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Well Worth the Wait, or, News for August at the Porcupine’s Quill

Some things are just worth the wait. That mouth-watering meal, whose fragrant steam you inhaled with gusto as the ingredients combined in some mysterious gastronomic alchemy? So worth the wait. That budding little plant you grew from seed and nursed into beautiful, triumphant bloom despite your propensity to drown your seedling babies in love and water? Worth it. That home renovation, painstakingly planned, meticulously budgeted and designed to make your life that little bit easier? Worth it … right? (Or it will be once you can actually park your car in that garage that is costing you an embarrassing amount of money to rehabilitate, right Porcupette Steph???) And when that day comes when we can finally shop, work, visit, travel and generally enjoy ourselves without worrying about infecting others with a virus? Well, I very much hope that will be worth it, too.

magic lamp sitting atop a book
Publishing a book ain’t magic–though it may look like it! In reality, it takes hard work, skill, and a lot of patience.

There is a feeling of satisfaction in finally achieving a goal that doesn’t come easily. I can empathise with the many authors who find themselves taken aback by the sheer amount of waiting that can be involved in publishing a beloved manuscript. There’s a wait for it to be read and considered and acquired. There’s a wait for it to be edited—more than once. There’s a wait to see the cover design, the promotional materials, the catalogue copy. Nowadays, with the current COVID-19 situation, it’s a wait to see if in-person events might happen or whether digital launch plans are in order. And then there’s the wait to see what kind of reviews the book inspires, what the sales figures might be, whether there are any award nominations. It’s a waiting game, all of it, and it requires patience and fortitude and, probably, a tiny bit of insanity, if I’m being honest.

But I think all this waiting is what makes books so precious—to authors and to readers. You might have seen the recent news articles about outspoken fans who are disappointed that their favourite authors haven’t released highly anticipated new installments in book series. But would fans be so rabidly excited—or so fulfilled—if authors could dash off an intricately plotted book in a fortnight? Would writers feel the same sense of pride and accomplishment if their finished book came unceremoniously, delivered as if by literary stork, the very moment the words “The End” cross the word processor’s page?

Books
Well if that doesn’t look satisfying to you, I don’t know what will!

I think not! Books, by their very nature, encourage us to slow down, to savour, to put in a little work for our ultimate enjoyment. And with every new PQL title that rolls off the press, after the hard graft of editing and production, I can’t help but feel a little frisson of satisfaction the first time I crack the spine. Worth it.

What’s going on this month…

At PQL.

Speaking of things that are worth the wait, P.C. Vandall’s smart and sassy poetry collection The The Blue Moth of Morning is officially in print. For the best ordering experience, we encourage our Canadian fans to order now from our distributor (and don’t forget to browse our other offerings, too).

Up next, you’ll be pleased to note that Frances Boyle’s long-awaited story collection Seeking Shade will be coming very soon. Keep an eye out for copies in the next few weeks, or, if you can’t wait, snag the eBook from our PQL eBook Store.

On Gabriola Island.

The Blue Moth of Morning

PQL and Poetry Gabriola invite you to an actual, real live book launch for P.C. Vandall’s The Blue Moth of Morning. The event will take place on the lawn of Surf Lodge on beautiful Gabriola Island from 2 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. PST Attendance is limited and social distancing protocols are in effect in order to protect all participants. For those who can’t make it, you can attend the launch via Zoom. For information on how to attend the virtual launch, info should be forthcoming on the Poetry Gabriola Facebook page, or you can email info@poetrygabriola.com.

In the world.

August 4th is Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, which sounds sweet and wholesome and just like what the world needs right about now.

August 9th is Book Lover’s Day, which should be self-explanatory to anyone following this blog, amirite? Take the time to enjoy a book—old or new!

And finally, a reminder that August 18th is Bad Poetry Day, which I find delightful, and which I would particularly enjoy if people took the time to send me bad poetry on that particular day. #BadPoetryDay anyone?

From the procupette’s corner.

Last month, for the first time since March, probably, I finally felt like I’ve managed to steer myself back into the groove. Many, myself included, experienced a bit of difficulty being productive during the early days of the quarantine, when so much was unknown and unfamiliar. As we settle into the “new normal” (that hated phrase!) I feel like my mental lethargy has lifted a little bit—or perhaps I’ve just run out of patience with my self-indulgence.

victorian toy train
The porcupette is getting back on track. Get it?

At any rate, the fog is beginning to lift and I’m starting to feel like I’m making progress towards the new crop of titles coming soon. Most of our fall titles have been coded and designed and are ready to be proofed. A last little shuffle has resulted in us finalizing our Spring 2021 list, which means I’ll be burying myself in manuscripts and minutia as I prepare product copy, title information sheets and bibliographic data. It’s a whiff of spring despite the late summer weather—a refreshing and exciting change!

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As you can see, we’ve got lots on the books (couldn’t resist), so there’s no better time to subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or just generally web-stalk us so as not to miss any upcoming releases or new title announcements.

Keep in touch!

Steph


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 31 Jul 2020

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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 fans! Thanks for stopping by for another week of bookish delight. We hope you have a wonderful weekend.

All the best,

Steph


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Reading in the Time of Covid: On the Online Launch of Ed Seaward’s Fair

Ed Seaward
Ed Seaward. (Screen capture from Zoom launch.)

Last week marked a bit of a milestone for us at the Porcupine’s Quill, with our first ever online book launch. Ed Seaward launched his debut novel Fair on Zoom, to an audience of about four or five dozen attendees tuning in from the comforts of their own homes.

So how did this online event fare for … Fair?

First off, the event would not have been nearly as interesting—or as polished—without the assistance of our host, the wonderful Lee Parpart. Lee provided a splendid introduction to the book and to Ed, and guided us though the discussion and Q&A portions of the event.

Lee Parpart
Lee Parpart. (Screen capture from Zoom launch.)

We were then treated to a short reading by Ed Seaward, the man of the hour. He read for us an early chapter of Fair, introducing us to some of the influential characters who shape the novel.

Ed Seaward reading
Ed Seaward. (Screen capture from Zoom launch.)

It was important to Ed that his literary friends find both education and entertainment in the event, so, after the reading, we added a quick discussion portion to the evening. We heard from Ed’s editor, Chandra Wohleber, about the editorial process of Fair—which, according to Chandra, ended up being something of a breeze considering how polished the manuscript looked!

Chandra Wohleber
Chandra Wohleber. (Screen capture from Zoom launch.)

Then it was your porcupette’s turn. My modest addition to the evening was a short mention of how we think about marketing books like Fair in this day and age. I also had the pleasure of presenting the droll and witty remarks of PQL Publisher Tim Inkster, who wasn’t able to attend the launch. Tim wrote a short but instructive piece on the design of Fair‘s book cover (which you can read here).

Stephanie Small
Stephanie Small (yours truly!). (Screen capture from Zoom launch.)

After another spectacular reading from Ed, the floor was open to the attendees for a Q&A. Ed fielded all manner of questions about the writing and publishing process like a champ.

Attendees of Fair launch.
Attendees. (Screen capture from Zoom launch.)

In the end, the launch was an enjoyable (if short!) hour of literary delight. Ed is such an engaging and friendly guy, and it really shines through, even digitally. And Lee kept the event moving and coordinated with her great questions and her ability to transition from one topic to the next.

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Many thanks to Lee and Ed for all their hard work, to Chandra, for her time and insight, and to all who attended the event and even ordered the book after! We hope you enjoy, and we hope to see you again soon.

Cheers,

Steph


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 24 Jul 2020

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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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Thanks for stopping by to visit the PQ Weekly Roundup–so nice to see you. We hope you found a little entertainment or education in today’s crop of links. Happy weekend!

Cheers

Steph


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Book Cover Design 101: Tim Inkster Muses on the Design Process for Ed Seaward’s Fair

My recollection is that the first time I met Ed Seaward in person may have been at an Ontario Heritage Doors Open event at the shop on the Main Street of Erin Village. Likely the summer of 2019. June, or possibly July. Fair is ostensibly a story about moral issues attached to the scourge of homelessness as set in southern California, with references to Milton’s Paradise Lost as a sub-text. I remember asking if Ed had thoughts about the sort of image that might be appropriate for the cover of his first published novel. (Authors have been known to cherish firm convictions on the subject.)

A male and a female, holding bunches of fruit, stand at the feet of an angel.
Adam and Eve entertain Raphael. One of a dozen etchings on the theme of Paradise Lost produced in 1896 by the British printmaker and painter, William Strang (1859–1921). Some of these etchings are reproduced in Fair.

Some months later I received a message from Stephanie Small that advised Ed had been looking at images of the Santa Monica Pier.

The Pier at Santa Monica is at the foot of Colorado Avenue, the extreme western terminus of US Route 66, which brought immediately to mind the song of the same name though I would most certainly have been remembering Mick Jagger’s 1964 cover version rather than the original recorded by Nat King Cole in 1946.

I also retained pieces of distant memories of a television series called Route 66 which followed the exploits of two young American grifters who tooled about in a Corvette convertible through the early part of the 1960s. George Maharis played second fiddle. I can’t remember who starred.

Ed Seaward’s narrative is set in Santa Monica. Ed and his wife Barb winter in Santa Monica. This was all starting to make a sort of sense.

Garamond header found in An Exhibit of Garamond Type with Appropriate Ornaments (Redfield-Kendrick-Odell Co.: New York, 1927). Used in the interior design of Fair.

The Pier at Santa Monica includes a somewhat tacky amusement area called Pacific Park that features a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, a video arcade, some interesting neon signage and a really nice 1920s-vintage Hippodrome carousel. I spent a long time thinking about the carousel in particular, but then subsequently shifted my search to urban streetscapes as they appear in the fifty city blocks of Central City East (Skid Row) in Los Angeles proper. A plethora of images of homeless people, but no obvious book covers. Thence back to Santa Monica, looking at images of commercial buildings along Wilshire Boulevard and Colorado Avenue.

Palisades Park follows the course of Ocean Boulevard north from the pier to San Vicente Boulevard. The Park, of course, is not to be confused with the New Jersey pleasure garden of the same name immortalized by Freddy Cannon in 1962. I came upon a photograph of the Park at night, looking east, away from the water. It was the quality of the light that first caught my attention … night, obviously, but there is something about the image that suggests a chill in the air that could only exist in the pre-dawn hours when no-one other than the homeless would likely to be about.

Editor Chandra Wohleber talks about Ed’s narrative in terms of the “dangerous and deceptively sunny streets of L.A.” but she also makes mention of the “lustrated light of the city at night”. The Park image includes a sequence of star-shaped aperture diffraction patterns attached to a procession of streetlamps that draw the eye from right to center lower-left and towards a garishly-lit retail area that could provide a hint of the Pandaemonium of Milton’s epic, a counterpoint to the relative Edenic foliage of the Park in the foreground, seemingly populated by expatriates from Tolkien’s Fangorn Forest in Middle Earth.

Three versions of the cover of Fair, with different fonts and some with a hairline white rule.
Cover design at the Porcupine’s Quill is a collaborative process which necessarily involves an element of give-and-take. In retrospect, the choice of Beverly Hills for the titling was the correct choice; the loss of the thin white rectangular box was maybe a mistake.

An early version of the cover included a hairline white rule that defined the parameters of the text block inside the book but also suggested a kind of suspect parallax lens that illuminated the dichotomies as they appear in the photograph. The author couldn’t fathom the graphic wit of the device in play; neither could the editor, so we had to abandon the hairline, somewhat reluctantly. An early version of the cover also included a rather blindingly obvious misspelling of the author’s name. That got fixed.

There is a hotel on Ocean Boulevard called The Shangri-La, done in the Art Deco style of the late 1930s. The marquee is set in a stylish display typeface called Beverly Hills that features a fine inline highlight and dramatically low crossbars, particularly the “E”, “F”, “G” and the “H”. The inline highlight gave us an excuse to double underscore the title to add some horizontal reach to a rather spare, four-character title, and to add a set of monotype ornaments for the same reason. The low crossbars, however, were an issue for the author. Particularly the “F”, as in  F A I R.

Ed wondered if we had considered Broadway, an earlier Art Deco display font that appears on the marquee of The Georgian, a budget hotel on Ocean Boulevard a couple of blocks south of The Shangri-La. A version of the cover was duly rendered replacing Beverly Hills with Broadway, but the loss of the inline highlight made for an effect that was crude, and clunky by comparison. Broadway Engraved does include the highlight feature but the face is neither as elegant nor as sophisticated as Beverly Hills.

Specimens of Beverly Hills, Broadway Regular and Broadway Engraved Typefaces
Broadway is a decorative typeface designed by Morris Fuller Benton in 1927 for ATF as a capitals only display face. It is often used to evoke the feeling of the twenties and thirties.

The author was persuaded to overcome his aversion to low crossbars, then asked if we had considered images of graffiti on the hoardings along the boardwalk at Venice Beach, south of the Pier.

Tim Inkster
July 2020

* * *

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Many thanks to Tim for putting together his witty recollections on the experience of designing the cover for this very special book. I hope you’ll join myself, Chandra Wohleber and the man of the hour Ed Seaward for his launch of Fair tonight at 7:30 p.m. via Zoom. There’s still time to register to attend the event here!

Cheers,

Steph


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 17 Jul 2020

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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 fans! Don’t forget to register to attend the virtual launch of Ed Seaward’s Fair next week. And if you’d like to win a copy, well, that’s on offer, too!

See you soon!

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.