Arts and Culture

An interview with Heather O’Neill

The celebrated novelist sat down with our Editor-in-Chief to discuss her published works and an upcoming novel. 

Montreal is ripe with celebrated authors, like Leonard Cohen, Mordecai Richler, and Heather O’Neill. On a sunny Tuesday morning in March, following a win on the Canada Reads game show, O’Neill met up with The Concordian to discuss her literary journey. 

The Concordian: Thank you again for sitting down with me. Let’s start by learning a little more about you.

Heather O’Neill: I was born here in Montreal and then my parents got a divorce. My mother took me to the American South, which is where she is originally from and I lived there with her for a while. After some years, she decided she didn’t want to be a mother anymore and sent me back to Montreal to live with my father.

TC: I’m so sorry to hear that. Through all that, when did you discover your passion for writing?

H.O.: I remember it started when I was in elementary school. I remember back when I was eight or nine, I got a journal for my birthday. I started journaling and I loved doing that. It was my favorite part of the day, getting back to my journal and describing my day. It was like the journal was the only person on my side. Afterward, in grade five, I had a teacher who was very excited about my writing. I remember she gave me this little folder and she told me to keep everything because she told me I’d be a great writer.

TC: I love that. Going into your young adult life, what was the first major inspiration for your first novel?

H.O.: Funny enough, I was in a workshop at Concordia. I wrote a short story with the characters that ended up in Lullabies for Little Criminals, Baby and Jules. I noticed that story in particular got a lot of attention and seemed to capture the attention of the readers. So I sent it to a magazine and it got published. After it got nominated for the Journey Prize, I told myself, “Okay, I have something here.”

TC: How do you feel now that your written works are now being studied in courses, like an English class that I took at Concordia?

H.O.: It’s funny because it’s just starting to hit me now, that sort of appraisal. As an artist, you don’t have a sense of the outside world. Now, turning 50 this year, I think I am slowly starting to see that impact. I have so many young women writers who have come up to me and told me that they have read my books.

TC: Which of your books do you find people come and talk to you about the most? 

H.O.: It’s hard to say, but Lullabies for Little Criminals has been around for the longest. I would say The Lonely Hearts Hotel has really struck a chord in people. 

TC: What would your advice be to young writers who are just starting out?

H.O.: I don’t know what exactly my advice would be because a novel is such a strange beast. I think people just get gripped by it and you can’t stop the writing until you finish it. It’s a lot like Narnia, you get into a novel and you don’t know how much time you’ll spend on it. When you finally finish that novel it could’ve been over a span of 10 years or even six months. The madness is real for sure.

TC: What does your writing process look like?

H.O.: I write in a very rough way, where I already have the idea of the novel in my head. It always changes as I go along. When I start the novel, I write the different scenes from different parts of the book to kind of get a feel of how it’s going to look. After that, I piece everything together into a legible book. Then I send it off to my editor and it goes back and forth four to five times.

TC: Do you currently have anything in the works?

H.O.: I have one coming out in September. This novel is my first that is not set in Montreal. It’s set in this little imaginary country and in this country, they base their entire identity on the arts. They have this incredible arts culture, but then they get occupied by another country. It’s sort of how occupying forces first destroy the artists.
Fans have been eagerly awaiting O’Neill’s next novel since her last release in 2022, When We Lost Our Heads. For updates on O’Neill’s newest creation, have a look at her Instagram account, which she shares with her daughter, @oneillreads.


Opinions come and go

Internet permanence and its effects on a student journalist


I love writing for the commentary section every week. I fill my Notes app with article ideas about light and silly topics. I dabble in satire, and ask the real questions, like why pets with food names are inherently adorable.


Writing “fluff” brings me (and hopefully others) laughter and joy, which is absolutely necessary in what is often a bleak newscape. I also strongly believe that it still offers creative commentary on the world. This article is not meant to discredit the fun stuff — ‘cause after all, it’s just as important.


However, as I’ve noticed this trend in my own writing tendencies, I’ve been pondering whether there’s something holding me back from tackling more “serious” issues.


While I often don’t feel like writing about these topics, when there’s something I do feel passionately about, there’s always a voice in my head telling me that sticking to what I know will never be controversial.


As a 20-year-old student, I’m often scared that I don’t have enough real-life experience to comment on big world issues. When I’m researching, no matter how much reading I do, I still feel uninformed and nervous to express how I feel.


Although some of these sentiments can be chalked up to impostor syndrome or a valid concern of not wanting to contribute to misinformation, part of my hesitancy stems from the permanence of the internet.


While archives of student newspapers have always existed, the accessibility of the internet raises the stakes for student journalists who are learning and experimenting through student media.


Voicing my opinions on more serious topics is scary because I know that anything that I publish now will follow me for the rest of my professional career.


I might be proud of my writing and my arguments at this stage, but I’m worried that in the future, I might change stances or develop more nuanced perspectives. I might not necessarily want my 20-year-old opinions to be easily accessible and out there forever.


At times, it seems ridiculous to hold my tongue in fear of something that may very well never happen. It’s completely possible that I will stay the same in all of my convictions for the rest of my life. But, I also want to keep an open mind and learn new things that will challenge these convictions.


I know that I should voice my opinions and trust people to understand personal and professional growth over time, but leaving that interpretation up to others is often daunting. It’s a concern that’s new to our generation of journalists that we will have to figure out as we go.


In the meantime, I’m going to try not to let the concept of internet permanence scare me from speaking out when I have something valuable to add to the dialogue. I’m going to try to not be afraid of being judged for the way I present my opinions.


As a journalist writing for the public interest, I shouldn’t need to censor my articles in case myself or others don’t agree with me later down the road. As long as I continue to base my writing on facts, diligent research, and good intentions, I’ll be okay, right?


Graphics by James Fay

Workism: my new religion

How do you separate your identity from your work when you’ve become a workaholic?

Last spring, I wrote an article about the hustle culture affecting my mental health and leading to burnout. A year later, I still struggle to find a healthy balance between work and my personal life.

My problem last year was that I felt a social pressure to overwork myself. I kept comparing myself with other people’s achievements and felt insecure about my work in journalism. At that time, I was even questioning my career choice.

Today, I have a similar problem — but now the pressure is coming from within. Though I finally love what I’m doing and take pleasure in writing articles, I’ve let my work define me and have left no space for other hobbies.

“Who am I apart from being a journalist?” I asked myself a few weeks ago, on the train back home after being out working for 12 hours.

I kept holding back my tears for the entire hour-long train ride. I was exhausted, but refused to be upset about it.

That Saturday was the most emotionally and physically challenging day. I woke up at 7 a.m.,  attended a meeting online for another job, went to a café to work on an article, attended a protest, then headed to the library to write another article on the demonstration.

“You love your work and everything you’re doing. You shouldn’t complain,” I kept whispering to myself as I sat on the train with my eyes half-closed.

This has been my routine and mantra for the past month.

Since February, I’ve been working three jobs. I work my nine-to-five internship during the week, then spend my weekends writing for The Concordian and supervising Concordia’s Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) winter 2022 elections. My mind is constantly occupied with work.

This may sound exhausting to some, but I love it. I absolutely adore what I’m doing because it makes me feel so fulfilled. I get an adrenaline rush attending protests and knowing that the articles I write matter.

I feel as if I have a purpose. Though only one of the three jobs pays me well, I decided to take on as many jobs to fill my CV and feel accomplished. Yet, I can’t help but think I’ve become chained to my work.

The religion of workism has taken over my life.

“Workism” was defined by Derek Thompson a few years ago in The Atlantic as, “the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.”

Working three remote jobs made it easier for me to let work define my worth and who I am. With my phone glued to my hand, it’s been challenging to disassociate myself from work. If I’m not working for my internship, I’m constantly looking for story ideas or responding to emails.

I no longer have time for leisure activities like reading, journaling, running… I tried squeezing in a day to ski every Sunday during the winter months. Even then, on the slopes, I was working! I kept checking my phone and worked on the chairlift between the runs.

On top of that, the few times I go out and socialize with my friends, I find myself checking my phone.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to get to know someone at a social event, and my phone kept buzzing. Work messages buzzed in my pockets every few minutes as I profusely apologized for the rudeness.

The worst thing was I didn’t even feel that bad because at that moment, if I’m being honest, I would have rather checked my phone than continued the conversation. I couldn’t enjoy my night until I was sure the work was done and settled.

I have yet to set boundaries to keep a healthy balance between work and my personal life but I can say that I’ve acknowledged that if I don’t change my work-life, I will have another burnout.


Graphic by Wendesday Laplante

An ode to my first apartment

Moving back to Montreal. ASHLEY FISH ROBERTSON/The Concordian

You never forget your first love

When I think back to my first love, an image of a person doesn’t come to mind, but rather, a place: my first apartment.

It was a charming five-and-a-half located across from Rosemont’s Maisonneuve Park, and featured abundant natural light, worn-in hardwood floors, and an alley cat who regularly frequented the balcony. It also came with the lingering smell of cigarettes from previous occupants.

As anyone would probably tell you about their first place, it certainly wasn’t perfect; the ceiling in the bathroom was gradually caving in, the kitchen sink had a tendency to clog, and the walls were thin enough to hear the neighbours argue over what to have for dinner. Still, despite all its flaws, I was 19 and was about to live with my two best friends. Life was golden.

Before moving into my dream apartment, I had left the province I grew up in for New Brunswick. It was during spring break of 2018 that I realized I wanted to move back home to Quebec. I was residing in Fredericton, studying at the University of New Brunswick. Having spent most of my childhood living in a small village in the Argenteuil region of Quebec, I wanted to escape to somewhere new the second I finished my senior year of high school. As fun as it was to move to a city where I knew nobody, I began to miss the familiarity of home.

When I flew home to Quebec for spring break, my friends and I spent the night bar hopping in downtown Montreal. On the taxi ride back to our Airbnb, I remember being so mesmerized by the skyline, with its abundance of highrise condos and towering office buildings. Even at 3 a.m., the city was lively and teeming with pedestrians. It was exactly the kind of place where I could see myself living.

Back in Fredericton, I was used to most nights out ending around midnight. Everything moved so much slower on the east coast, something that I had enjoyed at first, but was beginning to grow tired of. When I returned back to Fredericton after spring break, I decided to finish my freshman year and move to Montreal as soon as I wrote my last exam.

Moving to Montreal. ASHLEY FISH-ROBERTSON/The Concordian

When I moved back to Quebec, the apartment hunt began (and my god, was it excruciating). After countless visits, my roommates and I were running low on patience. It was on a humid evening in June that we finally found a place.

To call it a pigsty would be an understatement; the entrance closet, instead of housing shoes and coats, contained a massive pyramid fashioned from empty beer cans. In the kitchen, the current tenants were gathered around a small table, smoking cigarettes and playing cards, with empty Domino’s boxes scattered haphazardly on the floor.

We left feeling confused. Sure, the place was atrocious, we agreed, but did you see those windows? And those hardwood floors? And the double sinks? I’d watched enough house flipping shows to know what a good cleaning job could do, and so we figured that a makeover would render the place liveable. It took many hours, but we succeeded.

In the months that followed, we all began to settle into our new independent lives. We bought our own groceries (and quickly realized how much it would cost to feed ourselves), we argued over whose turn it was to wash the dishes, and we learned to balance part-time jobs and school. It was simultaneously liberating and exhausting. I’m almost certain none of us knew at the time that 2018 would be the best year of our lives.

Our apartment became our one true safe haven, a place where we could escape to when faced with heartbreak, treacherous Canadian snowstorms, or just a bad day at work. Even when we were in our own rooms, we were comforted by the fact that company was right down the hall, just a knock away.

Some of my best memories took place here, from cooking spaghetti together, to lounging on the balcony while listening to The Doors, to night strolls through Maisonneuve Park. Outside of this apartment, we all felt like misfits. And so, in this place, we resembled some sort of odd family, one that wasn’t bound by blood but instead by a shared space.

Saying goodbye. ASHLEY FISH ROBERTSON/The Concordian

Nothing prepared me for the day I bid farewell to my first place. It was an immensely bittersweet experience. I often find myself thinking of my last moments in that apartment. I remember handing over our keys to the landlord and stealing one last glimpse of the empty living room before closing the door behind me. I made sure to sear that image in my mind because, frankly, I was — and still am — terrified of forgetting all the memories that took place there.

On days when I’m not pressed for time, I’ll walk past the apartment building. The curtains are still drawn wide open just as they had been when we lived there, affording prying eyes a glimpse into the modest but welcoming kitchen. If I focus hard enough, I can picture my roommates and I still sitting around the table, each of us discussing our day with one another over plates of spaghetti.

Instead of focusing on the goodbyes, this is how I choose to remember my first year on my own: in the company of two of my favourite people.

Photos by Ashley Fish-Robertson


Hot take: It’s ok to “ghost” people

Before you cancel me, hear me out – ghosting is not that deep

I hear and understand you – ghosting sucks, and it hurts. But I’m here to tell you not to take it personally.

Full disclosure, my intentions are good. I’m not trying to gaslight you or invalidate your feelings. As someone who used to take ghosting really badly, I assure you that it’s not a big deal.

As the term implies, ghosting means to act like a ghost and vanish from someone’s life, abruptly cutting off all communication with a person you’re seeing or dating with zero warning or notice. Oftentimes, when people ghost, they leave the other person on either “delivered” or “seen” on all social media.

On an Instagram poll I created last week asking my followers whether they think ghosting is ok, 54 people voted yes, and 18 people responded it wasn’t.

“People don’t owe you anything. Sometimes getting ghosted is better than having your questions answered,” said 22-year-old Oliver Ocampo.

“I think being okay and used to [being] ghosted builds character and allows you to keep in mind that people are meant to come and go,” Ocampo added.

Some may argue that leaving the person high and dry with no explanation or warning is a lack of maturity. A recurring answer from my followers is the principle of mutual respect.

“It’s not a question of owing people. It’s a question of human decency. Imagine if everyone lived their lives on the basis of ‘I don’t owe them anything.’ The world would be a toxic place,” said Dean Dadidis, a third-year biology major at Concordia University.

I’ve had my fair share of ghosting stories. I’ve been ghosted, and I’ve also ghosted.

I do believe, though, it depends on the context and the person in question. If it’s someone you don’t really know who you’ve gone on a few dates with or occasionally talked to here and there, then I think it’s fine!

From my experience, the people I’ve ghosted were guys I didn’t particularly know well or care enough to reject them formally.

The way I see it, ghosting is still a rejection. I guess it’s a more “subtle” way of letting someone know you’re uninterested.

Personally, I don’t mind either way of rejection, whether it’s the formal message or being left on “read.” Both hurt the same, and I moved on. However, I do understand some people might need closure.

“It depends on the situation, but it’s always best to say something to close the chapter,” said Laura Matheuszik, a student at Dawson College.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re in a situation where you’re being ghosted, take it with a grain of salt.

I agree and stand with Ocampo — honestly, I don’t think it’s that terrible.

Sometimes people have their own issues and can’t be bothered to let the other person know. Others are just not good at confrontation. That’s ok. That’s their problem, not yours. I’ve learned not to let it affect my self esteem or question my self-worth.

Whether or not you agree with my opinion, I hope you understand where us “ghosters” are coming from. Hence, do not let the act of being ghosted affect the way you view yourself!

Now, the question of the hour – should we normalize ghosting?

Graphic by Madeline Schmidt

Part of the wolf pack

A look into one of the only wolfdog sanctuaries in North America

Over March break, I visited Banff, Alberta. During my time there, I went to an interesting place called the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary.

Over the past summer, I had been seeing a lot of friends of mine travel to Banff and it was always at the back of my mind. So, I proposed we go there and Anthony, my boyfriend, was completely on board with the idea.

During my research for activities to do in Banff, I came across the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary visit, a center where you can learn exactly what wolfdogs are and what the sanctuary does. This trip was the first one I’ve ever planned on my own and I wanted to use it as a learning experience.

I was immediately enticed and bought two tickets for our first full day in Banff.

We left for our trip on Feb. 26, and waking up to our first day in Banff the day after was amazing; I was so excited to be there. It was a beautiful sunny day in the Canadian Rockies.

Upon arrival we were greeted by a scenic sanctuary entrance, accented by these huge gates that have outlines of wolfdogs on them. Wolfdogs, in a nutshell, are the result of mixing canine and wolf breeds together.

Alyx Harris, the operations manager at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, explained the sanctuary was started by founder Georgina De Caigny back in 2011. Harris said, “Essentially she got inspiration when she got a wolfdog of her own and she saw how challenging they are.”

According to the Yamnuska website, when De Caigny noticed a rise in wolfdog breeding, she felt the need to make a safe place for the wolfdogs to have a forever home.

In the intro tour, we were introduced to one of the packs. It featured a sibling trio: Grizz, Aspen, and Quinn.

The tour guide began to explain that the packs in the sanctuary are usually composed of two wolfdogs, or three at the most.

“The wolfdogs tend to have a lot of same-sex aggression and territorial behaviors. It is easiest for us to pair a male and a female together. Once we have that male and female pair it is very unlikely that we will have a new member join that pack,” Harris said.

An interesting fact that the tour guide told us was the three different types of wolfdogs that you can find living at the sanctuary.

“When we discuss wolfdogs, we always say it depends on the wolf content. […] So essentially, a low content, a mid content, and a high content wolfdog,”  Harris explained.

What these categories mean in a nutshell is how much wolf there is in a wolfdog. A high content wolfdog has more wolf characteristics than a dog, while a low content wolfdog has a higher percentage of canine characteristics than their higher wolf content counterparts.

After our very informative intro tour, we were free to walk around the sanctuary and visit the different wolfdog enclosures. It got me thinking: where exactly do all of these wolfdogs come from?

“We do have wolfdogs from essentially all around North America. The wolfdogs come from different situations. Most of the time, the owners surrender them, they come from transfers from other organizations, and sometimes cruelty situations like backyard breeding,” said Harris.

According to the International Wolf Center, people that own hybrids [wolfdogs] often have a difficult time caring for them. Due to their genetic composition, it leads to their behavior to be more inconsitent.

Visiting this sanctuary was one of the highlights of my trip and it was very surreal for me while I was there. There was a moment when all the wolves in the sanctuary started to howl and you could hear the howling sweeping through the sanctuary.

With the wolfdogs coming from all kinds of backgrounds, the sanctuary has future goals of becoming a resource for the conservation of wolves in the wild. I recommend visiting the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary if you are in the Cochrane, Alberta area.


Photo by Dalia Nardolillo


Do famous namesakes take the cake?

The varying implications of being named after someone famous

What belongs to you, but everybody else uses it?

Your name of course!

Through your groans from my abominable dad joke, you’ve hopefully started to think about the notions of names and naming, and perhaps how strange it is that you identify and respond to a certain mixture of sounds that your parents chose a little while back.

I’ve always found names fascinating, and I’ve been known to wonder what makes people pick certain ones over others, or how names impact the people they correspond to.

I know why my name was chosen — my first name, Talia, is a name my parents loved and was inspired by my late great-grandmother, Tilly. My middle name, Regan, is a modern take on Regina, my other late great-grandmother’s name. Both were strong and kind women who also happened to be seamstresses (a skill that is not transferable by name, let me and my embarrassing mending jobs tell you…).

My name gives me a legacy to live up to, and it made me wonder how other people feel about theirs if they’ve been named after another person.

In particular, I became curious about those who are named after celebrities or movie characters. Do they feel an urge to measure up to them? Do they become a model for their aspirations? What happens if the celebrities do something wrong?

As usual, I took to my trusty Instagram story to see what I could find.

Liza Shahin is named after Liza Minnelli, the American actress, singer, dancer and choreographer.

“They wanted a name with an L because [of] my great grandmother,” she said of her parents, who wanted to commemorate their late relative. Shahin continued on to say that her mom was the one really set on the name Liza. “She really loves [Minnelli] as an artist, and she loves Cabaret and stuff like that.”

“I would say I know more [about Minelli] than the average person our age because of my name,” Shahin said, noting that about 50 per cent of the time she introduces herself, she gets asked if she was named after the superstar.

Shahin explained that she’s never felt that there was expectation to live up to Minnelli (thankfully, since that would be a pretty tall order), but she loves that she’s named after her.

“Based on performances, she’s kind of bubbly and I can be kind of bubbly,” said Shahin when asked whether they have similar qualities. “But that’s really about it. I don’t think I’m musical, really, and that’s what she’s known for.”

“She has a song called ‘Liza with a “Z”’ and it’s all about how everybody mispronounces her name,” said Shahin. “So that is the most I feel connected to her.”

Liza Minnelli is a pretty safe celebrity to be named after, but Shahin wonders what it would be like to be named after someone more problematic. “I feel like it’s easy to be named after someone, and then, like, they do something bad,” she said.

That being said, she posits that this problem of namesakes and “cancel culture” will probably become more of an issue as we get older and name our children after celebrities, since our generation is the one that tends to do the “cancelling.”

Sam Novack has a middle name straight from the Temple of Doom, and gives some perspective on what it’s like to be named after a fictional character.

If you haven’t already guessed, Novack’s middle name is Indiana, after Indiana Jones, a fictional archaeology professor and the hero of four movies to date.

“He probably just really liked Indiana Jones,” said Novack, referring to his father and explaining that his dad got to choose a “random” name because his mom got to choose one for his sister.

“Growing up, I watched the movies with my dad and we had them all on DVD,” he said. “I really never felt so much of an attachment to it.”

Despite the lack of profound effect from having this awesome middle name, Novack explained that he did “used to really want the same kind of hat as him,” which to me is as profound as it gets.

While Alexa Toguri-Laurin isn’t named after a celebrity, she explained that she does share a name with the Amazon cloud-based voice service, which has brought up similar issues that come from celebrity namesakes.

“Some girls have either funny experiences or really disheartening experiences,” said Toguri-Laurin. “For me, I kind of get annoyed with the joke, but I kind of got used to it.”

Toguri-Laurin stressed that her attitude towards all the Alexa jokes is not the case for everyone. She mentioned a recent BBC article about parents calling on Amazon to change their product’s name because their daughters were being bullied for sharing a name with the voice service.

Amazon so thoughtfully responded by apologizing and informing the public that there are options to change the settings on their products to respond to a different name than Alexa, but that they wouldn’t abolish Alexa entirely.

While there’s no straight formula to choosing a good namesake, it’s safe to say that names are powerful — they have the ability to inspire, commemorate, and even cause pain. Personally, I’d stick to people who have already passed or fictional characters that can’t surprise you with awful actions, but that’s just me. Just please steer clear from politicians — you’ll thank me later.

Graphic by James Fay


Do StudyTok hacks really help?

Too much time on TikTok can actually have productivity benefits


I know I spend too much time on TikTok. I tell myself that it’s mainly for journalistic research, which is at least partially true, considering that this article, as well as many others of mine, are inspired by videos I see while scrolling through my TikTok feed.

While the majority of my For You Page is riddled with Taylor Swift conspiracy theories, cute thrifted outfits, and cool new restaurants to try, a study hack sometimes slips into the mix (maybe that’s the algorithm telling me something…).

Because I have a pretty intense week of schoolwork coming up, I decided that this would be a perfect time to test out some of the tricks that I’ve saved over time and see if they actually work for me.

Textbook heaven

The first one I tried is a true game changer. Maybe I’ve just been living under a rock, but I was completely excited to see that something like this exists. is a free textbook library that gives you easy access to textbooks and research material, which is particularly helpful when the university libraries don’t have what you’re looking for or when you want to save some cash. I was writing a paper and needed a specific book that was already signed out from the university library. To my pleasant surprise, it was on z-lib and I didn’t even have to go in to get a copy!

Too good to be true

The next tip was definitely too good to be true. I saw a TikTok boasting about the “TLDR” Chrome extension that summarizes long readings into bullet points to save time. I have an absurd amount of reading to do this week, so I was stoked to try it.

I probably should have known that it wouldn’t actually work, but I was still quite disappointed when it spewed out gibberish that honestly confused me more than the reading itself. There were two settings: short/concise and detailed/section-wise, but they both came up with the same useless summaries. I also tried with another academic article in case the one I had was the reason it wasn’t working — spoiler alert: it didn’t. I still had to read a million pages on top of the wasted time trying to figure out how to use the extension. Serves me right for believing in things.

Racing to the finish line

I must say that I was very apprehensive about listening to the Mario Kart soundtrack while writing an assignment. Still, I’d seen tons of TikToks claiming that it helps give you a sense of urgency (as if the looming deadlines aren’t enough), so I figured that I needed to be open-minded and give it a try. I also don’t generally listen to music while writing, unless it’s a dark academia classical Spotify playlist to calm myself down when I have tight deadlines. They also help me convince myself I’m much smarter than I actually am.

I was pretty sure that the Mario Kart wouldn’t really have the same effect, but, after listening for a little while, it’s safe to say that working with these tunes was much easier than trying to stay on Rainbow Road. At first, the fast-paced tunes were stressing me out, but after a few minutes, the words were flowing from my hands almost faster than my brain could keep up. My assignment was done within the hour — I highly recommend it.

Tomato timers

Though not an exclusive TikTok hack, I definitely saw some videos preaching the Pomodoro method, which consists of allotting yourself specific amounts of study and break time to increase productivity. The most common time frame is 25 minutes of work to every five-minute break, a pattern that you repeat until you’ve finished your tasks.

I did two cycles of the Pomorodo method and found that it didn’t really work for my way of studying. Setting the timer definitely helped me actually start writing, which is often the most challenging part for me, and I appreciated knowing that I would get a break after 25 minutes. Once the 25 minutes was up, however, I was in a flow state and didn’t want to stop at that moment. For the sake of the article, I continued with the method (you’re welcome), and then took the five-minute break, which definitely didn’t feel long enough. But, I had the same challenges after the second cycle as well.

That’s not to say that the Pomodoro method, or any other study hack mentioned in this article or on TikTok won’t work for you (though if you do figure out the reading summarizer extension PLEASE message me). Everyone has different ways of learning and aspects of doing school work that are more challenging for them — that’s why it’s so important to personalize your habits to what works for you.

Overall, TikTok seems like a great place to look if you’re trying to figure out the best way to get through your schoolwork. Just be weary of “hacks” that are simply too good to be true. And plagiarism. All my homies hate plagiarism. Happy(?) studying!


Visuals by James Fay

To All The Books I’ve Never Read Before

How Bookstagram made me feel ashamed of my reading habits

Did you get into a new hobby during quarantine? Maybe you started something you’ve always wanted to try but never found the time to? Or maybe you dedicated more time to an already existing passion?

Whether you got into a new hobby or not, you’ve definitely seen your friends flock to social media to boast about their new hobbies. And let’s be real, it probably made you feel like shit if you were just trying to survive.

Now I won’t lie, I got really into reading during the first quarantine. With all my newfound time, it was just so easy to pick up a book and finish it in just a couple of days, something I was never able to do before. My new passion also made me discover the reading community community, Bookstagram, BookTube and BookTok. These are all places where people like me could share their love of reading, get recommendations and share our thoughts on our latest read.

I fell for the cute montages and pictures of perfectly-scattered books on beds made up with white sheets, thinking how books were not just about reading, but also about the aesthetics. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the dedication these accounts have for keeping up with their aesthetic because I know my cheap and unstable IKEA bookcase in the corner of my room will never be that pretty.

After following a few accounts on different platforms, I also loved getting recommendations and seeing my TBR (term used in the community to refer to someone’s “To Be Read”) list growing. However, when normal life started again, going back to work and school meant I did not have the same amount of time to dedicate to reading.,Determined to hold onto this new personality trait, as a reader, I made it my mission to not lose the hobby completely.

This is when my love for Bookstagram, BookTube and BookTok accounts turned on its heels. The algorithm started showing me more and more book content that made me feel ashamed that I couldn’t keep up with the creators I was seeing. Posts like, “All the books I read this month” or, “How I managed to read over 100 books last year” made me feel major imposter syndrome. Was I not reading enough to be a part of this community?

Reading for me can be a daunting task. I have trouble focusing, and sometimes need to read one sentence, paragraph or even page, over and over again in order to make sure I understood what I just read.

Being proud of myself for reading a book in one week became an underachievement when I’d open social media and see someone I admire had read three in the same amount of time. I realized the community puts a bigger emphasis on quantity than I originally thought, which made me feel like it didn’t matter what I read, just how much I read. The amount of time I would spend curating my library and TBR to fit my interests and topics I wanted to educate myself on felt like a waste. My 20 books in a year record now looked substandard and like it definitely didn’t necessitate a celebratory Instagram post.

Although I know that this is not the message these Bookstagrammers and BookTubers are pushing, comparison is inevitable. Not meeting the same book count as your favorite content creator makes you feel like you’re not doing it right.

Instead, I’m going to try focusing on what I get out of reading, instead of how many books I read — that is still a challenge. After all, I read a lot of non-fiction books about social issues with challenging and hard to digest content. Why read a lot of books if I cannot take the time to appreciate my growth and learning?

I might not read over 100 books a year, and my bookcase might not be filled with aesthetically pleasing covers, but I would never trade that for what I currently get out of reading.


Graphic by Lily Cowper

How the lack of romantic validation in earlier years has affected my dating life as a young adult

I was never shown any romantic interest, nor did I feel approachable, which explains my deep-rooted psychological issues regarding dating

Growing up, guys never asked me out. No one showed any romantic interest, nor was I ever considered one of the pretty girls in school.

In high school, I spent a lot of my time with the popular and pretty girls group. They were gorgeous, funny and absolutely lovely.

When I think of my high school experience, I instantly remember my days spent at the cafeteria and class with these girls listening about their romantic relationships and talking about boys. The guys were constantly gushing over them and pining over them.

I, on the other hand, did not peak in high school. I’ve also lacked a lot of confidence. I thought I was small, scrawny and wore ugly glasses. I was always on the sidelines. I was the “other friend.”

Within my first few years of high school, I developed several insecurities about myself. I started to think that I didn’t receive the same attention because I wasn’t physically appealing, likable or lovable.

On top of that, being a person of colour who doesn’t fit into western beauty standards made it easier for me to believe I wasn’t appealing to most people.

With this mindset, I sought academic validation instead. I focused on my studies. Getting good grades and being a “nerd” were my only personality traits.

I wasn’t completely opposed to the idea of dating, but I wasn’t actively trying to date someone.  The opportunity never came up. I didn’t date in high school. I didn’t get asked out until a few years ago in CEGEP.

This lack of experience in dating and romantic validation in my earlier years affected my ability to hold romantic relationships as a young adult. I had such deep-rooted psychological issues and insecurities surrounding my appearance that I didn’t know how to act when someone showed a slight interest in me. I still don’t – I think.

During my two years in CEGEP, I tried to put myself out there and explore the dating world, but I blame my insecurities for never going beyond a hookup at the bar.

I eventually became friends with a teammate who showed interest in me. We spent a lot of time together training. He was sweet, and I enjoyed spending time with him.

Yet, once we crossed that bridge from platonic to a romantic relationship, it made me feel incredibly weird. I started to see him differently, and it made me uncomfortable to have someone think of me in any romantic way.

It was a foreign concept to me to think that I could be appealing to some.

I sabotaged that friendship and relationship, because I didn’t know how to approach it.

Since then, I’ve tried even more to put myself out there and be more open-minded about dating, but every time someone gets too close, I don’t know how to act. I’ve questioned myself and wondered if I was asexual. Although I’m a 22-year-old woman who feels uncomfortable thinking about romantic relationships, the answer is no. I’m very much attracted to men and see myself being intimate with them.

A few months ago, I met someone through a friend and didn’t really think it could go anywhere — you know, because of all those issues I listed.

We started seeing each other as friends, and once again, when we crossed the line between platonic and romantic — I didn’t know how to approach it.

He was genuinely a nice guy. It felt nice to feel loved and appreciated. It was refreshing to finally take that next step of accepting that kind of romantic love.

He was someone who cared for me and understood me. Yet, no matter how much I tried, I didn’t feel the same way towards him.

All the built-up insecurities are the reason why I couldn’t hold any sort of relationship with him. I subconsciously appreciated his affection, but it didn’t go beyond that. It wasn’t fair for either of us.

I continuously either sabotage myself or avoid relationship opportunities. Perhaps it’s because I’m still not past my insecurities and can’t be emotionally vulnerable and intimate with someone.

They’re right when people say you need to love yourself before you can love anyone else.


Graphic by Lily Cowper

Student Life

It’s okay to be uncomfortable – confronting our complicity through The Lily Pod

A Concordia podcast that teaches us how vulnerability can connect us to ourselves and each other

Often when I think of Linneah Shanti, I think of all the things that have to do with feeling good. A feeling of good-ness that isn’t attached to something I can hold, no matter how much I adore croissants and cappuccinos. A feeling of good-ness that unwinds from budding empathy, love in bloom. A feeling of good-ness that, like her podcast, would be the worst thing to keep secret.

Originally from Ontario, Shanti is currently based in Montreal and in her third year of Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality at Concordia University. The two of us were introduced during

our first semester at university. A year and a half later, in January 2021, she started The Lily Pod.

The idea had been on her mind for a while before then, morphing itself from a yearning to create something special. What she ended up creating is now a space for learning and exploring, focused on the disentanglement of ideas and quenching curiosities.

When I asked Shanti to try and contain The Lily Pod to a set of defining words, she playfully replied with “Queering the existence of life.”

TC: So where did the name come from?

LS: The initial intention for the name came from my desire for this podcast to be a safe, peaceful, and loving place. I decided to take garden imagery — which for me evokes a sense of calm, safety, serenity, and welcoming. Flowers, water, and greenery have always played a big role in my feelings of belonging and safety, which I wanted the podcast to reflect.

‘Lily’ is [also] a name my partner calls me because it’s an acronym for “Linneah I Love You,” which felt really special given the loving space I wanted to create.

TC: Given that the podcast is something that is both yours and something you share — where does being vulnerable fit into this context?

LS: It fits in with how I and listeners confront our own questions, instincts, and learned ways of thinking about the world. In the process of thinking about and creating the episodes, I’m constantly confronted with how much I want to share and what I really think about something… putting my thoughts into the void can be both really scary but also really liberating.

I get a few messages a week from listeners interpreting what I’ve said in a really personal way, and I find this openness to vulnerability really special. It’s this cool cycle where this vulnerable experience for me is made public, then made personal to someone, and then reflected back to me… we’re all going through it together.

TC: You’ve explored so many topics throughout the last year, from desirability, to the male gaze, to polyamory, to the complexities of gender… Is there one topic that has stuck with you more than the rest? 

LS: I immediately gravitate towards what it means to desire and to be desired in the unique context of our own individual identities… how this intermingles with gender, sexuality, the body, perceptions. What it means to understand our positionality and using this understanding to connect us even if our experiences aren’t identical.

TC: If there’s one episode you recommend to first time listeners, which one would that be? 

LS: The polyamory one! It was the first collaborative episode and was recorded with two beautiful friends. It felt like I was doing something more than just sitting down and recording… and it reflected a lot of different themes from a queer perspective, really encapsulating what The Lily Pod is.

How to listen to The Lily Pod

My favourite place to listen to Shanti’s podcast is in my bedroom, in the midst of my process of getting ready to go somewhere. I often catch myself audibly agreeing with her, or suddenly hyper-focused on a new thought she’s helped me connect with.

Regardless of where I am when I hit play, I’ve found that by the end of each episode I’m always left feeling some type of new.

The Lily Pod is available on Spotify, Buzzsprout, and Apple Podcasts. You can find more of Linneah Shanti @linneahrae and @thelily.pod on Instagram. 

Photos by Catherine Reynolds

Satire: Creative Valentine’s Day gifts guaranteed to impress — even a day late

Who wants flowers anyways?

Your beloved Nivea lip balm is on its last legs. A daily walk to the pharmacy is in the cards for you this morning. You begrudgingly make the trek through the bitter cold to the nearest Pharmaprix (or maybe you’re a Jean Coutu person — this is a choose-your-own adventure, I guess).

As you walk through the aisles, you’re met with semi-bare shelves full of pink everything — from chocolates, to teddies, to flowers. A shiver runs down your spine. Could you have forgotten? You brace yourself as you fish around the old masks in your jacket pocket to find your cell phone. To your dismay, it proudly displays the date as February 15. You’re in deep shit.

At this point, you’re panicking. How can you explain forgetting about THE holiday of love to your significant other? Will this be the end of your relationship? How can you come back from this? (In a blind frenzy, it slips your mind that they too may have forgotten).

Luckily, you won’t have to, since I’ve compiled a list of the four best next-day Valentine’s Day gifts that put chocolate and flowers to shame, and are guaranteed to leave your lover enchanted enough to forget about you forgetting.

Swag socks

I know what you’re thinking, but trust me on this one. While socks might seem like a simple stocking stuffer or a leftover Christmas present, you can repurpose them with the help of a sweet pun. By gifting your boo a pair of socks with a card reading “you knock my socks off,” you’ll not only make them a free elf but also warm their heart (and their feet).

Bonus points if they have cartoons of an animal that your special someone has mentioned finding cute once. It’s almost effortless, but foolproof.

Relationship self-help book

Is your person an avid reader? This is the perfect gift for them. Instead of finding the latest silly fiction, expand their horizons with something more personal and refined. A relationship self-help book is a genius way to satisfy their paper craving while setting yourself up for an even healthier connection. Regardless of whether or not your relationship is going smoothly, it’s always good to have tools in case it goes sour. Extra credit if it’s called “It’s Not You, It’s Me,” highlighting that you also have stuff to work on. It’s incredibly thoughtful — there’s absolutely no way your partner could get the wrong idea.

Skydiving tickets

This one is pretty self-explanatory. What says “I love you” like being strapped to a stranger and falling from the sky out of a plane? This is also a pricey gift, which certainly helps with the lateness of the delivery. Everyone knows that expensiveness has a direct correlation to how much you care.

A will to live

This is probably the hardest to acquire — you won’t find one lying on the shelves of the pharmacy. To find a will to live, you’ll have to search far and wide, or maybe even embark on a quest. However, if you do manage to get one, this is the gift to end all gifts. If you succeed, please let me know. We might be able to get a two-for-one deal.

With any of these items, you should have no trouble saving your Valentine’s Day.

You’re welcome.

And if for some reason, these ideas don’t work for you, you can always go for an apology or a heartfelt card, but that’s kind of basic.

Graphic by Madeline Schmidt

Exit mobile version