Book Bundle Giveaway: Shane Neilson’s “Affect Trilogy”

After celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving this past weekend, I’m feeling very thankful, indeed, to have the support and enthusiasm of so many PQL friends and fans. Seriously. You are all awesome.

Another thing I’m thankful for is to have the great privilege of publishing the work of Shane Neilson, an acclaimed poet and physician who has just recently been honoured with the prestigious SSHRC Talent Award. We are pleased and proud to have published three books of his poetry with us, which he likes to call the “Affect Trilogy”.

Complete Physical, On Shaving Off His Face and Dysphoria each consider what Shane characterizes as a “relational emotional force”, and address challenging issues such as pain, dis/ability and the stigmatization of mental illness.

When asked to speak about the trilogy as a set, Shane pointed to two of the major themes that overarch his work—pain and disability—and points out evidence of his own growth as a writer:

[With] Complete Physical … I tried to write a book about the kinds of emotional work done by doctors and the cost of that emotional work. Included in the manifest were poems about pain, mostly because I consider pain to be a unique medical condition that combines both physical and emotional components as an experience. I was a younger man when I wrote this book, an angrier one…. I had to evolve—bringing me to my second book, On Shaving Off His Face. This text thinks through the iconography of the face in mental illness, and it also contains poems about pain…. One can detect a book-to-book shift from pain-as-anger to pain-as-sadness, meaning I was growing both as a writer, person, and doctor…. In Dysphoria, I wanted to make love the reason that pain exists in the first place because that’s a simple truth that authors much of the history of pain.

An important objective of the affect trilogy was to destigmatize mental illness and persons suffering from mental illness. My first step was to declare my identity as dis/abled person, thereby doing the work of representation that is perhaps the first cultural step to change…. I became more interested in everyone and everything else and trying to fit that everyone and everything into the poems that appear in On Shaving Off His Face…. In [Dysphoria] the final volume of the trilogy, I decided I wanted to not think of the past as it relates to the present but also to write out how disability itself is an author.

If this sounds like the kind of poetry you would like to experience, we’re giving you a chance to do just that! Enter to win below:




Complete Physical, On Shaving Off His Face, Dysphoria


Want to win this awesome prize? It’s easy:

1. log in to the form below using email, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter
2. earn up to five entries by visiting us on Facebook or Instagram, tweeting on Twitter or signing up for our newsletter. Don’t forget the bonus entry—if you’re not keen on social media, this option will still allow you to participate!
3. log out of the form to submit your entry

The winner will be contacted by email.


portraitThanks for helping us to congratulate Shane on his award win. We wish you luck in winning this awesome book bundle!


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 5 Oct 2018

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.



Hi everyone–I missed you last week! Happy to be back today with another PQ Weekly Roundup to feed your bookish, newsy needs. Enjoy these links, and of course, have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

Happy Friday!

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Defining Bibliophoria and Other News for October at the Porcupine’s Quill

Costly books.

PSA: Bibliophoria is an insidious disease! Side effects may include obsessive acquisitiveness of books and literary paraphernalia, inability to sleep without finishing just ONE more chapter, and coveting thy neighbour’s books. Seek help for reading habits that require you to remortgage your house and/or sell a kidney.

bibliophoria /bib-lee-oh-FOHR-ee-uh/ noun that feeling of joy or intense excitement derived from reading books and/or experiencing the pleasures of the written word. Common causes include but are not limited to:

1) trading book recommendations with a fellow reader with similar tastes (as I did yesterday on my plane home from Baltimore);

2) discovering that the book recommended by a friend is exactly as good as they said it would be (as I recently discovered reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society);

3) contributing to the camaraderie and general bookish love pumped into the atmosphere by literary festivals large and small (as I experienced this September at the Kerrytown Book Festival, Word on the Street Toronto and the Baltimore Book Fest);

4) witnessing the awe-inspiring history of print through the beautiful machinery that made it possible (as did Tim, Elke and Chantel at the inaugural Howard Iron Works Print Expo and Book Fair); and

5) arriving home after an exhausting month filled of travel to discover that it is the perfect weather to snuggle up with a blanket and a good book (which I fully intend to do this weekend).

[Originated c. Oct. 2018. Attributed (probably) to the book-obsessed mind of Porcupette Steph]


What’s happening this month…


OvertimeSee What I’m Saying?, Jim Westergard’s fabulous collection of wood engravings illustrating the peculiarities of the English language, is finally in print, which means we’re chugging along with our Fall 2018 list. This month, we’ll be focusing our efforts on Overtime, Karl Kessler and Sunshine Chen’s look at the interesting everyday people who ply disappearing trades and cultural practices in the Waterloo Region of Ontario. It’s an eye-opening book, really, because it gives us so much insight into the ways that mechanization and “progress” have changed not only the way we build things, but also the way we do business and the way we participate in local social and cultural traditions.

In Toronto.

Richard Teleky, author of Ordinary Paradise, will be in Toronto this month to take part in a “Literary Table” event at the beautiful Arts and Letters Club of Toronto on October 16. Don’t miss this lunchtime event in an inspiring setting!

In Hamilton.

Fluke Print author Jeffery Donaldson will be participating in a panel discussion regarding dis/ability as part of CCENA’s Long Table Series. He will read from his work and talk about the participation of non-neurotypical artists in artistic communities. He will be joined by Ally Fleming, Shane Neilson as well as visual artist Fiona Kinsella and musical guests Dusty Micale and the ArtPop Ensemble. The event takes place on October 18 at the McMaster Centre for Continuing Education.

In Burlington.
A Different Drummer Books

Mark Frutkin will be in Burlington on October 26 to read from his hilarious and thought-provoking novel The Rising Tide. He’ll be joined at A Different Drummer Books by fellow author Gabriella Goliger.

In the world.

October 2 is Name Your Car Day. (My car’s name is Babycakes, just so you know.)

October 6 is World Card Making Day, which actually sounds really fun … and something you should totally do using all of the free vintage images available over at the Devil’s Artisan’s “Dingbats” resource page.

And, as you’ve no doubt guessed due to the beginning of this post, October 16 is Dictionary Day. Fun Fact: Did you know that I used to sit and page through the dictionary for fun. True story. I did that. Major book nerd alert!


From the porcupette’s corner…

Hello everyone! I feel like I’ve been neglecting you Quill fans of late. With so much time spent away from my desk this September, it has been hard to know whether I’m coming or going.


Truth be told, it’s a bit of a relief to get back to the routine and really put my nose to the grindstone when it comes to all those new projects we’ve been busy organizing. What does that mean for you? Well, I’m glad you asked! It means we’ll be revealing our all-new Spring 2019 line-up, so you can get a sense of what is coming up next from your friends here at PQL.

We’ll also be looking ahead to the future and examining at all of the wonderful submissions the writers among you have sent in for consideration. I can already tell there are some exciting manuscripts on my to-read list, and I’m looking forward to finding some talented new authors to add to our roster.


PortraitThanks for clicking over, Quill fans! I hope I’ve given you a little insight into what we’ve been up to as well as what’s coming your way in the next few weeks. Be sure to check back here for updates on our progress.

Cheers, and happy reading,Steph

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A Conversation with Mrs Romanov Poet Lori Cayer

Hey there Quill fans! As you probably already know, we’re pretty stoked to have published Lori Cayer’s wonderful collection of poetry Mrs Romanov, which delves into the private and public life of the last tsarina of Imperial Russia. After a successful launch at McNally Robinson Grant Park, Lori will be reading at the upcoming Thin Air Festival in Winnipeg this week:

Thursday, September 27, 2018
7:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Manitoba Theatre for Young People
2 Forks Market Rd.
Winnipeg, MB

As we look forward to this event, we thought it would be interesting to look into the origin story of this unique and captivating book. We went straight to the source—the author herself!—to get some answers.

The informal Q&A that follows will answer your questions about the inspiration behind the book, the research it took to flesh out the context of each poem as well as the ways in which the author’s own experience informed her characterization of this fascinating historical figure.

The Porcupine’s Quill: What first inspired you to delve into the lives of the Romanovs?

Lori Cayer: It was a newspaper article in 1998 about the burial ceremony for the bones of five of seven members of the murdered family at Peter & Paul Fortress in St Petersburg. At the time I had a 15-year-old hemophiliac son who was testing the limits of his disorder and I was doing that motherly losing of sleep while he was out with his friends. I realized that I had something in common with this woman Alexandra, who otherwise could not have been less like me, that made us equals. I conceived of the book “wholesale” in my mind without having written a word and carried around the idea of this work of poetry based on her life and times for years.

PQL: When we acquired the book, you mentioned that it was important to you that the book be released in 2018. Why was that?

LC: I felt sure there would be a lot of attention paid in the year of the 100th anniversary of the murders [which occured in July 1918], and I wanted Alexandra’s story to stand among them. In 2017 it was 100 years from the end of autocracy in Russia and the beginning of Boshevism and numerous new books and documentaries were appearing covering the political things happening around WW1, Nicholas’s abdication and the Russian Revolution. In 2018 new books began appearing with more information than was previously known especially about the rescue plots and the finding, identifying and interment of their bones. I thought the timing would be crucial because people would be searching online for things pertaining to the family and my book might be able to provide an unconventional biographic narrative of her life.

PQL: This collection is obviously inspired by historical events and figures. How did you go about conducting your research in preparation for this book? Where there any resources that were of particular importance in your writing?

LC: After the idea of the book had established itself I spent the next many years reading what I came across about the family. I admit I did not become a student of Russian history or Russian autocracy at large, but I drilled down into the reign of Nicholas which is the primary source of material on Alexandra. There are very few biographies of her out there, one written in 1994 and another by an unreliable narrator who lived with the family for a few years and ultimately betrayed them, it is thought, for money and safe passage.

I discovered a quiet world of Russophile websites and sites dedicated to keeping the idea of Russian monarchy alive. These sites were also a treasure trove of material on the palaces, St Petersburg, the cathedrals, and the thousands of photographs out there that gave a deeper look into their daily lives both as royals and at home. One site even had a bookstore of translations of rare accounts by people connected to the situation. It was not uncommon even back then for people close to a controversial situation to write a book about it after the fact, for example the children’s teachers, nannies, Nicholas’s security chief. There are even accounts written by Yusupof who murdered Rasputin and Yurovsky who coordinated the murder and who specifically shot Nicholas.

As time drew near the anniversary I stepped up my research and went all in reading everything I could order. I researched hemophilia, WW1, Queen Victoria, Rasputin and had a dual timeline on the wall one side of which was the historical events from her birth to her death and the other side was the corresponding timeline of her life and its events. I did a lot of mining of the books about Nicholas for new gems of information about Alexandra that go deeper than the general things written about her. But, if I had to state one book that was the single most important it was one I found in a used bookstore in Toronto in about 2005 or so, called A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra, Their Own Story by Andrei Maylunas and Sergei Mironenko, 1996.

PQL: It is clear that a lot of research went into developing the timeline of events, the cast of characters and the experience of Revolution-era Russia, but the book also demonstrates an understanding of the inner workings of the mind and heart of Alexandra Feodorovna. How did you extrapolate emotions and inner monologues that do not show up in history books?

LC: The book I mention above was invaluable to me as it contained letters written between Nicky and Alexandra over all their years together, as well as their diary entries. The family burned a lot of their personal papers while in captivity, but this book was filled with surviving material that showed me the real people in their real voices. The book also contains letters to and from other family members and their diary entries giving their impressions of situations and of Nicky and Alexandra. From these writings I had a sense of her voice and of her manifold concerns and of her particular brand of closed-mindedness to the seriousness of what was happening around her politically. The extrapolation to the level of frankness that the real Alexandra alluded to was easy for me because as a wife and mother myself I was able to insert how I might feel in the same circumstances, or how a modern woman might feel.

PQL: What would be your advice to a fellow writer looking to tackle an important historical subject through poetry?

LC: Aside from committing to exhaustive research I would say: write poetry and not prose. Even if you are a poet by nature the first step might be to write “long”, that is to say lengthy explanatory lines and tracts, background information etc. and transposing your research. I wrote many poems more than once as I condensed and condensed the prosey language into shorter poetic form and removed expository language. It felt right to work with couplets as it had the feel of the poetry of her times but I decided against multiple voices or the devices of letters and public documents. However, I wanted to give it context by showing how utterly modern these people were. They lived in a time like us where technology suddenly took over the industrial world. In her lifetime the world went from lamps and buggies to electric light, boiler heat systems, telephones, phonographs, motion pictures, cars, airplanes, small personal cameras that everyone had and no-one went anywhere without. There is a photo that Anastasia took where she stood on a chair in front of her dressing mirror and took a picture of herself taking a picture of herself. It’s known as the first selfie.

PortraitWhat an enlightening Q&A session! It is fascinating to learn about authors’ personal connection to their work, but I always marvel at the amount of research goes into translating that world into poetry. Many thanks to Lori for taking the time out to answer our questions, and don’t forget to mark her reading at Thin Air in your calendars.


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 21 Sep 2018

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.



How is it Friday already? This week just flew by. Probably due to my anticipation for Word on the Street Toronto. Hope you see you there (we’re at table 403).


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Freebies! Keep Your Place With These Printable Bookmarks

Hi there Quill fans.

In the lead-up to Word on the Street Toronto, I’m sure you book lovers are getting yourselves ready to buy tons of books and meet lots of authors. Of course, you’re going to need to have all the necessary accoutrements–like bookmarks–on hand to stuff into all the treasures you find at the big event. Seeing as it’s been awhile since we’ve had some freebies for you, I thought I’d show a little love with some free printable bookmarks inspired by the words of famous book lovers and wordsmiths.

Simply click on the images below for a printable PDF that you can print onto some good card stock or thick paper.

I couldn’t resist a good pun, so here’s a bonus bookmark:


PortraitHope you enjoy these bookmarks and put them to good use. See you at Word on the Street Toronto on Sunday!

Best, Steph

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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.