Write On Playwright’s Showcase II

IMG_7873Last night, The Quilliad Press dropped by On Cue Billiards in West End Toronto to check out the second installation of the Write On Playwright’s Showcase (Instagram @writeonreadings). The showcase is “a quarterly initiative where ten playwrights each bring approximately ten minutes of work-in-progress to read or perform in front of an audience”. Last night’s showcase focussed on female playwrights.

Despite the usual last-minute hitches and delays that plague live performance, the night got going around 8:30 with Katie Sly’s funny, bold, and touching tale of a first BDSM experience. Katie’s excerpt from In The Dark, a multi-media show exploring sexual taboos which debuted at Buddies in Bad Times’s 2015 Queer Pride festival, was one of my favourite pieces of the night.

Other highlights included Suzanna Derewicz, Thea Fitz-James, and Jess Pfundt’s work. Suzanna presented part of Getting There, a play about the final moments in the life of Maggie, whose mind remains for her final moments past her body’s death. The play is inspired by Sylvia Plath’s last book, Ariel, which just happens to be one of my favourite poetry collections, and I’m excited to see what Suzanna does with the proposed chapbook version of her frantic, wistful performance. Thea performed part of Drunk Girls, a piece that mixes stats, historical facts, and anecdotes to present a portrait of female alcohol abuse, all while Thea gets drunk on stage. Her performance was brave, confrontational, and expressive. For her part, Jess launched straight into a monologue from the perspective of an unknowing witness to a grisly crime giving her testimony to a police officer. Her complete immersion into the character made the scenario seem real.


Thea Fitz-James

While not every piece was to my personal taste, all the performers were professionals, and there was something to gain from each performance, made more impressive by the knowledge that these were works-in-progress. The performances ranged from the surreal (Jennie Egerdie’s tale of a young girl’s visions of sainthood via Disney comes to mind) to the deliberately mundane (Gina J. Britnell’s monologue on the world of telemarketing and top seller Jan). The topics of discussion varied widely as well, from Deborah Kimmett’s excerpt from No Fixed Address, a piece inspired by the Preacher Man near Wychwood, which features a homeless woman’s reflections on life, to Laurel Brady’s account of her character’s intense high school angst. Susannah Mackay even offered up a matter-of-fact account of the collapse of civilization through the eyes of a teenager, told in momentary details that brought the large-scale chaos down to an individual level. Mirian Kay’s strong voice and accompanying guitar provided a musical interlude.

The evening ended rather appropriately with a monologue by Meara Tubman-Broeren. She began by asking, “Should I become a doctor?” and used the question to explore the nature of art and her place in it. While her piece expressed many doubts, Meara’s performance was ultimately in defence of theatre—and, more broadly, art.

As are we.

Thanks to Suzanna, Gina, and Laurel for putting last night’s showcase together, and to their sponsors for making it possible for them to pay their artists: Shoxs Billiards Lounge, 3030, Theatre 20, Christine Noonan Yoga, Centauri Arts Academy, Wallace & Co., and of course On Cue Billiards. Paid work is hard to come by for most of us, and the arts needs its patrons.


logo roundP.S. Speaking of patrons of the arts, if you’d like to see more content from The Quilliad Press, please consider backing our Kickstarter (we’re a staff pick!). In addition to coverage of local arts and literary events, we post small press book reviews, project spotlights, artist profiles, and parrot poetry. We also publish a literary and arts journal, The Quilliad, and are planning a line of chapbooks.

Project Spotlight: TRANSformation, a Photography Project by Maxx Giffen

The TRANSformation Project image 1

The TRANSformation Project image 1

Hello, readers. For our first project spotlight, we’ll be focusing on local trans photographer Maxx Giffen’s The TRANSformation Project. Maxx’s project uses photography to document the physical, mental, and/or emotional changes that take place in the lives of the project’s transgendered subjects over a year, whether those changes involve hormones, therapy, surgery, or new habits. The photos are taken free of charge by Maxx, who is a professional photographer, and posted on the project page. The longterm plan is to create a gallery exhibit featuring these images. To that end, Maxx is reaching out to potential participants and supporters alike through an open call for subjects and a crowdfunding campaign. Maxx was also kind enough to answer a few questions we had:

Quilliad Q&A

Sarah: What made you choose photography as a medium (for this project and/or for your career)?

Maxx: I have always been drawn to photography. I initially was interested in capturing the beauty of a fleeting moment; however, with this project I wanted to use photography to tell a story. My goal is to capture the personal journey of each trans participant as they embark upon a year of change. I want each photograph to mark not only the physical state of the subject, but their relationship with their body, as well as their personality.

The TRANSformation Project image 2

The TRANSformation Project image 2

Sarah: How would you respond to criticism of the ideas behind the project?

I have been lucky enough to receive nothing but positive feedback regarding the project. Of course, there are people who may not see the value of the project. In response, I would like to make it clear that two things are very important to me. The first, is my belief that everyone has the right to love themselves. In regards to trans individuals, and my experiences as a trans individual, it is very difficult to love oneself when your body does not reflect the person who you are on the inside. I want this project to help the participants, as well as the audience, to see the beauty of their body, and to shed the misconception that there are only two types of bodies (male with a penis, and female with breasts and a vagina). My second point of interest is the fact that ignorance breeds hate. I want to create a forum for discussion in an attempt to educate the audience on trans issues and hopefully dispel some misconceptions and stigmas associated with the trans community.

The TRANSformation Project image 3

The TRANSformation Project image 3

Sarah: What would you say to cisgendered* people who’d like to be allies and support this project and the trans movement overall but don’t want to speak over trans voices?

Maxx: Your third question is a very important one, although I think it’s quite difficult to navigate because I cannot presume to be the voice of the trans community. My answer to the question will not correspond with a lot of other trans individual’s answers. I welcome all support, trans or otherwise. In my experience, trans allies are an incredible support system for trans individuals. Not all trans individuals live in an area where they can be in contact with other people in the trans community, so they must rely on support from trans allies. I think the most important thing to remember as a trans ally is not to make assumptions. The trans community is incredibly diverse, and one’s preferences when it comes to things like gender identity, sexual orientation, pronouns, et cetera, are extremely complex. As far as “not speaking over trans voices” goes, I would say that trying to boost the voice of a trans individual would be the best way to go. We live in the age of social media, so that could involve retweeting a tweet from a trans individual instead of making your own similar tweet, or sharing Facebook content with the same context.

Thanks to Maxx for answering our questions! We love to see art and activism coming together so naturally (not to mention how expressive the portraits are). If you’d like to see more of the photos and learn more about how to get involved, whether as a participant or a supporter, you can visit maxwellgiffenphotography.com/thetransformationproject.


*A cisgendered person is an individual whose gender identity aligns with the one they were assigned at birth.

logo roundP.S. If you’d like to see more content from The Quilliad Press, please consider backing our Kickstarter (we’re a staff pick!). In addition to our new project spotlights, we post small press book reviews, artist profiles, parrot poetry, and coverage of local arts and literary events. We also publish a literary and arts journal, The Quilliad, and are planning a line of chapbooks.

The Quilliad Press is 33.5% funded!

quilliad 33.5 fundedThanks to our generous backers, over the weekend our Kickstarter reached 33.5%. With 22 days to go, this progress is very exciting.

We still have lots of great writing and art rewards available, from copies of our journal, The Quilliad, to chapbooks, poetry on demand, and art prints.

Thank you to everyone who has backed us thus far. For those who are just learning about us, we publish a literary and arts journal, The Quilliad, filled with work by emerging and established Canadian writers and artists, and are planning a line of chapbooks. We also post small press book reviews, artist profiles, and coverage of local arts and literary events here on our blog. You can find the Kickstarter for our new small press at www.kickstarter.com/projects/1765917797/the-quilliad-press-and-issue-6.

The Poetry Parrot Returns!


As our previous shares of poetry-parrot-in-residence Riff Raff’s pieces show, tiny bird claws plus a touchscreen phone can have some interesting results!

I’ve taken the liberty of titling this one for Riff Raff. I call it “Identity Poem”:

Riff Raff's identity poem

Autocorrect is certainly an aid to Riff Raff’s self expression; I make no changes whatsoever to our parrot’s poetic scribblings.


P.S. If you’d like to see more content from The Quilliad Press, please consider backing our Kickstarter! In addition to parrot poetry, we post small press book reviews, artist profiles, and coverage of local arts and literary events. We also publish a literary and arts journal, The Quilliad, and are planning a line of chapbooks.

The Quilliad Reviews Lisa C. Taylor’s Growing a New Tail

Growing a New Tail by Lisa C. Taylor

Growing a New Tail by Lisa C. Taylor

Much like their characters, the stories in Lisa C. Taylor’s Growing a New Tail are full of potential. Some are fully realised, while others feel as if they are not quite finished.

One of my favourite stories in the collection, in which the potential is realised, is the final piece, “Leash Laws”. Here, many of Taylor’s best qualities as a writer are on display. She fully inhabits the narrator’s world in a psychiatric hospital—and, more impressively, her mind—without condescension or a sense of voyeurism. For the duration of “Leash Laws”, she believes in the world as it exists for the protagonist, and the story—and the reader—are better for it. My favourite line in the piece occurs on the first page of the story and sets the tone: “No one knows when his or her tree-time will come.” The language is strong here, existing in sympathy with the protagonist. “Earthy Top Note”, a story that takes on the perspective of a dead man from a very unusual angle, similarly shows what Taylor can do when she follows through with an idea.

Many of the other stories feature the same attention to detail and interest in their characters, but they suffer from rushed or abrupt endings. The climaxes of such stories take the reader by surprise, and while this structure furthers the plot in some cases, when used so frequently, it loses its freshness. The reasoning for this structure is clear—these are characters about to change their lives or experiencing a moment of epiphany. Yet in stories like “Visible Wounds”, for example, the story cuts off shortly after it piques my interest. Much of the story up to that point feels like setup, but the reader never sees the main action. The brevity of the story requires the narrative to fit too much information into too little space, leading to more telling than showing—which, though eloquent, makes some passages feel too on-the-nose.

Overall, the collection benefits significantly from Taylor’s poetic writing background and observational skills, with the source of most issues being either plot structure or an otherwise not fully fleshed out concept. I am left with an impression of a series of story ideas, some of which are expanded upon fully and meet their mark, while others could use more development.

6 Issues, 6 Reasons to Back The Quilliad

In honour of The Quilliad‘s issue 6 submission call, here are 6 reasons to back The Quilliad Press through our recently launched Kickstarter:

1. To support emerging writers and artists. As our previous issues have proven to us, Canada’s emerging creative talent is worthy of attention. Read the work from our first issue, which featured only university undergrads and recent graduates, to see what we mean.

2. Our contributors go on to do more awesome things, so you’re investing in people who are serious about their craft. Take just a few examples from our list of fifth issue contributors, for instance. Jessica Bebenek and JC Bouchard were part of the recent Worst Case Ontario Poetry Tour. I have the tour chapbook, and the writing in it is fantastic (as were the performances at the Toronto reading). Not to mention the guts and inspiration it takes to successfully crowdfund a poetry tour and then go on a road trip with relative strangers in order to do poetry readings in 9 different cities in as many days!

Suzanna Derewicz—poet, playwright, and performer—is performing in and co-facilitating the Write On Playwright’s Showcase II on Tuesday, September 29 at On Cue in Toronto’s west end. She will be performing “Getting There”, a play exploring the experiences of a dying woman hose consciousness remains intact. The piece is inspired by Ariel, Sylvia Plath’s final book of poetry, and the play is also being adapted into an illustrated poetry chapbook by Suzanna.

3. To see what’s happening in the Canadian arts and literary scenes. We’ve published established authors and artists, up and comers, and everyone in between. Here are a few recent examples:

You can find Issue 3 contributor Kayla Czaga’s work everywhere right now. A recent UBC MFA graduate, her work has appeared in The Walrus, Best Canadian Poetry 2013, Room Magazine, Lemon Hound, Event, The Malahat Review, and The Antigonish Review, among others, and she’s already published her first book, For Your Safety Please Hold On, with Nightwood Editions.

Dan Holst Soelberg 1

Dan Holst Soelberg

Issue 4 contributor Dan Holst Soelberg is a quirky artist with a dark but humorous aesthetic who’s become a regular everywhere from small press fairs to Fan Expo every August in Toronto. You can find his books online or in stores at The Beguiling and The Labyrinth in Toronto and Big B Comics in Hamilton.

Issue 5 contributor Lisa Young is the author of the poetry collection When the Earth, published by Quattro Books, and the chapbook This Cabin, published by Lyrical Myrical Press. She has been published in Jones Av., Misunderstandings Magazine, Quills Canadian Poetry MagazineRampike Magazine, and more. As the former fiction editor and senior poetry editor for Existere: Journal of Arts and Literature and someone who is active at both reading series and in writing groups, Lisa is a staple of the Toronto poetry scene.

Quilliad Issue 5 cover image by Eden Bachelder

Quilliad Issue 5 cover image by Eden Bachelder

Our issue 5 cover artist, Eden Bachelder, creates stunning paintings, illustrations, and masks of animals and monsters. You can find her work at Toronto-area art events and on her website, www.edenbachelder.com.

4. Our rewards. We’re offering copies of The Quilliad (of course), chapbooks, art prints, and poetry on demand on subjects chosen by our backers. For backers who pledge $200 or more, the poetry we write for them will be published in issue 6, and we’ll be composing entire chapbooks for backers at the $200 and $500 levels.

5. To promote small press publishing and Canadian arts. Smaller presses are often more likely to take risks with unusual work or work that isn’t what’s hot right now (but that is still awesome), as well as to give opportunities to new writers and artists (see #1) and to LGBT, POC, and other diverse voices and perspectives. Furthermore, while we think our publication is equally interesting to all lovers of the arts, we also believe that Canadian creative work deserves more recognition. Publishing local writers and artists is our way of helping to build an audience for Canadian creations.

6. We do more than publish. We also promote arts and literature through our blog by writing reviews of small press books, composing artist profiles, and covering local arts and lit events. We’re open to suggestions about what we should cover as well.

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to support the work we’re doing, here’s the link to our Kickstarter: www.kickstarter.com/projects/1765917797/the-quilliad-press-and-issue-6

The Quilliad Press & Issue 6: Submission Call & Kickstarter

IMG_7789We’ve been busy lately. We’ve been writing book reviews, delivering copies of The Quilliad to local zine libraries, and stocking the shelves at Artarium with our publications. And now we’re launching our submission call and Kickstarter campaign concurrently.

Submission Call

This is an exciting time for us. We’re publishing under our new small press publishing company, The Quilliad Press, and we’re contemplating our first run of chapbooks. We’re also looking for submissions for The Quilliad: Issue 6, our second annual Halloween issue.

We’re looking for flash fiction, short stories, poetry, comics, photography, and art from Canadian writers and artists in any of the following genres or on any of the following topics:

  • literary science fiction and horror
  • magic realism
  • fairy tales, folk tales, myths, and legends
  • monsters, death, magic, fear, or anything else that evokes the spirit of the season

We’re open to things that aren’t on this list as well; query us if you aren’t sure. Email your submissions (1-5 pieces) to thequilliad@gmail.com before midnight on October 20. We will be paying a $12 honorarium plus a contributor copy to every writer or artist we publish, and all contributors will be invited to feature their work at our launch party on October 29 at Betty’s on King in Toronto.


To make issue 6, our chapbooks, future issues, events, book reviews, and more happen, we’re calling on our readers for support. We’re dreaming big and planning the next few years. This crowdfunding campaign represents our ambitions for the future. As our project description on Kickstarter says,

This new official status as a small press publisher reflects our commitment to growth. The Quilliad Press will continue the work we have been doing, but we are increasing the number of reviews and artist profiles we post, and we want to push beyond our biannual journal publication to chapbooks and, hopefully, anthologies.

We have successfully funded The Quilliad‘s previous issues through crowdfunding, revenues from launches, and money out of our own pockets. Now that we have seen the potential of this publication and can imagine the future of our recently formed small press, we want to move beyond an issue-to-issue model to one that is more self-sustaining. Which is why we want this Kickstarter to be our last.

Any support means a lot to us, our contributors, and our readers, whether you pledge $5 or $100, and will have tangible results that affect people across Canada, North America as a whole, and beyond.

We’re offering copies of The Quilliad, The Quilliad Press’s first chapbook, and our own published work, as well as art prints, haiku and glosas on demand, and even personalised books of poetry and art with a limited print run of one as rewards for our backers. Backing The Quilliad Press is a way to directly support small press publishing, as well as the dozens of Canadian writers and artists who we publish and promote.

For more information about our Kickstarter, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1765917797/the-quilliad-press-and-issue-6.

Thank you for reading.

Sarah Varnam,
Editor-in-Chief of The Quilliad

The Quilliad is on shelves now at Artarium

IMG_7792I am excited to announce that The Quilliad is now available for sale at Artarium, a snazzy new art store near Kensington  (389 Spadina Avenue, Toronto) that provides space to local artists and writers to showcase and sell their work. Seeing our publication (and a few of our staff’s chapbooks) up on a shelf makes our dreams feel very real and achievable. Knowing that our contributors are gaining exposure through Artarium and local zine libraries also warm my editor’s heart. Here are some photos of our spot on the shelves and the rest of the store.


The Quilliad joins the OCADU Zine Library


September is turning out to be an exciting, busy month for us. After mailing out copies of The Quilliad on Friday for inclusion in the Toronto Zine Library, today I dropped off all 5 issues at the OCADU Zine Library.


Knowing that we are becoming more immersed in the Toronto arts scene makes us feel pretty great. We’ll also be connecting more to small press culture across North America this month, with more small press fiction and poetry book reviews coming up here on our blog. Then, of course, there’s also our Kickstarter approaching (the launch will be happening within the week!), as well as the announcement of the cover artist for issue 6.

Stay tuned for more arts and lit news.


Issue 6 and The Quilliad Press Approacheth

While soon I’ll be filling this blog with tantalizing rewards for our upcoming Kickstarter and a submission call for issue 6, this post is just a note to announce that copies of all our issues to date are on their way in the mail to the Toronto Zine Library. We’re always excited about making our publication and the awesome work between its pages more available to the people of Canada, so we are planning to build an Etsy soon as well. Exciting!

You’ll be hearing a lot more from us soon.

Until then,