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Q&A: The Reading Line’s Amanda Lewis and Janet Joy Wilson

GreenLine_fullmap2_1900wThe Reading Line: Books, Bikes, and Food Along the Green Line is the joint passion project of two Random House of Canada staffers, Amanda Lewis and Janet Joy Wilson. On Oct. 4 in Toronto, the two will lead a bike tour of the Green Line, a five-kilometre hydro corridor north of Dupont and the CP Railway, running from Earlscourt Park at Lansdowne to just east of Spadina, with local authors on hand to present readings and talks. The ride commences at Book City’s Bloor West Village shop, and the retailer will be at each stop to sell books from participating authors Shawn Micallef, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, Catherine Bush, and others.

Q&Q spoke to Lewis and Wilson about their shared passions and what readers and riders can expect.

Who are you, Amanda Lewis and Janet Joy Wilson, and why do you care so much about books and bikes?

Amanda Lewis: I’m associate editor with the Knopf Random Canada Publishing Group, associate managing editor of Vintage Canada, and I also direct the Penguin Random House Canada Green Committee. I commute and tour by bike, and have been a cycling advocate for years, working most closely with Cycle Toronto as a volunteer and in local advocacy for Ward 21. I am a former volunteer with Park People and sit on the Friends of the Green Line Working Group, and spoke about cycling infrastructure on a recent walking tour of the Green Line. So really, for me it’s all books, bikes, and outreach, all the time.

Janet Joy Wilson: I’m an imprint sales director at Penguin Random House Canada. I live and breathe books, and am always looking for new ways to talk about them. I started cycling to our office last year. It’s a 32 km round trip which includes the beautiful Martin Goodman Trail. I very soon became addicted to my bike and as I see single-occupancy cars inching their way along the Lakeshore every single morning, I want to find a way to encourage motorists to choose cycling as an option. As the new co-captain of Cycle Toronto’s Ward 13 advocacy group, I am now in the position to move forward initiatives. For this year’s Bike Month events in Ward 13 I wanted to connect our ward with our retailers, to show that families on bicycles want to stop and shop local. For The Reading Line, I wanted to promote small businesses including Book City, Sweet Flour, Featherstone Two Wheels Green Delivery, BeerBikeTO, VERT Catering, and Coco Organic Crafted Chocolate.

How did this project come about?

AL: At a recent Green Line meeting, we were looking for a way to promote the Green Line as a venue. At the same time, I was dreaming of a way to combine my love of reading and bikes. An idea was hatched, and Janet Joy was the perfect co-conspirator.

JW: The moment of conception for me was at a Cycle Toronto Ward Captain meeting when I saw Amanda enter the room. Here we were – colleagues in the book world and advocates for cycling infrastructure. For months one or the other kept on saying we should do a book-focused bike ride. Once we agreed on a date, which was quite difficult, we were off to the races.

Why did you choose the Green Line as the location for this event?

AL: The Green Line is a wonderful space in Toronto that everyone should know about. The area is currently a mixture of hydro towers, public and private amenities, green space, walkways, and gravel yards, but the Friends of the Green Line group has a great vision for the space. Park People and others are working to have the Green Line made into a continuous linear park, similar to other hydro and rail corridors that now have walkways, green spaces, and playgrounds – compare the High Line in New York and the BeltLine in Atlanta.

What can riders expect to hear from the participating authors?

AL: We’ll start at Book City, where Catherine Bush will present her novel, Accusation, over free Jump Start Cookies from Sweet Flour. Then, after a ride to the Green Line, Shawn Micallef will speak about the design potential of the area (Shawn was a judge of the Green Line Design competition in 2012–2013). Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer will speak about her novel, All the Broken Things, which is set in High Park. Kathryn will focus on how we interpret the city through fiction. Amy Lavender Harris will speak about cycling in the city and writing about urban issues, and may give us a sneak peek of her book in progress. Then Christina Palassio will give a talk about local food, suitably at a community garden just down the street from The Stop Community Food Centre. We’ll close with a picnic and inspiration from spoken word artist and activist Tanya Neumeyer.

Do riders have to come for the whole thing or can they jump on and off?

JW: We have an event schedule that can be enjoyed one bite at a time. Starting in the west end, where I live, our local councillor Sarah Doucette, MPP Cheri di Novo and the executive director of Cycle Toronto will be on hand to wish us luck on our 7 km ride to Geary & Dovercourt. I imagine that my west-end peeps will stay the course and return with me to enjoy gelato. Cyclists who live nearer The Green Line can jump on or off to their heart’s content.

This interview has been edited and condensed.