On Wednesday, July 15, writers, editors and publishers gathered at the Dora Keogh Irish Pub in downtown Toronto in order to celebrate the launch of Lexical.ca. They mingled — shaking hands and swapping conversation as well as business cards — and when Justin Lauzon, the founder and operator of the site, took to the stage they applauded him, much to his surprise. Apparently, when he was approached with the idea of a holding the event his initial response was, “Who the hell would want to come to the launch party for a website?”
Lexical.ca is a comprehensive resource containing extensive listings and detailed profiles of Canadian writing programs, literary agents, grants, literary magazines, publishers and presses. It’s also an avenue through which authors can promote books, magazines can issue calls for submissions and publishers can promote events.
In a sense, Lexical.ca is a much needed hub for Canadian writers, editors and publishers; a place where they can efficiently exchange information about all things associated with literature. As you can imagine, running such a site is not an easy task. Similar to those who attended the launch party, the Lexical team is driven by their passion for the written word.
Over the last week, Justin Lauzon and I have been exchanging messages about Lexical.ca, the launch and how he managed to transform a bright idea into a reality. Read our correspondence below.
Ekraz Singh: You had a pretty big turnout to the launch of Lexical.ca last Wednesday. I’d say you managed to pack the bar. You seemed pretty surprised about this, though. Tell me why.
Justin Lauzon: I wasn’t expecting so much support for the site at such an early stage. I have an unruly belief that unless something is complete and perfected, it isn’t yet ready to see the light of day. The same problematic thinking exists in writing. But this isn’t the case. Lexical.ca is a growing entity and people are getting excited even after seeing that it’s only a fraction of what it will be.
ES: Why do you think so many people turned out?
JL: I think this is a resource people have been looking for. It’s nothing too radical. In fact, it’s downright obvious. Since it’s been far too long without a similar resource, the community is thrilled to support it. I’m so happy with the turnout.
ES: Can you describe the processes you went through, in terms of both thought and labour, while working on this project? How long have you been at it?
JL: I’ve been stewing with this idea since last September. It came about naturally. First I was frustrated by the fact that the Canadian literary scene didn’t have a comprehensive, accurate resource. Then I realized that this model existed in other artistic circles, most notably with akimbo.ca for the visual arts sector. Although a number of projects distracted me for months afterward, I decided to dedicate my time to Lexical.ca near the beginning of May 2015. It’s been a short, but nonetheless intense, few months assembling a team, gathering information from sources across the country and designing the site from the ground up. We want this to truly be valuable, and we’re all working extremely hard to make it that way.
ES: While Michael Mirolla, from Guernica Editions, was on stage he said that your site is gold. That’s a pretty great compliment and I agree with him. Be honest with me, though. Did you ever doubt or second guess yourself?
JL: I’ve doubted myself today and will do so again every following day, without exception. I don’t believe anyone does anything worthwhile without an internal conflict between a grip on a good idea, and always concluding in the failure to realize it. Yes, there have been many times when I was certain Lexical.ca was and is a foolish idea, but far more often I’m confident in its usefulness.
ES: Out of curiosity, how did you push through the times when you lacked confidence?
JL: Isn’t this the classic artist’s struggle? We are thrilled with a liberating and ever-expanding idea, but fail to record it purely on the page. I’m a writer myself and feel at home in that conflict, but I’m still learning how to overcome it every time. Most often it begins with the support of family and friends, my teammates and the community. Especially the community. The response has been phenomenal. That’s how we continue forward and withstand any inclination to go backward.
ES: I know you’ve gotten a lot of good reception but how fast is word about Lexical.ca spreading? Aside from us here at Sewer Lid, have many people been reaching out to you and asking that you include their information on the site?
JL: We’ve had a few magazines, publishers, blogs, and workshops reach out to us already. We’ve also been getting a lot of individual writers inquiring about the site. More often than not, they generously offer up aid and information that we may have missed so far.
ES: Let’s help people out a bit. If someone wants to get in touch with you, how might they go about doing so?
JL: It’s as simple as going to our Contact Us page and sending us an email. Everything goes directly to me so if you do have a suggestion, a magazine or press you want included or want to see some other feature on the site, that is the best way to start the conversation. I try to answer emails every day so it won’t take long to hear back.
ES: Earlier you mentioned that Lexical.ca, in its current state, is only a fraction of what it will be. What do you envision it becoming in both the near and distant future?
JL: Lexical.ca is in a constant state of evolution. Besides the information that we’re continually adding to the site in the existing categories, we’re already developing a complete awards section detailing past winners of awards across the country; featuring events, jobs and calls for submissions and doing more networking events for writers. We’re also looking into the possibility of including free content that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in Canada. It’s still too early to make any announcements. Just stay tuned and you’ll hear about it.
ES: Do you have any final, parting words — of wisdom or advice, perhaps — for fellow entrepreneurs and people in general who are trying to get involved in the Canadian publishing industry or literary scene?
JL: Meet people. It’s the best advice I can give with my limited experience. Don’t try to get anything out of them. Don’t try to speak with people in order to get ahead in your career. These ulterior motives will keep you from really making a connection. Meet people in the industry because you want to. Be sincere about your goals, listen to what other people are trying to do and be willing to give back. Support them. If you’re lucky, something might come of it. Someone may give you an opportunity you wouldn’t have had otherwise. You may develop an idea and have a team readymade around you. As the industry becomes more and more difficult to sustain, we can’t engage in competition anymore. We need mutual support from everyone.