The Puritan partner with The New Quarterly to become a sponsoring publication of The Balderdash Reading Series. The series, co-founded and organized by Sanchari Sur since January 2017, features some of the best emerging writers that the Greater Toronto Area (and its surrounding spaces) has to offer. Our hybrid/experimental section was launched, with Rasiqra Revulva and William Dao serving as co-developers alongside Sanchari Sur. Our website was redesigned by The Public, resulting in a new, welcoming design and siteframe that is WCAG 2.1 compliant. The result is that we have evolved into the next stage of our history as a publication, as indicated by our new name, The Ex-Puritan.
“Clarke’s work represents an early dissenting voice in Canadian multiculturalism. He was openly critical of the term multiculturalism, along with the official multiculturalism policies, as they masked the racism that new immigrants continue to experience.”
For many years, The Puritan represented both a legacy of literary excellence, and (notably in its early days), a culture that reinforced the exclusionary and marginalizing aspects of CanLit. As we transition to becoming The Ex-Puritan, the “Ex” in our name represents an interrogation of this complex history and reminds the writer/reader that the “story” of our publication is yet-to-be-written. Our story is collective, collaborative, never static, and always up for responsive, experimental and community-accountable change. Our emphasis on accessibility, as well as diversity and experimentation, means that the overall "voice" of The Ex-Puritan is never monotonous or predictable. It is and continues to be defined by the work it publishes.
Our commitment to supporting the unique voices and styles of writers includes a rejection of the historical boundaries of formal divides. Although our magazine has sections dedicated to poetry, prose, reviews, interviews, and non-fiction, and many of our past pieces in each of these segments have pushed the typical divides for the genre, we launched a hybrid/experimental section in 2022 to have a publishing home for writers and artists who don’t want to limit their work to a specific genre. We believe that genre and form can be as constricting as colonial grammars, and as a result, many underrepresented voices will look to new forms of storytelling. Our hybrid/experimental section is a safe home for those voices who do not see themselves in historical genre divides.
We also pride ourselves on being a literary magazine for any stage of a writer’s career. We are ecstatic to have previously published a number of Giller winners, including Austin Clarke, Ian Williams, and Souvankham Thammavongsa, alongside new and emerging writers, some of whom have had their first publications in our online pages. Our mandate includes a specific dedication to uplifting underrepresented voices in Canadian writing, regardless of their career stage. We recognize that excellence in form looks different for writers at different stages in their careers.
Finally, we are thrilled to relaunch this magazine with online pages that are now barrier-free, regardless of disability. Part of our work with rebranding this magazine includes a dedication to accessibility. Our new website works alongside Userway, an AI technology built for digital accessibility that is secure, scalable, and WCAG 2.1 AA, ADA, Section 508 compliant. You can find Userway’s accessibility widget on any of our webpages (in the form of a person), and it provides our readers with 100+ options to alter the presentation of our content. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to accessibility, and Userway’s widget ensures that each reader’s experience can be individually tailored for their specific needs.
We are grateful for the financial support of Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, without whom this rebrand would not have been possible. We are also grateful for the financial support of our Patrons. If you are interested in supporting The Ex-Puritan to further increase our fees for our writers and editors, please visit our Patreon page here.
- Quill & Quire: The Puritan launches Austin Clarke Prize — article by Cassandra Drudi [Published: October 20, 2021]
- Toronto Star: Brave new world for Canada’s literary journals — article by Deborah Dundas [Published: April 23, 2015]
- She Does the City: 7 Awesome Local Magazines You Should Be Reading Right Now — article by Allana Reoch [Published: August 6, 2014]
- Carve Magazine: Q&A with Spencer Gordon — interview by Patrick Roesle [Published: June 26, 2014]
- Open Book Toronto: Magazines! An Interview with Emily Keeler, Jeremy Hanson-Finger and Tyler Willis — interview by Andrew Faulkner [Published: June 30, 2013]
- Sensitive Skin: Online Magazines Versus Status Quo — article by Mark McCawley [Published: December, 2011]
- Open Book Toronto: Four Online Canadian Literary Journals You Should Know About — article by Paul Vermeersch [Published: March 7th, 2010]