PQ Weekly Roundup: 03 Mar 2017

pqroundup2Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.




That’s it for this week’s roundup. And PST! Don’t forget to join us for Bruce Meyer’s reading at Storytellers in Windsor. I’d love to see your faces!


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News for March

March is a roller coaster of a month. It’s full of ups and downs and loop-the-loops—meteorological and otherwise. It’s fast-paced, fun and sadly, often over in the blink of an eye. Its attraction lies in adrenaline-fuelled, life-affirming sensory-overload, and in the book business at least, part of the thrill is the moments of sheer, unbridled terror.

Two knights jousting.

“Why am I doing this? What was I thinking? Jousting? It is madness!”
“Oh do pipe down, Sir Robert. Admit it. You are a shameless adrenaline junkie.”

Despite the well-known abbreviation that is February, it’s the month of March that makes me wonder where the time goes. It’s a double-whammy of a month—printing and promotions and all the potential problems of the spring list are first and foremost in the mind, but also clamouring for attention are preparations and all the attendant promise of the fall season. It makes for a feeling of exhilarating frenzy, not unlike the thrill of racing over the tracks of a state-of-the-art roller coaster. Of course there are moments when you careen over the top of a rise and the bottom of your stomach drops to your toes as you contemplate a looming deadline or a forgotten responsibility or a stupid mistake, but then the track evens out and you’re left with the adrenaline and the excitement and the enthusiasm to face the next bend in the road.

It’s a certain kind of stress, this double preoccupation with present and future, but I find that it’s not so much a constant fright as an enduring thrill. I suspect my opinion is shared with anyone who is lucky enough to work in publishing.

There’s a reason amusement parks still have roller coasters, after all.


What’s happening this month?


This week marks the beginning of work on Shane Neilson’s upcoming book of poetry, Dysphoria. Speaking of roller coasters, this collection is an emotional one. It certainly isn’t full of maudlin sentimentality—it is sharply, devastatingly intelligent and painful and beautiful all at once. The films are made and printing starts this week, so keep your eyes peeled for copies in the next couple of weeks.

Dysphoria book cover

Also on the radar, we’ve got film for Daddy Hall and proofs for The Museum of Possibilities on their way!

In Toronto.

My Life on Earth and Elsewhere author R. Murray Schafer’s music will be featured at the Crow’s Theatre on March 2 to March 5 as art of Soundstreams’ production, Odditorium. Be sure to check it out.

Also in Toronto, Tom Smart will be taking part in a symposium about Canadian comic artist Seth at the University of Toronto. He’ll be giving a short talk based on his book, Palookaville: Seth and the Art of Graphic Autobiography on March 4.

On March 23, Governor General’s Award winner Robyn Sarah will be at the Toronto Reference library for a reading, talk and interview focusing on her experiences as a writer. Stop by the Hinton Learning Theatre to hear some great poetry.

In Windsor.

I’m so stoked for Bruce Meyer to visit my hometown of Windsor to talk about his book Portraits of Canadian Writers. Stop by Storytellers Book Store on Ottawa Street on March 3 for a unique reading full of photos and anecdotes of CanLit legends.

In Kitchener.

You don’t want to miss this fascinating presentation based on The Grand River on March 5. Marianne Brandis will read alongside wood engravings by Gerard Brender à Brandis and music by the Nota Bene Baroque Players. A treat for all the senses!

In Vancouver.

JonArno Lawson will be speaking to the Masters of Arts in Children’s Literature candidates at UBC on March 13. It is sure to be a fun and informative afternoon full of children’s poetry.

On the Radio.

Bruce Meyer will be interviewed on Christine Cowley’s “Storylines” to talk about his book Portraits of Canadian Writers. Tune in to 88.7 FM Hunters Bay Radio to hear about this fantastic piece of CanLit history, or stream live online at

In the world.

March 14 is, of course, Pi Day. Celebrate it in all its nerdy glory by consuming copious amounts of delicious pie.

March 22 is National Goof Off Day. This sounds like a fun one—just don’t get too carried away!

March 21 is World Poetry Day. Isn’t it funny that World Poetry Day is in March, but Poetry Month is April? But it’s all good–just means more poetry for everyone!

Finally, March 31 is World Backup Day. I’d never heard of this, but it’s actually really important as it serves as a reminder to back up and secure all of your vital computer files. Imagine the headaches you can save yourself!


From the porcupette’s corner.

This past month was a bit humbling for your friendly porcupette. It was certainly a lesson in time management, balancing title information sheets and digital marketing classes. It also included a lesson in editorial best practices, learning just how things can go wrong when you don’t insist on a printed, paper copy of a manuscript for proofing purposes. (Guys. Guys. I really dropped the ball on that one. Learn from me. Learn from my mistakes.)

Child performing seasonal tasks.

A visual representation of me during the month of February, doing a little of this, a little of that, and a little of the other thing.

In all February reminded me of the importance of working smarter, not necessarily harder (although sometimes that too!) and of asking for help when I hit a mental brick wall. Good thing there are some experts here at PQL who continue to teach me something new every day!


Wishing all of you a wonderful—if roller coaster-y—March! I hope to see you at some of the great events we have going on this month.


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Amazon Books: Retail Game Changer or Same Old Indie Killer?

It’s a sad but true reality nowadays that indie bookstores—heck, even big box stores—are closing. And why is that? Ask around and you’ll get a number of answers: books are too expensive; I don’t have time to read; it’s cheaper and easier to buy books on online.

Ah, here we are. I knew we’d get here eventually.

Online book buying is more popular than ever before. Amazon completely changed the way people buy books, offering more titles at lower prices available in just a few clicks.

So why is Amazon branching out into physical bookstores?

A recent Fast Company article suggest that Amazon Books, the company’s foray into a bricks-and-mortar bookstore, redefines the physical book shopping experience by “solving one of the biggest problems with online shopping: discoverability.” The article goes on to explain how face-out displays, recommendations and data-driven analysis have made it possible to Amazon books to “increase the likelihood you will pick up a book that you didn’t know you wanted to read.”

It sounds so altruistic when you put it like that—helping customers find books, read more, expose readers to new authors and publishers and topics that they might not otherwise consider. This is a store for the browsing reader—the one who wants to read a new book but hasn’t picked one yet. The one who could decide not to buy a book at all if it’s too much trouble to choose one. How could it be anything but a good think to pair this would-be reader with a book?

literary prize winnerBut let us remember that Amazon is a business—keeping an eye on the bottom line means that these lofty ideals are somewhat tainted by the realities of cold, hard cash.

Consider this: Amazon Books stocks fewer titles than a regular bookstore, displaying all books face out so customers can easily read the covers, pick up the books and read the jacket copy. So how does Amazon Books choose which books to carry? Easy. They dive into that massive data-store that they’ve accumulated as an online retailer and push those books that are going to make them the most money—which is to say, they push bestsellers, usually blockbuster books by the large, well-funded publishers like Penguin Random House, HarperCollins and Simon and Schuster that everybody’s already talking about.

Manicule pointing down.Admittedly, this isn’t much different from any other bookstore, which makes its money off the backs of the Harry Potters and the Girl on a Trains and what have you, but the problem is especially compounded in Amazon books, where the number of titles is so much lower and the reliance on data is so much higher.

Undoubtedly as the model unfolds, regional locations will begin to offer local-interest titles by specialist publishers should they deem the titles lucrative enough. And undoubtedly one-off runaway indie hits will hit the shelves now and then to remind everyone of Amazon’s service to the little guy. But I can’t shake the feeling that this is the TV-watcher’s bookstore–the kind of place you go to pick up the latest buzzed about novel to put on your coffee table and never finish reading.

So what’s the point? Maybe Amazon has built a better bookstore with Amazon Books, but I remain a little disconcerted by the sort of devotion to cold-hard data that might just make it a more profitable physical retailer than the bookstores left in the game. Is it really discovery if you only discover what you’re told, what everyone else is already talking about? In the end, I think Amazon Books is a pretty darned accurate representation of the book industry and maybe business as a whole in 2017—book sales may be holding steady, but the profits are steadily concentrating in the hands of the biggest players.


What do you think about the Amazon Books stores? What does Amazon have up its sleeve? Are they crushing competition? Building a better bookstore? Something else altogether? Share your thoughts in the comments or on social media.

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PQ Weekly Roundup: 24 Feb 2017

pqroundup2Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.


Seth holds a copy of Palookaville. Photo by Custodio’s Photography Studio Inc. courtesy of PAMA


To those of you joining us in Southwestern Ontario, hope you’re enjoying this unseasonably mild weather. Definitely take advantage of the weather. Outside reading, maybe? Just a suggestion.


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Palookaville at PAMA: Out and About with the Quill

This Sunday, February 19th marked the opening reception for an exhibition entitled “Heading to Palooka-Ville: Seth and the Art of the Graphic Novel” at the Peel Art Gallery Museum + Archives in Brampton. The event also served as an opportunity to promote our own recently-published book on Seth’s work, Palookaville: Seth and the Art of Graphic Autobiography by Tom Smart. The artist himself was in attendance, along with author Tom Smart, who is also the art gallery curator at PAMA. Both were kind enough to sign a few books for the attendees.

Check out some cool photos of the event below. All images are by Custodio’s Photography Studio Inc. and come to us courtesy of PAMA.

Seth and Tom Smart at PAMA.

Tom Smart at PAMA

Seth signs a copy of Palookaville.

Seth holds a copy of Palookaville.


OK, isn’t that just the coolest photo background ever? What a fantastic display put on by the fine folks at PAMA.

Many thanks to all who attended–we hope you enjoy your copies of Palookaville!


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 17 Feb 2017

pqroundup2Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.




Thanks for joining us for this week’s roundup. Be sure to pop by again next Friday for all the book news you could want.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend,sig

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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.