Literary Confessions of the Porcupette: The Productive Power of the Check Mark

Reader, I must confess.

I’m something of a list nerd. On the one hand, this is purely an addiction born of practicality. I keep track of my time, so I can send in my timesheets, so I can get paid. I keep track of the food in the house, so when I force myself to the grocery store, I don’t forget anything important or buy more than I need. We all do this—at least, those of us whose memories aren’t quite to be entrusted with important information—and with the rise of bullet journaling, some even do it with an enviable artistic flair. On the other hand, it’s easy to become a bit of a slave to one’s lists, as I have discovered.

little man using a quill to write in a giant book

Like many avid readers, I love to keep track of the books I read. This started as a way to figure out, at a glance, which books in my collection I had yet to read, especially given that so many were hidden away from view by piles and piles of other, newer books. But now that my collection is somewhat better organized and, for the most part, properly shelved, the list has become less of a catalogue and more of a to-do list. The tyranny of the list has taken hold; I crave the feeling of checking off and dating each title as I finish. There’s nothing like that feeling of great satisfaction that comes with “finishing off” a page, of seeing that unbroken column of check marks traversing each line.

Of course there is a downside to my constant pursuit of check marks: I am constitutionally incapable of not finishing a book. No matter how slow I find the plot, no matter how ponderous the prose, no matter how unlikeable the characters, if it’s on my list, I must, must finish the book. “DNF” is not in my vocabulary. And there’s no question of taking a book off the list—heavens no. Once on the list, always on the list. Generally this means I have more than one book on the go at all times—usually one I find so enticing I gobble it up quickly, another I like well enough to consume in small bites, and another that feels like an albatross around my neck, one that I simply need to finish for the sake of the coveted check mark.

I’ve heard all the arguments—life’s too short to waste on a book you don’t like, blah, blah, blah. But if I’m forced to defend this proclivity, I’d tell you to think about politics, or religion, or really any other hot-button topic. Would we ever say that we could achieve an informed view of an issue if we refuse to consider differing opinions? How could we ever change our minds if we are only exposed to the same arguments that fit our established way of thinking? Similarly, if we only read what we know and like and agree with, how can we ever achieve a varied and nuanced perspective of literature? How could we ever discover new favourites, experience new trends, immerse ourselves in new perspectives, new cultures, new worlds? Maybe a book grows on you, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it’ll change your mind, maybe it won’t. But how would you know unless you reach the end?

I don’t believe reading any book—even one you don’t like—could truly be a waste of time. After all, at the very least you’ve given yourself an opportunity to learn more about your literary preferences. And what’s more, how could it be a waste of time if you get to experience the singular euphoria of crossing a book off your list at the end?


PortraitI hope you enjoyed—and perhaps felt a little kinship—with my ramblings here today. And now that you know of my check mark addiction, surely you’ve guessed that I’ll be crossing “write blog post” off my list!


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 24 Jan 2020

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.



Hope you enjoyed this week’s roundup. Check back next week for more awesome book and reading links to take you into the weekend.


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 17 Jan 2020

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.



Don’t forget: we’d like to hear from you on how we can improve our content to meet your wants and needs. Read more about it here and drop us a line.

Happy Friday!

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Wanted: Your Bright Bookish Ideas!

Now that we’ve got the first few weeks of 2020 under our belts, we’re all comfortably back in the groove. Phew! What a relief, eh?

But actually, this kind of thinking got me wondering about said groove. Are we in the right one? Is the groove too comfortable? Is it time to start seeing other grooves?

That’s where you come in, Quill fans. We’d like to invite you to get in touch with your burning questions and bright ideas, your gaps in knowledge in need of filling, your idle curiosities and inclinations when it comes to all things literary. Are you wishing for changes in the type of information included in our newsletter? Drop us a line so we can revamp and refresh. Are there particular topics you’d like us to cover on the blog? Let us know so we can prepare blog posts you actually want to read, and be brutally honest about the type of content would you like to see more (or less!) often.

Your guidance will help us chart the course for the next year of blog, email and social media content, and ensure that we’re keeping you entertained and informed over the next twelve months.

The process is simple. We won’t ask you to spend too much time on a given set of questions or instructions. Just drop us a line at and tell us what you like or don’t like. Give us an idea of what you’d like to see and we’ll do our best to accommodate.


PortraitThanks for all your help, Quill fans. Looking forward to hearing from you soon!Steph

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PQ Weekly Roundup: 10 Jan 2020

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.



Thanks for checking out this week’s most clickable book, reading and writing links. We hope you have a wonderful weekend.


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A Decade of Literary Delights, or, News for January at PQL

As we settle into the productive business of 2020, it’s easy to forget the bigger picture—that we’ve completed a whole decade filled with a succession of publishing endeavours, and that, with the turning of the year, we have embarked upon a new one.

Sheree Lee Olson unveils Bookmark for Sailor Girl

Sheree-Lee Olson and Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey unveil Sailor Girl‘s Bookmark in 2011.

This past decade has boasted a number of impressive highlights. In 2011, Project Bookmark Canada unveiled a bookmark for Sheree-Lee Olson’s debut novel Sailor Girl at Lock 8 on the Welland Canal in Port Colborne. In 2012, Nicole Dixon garnered several shortlist nominations and a Foreword First Debut Fiction Award win for her collection of short stories, High-Water Mark. JonArno Lawson was honoured with The Lion and the Unicorn Award not once but twice—in 2013 for Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box, and in 2017 for The Hobo’s Crowbar. Folk singer Bob Bossin’s biography of his father, Davy the Punk, won the Western Canada Jewish Book Awards, garnered several other commendations, and toured as a one-man musical show in 2014. Governor General’s Award-winning author Leon Rooke collaborated with visual artist Tony Calzetta to create Fabulous Fictions and Peculiar Practices (published in 2016) which, with the help of director David Ferry and talented students from the Randolph Academy of Performing Arts, inspired a cabaret performance in 2015. And most recently, we were pleased to see cellist Ian Hampton’s memoir, Jan in 35 Pieces, achieve acclaim on shortlists for the RBC Taylor Price and the BC Book Prizes in 2019.

Tim Inkster, Ian Hampton

Tim Inkster and shortlisted author of Jan in 35 Pieces Ian Hampton enjoying some wine and hors d’oeuvres just before the RBC Taylor Prize luncheon in 2019.

These celebrated titles represent just a few of the outstanding books we have had the pleasure and privilege to publish over the last ten years. Though we have faced many challenges over the years, and are sure to encounter many more, the pride that we have found in discovering new talents and in producing beautiful literary objects has only strengthened our dedication to the “perilous trade” of book publishing, and has fuelled our continuing appreciation of Canadian literature.

Cheers to the last decade in literature. Now bring on 2020!


What’s happening this month…


Casting into MysteryCatch up is still the name of the game. You might have noticed that copies of The Ballad of Samuel Hewitt are now in print. (Get your copy here!) We will be shifting focus to Casting into Mystery, as well as to preparing for you a plethora of spring titles sure to tickle your literary fancy. Be sure to visit our home page to browse the varied titles that will be coming your way during the Spring 2020 season, including a haunting debut novel from Ed Seaward, some fun and witty poetry from P.C. Vandall, and a graphic novel on the life of silent film star Mary Pickford by wood engraver George A. Walker. There’s something for most every taste–be sure to sample widely!

In Cobourg.

Jeffery Donaldson will be participating in the Third Thursday Reading Series in Cobourg, reading from his recent books Fluke Print and Viaticum. The event will take place at Meet at 66 King East at 7:30 and will feature two local poets alongside Jeffery.

In the World.

January 10 is Houseplant Appreciation Day. I will absolutely be celebrating this year given that I have managed to keep my two houseplants, gifted to me by Fearless Leader Tim, alive and (mostly?) well.

Celebrate Dress Up Your Pet Day on January 14. It is probably also known as Make Your Pet Hate You Day, and/or, Give Your Pet No Choice But to Claw Your Face Off Day (if you have a cat).

January 28 is Data Privacy Day. No quips here—in all seriousness, this is an important issue. Protect your data, folks!


From the porcupette’s corner…

Man looking forlornly at empty place

Me, looking at my New Year’s rations compared to the excesses of the holidays.

After a couple of weeks of interrupted schedules and a grossly indulgent diet, this porcupette is quite pleased to be back to our regularly scheduled programming, thank you very much.

Of course, the new year has brought with it new deadlines to meet, and so I find myself tackling Fall 2020 tipsheets and wondering how it could possibly be time to start thinking about new titles already. But actually, I do love this part of the job—encountering new books, sometimes for the first time, and thinking deeply about what they are, what they do, what they say, and how best to convey all those things to interested readers like you. It’s quite the responsibility, but it’s also such a thrilling time of discovery and possibility. Bring it on!


PortraitThank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to see what we’re working on this month. We hope to see you back in your inbox soon!


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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.