Trauma at the Hands of a Paperback

Does anyone know the source for this quote? (Until someone says otherwise, this looks to be the best bet.)

It all but perfectly describes the sighting that started Seen Reading almost six years ago now. The initial Seen Reading sighting was a woman at The Old Nick (Toronto), reading A Complicated Kindness, by Miriam Toews, so distraught as she neared the end of the book that she actually stroked the page, stood up, and left, announcing that she had to be somewhere else when the time came to say goodbye to the protagonist.

You know that feeling.

Warm Hearts of Africa and Books with Wings Fundraiser

There are causes you support because the cause is great.

There are causes you support because the people behind the cause are just as great.

Warm Hearts of Africa/Books With Wings: A Social Event With a Social Conscience

Thursday, June 14th, 2012
6:00 p.m.
The Thirty Bar
30 Carlton St,
$25 per ticket/$45 per couple includes live band food, and silent auction.

Tickets can purchased by clicking here.

Warm Hearts of Africa is a charitable movement founded by Michael Gregson and Matthew Steele, two friends and colleagues who undertook short term humanitarian missions in Malawi, assisting an HIV/AIDS volunteer organization. Upon returning to Canada in August of 06, after their first stint, they felt the need to empower those with whom they have worked. From these humble beginnings, the movement was set in motion across the country. Through goals of small business development, improvement in education and the strengthening of health care, we help Malawians help themselves.

Books with Wings sends new children’s books to First Nations children ages 3-9 living in remote communities in both northern BC and Manitoba. Books With Wings is a Toronto not-for-profit organization which provides brand new, quality picture books to First Nations children who reside in isolated Canadian communities. The organization consists of five dedicated volunteers who are driven by the belief that literacy, education and equal opportunity are critical elements in the transformation of the lives of our First Nations children. Books With Wings thus aims to encourage early literacy skills in children who do not have access to books of their own. We also seek to educate our book donors on the existing literacy-related challenges that affect our First Nations. We choose only literature which inspires curiosity, creativity and a love of reading. Ultimately, our goal is to befriend a young child and to help give him or her a brighter future through the written word.

Visit Warm Hearts of Africa and Books with Wings for more information about each organization.

From the site:

Join us for this year’s joint Warm Hearts of Africa/Books With Wings fundraising party and help us improve the lives of children in Malawi and of First Nations children living in Canada.

Featuring prominent Toronto musician, Ayron Mortley, complimentary hors d’oeuvres, and a silent auction with a selection of unique items to suit every taste and budget.

Come out for a great night with great people and give children the chance at an education!

Kobo and Seen Reading Surprise Commuters

I partnered with Kobo to get up to some fun with Toronto commuters, but you’ll have to wait to see just how much fun in a soon-to-be released video. Until then, see the below teaser of a street team production made in partnership with my ebook publisher HarperCollins.

What did we get up to? Let’s just say, we made a whack of readers very, very happy.

And I wore a form-fitting pink T-shirt.

Thanks, Kobo, for accentuating some of my finer features: tiny stories and even bigger, well, you’ll see. (Form-fitting pink T-shirt.)

For more happy times, buy Seen Reading before June 3, 2012 and receive $2 off!

Profile of Seen Reading at Toronto Standard

Last week, I texted Emily Keeler of Toronto Standard to say that I was early for our meeting and sitting on a patio just down the street from the cafe she’d suggested. Would she, on such a sunny day, mind if we tipped pints instead of lattes?

That went on for awhile, which led to this gem of a soundbite about my process. In my defense, I was asked if there’s an erotic charge to literary voyeurism.

Julie Wilson: Like if I were to see you, I would almost take in an image of your physicality and just blank out everything and hold onto a few key features, and if I could see the title of the book I might only remember one key word and maybe the last name of the author. That would be it. And then I would immediately jump on a computer or my phone and all of the pieces would fit in. I don’t know that I get an erotic charge out of it necessarily, but I like the idea that when I de-board a vehicle that I am walking away with the tools to rebuild a person into something that suits my needs. So what do you want to call that? The blow up doll of literature? A robotic playmate?

[TS laughs]

JW: No, it’s not, it’s really not. I don’t have a crush on all of the readers.

TS: Just some of them, right?

JW: Just some of them.

Read the whole piece — Text/Book: Narrative Impulses: An interview with Julie Wilson, the Book Madam and literary voyeur extraordinaire — at Toronto Standard.

And thank you to the writer, Emily Keeler, for being such a smart and entertaining profiler. I’ll never be allowed to leave the country again.

Review of Seen Reading at The 39 Pages

Thank you to The 39 Pages for this lovely review of Seen Reading and for enjoying the thrill of microfiction: big feeling revealed in few words.

Just like the subway is deceptively simple, these stories show the complexity of relationships. They also explore the growing pains of youth, and the humor that can be found in life when you least expect it. One would think you’d need a novel to make your heart ache, but these stories achieve it with such minimal language, that it is a feat to be proud of.

Read the full review here.

The Globe and Mail reviews Seen Reading

The Globe and Mail has reviewed Seen Reading and I couldn’t be happier.

In her review, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer offers the reader a template for the many ways to enjoy this book and the possibilities it holds. She does me a great kindness and a huge service. It’s a conceptual book; I appreciated her care and joy for the project.

From the review “Daring acts of voyeurism”:

I read [Seen Reading] as an act of voyeurism, in the spirit of its inception. Wilson writes in the prologue: “I am a literary voyeur.” That sentence fascinated me.

We are not given specifics on where each Toronto Transit Commission rider was spotted. In fact, we are not given much of anything specific. We are given imagined fleeting moments in the lives of these readers/riders, some of which, in fewer words than ought to be possible, accumulate to startling emotional breadth. We are given the tangible pressing up to the intangible. We know we saw this male Asian reader, reading this book, and we imagine this narrative for him.

But wait. We have neither seen nor imagined any of these things. What we have seen is Julie Wilson seeing, and so at one remove we are a kind of infinite-regress voyeur. We are reading! And for the voyeur, reading is the ultimate safe act. It’s a neat little trick.

Read the full review here.

New series asks indie booksellers: What’s Selling?

With the news that another indie bookstore is closing — Peterborough’s Titles Bookstore — a reader’s heart breaks. It’s not just the loss of yet another bookstore, but a long term conversation between booksellers, readers, publishers and writers that, in this case, extended almost twenty-five years. (Until the end of May 2012.)

When I was a publicist, I was taught to respect and revere the independent bookseller. There are accounts and there are relationships. Accounts push product. Relationships fuel our industry.

To be clear, every bookstore closure is the loss of an integral relationship. We all suffer.

And if it’s true that the average reader needs to hear about a book seven-eleven times before picking it up, we need this level of care for always, not just more than ever.

Indie booksellers, put plainly, are a reader’s/writer’s/publisher’s “man on the ground”.

They use to perform the same function for the media.

Did you know that before BookNet Canada started gathering sales data, and bookstores started volunteering sales data, the average bestseller list was curated via phone calls and emails? Editors would touch base with booksellers to ask, “What’s selling?” Not the truest  data, but let’s focus on the conversation, because it’s a nice one to think about.

The Globe and Mail: “Where’s the number for [insert indie bookseller here] . . . Never mind! I got it!” *ring* *ring*
Bookseller: “Hello?”
The Globe and Mail: “‘sup? What’s sellin’?”
Bookseller: “Hey! I’ve been waiting for your call, ’cause, you know, [insert season or reason here] must be in the air, because we just cannot keep [insert title here] on the shelves. It’s really quite remarkable! Selling like hotcakes, like crocheted doilies at a church bazaar, like Slushies in Hell—”
The Globe and Mail: “Got it.”

So. I’m placing the call.

Starting Tuesday, May 1 at 2 p.m. ET, I’ll have a weekly chat on Twitter with an indie bookseller to ask: “What’s selling?”

Other questions will include some or all of the following:

“What’s a comparable title?”
“Do you have any events coming up you’d like the kids to know about?”
“What’s good supplementary reading for Fifty Shades of Grey?”
“I’m heading into the desert on a horse with no name. Quick, what book should I bring?”

We’re using the hashtag #indiebooksellers. Join the conversation!

The first indie up is Words Worth Books in Waterloo.
Visit them online here.
Walk into their store and buy something here.
Follow them on Twitter here: @bookswordsworth

As always, you can find me at @bookmadam and @seenreading. If you’re an indie bookstore on Twitter and would like to chat, contact me.

See you Tuesday! #indiebooksellers

Seen Reading’s Missed Connections

I’ve started a project called Will It Stick? To learn more about it, and past/present contenders for my first $1,000,000, read this introductory post.

To recap, each round of Will It Stick? gives me SIX posts to draft out an idea. At the end of six posts, we sit back and ask, Will It Stick? A “No” results in me archiving the idea for future consideration. A “Yes” results in me putting the idea into more serious development, here, or elsewhere with a partner.

Some ideas will present themselves all but fully-formed, only to reveal a shocking omission that presents an insurmountable challenge. (Defeatist.)

Other ideas will appear as a stream-of-consciousness ramble, out of which one tiny element will reveal itself as the answer to all our hopes and dreams. (Optimist.)

Most ideas will flatline until revived, possibly by someone other than me. (Frustrated Optimist.)

The Idea: Seen Reading’s Missed Connections

The first candidate in this inaugural round of Will It Stick? is something I’d like to call “Seen Reading’s Missed Connections,” something that combines two things that turn my crank as both Voyeur and Madam: an online tally of what people are reading and where + flirty excuses to talk to people about the books they’re reading.

If you’re familiar with the idea of the “Missed Connection,” born in the back pages of free weekly newspapers around the world, the premise is simple. It looks something like this.

You. Ezra’s Pound. Sitting on patio. Red scarf. Me. On bike. Asked where I could find the nearest ATM.

But what if the same message included a few more details?

You. Ezra’s Pound. Sitting on patio. Red scarf. Reading The Juliet Stories by Carrie Snyder. Me. On bike. Asked where I could find the nearest ATM. (Love Snyder’s short stories. Have you read Hair Hat?)

The Rough Draft:

Create an online hub where visitors can create a profile (to include reading interests) and post their sightings/missed connections. If someone responds, they get an alert. They can also opt to let others contact them based on their reading interests. Conversations begin. Maybe a book club is formed. Maybe a few crazy kids find love in the stacks. Publishers have a new way to track how and when their books are being read. (Less creepy data-mining than happy, useful encounters.) An author learns their book was “seen,” and it makes their day.

The Challenges/Opportunities:

How to organize the site?
What does it look like?
Is it a cheap and cheerful Craig’s List-like interface?
How to make it global?
How to moderate the site?
How to monetize the site?
Should publishers and booksellers be allowed to play? If so, how?

That’s where the idea starts. I have five more posts before we ask . . . Will It Stick?

Chirp in with your thoughts!

Next post: Branding. Once an image is attached to an idea, how much does it influence your opinion? I’ll toss up some pictures to see which ones draw you in, and which ones send you running for the hills.

Seen Reading brings the heat to Pongapalooza

May 8th, 2012 is the first annual Pongapalooza event, a ping pong tournament at SPiN Toronto in support of First Book Canada, an organization that brings awareness to low literacy rates in Canada and gets new books to children in need.

I’ve been asked to participate as an honorary team captain for Pongapalooza. Or, as it’s become affectionately known to me, Pongadongadingdong, because I never spell it right the first time.

First Book Canada stats to blow your mind:

  • 90 million books have been donated to date;
  • 35,000 books donated each day;
  • More than 29 million children across Canada and the United States live in low-income households. Most of these children have no age-appropriate books at home, and the classrooms and programs they attend are woefully under-resourced. Approximately two-thirds of these schools and programs cannot afford to buy books at retail prices.

While I’m thrilled to participate in Pongapingdongdongarama, I won’t lie, I’m somewhat relieved that I won’t actually be playing. It’s not because I don’t have a wicked wrist—I do. I played racquetball off a painted brick ball at the local “Y” as a child, so there’s nothing you can’t toss at me that I can’t toss back. (I toppled my water just as I wrote that and may have fried my laptop.) And, yes, it’s true, I did once break a girl’s nose with a shuttlecock off my badminton overhead shot. But . . . yesss . . . it’s plausible that I’ve been reprimanded a few times — maybe more — for foul language when my ball hits the tin on the squash court.* It’s probably for the best that I simply scream encouragement from the sidelines.

*While the above is true, so is the fact that I’ve won some version of “The Good Sport Award” in all things sporting and leisurely. We’re going to have a great time! You should come watch!

I mean, check out the gallery of honorary captains. We’re a hot lot! Get your spectator tickets and check us out. They’re only $25! Buy them here.