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.

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.

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.)