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.
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.)