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March 28, 2012

Julie Wilson and Seen Reading: The Book

Five years ago, I linked to a new books site called Seen Reading whose premise was entrancing, and the site was the way I first heard of Julie Wilson, the way that so many of us did. Connecting the wondrous delights of reading and public transit, Julie was peering between your covers on the subway, and then imagining what you’d next get up to. The blog was fascinating, to have it affirmed that the book was indeed much alive, and also so celebrated, and, yes, of course, to find out what everybody was reading. And I kept hoping that one day Julie Wilson would see me.

When she did, however, it was not on the subway, but at The Scream in High Park in 2008, and I offered her an avocado scone from my picnic basket. I liked her immediately. And naturally, because she’s Julie Wilson, what she’d been talking about that night was new projects she was up to, and not long after that, I emailed her to see if I could be a part of it.

Here is the most important thing about Julie Wilson: she said YES! What Julie does better than anybody else is give you this sense that there’s something going on, and that you want to join in. And that she wants you to join in too, even if you’re a curious little person with a rash on her neck whose email began, “Hey, remember me? I gave you a scone once?” (Note: the rash cleared up not long after.)

At the time, she was beginning to record readers reading for her Seen Reading site, and we met one afternoon at the Toronto Reference Library, its fountains splashing in the background as I read a passage from Carol Shields’ Unless. I encountered her next at the launch for Rebecca Rosenblum’s short story collection Once, and she recorded me reading a passage from that book in an echoey bathroom, both us perched on the edge of a tub. She had to show me how to say “ennui”.

And I tell you all this not necessarily to name-drop and emphasize my closeness with Julie (because if I was going to do that, I’d probably tell you that in the years since, Julie has eaten bacon in my kitchen, had my daughter fall in love with her, that we’re in the same Book Club, and that we’re partners in crime at 49thShelf. We’ve come a long, long way since my rash cleared up), but rather to make that point that so many of us have had our Julie Wilson moments. She fosters connection, her enthuasiasm is contagious, she wants you to be part of whatever game she’s playing, and she (and her projects) have sold so many books. It is a privilege to know her.

And now this Madam of all things bookish online has a book of her own, and it’s gorgeous. Imagine the force of Julie Wilson meets KissCut Design and Freehand Books indeed, and in fact you don’t even have to imagine: this is a book you can hold in your hand. Julie has gone back to her roots to translate the original Seen Reading into print, bookish transit sightings coupled with her microfictional riffs. And because this is Julie, she couldn’t leave it at that. Her revamped website includes links to a reading guide, events, an online community of literary voyeurs, and more.

“This space will change often because Julie can’t make up her minds” is a line from her site, and thank goodness. The literary world is richer for it.

One thought on “Julie Wilson and Seen Reading: The Book”

  1. Julie Wilson says:

    This is just so lovely, Kerry. Thank you!

    I remember that scone. I seem to recall I may have at first been taken aback by the colour. But I’m all but certain that for the next year I always mentioned you both in the same breath: Kerry Clare and her Avocado Scone.

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