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Rhythm Rerouted AKA Short Story Songster AKA the Most Interesting Work Email the Porcupette Has Ever Received Bar None

Rerouted

I answer a lot of emails as part of my duties as the porcupette. Submission queries, requests for materials, author questions, announcements, newsletters, even spam—you name it, chances are, I’ve got it in my inbox at one point or other. But recently, one email stood out to me as one of the most amusing and original messages I’ve ever received in my many years as porcupette.

Hey Stephanie!

I hope you are well.

I stumbled across this Ashthorn demo tape while doing research into their career post “Ghost Note”. Apparently, the members of the band are working as music instructors/counsellors at a children’s bible camp in the Kawarthas.

Pray for those children.

Cheers,

Daniel

OK, let’s back up. You want context.

Daniel, is, of course, Daniel Bryant, author of the darkly comic collection of short stories called Rerouted. The collection is loosely linked by a mysterious character, Benny Tak, and follows a variety of characters who find out just how easily their plans can be derailed by events beyond their control. One story in particular, “Ghost Note”, follows Lars, Dougie and Angus, who form a fictional group of musicians named Ashthorn. As they tour Northern Ontario with their act, they encounter an otherworldly creature called the wendigo … but bad song writing is the real challenge.

With such an amusing and creative tale, you can surely understand why an author like Daniel couldn’t quite let go of the characters he created. So he wrote and recorded the demo for “Beast”—an Ashthorn original!—as an offshoot of the story. And, being the irreverent writer that he is, he of course had to give it a backstory—that the band members had found work at a bible camp and that they had, unbelievably, found time to write and record the song “Beast” while dealing with all social distancing and masking protocols.  

Please listen to the song here:

While you are listening, you may, indeed, pray for those children.  

(A few Hail Marys on Dan’s behalf would be, I am told, greatly appreciated.)

Naturally, I had to ask Daniel a few questions about this creative endeavour.

PQL: What gave you the idea to jump beyond prose writing and record “Beast”?

Daniel Bryant: After writing the lyrics for “Tim Whoretown” in “Ghost Note”, I obsessed over what that song would actually sound like. I knew it would have to sound cool enough for the band to think it was good and lyrically repellent enough for an audience to hurl empty beer bottles at the band before they reached the chorus. Challenge accepted, I said. 

PQL: What was your process for coming up with these “repellant” lyrics?

DB: I always ask myself when writing lyrics, “What would Lars say?” followed quickly by, “Who would Dougie eat?”

PQL: Will you be writing more Ashthorn songs inspired by the story?

DB: I am still working on “Tim Whoretown” and hope to release it on Spotify by the end of the summer. In the meantime, I banged out “Beast” in two afternoons with my iPad and a guitar. Watch your back Justin Beiber! 

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Hope you enjoyed this jaunt into the wacky world of Rerouted as I did. Don’t forget, copies of the book are still available in print and digital format.

Cheers,

Steph


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 27 May 2022

PQ Weekly Roundup calendar graphic

Every 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.

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Happy Friday, Quill friends! Thanks for joining us for another edition of the PQ Weekly Roundup. Hope you found some interesting bookish tidbits to share.

Have a great weekend,

Steph


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 20 May 2022

PQ Weekly Roundup calendar graphic

Every 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.

  • May is Short Story Month! The form is super underrated, in my opinion. Broaden your reading horizons and discover some brilliant writing in these Canadian short story collections this month.

  • “One good thing about rejection is that it tells me I am still active, still writing. If I stopped working, I wouldn’t get rejected anymore.” Famous writers on rejection, in case you need a bit of a pep talk.

  • Are you a respectful book borrower, or is it time to brush up on your book borrowing etiquette?

  • This might sound a little strange but … perhaps the key to creativity is actually boredom!

  • Fascinated by this account of the printing process of William Blake, a poet and printmaker in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century (think Songs of Innocence and of Experience).

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Hope you enjoyed this week’s book link roundup. Don’t forget, the preview of the documentary about George A. Walker, entitled Woodwriter, is tonight in Toronto! Click here for more info.

Cheers,

Steph


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GUEST POST: James Bader Recommends Books About Books

Writing about literature is not a new idea by any means. By the time Ovid was writing (between 43 BCE and 17-18 AD), referential literature and what we might call “meta works” were already in existence. Ovid (of Metamorphoses fame) references multiple authors, poems and literary traditions in his didactic poem Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love). One of my personal favourite instances: he, in a fit of daring, instructs women on how to find love, and even lists all the poets a proper lady should know—a list culminating, of course, in himself (Ars Amatoria, 3.329-346). In referencing the poetic genre as a source of inspiration and information, and in appealing to the authority of poets as experts on the subject, Ovid’s poem becomes not just about the art of love, but about poetry itself. [Note: If anyone is interested in reading more about Ovid’s use of referentiality I recommend Ovidian Intertextuality by Sergio Casaili (2009).]

Engraving of fancy book on a stand surrounded by other books

We call this type of literature metaliterature. For those that may not be familiar with the term, metaliterature refers to literature that discusses, studies or responds to other literature, or to its conventions—literature that is self-referential. In short, “books about books” are simply one form of metaliterature.

My academically inclined brain naturally enters into the topic by thinking about scholarly books, especially as a large portion of humanities research obviously results in books about books (although my professors would reprimand me for such a gross simplification of the field). The purpose of this post, though, is not to discuss ancient literature and scholarly tomes, but to introduce you, to some more modern texts that fall into the books-about-books sphere.

Below you will find a list of fiction and non-fiction titles that fall into the realm of metaliterature, and which we here at the Porcupine’s Quill have enjoyed. Alongside each title, I have included a little plot synopsis (spoiler-free of course), and a brief rationale as to why I have included it on this list. I hope you enjoy!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief

The novel follows the life of Liesel, a young woman living in Germany during World War II, as well as her adoptive parents Hans and Rosa. As the family struggles to resist the Nazi regime and protect Max, a Jewish boy, Liesel steals a variety of books. These books help her develop meaningful relationships with Hans and Max as she learns not only to read but also to appreciate the value of words.

I included The Book Thief in this list due to its central themes celebrating the power of the written word, and the important role books can play in one’s life. With a unique narrator (whom I will not spoil here) Zusak manages to impart the ways in which words can be devastatingly cruel, or endlessly kind. The backdrop of Nazi Germany, known for its destruction of books, provides the perfect setting for these themes to hit home.

[Find in your local indie bookstore »]

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

A.J. Fikry is a bookstore owner on the fictional Alice Island in New England, who finds himself in a downward spiral following the death of his wife. His bookstore is underperforming and his prized rare collection of poems by Edgar Allan Poe has been stolen. A.J. slowly isolates himself from his friends and loses interest in even the books that used to bring him so much joy … until one day an unexpected package arrives at his bookstore and gives A.J. a second chance at life.

I chose to include The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry in this list for the way it conveys A.J.’s sheer love of reading and deep appreciation of novels. The bookstore setting helps communicate this of course, and each character has a unique relationship not only to the store, but also to reading. This novel reminds me of the connections that books provide us. Gabrielle Zevin delivers a perfect love letter to reading, bookstores, authors and even sales reps with this book.

[Find in your local indie bookstore »]

Shady Characters by Keith Houston

Shady Characters

Shady Characters is a non-fiction title that investigates the history of the typographic symbols that make up the books we know and love. Houston takes us through the life cycle and invention of symbols that are obscure (such as the dagger [†]) or common (such as the ampersand [&]), and introduces an eclectic group of people and places throughout his study. With striking illustrations, stories and facts, this work will delight anyone who has ever been interested in grammar, words, language, and the punctuation marks we often take for granted.

Shady Characters fits this list due to its unique look at the elements that make up books. With its detailed investigation across over two thousand years, it stands apart as a systematic investigation that is both educating and charismatic. The other inclusions on this list may center around books as a whole, but this entry tackles the minutiae in glorious detail.

[Find in your local indie bookstore »]

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library Book

This non-fiction book takes as its subject the tragic fire that took place at the Los Angeles Public Library’s Central Branch in 1986. Orlean investigates whether the fire was accident or arson, and if the second, who set the fire? Weaving together a life-long love of libraries and reading, the story not only investigates the mystery of the largest library fire in United States history, but also delves into the history of libraries as an institution, providing insight into the people who run them and those who depend upon them.

I chose to include The Library Book because of the way it conveys the author’s passion for an institution not only instrumental to Orlean’s childhood, but also crucial to the accessibility of free knowledge for all of us. Her insistence that libraries are more than just repositories for books, that they are needed now more than ever is poignant and indicative of the wide range of services modern libraries have evolved to provide. Just as Shady Characters highlights an often unnoticed detail in books, so, too, does The Library Book highlight an often overlooked institution in our society.

[Find in your local indie bookstore »]

And there you have it—four recommended books about book and reading for those of us who can’t get enough bookish content in our lives.

* * *

James Bader has a Masters of Arts in Classics from McMaster University.

Thank you, James, for giving us a few bookish books to add to our reading lists. And if Porcupette Steph could weigh in with a few additional favourites… The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan are both personal favourites and entertaining additions to the list. Plus, you could also check out any issue of the Devil’s Artisan, our journal of the printing arts, for additional bookish content!

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PQ Weekly Roundup: 13 May 2022

PQ Weekly Roundup calendar graphic

Every 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.

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Thank you for stopping by to check out another book link roundup. We hope you enjoyed catching up on the week’s bookish links. And don’t forget—for more PQL-focused book news, our May newsletter has an update on what’s happening at the press.

Enjoy,

Steph


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Tooting Our Own Horn and Other News for May at PQL

Canadians tend to be humble, but there is an exception to the rule. When it comes to touting our accomplishments, it is incumbent upon us to sing the praises of our beloved authors and their award-winning books, particularly since the crowded literary marketplace makes it ever more remarkable when books stand out.

Let Go

We were pleased a few weeks ago to announce that Mark Huebner’s Let Go is a finalist for a Foreword Indies Award in the Graphic Novels & Comics category. The Foreword Indies Book of the Year Awards honour the year’s best books from independent presses in 55 categories. This year’s winners will be announced June 16, so we’ll have our fingers crossed for Mark and his beautiful graphic narrative.

Midland

Last week, the winners of the Independent Publisher (IPPY) Awards were chosen.  For over 25 years, the IPPY Awards have celebrated “exemplary independent, university, and self-published titles” in a range of subject categories and regional categories. Mark Frutkin’s The Artist and the Assassin won Silver in the Literary Fiction category. Bruce McDougall’s Urban Disturbances took Bronze in the Short Story Fiction category. Ross Breithaupt’s debut novel Midland took the Gold in the Canada-East – Best Regional Fiction category. We’re pleased as punch to have had such a good showing at the IPPYs!

Urban Disturbances

This week we also found out that two PQL titles made the “long shortlist” for the 2022 ReLit Awards. The ReLit Awards also recognize independent publishers and their outstanding books. Bruce McDougall’s Urban Disturbances and D.A. Lockhart’s Breaking Right both made the shortlist for the short story category. We’ll be keeping an eye out for the announcement of the winner at the end of the week.

I want to personally take this opportunity to congratulate all of the PQL authors who have been recognized recently with award wins and nominations. You deserve it!

What’s happening this month?

At PQL.

The Razor's Edge

After finishing up with the binding and mailing of DA 90, we’ll be turning our attention to other upcoming Spring 2022 titles, Next up on the docket is The Razor’s Edge, a sharp, clever collection of linked short stories by Karl Jirgens that explores ideas of time, memory, truth and death. I think this book may just be one of my all-time favourites–I can’t wait to see it in print.

In Toronto.

The documentary Woodwriter: The Wordless Art of George A. Walker explores the artistic practice of Quill friend George A. Walker, a talented wood engraver whose wordless novels include visual narratives about Mary Pickford, Leonard Cohen, Conrad Black and others. A free preview of the film for friends and supporters of the documentary will be taking place May 20 at the Royal Cinema in Toronto to thank those who have been instrumental in bringing this film project to fruition.

And, mark your calendars! Word on the Street Toronto is taking place over two days in June, and we’re going to be there. Be sure to stop by Queen’s Part on June 11 and 12 to pick up some great new reads from the PQL booth.

On your computer screen.

There are quite a few virtual events for you to enjoy this May. Frances Boyle, author of the short story collection Seeking Shade, will be taking part in the webinar “Construction of a Story Arc”, featuring Danuta Gleed Award winners and finalists. Register to attend via Eventbrite, and tune in on May 18 on Zoom.

The Artist and the Assassin

Mark Frutkin will be taking part in a pair of events. On May 18, he’ll be hosting an online Zoom reading, including an excerpt from his novel The Artist and the Assassin, a fictionalized account of the life of the painter Caravaggio. You can also catch Mark in an interview with Susan Johnston as part of the Ottawa International Writers Festival podcast. The podcast episode will be available on May 24.

George A. Walker will also be presenting a talk as part of the Alcuin Society’s lecture series. “Written in Wood: Visual Narratives with a Canadian Cut” looks at wordless graphic novels in the context of contemporary Canadian culture, political history and biography. You can register for the event via Eventbrite, and catch the talk on Zoom on May 26.

In the world.

May 13 is Limerick Day. Take a few moments out of your day to come up with a jaunty rhyme (ribald as you like) to amuse your friends!

May 16 is Hug a Tree Day, which, given that I so enjoy reading products made out of paper products, well, I probably owe a few trees some big hugs.

And finally, May 20 is Be a Millionaire Day. Friends, I have questions. Do you just magically become a millionaire? Are you spending the day plotting your eventual millionaire-ity? Do you just pretend to have money, like, filling up the gas tank all the way regardless of the price per litre? Inquiring minds want to know.

From the porcupette’s corner…

PQL book display
There’s nothing like a well-stocked table of books to brighten your day.

Last month was a bit of a milestone for this porcupette as it represented the first in-person event I’ve attended in, well, years. I was a little anxious, it must be said, but I thoroughly enjoyed the drive up to Fergus, Ontario to take part in the first annual Wellington County Writers’ Fest. The weather was fine, and it was kind of nice to have the opportunity to stay in a hotel for a change of scenery, not to mention enjoy the company of book folk. The best part of the day was being able to catch up with Wesley Bates, who had the table next to ours, and Robert Reid, who popped by for a visit and to sign a book or two. I also appreciated each and every person who stopped by the table to say hello and buy a book. It was a long day and a bit of a drive, but it provided a small dose of (almost) normalcy after a long drought of book events.

Erin sign in the Wellington County Museum and Archives "Train Room"
Our table was located in the “Train Room”, which was nice, and our table happened to be closes to the old Erin sign. How perfect was that placement?
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Thank you for joining us this month to take a peek at what we’ve been working on lately. We hope to see you in (virtual) attendance this month’s many great book events!

Cheers,

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.