Julie Wilson 2009 in Review: Conversation, Community, and Output

Guest blogger Julie Wilson aka The Book Madam aka Seen Reading’s Literary-Voyeur-in-Chief aka the co-founder of the Advent Book Blog may or may not have invented the word smitten. It’s a really, really good word.

On the road of publishing there are few vehicles, and even fewer drivers. The Humvees take up multiple lanes, while others hug the shoulders and pray they won’t get tossed over a high bridge on a windy day. But when I look back on 2009, it was the year that any publishing professional was given the chance to stick their head out the window and let their tongues wag, Twitter as our very own slobber trap. People who had previously never seen the inside of a folding-wall convention centre were suddenly following alongside paid attendants who diligently tweeted and retweeted every word coming out of anyone’s mouth, heard or hearsay. The gates were opened. Students, self-identified publishing professionals, entry level publishing professionals, readers, consultants, and online curators/experts/critics were talking about publishing as a verb, not just an industry. Who publish? What publish? Why publish? Where publish? And How? That was the first third of 2009.

The second third of 2009 was a lot of chatter, us getting used to the sound of our own voices, playing catch up with the industry’s response/nonresponse to anything that blew up in our faces like a rogue leaf in the breeze. I sincerely began to worry that my choice in ereader would put my professional reputation, if not my very soul, in immediate peril. I started talking less about books, and more about my cat. I also left my job at House of Anansi to become a first-time author, working away on a book that, thank the lard, has a built-in audience. Sitting recently with an editor, we purposefully placed our palms on the table at the absolute idiocy of an industry that, like, just puts make-believe stories into the world and then bases its bottom line, and the security of its employees, on a freakin’ tiger on a raft. Then we “Cheers’d” one another and ordered the next round, as if to say, “Henh, but what else would we do?” (As unique a bunch of coconuts we are, what else could we do?)

The third part of 2009, thank an even bigger lard, became about actual conversation, actual community, and actual output. At Book Camp Vancouver, there was a refreshing absence of tweets, replaced by a “You kind of have to be here to believe it” vibe. (And if you live in a city hosting a Book Camp, or can get to one, do it. It’s free. If you work in publishing, you’d be remiss not to come listen, if not contribute.) Sean Cranbury and I clocked heads to create The Advent Book Blog, just to show people we could. And, most important, to provide a place for publishing professionals to fly their freak flags as readers, and to include bloggers, once and for all, into the fold as content creators, not just a supplementary marketing initiative.

2010 is the year of collaboration. More projects that curate online and offline spaces that bring the industry together, first and foremost, as readers. Book Madam will toss her hat into the events ring, creating places where readers, publishers, booksellers, and authors can meet each other face-to-face and offstage. Old school celebration and conversation, live and in person. I think Facebook calls this a “Mixer.”