Thoughts on the Bookish Sport that is Publishing, or, News for February at PQL

If you care about sports (heck, probably even if you don’t), you know this past Sunday marked the annual sporting/marketing grail known as the Super Bowl.

boys on the playground

Bunch of boys running around chasing each other. Football, yes? Am I close?

Lest you think I actually know what I’m talking about, you can rest assured that I did not watch the big game, not would I necessarily know what I was looking at if I had. But I did realize, somewhat peripherally, that it was going on, and though I wasn’t brimming with blissful thoughts of first downs and passing yards and field goals, the whole brouhaha did make me think for a moment about teamwork.

Publishing is really team sport. In a small house like PQL, every member of the team plays a vital role. We need a full roster to set up a book, to get it into position, to help make sure that it scores. We need someone to draft that unknown manuscript and put it into play. We need someone to guide it down the field—to refine it—before things really get moving and the book goes to print. Then we need someone to take that printed book and to launch it into the hands of potential fans. Those fans, too, are part of the team in a way—they keep the whole game going.

I’m flogging this metaphor to death, but the point is that, though many people maintain this conception of publishing as a solidary activity, it really is a team sport. Anyone working in the industry has probably encountered at least one person who assumes that the job consists of reading all day and maybe fixing a grammar mistake or two. What they don’t think about is the fact books depend on the complex interplay between all the players on the field—between the editor and the author and the designer and the sales rep and the copyeditor and the publicist and everyone in between. How can a quarterback complete a pass with no receivers on the field? How can an author launch a great book with no copyeditor to fix each and every typo?

Even when, as often happens in a small house, several of those roles are filled by one person, there is comfort in knowing that your teammates have your back—that they’ll be with you win or lose, that they’ll help you hone your skills, and yes, that they will catch your embarrassing typo before it goes to press!


What’s happening this month?


The House on Major StreetAfter a surprise reprint of Jan in 35 Pieces in January, after learning it made the RBC Taylor Prize shortlist, we’re pleased that February will finally see the publication of Leon Rooke’s The House on Major Street. I positively adore this surreal, absurd, metafictional story about the unfortunate Tallis Haley, who is mown down by a bicycle as he sits on the stoop of his Toronto Annex street only to find himself in a coma dream populated by fantastical creatures—and literary characters. Free-spirited Zan (the teenager who accidentally did the mowing) must come to grips with injuring her maybe-sort-of-crush, while Tallis’s parents spiral into grief, anxiety and maybe a bit of madness. It is little wonder that the whole neighbourhood gets drawn into the drama! This is a story with a lot of humour and a lot of heart. I definitely recommend it as a strong addition to your to-read list!


In Toronto.

Toronto International Festival of Authors

Here’s your chance to see all the RBC Taylor Prize shortlisted authors talk about literary non-fiction. In a panel discussion moderated by Toronto Star Books Editor Deborah Dundas, Jan in 35 Pieces author Ian Hampton will join his fellow nominees for a panel discussion put on by the Toronto International Festival of Authors. The event will take place at the Lakeside Terrace at Harbourfront Centre on February 28. Be sure to reserve your free ticket at the TIFA website.

In the world.

February 11 is Make a Friend Day. I’m going to unilaterally declare that said friend can, indeed, be fictional if you want.

February 18 is National Drink Wine Day, which sounds delightful.

Febraury 26 is National Pistachio Day, which, I must admit, I find nuts. (See what I did there? Eh? Eh?)

From the porcupette’s corner.

four panels showing the four seasons

Time flies. Even, apparently, when you wish it wouldn’t.

Am I the only one who struggled with what felt like an unproductive January? I don’t know if it was the outrageous cold that gummed up my mental processes or whether it was a looming feeling of deadline creep that stymied me, but it just felt like such a struggle to get things done. Every time I wanted to dedicate time to one task, I got called away by another. Every time I wanted to focus on one to-do item, I got side-tracked by three more. Call it a funk, call it a fluke—whatever you call it, I don’t like it.

Here’s hoping that a sharper mind, a bit of focus—and the fear of missing deadlines—help me reach my February goals!


PortraitThanks for checking in on what’s hip and happening at PQL this month. Hope you enjoyed this little update.


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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.