Barely a year before the magazine closed its doors, Justin Lauzon joined the Descant team of submissions readers in the cold winter months of 2014. Eighteen months later, Justin’s literary life is heating up and his new project promises to do the same for you. Lexical.ca, “Canada’s Word on Writing,” went live on Canada Day and the word is spreading.
I sat down with Justin to get the details. He’s a great chat, as the Irish would say, and in between our many tangents, I got the scoop on Lexical.ca. Full disclosure, I am listed along with the rest of the team on the Lexical “About” page.
I want to ask you about Lexical.ca, but first can you tell us how you got there, from Descant? Because, you know, we assume it’s all about us!
[Laughs. A lot.] Of course it is! I got so much valuable experience even in the short time I was there. I wrote book and event reviews for the blog, assessed dozens of submissions and attended a bunch of literary events I otherwise might not have heard of. But the best part of course were the people I met, at Descant, but also because of my involvement there.
While I was volunteering at Descant I got a job as the literary coordinator at the Windup Bird Café and through that met more people and got involved in starting Hear Here, a biannual literary salon in Toronto. And most recently I started a full-time position for WOTS [Word on the Street] as their Digital Marketing Intern. And it’s paid!
I met some of the most important people in my literary life at Descant. A lot of whom are helping me on a few projects, including Lexical.ca. Can we talk about Lexical now?
I guess. What exactly is Lexical.ca?
It’s a website designed to help make the general reader/writer more informed about the Canadian writing and publishing industry. The hope is that once people browse through our site and become familiar with its content, they can decide for themselves the value of being published in a certain magazine, or they might learn new things about certain publishers. Eventually, we hope that by spending a few minutes on our site, people will get a better sense of the Canadian publishing landscape.
The goal is that Lexical.ca will be the most comprehensive online resource for writers and publishers in Canada. It’s a central hub for all book lovers in the country to find the resources they need to find new work to read, to get published in magazines around the world, or find a writing job across the country. Lexical.ca features only Canadian listings information. International publications will only be listed so Canadian writers can take advantage of opportunities to share their work more widely.
If Lexical.ca is a resource for writers and publishers, are you also promoting them?
Yes, definitely. We’ll promote events nation-wide, as well as job opportunities and calls for submissions from around the world. But right now the focus is on Toronto because we had to start somewhere and that’s where we live.
How did you get the idea for Lexical.ca?
It came to me as most ideas do, by stealing them from other people. Akimbo.ca, the visual arts promotion hub for Canadian artists, was a huge inspiration, and I still talk about it as the paradigm I’m aiming for. Kim Fullerton [Director of Akimbo] was incredibly generous with me and really helped me see how Lexical.ca can work.
As you know there are other sites dedicated to writers, so what distinguishes Lexical.ca?
Lexical.ca is composed of two parts. First of all, we’re currently building the listings toward being the most comprehensive resource on Canadian writing in the country. We have the most detailed information on a number of aspects of the community and industry, much more than just a quick blurb and a link. Yes, some sections are like this for now, but eventually, every entry on the site will have a dynamic profile and detailed information.
Second, Lexical.ca is a free online resource for the promotion of Canadian literary arts. Through our services, independent authors can promote their books, magazines can submit calls for general submissions or contests, publishers can promote events and the user can get all of this information by simply signing up for our free newsletter.
We’ve compiled what we hope is the most pertinent information including listings of publishers, magazines, creative writing courses, literary agents, and venues, as well as —
Literary agents? How many are on your list?
I think there’s just over 30. And we double-checked them all so, as of today, it’s the most up-to-date listing of Canadian literary agents. Sadly, with only about 30, it wasn’t that hard to do. And of those, only about a dozen accept literary fiction and some of those through referral only. But people will have to check out the site to see the whole breakdown.
What kind of responses have you had to Lexical.ca?
We’ve had overwhelming support from family and friends, members of the writing community like authors and publishers – you name it.
But, I mean, seriously? Anything surprising?
Okay, honestly, just between us?
We’ve had a wide range of responses from ecstasy to the cold shoulder but —
People gave you ecstasy? Who? Can you name names?
No! I meant ecstatic, happy, delighted.
Oh. What about the cold shoulders?
Some places didn’t want to be listed on the site because they thought Lexical.ca is intended only for writers, but after we got better at explaining the project they often decided to list with us. If I’ve been surprised by anything, it’s the tremendous help many people working in the industry are willing to give, all because they believe in the idea. When supporters of the site offer so many amazing suggestions and references, I realize how much encouragement there really is in the industry.
Do you intend to make money?
We do, but only if we’re making others money. The site is designed to help Canadian’s spread the word about their writing.
Our promotion services are designed for independent authors, event organizers, publishers, magazines, retailers – really anyone who wants an appealing vehicle for spreading the word about Canadian writing.
You know from your experience at Descant (back to us now), that new projects need a great launch. When’s the party to launch Lexical.ca?
Party for sure! Our launch party is set for next Wednesday, July 15, 7pm at the Dora Keogh Irish Pub in Toronto. We’re expecting a lot of writers and billing the event as a great summer networking opportunity. The writer and publisher at Guernica, Michael Mirolla, will be there to say a few launching words about Lexical and he’ll hang around to answer questions writers have for him about the Canadian publishing scene. His new book, Lessons in Relationship Dyads, is one of our first ads on the site.
At Descant launches, we always provided our guests with free appies. Just sayin’.
[Eye-rolling; his.] Yes, we’re going to have complimentary bites at our launch!
We’re moving forward building the content of the site, adding more publishers and magazines every day, so you’ll be able to watch that expand. Think of us as the literary hub you get to have a hand in as well. We welcome emails about missing content or out-of-date information. You can just email me, justin[at]lexical.ca. The last thing we want is a reference to a resource that doesn’t help writers. If there’s a publisher you know is missing, a venue that no longer hosts literary events, or any resource you’d like to see represented, please let us know. No one person is going to know everything, but with the community’s help, Lexical.ca can make it easier for writers and readers to get the information they want.
The weekly newsletter will start this Friday, and continue every Friday. People can sign up for it on the website.
I did. My confirmation said I’d get a free pint if I came to the launch party on the 15th.
Hmm. Must be a coding error. I’ll have to fix that.
Facebook launch party: https://www.facebook.com/events/1639040112975476/
on Twitter: @lexicalca