Will It Stick?

Here are some my favourite, famous/infamous past Will It Stick? projects.


DJ Book Madam started out as nothing more than a desire to keep my fellow publishing cohorts company every Friday morning during the summer season by streaming thematic playlists each Friday morning. I posted the channel to Twitter and Facebook, and soon others jumped on the bandwagon to request songs using the hashtag #djbookmadam. Before long, the average “show” ran anywhere from 1-2 hours.

Frequency: weekly
Lifetime: many months
Interest level: high
Niche group: music lovers
Biggest challenge: maintenance (only so many hours in the day)

If Pets Had Author Photos

I like to take pictures of my cat. On occasion, he strikes a pose as if sitting for an author photo, something about the way he cocks his head or places his paws. Other times, it was something about the lighting or scene that might remind me of The Obscured Ageless Author Photo, or The “I Was Up Too Late at an Appearance but Promised to Sit for an Interview with a Local Newspaper” Photo. Or, The Hands Under Chin Author Photo. Or, The Only Author Photo Said Author Will Ever, Ever, Ever Use because It Can’t Get Any Better Than This Photo.

Frequency: one-time batch post of six images
Lifetime: one-time batch post of six images
Interest level: very high
Niche group: animal lovers
Biggest challenge: new contributors

Writers Reading Recipes

Food writing is a craft unto itself. Food is a craft unto itself. Recipes can read like poetry. Writers like to characterize text. Add ‘em up, and you have Writers Reading Recipes. The results were charming, hilarious and always mouth-watering.

Contributors to Writers Reading Recipes included:

Brian Francis
Kristen Den Hartog
Alison Pick
Trevor Cole
Iain Reid
Teri Vlassopoulos
Sarah Leavitt
Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer
Kim Moritsugu
Darcie Friesen Hossack

Frequency: weekly
Lifetime: six weeks
Interest level: very high
Niche group: foodies and writers
Biggest challenge: new contributors

Reliable Experts

Reliable Experts was a short-lived but deeply-loved short essay series in which authors talked about topics they’d unwittingly become experts in as the result of having done research for a book. It was up to the reader to determine if the information was factually reliable or otherwise. It stemmed from an interview I saw when Matt Damon appeared on The Oprah Winfrey show around the premiere of The Talented Mr. Ripley. Oprah congratulated Damon on transforming himself into an accomplished pianist for the film, to which he responded that he’d only learned one piece of music for a scene.

Contributions to Reliable Experts included:

Claire Cameron on line painting (The Line Painter)
Carolyn Black on disavowing expertise (The Odious Child)
Julie Booker on gummy bear sex (Up, Up, Up)

Frequency: weekly
Lifetime: three weeks
Interest level: medium
Niche group: armchair academics
Biggest challenge: new contributors

Julie Wilson on CBC’s All in a Weekend

Sockibus microphonicus: All in a Weekend (CBC), April 14, 2012.

I had a lovely conversation with Sonali Karnick for today’s episode of All in a Weekend (CBC). The piece runs about 9 minutes, so hit the loo and grab a cuppa. Listen at CBC.ca.

I’m in Quebec City for the ImagiNation Writers’ Festival to promote Seen Reading and to talk about publishing as art, commerce — and one heck of a long slog — alongside Miguel Syjuco.

My time here has been spent buying more books than food, marveling at the architecture, double-fisting croissants and facing the harsh reality that eight years of French studies has all but been forgotten.

Tiny doughnuts from Les Delices de l'Erable, Old Quebec.

Tiny doughnuts from Les Delices de l'Erable, Old Quebec.

One item of note:

I’d just like to put down somewhere that I didn’t get the tiny, microwaved doughnuts drowned in maple syrup at Les Delices de l’Erable (.75/doughnut for four) because I’m a tourist; I just can’t pass up a tiny doughnut. They’re like little orphans. They feel loved in my belly!

Look at the sunny, happy, tiny doughnuts — the tiny, cakey doughnuts that took a full twenty-four hours to fully expire. Other things in my belly include salami, dried mango and wheat beer. Wait, I had some almonds! Unsalted! Tragedy avoided.

Seen Reading archives put out to pasture

Whether you’ve been a fan of Seen Reading since its inception or have only just arrived — Hello! — you have every right to ask the obvious: Where are the original sightings gathered over the course of the project?

First, let me say that I’m in the process of creating an archive of my favourite Top 20 reader sightings from the past five years using a complex algorithm: “Oh, I quite like this one!” said twenty times only, followed by a long period in which I sit on my hands and tell myself it will be OK, the remaining 750+ sightings will go to a nice farm with all the other tiny outcast fictions.

To explain, Seen Reading was always meant to be a creative writing exercise with supplementary materials: readers sightings and book buying habits. I surely didn’t know I would update 4-5 times a week, nor that the project would run on a fairly uninterrupted schedule for close to four years with the occasional hiatus in year five. At some point along the way, a friend asked me why I didn’t consider my own contribution to each post — the microfiction/poetic prose/found poetry — actual writing, while a short story writer/novelist/poet would most certainly consider close to 80,000 words an act of legitimate writing. My response was always the same, that I wasn’t writing with the foreknowledge of how that writing would ever be received beyond the moment in which it was published on the blog.

Thankfully, my agent, Samantha Haywood, and Freehand’s then fiction editor, Robyn Read, saw differently. We affectionately referred to the early manuscript as “embryonic.” There was life, but what kind? Robyn entered into a six month hand shake in which she played around with the ordering of the pieces, getting them down to around 100 entries. Then we organized them into suites/chapters based around the theme of transience. Each section plays with a different definition of the term. (This isn’t obviously stated in the book. It’s just an artsy-fart shorthand between me and Robyn.)

What resulted was the kind of distance a writer always hopes for, the moment in which they cease to recognize every word on the page and see it anew. At that point, the original posts began to feel more like research, a rough draft — juvenilia: the childhood photo albums your parents bring out just as you’re headed off to the prom, in particular the album in which your headgear is prominently displayed along with the last year you went without a training bra.

There was also the risk that I as the writer would give in to my compulsion to compare and contrast the end result with what came first; and, while I have a healthy ego, there are some original entries that not even a mother could love.

Finally, I’m lucky beyond my wildest dreams to have a most gorgeous and thoughtfully-constructed book, in both print and ebook.That’s the visual I want you to hold in your minds and hands.

Seen Reading bench presses the Hotel Clarendon coffee maker in Vieux-Quebec.

Or, put another way, Ryan Gosling has always been a cutie. But now he’s smokin’. The original Seen Reading entries are to the finished book what Breaker High Ryan Gosling is to Drive Ryan Gosling. That’s right, I just said my book is hot with its shirt off, the guts of which would put Ryan Gosling’s abs to shame. (I take that back, Ryan Gosling. You’re just lovely.)

Seen Reading on CBC’s Metro Morning

Tune into CBC’s “Metro Morning,” Monday, April 2 to hear my interview with host Matt Galloway.

Matt interviewed me for “Here and Now” only a month after Seen Reading began as a blog and has been a kind supporter ever since.

And, I have to say, I really do love a good mic sock. So soft and cushiony; just like talking into a Twinkie.


Seen Reading’s 1%

Before I got into publishing—before I even knew there was such a thing as a career in publishing—I knew a surgeon. One day, she asked me about my passions. What was my vocation?  I’d been in a rut. From editor to ad sales rep to photographer to lady of leisure, I was struggling to find work that would both sustain and satisfy me.

“You have the 1%.” The 1%? “The 1% to accomplish something unique.”

That’s awfully nice, I thought.

“The thing is,” she continued, “you can’t access the 1% until you’ve established a solid work ethic: that’s the other 99%.”

“Is that all,” I joked.

But it stuck with me, and, along with this advice and the support of family and friends, I went back to school and graduated from a creative publishing program that got me in the door and vying for an internship at House of Anansi Press. I got the internship and enjoyed three years with the press until leaving to pursue other ventures.

I can still see Sarah MacLachlan standing just to the right of my desk. I’d been on the job for no more than a month, I’d say. I’d just told her that I’d seen someone reading Bill Gaston’s short story collection, Gargoyles. I had an idea for a blog that would report what people had been seen reading. Did she like it? “Do it,” she said. And because I trusted her instinct for recognizing cultural ideas that also generate marketing buzz, I did it. Once. Maybe two or three times more. Enough that George Murray eagerly reported on Book Ninja that Seen Reading was a daily project. An email came, then a phone call, and a few days later I was staring around a mic sock at CBC’s Matt Galloway swearing up and down that, no, I wasn’t going to publish a blog-to-book. Never. Nope. I left the studio, to emerge onto the street with one thought: F*ck me, now I  have to stick this.

What I would average is about 43% later, Seen Reading has evolved numerous times to include podcasts, guest posts, a Twitter hashtag (#seenreading) and, to come shortly, an all-welcome community in which readers can cruise for their next read and possibly one another. (I also go by The Book Madam, so it should come as no surprise that I want you all to get to know each other a bit better.)

There are still days, though, when that elusive 1% seems so far away.

Then a week comes along like this past one, and I realize that my surgeon friend wasn’t wrong, per se, but she doesn’t work in publishing. Because in publishing, so help us, if we think someone might have a shot at really getting it done, we’re all in. My 1%, I now know, is made up of you. You’re everywhere, and I think it’s why I knew the book had to be dedicated: For You.

I’d like to highlight three such people, publishing professionals and/or fans who under their own steam are doing incredible things to get the word out about Seen Reading pre-publication.

Steph, over at Bella’s Bookshelves, received an advance copy of the book. She immediately posed for a self-portrait. How adorable is this?

Read her full post and you’ll value, as I did, just how much she gets Seen Reading. “WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?” she yells. “It’s this question Julie asks and imagines the answers to, and it’s this question that also makes us want to connect with the people we see investing their time in a book . . . an urge to connect with someone we feel an instant, albeit it perhaps fleeting commonality. . . . [C]ar owners, motorcyclists, too, feel it . . . it’s all about a sense of validation, of fitting in, of belonging. A meeting of passions.”

Her enthusiasm caught the eye of Mark Leslie Lefebvre—writer, editor, past bookseller and, to their great benefit, Kobo’s Director Self-Publishing & Author Relations—who immediately took Steph’s photo and pinned it to a Pinterest board he named “Seen Holding Seen Reading.” My plan is to take a picture of myself reading Seen Reading in facing mirrors so I’m also spying on myself as I read Seen Reading, to infinity and beyond.

All your meta are belong to us.

On that Pinterest board you’ll meet the third person I want to introduce you to, Ashley Winnington-Ball, a jeweller and uber reader. She’s also one of my closest friends, someone whose passion includes helping others pursue their own.

So, what did Ashley do? Oh, you know. Just got in touch with my publisher and basically said she was going to hand sell the sh*t out of this book, so could they strike a deal? They did, and should you ever have the good fortune to bump into “Ace,” you will be buying a copy of my book. She’s good at this kind of thing. She calls me, you know. We have Seen Reading sessions. She has a private Facebook event page to which she invites people she thinks should buy my book. “You should buy this book,” is probably the full extent of her pitch. She might even say, “What’s wrong with you? Look at this book. It’s beautiful. You have something against beautiful books?” You won’t be able to disagree.

All to say, with 1% like these, who needs the other 99%?! Am I right? Or, am I right?!

What? Still not off the hook?


Thanks for reading. Be seeing you.

Freehand Books and HarperCollins Canada announce simultaneous April 1st publication of Seen Reading by Julie Wilson

For immediate release:

February 25, 2012

Freehand Books and HarperCollins Canada announced today the simultaneous April 1 publication of Seen Reading by Julie Wilson. Freehand Books acquired Canadian English print rights to the title over a year ago. HarperCollins Canada acquired Canadian English digital rights this month.

“I believe this could be a first for Canadian publishing,” says Samantha Haywood, who arranged both deals on behalf of Transatlantic Literary Agency. “It is certainly a first for me as an agent. It just goes to show that when the industry works in the best interests of the project, everyone walks away happy. The partnership makes good business sense for all involved.”

Seen Reading is the exciting debut collection of microfictions from Canada’s pre-eminent literary voyeur, Julie Wilson. Based on the beloved online movement of the same name, Seen Reading collects more than a hundred stories inspired by sightings of people reading on Toronto transit, each reader re-invented in a poetic piece of short fiction.

“Everyone at Freehand was so excited when we found out about this project,” says Sarah Ivany, Freehand’s Managing Editor. “We were all fans of the Seen Reading online movement, which is such a fresh and creative concept. However, we didn’t want to rush the book to print—we believed that this collection had the potential to be so much more than a facsimile of a pre-existing blog. Julie, editor Robyn Read, and designer Natalie Olsen (Kisscut Design) have all put an extraordinary amount of work into this book, and I am delighted with the results. Julie’s known for being a creative force within the publishing industry, but she’s also a really beautiful writer, and I can’t wait for people to get their hands on this collection.”

“The unique nature of this project is a clear fit for the direction HarperCollins Canada is taking with our digital publishing program,” said Deanna McFadden, Associate Director of Digital Product Development at HarperCollins Canada.

Wilson has been working closely with Read and Olsen to ensure that the transition from new media to literature is a smooth one, to come full circle with a new online community to be launched in conjunction with the book’s release, April 1. Freehand Books has contracted Ziegler, Mitchell, and Associates to redesign and expand the Seen Reading website (www.seenreading.com). The new site will feature a blog, reading guides, a newsletter, and interactive forums where people can log their own reader sightings and connect with like-minded literary fans.

“My own love of reading includes curiosity about what others are reading, and how they came to those books,” says Vicki Ziegler, web/online/social media manager for the Griffin Poetry Prize. “My team is now helping to extend the online presence of a venture that celebrates that curiosity, with the extraordinary Julie Wilson no less. That’s bookish nirvana.”

For her role as both creator and author, Wilson is thrilled with the evolution of Seen Reading from blog to book to online community, and the opportunity this unique publishing partnership brings to the table. “I love Seen Reading dearly, and the love-in continues with the tremendous support of Freehand Books and HarperCollins Canada. Over the years, I’ve considered self-publishing, but just like the web of friends you call when you start dating someone new, you benefit from some distance, along with a variety of opinions and perspective. I simply don’t want to do this alone, because nothing about Seen Reading is intended to point to a solo identity beyond casting myself as The Literary Voyeur. Too many people feed into it, from writers to publishers to booksellers, librarians and, of course, the reader. That more than one publisher should help spread the word speaks to the true nature of Seen Reading.”


To request a review copy, or to arrange interviews, please contact Sarah Ivany at 403-452-5662 or via email at sivany@broadviewpress.com.

For more information about the ebook, please contact Rob Firing, Director, Publicity and Communications at HarperCollins Canada at 416-975-9334 x141 or via email at rob.firing@harpercollins.com.