Get INSPIRED!: Toronto’s inaugural international book fair

INSPIRE book fair

Since the announcement of a new international book fair INSPIRE!, there has been a lot of speculation — some positive and some negative. Being fairly new to the publishing industry, however, I was eager to get involved and see where this book fair would take us.

2014-11-16 14.10.27But volunteering for an inaugural event has its own challenges. Everyone involved is learning as they go, addressing problems when they happen, and basically flying by the seat of their pants. Thankfully, I was surprised by the level of organization. Besides myself, there had been an overwhelming response of volunteers, so the fair was rarely, if ever, short on staff.

2014-11-15 13.37.33Free access to the fair was one of the highlighting perks for being a volunteer. No scanning fuss for us! Our blue volunteer t-shirts were a “get up the escalator” free card. The themed decor of the venue was quite extravagant. Going up the escalator, you were surrounded by a a stunning display of dangling alphabet letters and cardboard books, which almost reached the floor below. At the very top of the escalator, you were then greeted by vintage presses from various decades. They were definitely a type of “porn” for the book publishing enthusiast. Around the book fair there was also comfy rest spots sporting sofas and multi-coloured zebras to keep you company while you lounged.

2014-11-15 13.57.20However, the INSPIRE! team weren’t the only creative bunch during the fair. Many publishers went all out in decorating their booths for the weekend-long event. Simon and Schuster Canada‘s booth was breathtaking with its house-like interior, moving from room to room. I especially loved the mattress of books in the bedroom and the beautiful book sculptures descending from the ceiling. If they had been for sale, I don’t think I could have helped myself. Simon and Schuster staff on hand told me a co-worker’s friend had made them. A talented friend, indeed.

2014-11-15 13.28.43Penguin Random House Canada also had a beautiful booth filled with books, an author-signing table, and decor reminiscent of walking into Indigo’s lifestyle store areas. There was a lot of profile-worthy wall of Penguin classics to take your picture in front of, which I took full advantage of.

Aside from the big-name publishers, the little guys were  also well-represented. While they weren’t as over-the-top, they held their own with their books doing the eye-catching for them. From indie publishers to self-publishers, there was plenty to look at it in the exhibitor marketplace alone. The scholarly section wasn’t very well filled out, however, I was happy to see my old friends at Wilfrid Laurier University Press advertising their wares, including their successful Life Writing series. I especially enjoyed flipped through the titles I had had a hand in developing during my brief stint there as a publishing assistant.

2014-11-15 15.10.22Throughout the day, INSPIRE! also had a great line-up of stage and off-stage events. There were authors of cook books giving cooking tutorials, author interviews on the INSPIRE! Main Stage, as well as a TD Children’s Stage. Notably, there was a First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Literary Circle, which drew a lot of attention with its promotion of sharing, collaboration, and dialogue. One was able to discover Aboriginal authors, poets, and storytellers in a very inviting setting. And of course Penguin Random House had its own authors, including the infamous Chris Hadfield, where people sported stick-on versions of his iconic mustache.

There was definitely a lot happening, which was sometimes distracting and was to the detriment of other events occurring simultaneously. The Main Stage was overpowering at times, especially due to the size of the venue. Hopefully, solutions will be found as the INSPIRE! committee plan for next year, or the fair could benefit from a different choice of venue entirely.

All in all, I think the event was a success. In my mind, it felt like a blown-up version of the Scholastic book fairs I enjoyed so much as a child. I’ve heard that excitement around the Scholastic fair and catalogue has greatly diminished since I left the public school system, and it would be nice if this book fair helps revitalize that interest in books and book culture.

INSPIRE book fair t-shirtI would also recommend volunteering. It was a great experience. Everyone was friendly and volunteers were given breakfast goodies and pizza for lunch. Free food for free labour. I think that is a pretty good deal, and one that isn’t offered all the time when volunteering. The free t-shirt is also a great plus. Fairgoers were also fans of them, as volunteers were continuously asked where they could be purchased. If you were one of the attendees who wanted one, consider volunteering next year. In my opinion, this fair could have a bright future if the few kinks found this year are worked out and improved on. Perhaps the publishers who stayed away this year will join in now that INSPIRE! has left behind its foreshadowed failure and become a part of the busy annual fall season of the publishing biz.

INSPIRE international book fair

Litographs: Word-shaded art


I first learned about Litographs at the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Light Bash. Their posters were part of the swag bags given to guests at the end of the night. There were a variety of options from Moby Dick to Alice in Wonderland, however, I was lucky enough to get my hands on the Pride and Prejudice one.

pride and prejudice posterIf you can’t figure out why one would get excited over a poster then you have never seen one of Litograph’s designs. To the left, you can see my poster inspired by the classic Jane Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice. It’s gorgeous, right? Not only is it gorgeous, it is made entirely out of words, which are completely legible! Every Litograph design emerges from the text of a book. They use the words from the book itself to illustrate the memorable characters and scenes we have all imagined when reading one of our favourite books.

Litographs specializes not just in posters, but will place the same design on tote bags and t-shirts (for both men and women). You can watch their video here, detailing how they make their t-shirts.  All of the Litograph products come with a choice or colour from black and white to green or purple, and they are all printed locally in Cambridge, MA.

Another great thing about Litographs is their choice in books. They don’t just go the classics and instead have a varied list of book options for every book lover out there. Their genres include American Lit, British Lit, Children’s, Epics, Essay Collections, Mystery, Nonfiction, Plays, Poetry, Sci-fi Fantasy, Science, Shakespeare, and Story Collections. Recently, Litographs has also just started a chain of literary tattoos, which you can opt in to be a part of. I am eagerly awaiting their actual temporary tattoo line.

Litographs wuthering heights toteSince I already have a poster, I have now been eyeing their Wuthering Heights tote design. It is quite whimsical with the view from the window.

However, Litographs is always coming up with new designs, and if you subscribe to their newsletter they will notify you every time a new design is available to purchase. Their most recent addition is that of the Time Traveler’s Wife, and it is giving Wuthering Heights a run for its money. I especially like Litographs time traveler's wife designit as a t-shirt.

You can browse their collection here and see for yourself the endless options. Litographs would definitely make a great present for any book lovers you know or it would also make a great gift for yourself. We all need a little spoiling now and then, and I definitely like the idea of art lovingly made from the words that have brought me joy. What could be better?





Wrapped up in the classics: Literary apparel & accessories for your bookish life by Storiarts

Storiarts logo

If you’re a book lover and haven’t heard of Storiarts by now then you are living under a rock, because their popularity is skyrocketing.

I noticed the small company when I found their online Etsy store, which still exists alongside their regular website now, and fell in love with their literary scarves product line. They have significantly expanded since then, offering winter and summer versions of their scarves, gloves, headbands, t-shirts, and even pillow covers. A husband-and-wife team, there is a lot of dedication that goes into making these stylish accessories that are an ode to classic literature. If you want to see how it is done, you can click here, where the crew behind the magic demonstrate how they make these amazing scarves, transferring the words we love into wearable items.

Storiarts Persuasion ScarfMy one issue with Storiarts: choosing what to purchase! There is so much to love, and when you’re a fan of the classics, the choice becomes even more of a dilemma. Finally, during one of their first-time-ever sales, I took the plunge and made a decision. I bought the light-weight summer scarf featuring a passage from Jane Austen’s last novel, and my favourite, Persuasion. You can see the scarf here and the passage it has written on it (the most beautiful words a man has ever written when professing his love, in my opinion). The best part is I can wear it all year round and with practically anything. It is the perfect accessory to my wardrobe, whether I’m dressing up or down for the day. I especially find it flattering when combined with a summer dress.

Having received quite the compliments, I am now greedily eyeing the gloves and headband options. The t-shirt line, while only having the option of Pride and Prejudice at the moment, is also very eye-catching, featuring Darcy and Elizabeth strolling down a path, but not just any path—a path made up of words from the book itself. You can see my dilemma of wanting to immediately discard my strict budget and go wild. It is quite the mental battle! I love reading and I love the books I read, so I definitely like the idea of flaunting it around my neck, head, and hands.

Storiarts literary apparelRefined and absolutely gorgeous to behold, I definitely recommend checking Storiarts out if you haven’t already done so. Made to look like the book itself with its creamy hue and its stark black calligraphy, you will not be disappointed by the package you receive in the mail.

After all, who doesn’t want to look good while reading?

You can find their website here.

The trendy orange penguin: The Penguin Group collection

The Penguin collectionThere is hardly anything more iconic in the book industry than the book product line put out by Penguin Group with its patented black and white penguin encapsulated by a bright orange border. Almost everywhere, you can see people drinking, toting, or writing in some Penguin branded item. Penguin certainly knows how to appeal to the collectors’ impulse to match everything.

lost girl penguin passport case

However, their products are also a great way to advertise your love for a certain title or your love for Penguin books in general! The books are also chosen thematically with titles such as On The Road and The Lost Girl used on passport cases and luggage tags. Highly appropriate, don’t you think?

great gatsby bagA favourite title of mine is The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald, a classic book that saw a new growth in popularity with last year’s release of Baz Luhrmann’s film The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire (side note: I loved Leo as Gatsby, but I wasn’t sold on the “modern” music used to redefine the Jazz Age). Joining the revitalized frenzy, I purchased my first Penguin product separate from my usual book purchases: a Great Gatsby tote bag with the signature Penguin cover. It has since been my go-to bag for lugging my lunches and notepads to and from internships.

Although the bag is now showing the wear and tear of its use, I still receive many compliments and questions of where I purchased it, whether I’m getting off a train or walking down the street. One woman literally stopped her bike to tell me about how her husband bought her The Lost Girl Penguin luggage tags as a gift, and how she has loved them to pieces ever since.

I love how books and a well-known brand can bring people, even strangers, together even if only for a moment. While my tote bag remains solo to this day, I definitely have aspirations to decorate my travelling items with Penguin accessories in the future and literally show the world, I’m a proud book lover.

If you’re interested in joining the hundreds of Penguin followers and show your Penguin love, you can purchase anything from The Penguin Collection on the Penguin US website, and various items from the collection are often available at your local and university bookstores and any Indigo locations.




Books on shirts. Shirts on a mission: Out of Print Clothing

20140413_204437Out of Print Clothing is a stock favourite for my one-stop shop needs when it comes to book themed items. While I’ve only bought one shirt from them so far, I have no doubt my collection will continue to grow.

Out of Print’s products specialize in the literary classics, with the additional book that just has a great cover and is awesome in general, if not considered among the canons. But if it is a canon of literature, Out of Print probably sells it in a variety of fun forms: t-shirts, long sleeves, jewellery, pouches, tote bags, coasters, and even phone cases. It is book nerd/English major heaven.

Dana Francoeur in a Jane Eyre t-shirt from Out of Print ClothingAs you can see, I purchased the Jane Eyre t-shirt. Asking me to choose a favourite book is nearly impossible, but Jane Eyre is definitely up there. What also won me over to the shirt was the whimsical illustration. Not only do we have Jane’s wind-blown figure, but we have Mr. Rochester riding his magnificent steed in the background, foreshadowing their inevitable first meeting near the beginning of the book (see images above for a better view). An absolutely stunning display anyone would be proud to clothe themselves in, especially me.

On top of having an amazing line of clothing to choose from, for men, women, and kids alike, Out of Print also has a great mission behind its love of wearing book covers. Acknowledging the fact that not everyone has access to all the great book we so easily take for granted, Out of Print works alongside Books for Africa to make a difference and literally spread the word! For each product sold, Out of Print donates one book to a community in need. Therefore, not only is Out of Print assisting all of us in our book obsession, but we are also providing funding for a good cause in the process. Money well spent, I say! It especially works well as a go-to gift idea for that book maniac in your life, whether it’s a sibling or a significant other.

So if you’re a fan of Jane Austen, Scott Fitzgerald, or Charles Dickens then check out Out of Print’s website and see what other authors’ books they have made wearable. It is worth the look and worth the purchase if you love books and love doing some good at the same time.

After all, isn’t it a “feel good” spoil yourself at the same time kind of day?


These are the two goodies I have my eye on now. Aren’t they just splendid!? The one to the left is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (there is also a t-shirt version of this in two different colours) and the one to the right is Little Woman by Louisa Marie Alcott (I just adore how she is made up of smaller women in the print!).

Out of Print clothing


Shaped with love: Book sculpture and art by BookBW

BookBW I have always loved the unique you-can-find-no-where-else products on Etsy, and one day when I was browsing through the different shops, trying out different searches, I came across the Etsy shop of Benjamin Wieler, a local Toronto artist who works with vintage books to produce works of art from origami shapes made from a book’s pages to framed pages that have been manipulated into beautiful conversation pieces to hang on the wall.

Last summer, I fell so in love with his creativity that I couldn’t help myself—I had to make an order. I ended up purchasing a combination of two things featuring my favourite book War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.


bookbw art featuring a page from War and Peace with a heart surrounding the word loveThe first piece of art is an original paper collage using recycled paper from a vintage book, which in this case is from War and Peace. It is a black and white drawing of a heart that deliberately surrounds the word “love,” which is pulled from a major scene in the book. This one happens to be when Nikolai is musing on his love for Sonya after a confrontation with his mother, who wishes him to transfer his emotions elsewhere for the sake of a more profitable match (how dreadfully selfish of her, am I right?!). Frankly, I love Nikolai and Sonya, and despite knowing they don’t end up together, I still root for them. On that train of thought, Benjamin is very considerate of what scene you want for your piece of art. If, like me, you choose to have a custom made piece then he involves you in deciding what scene you would prefer to have permanently encapsulated in your frame. I absolutely love how it turned out, perfectly tailored to me and my book lover needs!

Image of books on a shelfThe other piece I purchased was not only for interest’s sake, but it was also a great way to make sure War and Peace wasn’t just thrown away with one page missing. Instead, I was able to use the book to its utmost potential and create a beautiful set of book art to display in my apartment. This beautiful addition was a book safe—and let me tell you, it is a lot nicer than those cheap fake plastic “book safes” you can purchase at Michaels or the Dollar
image of a book safe hiding a chocolate barStore. Benjamin literally and painstakingly cuts the pages out of the book to create a lovely little hiding place for whatever your heart desires! For me that would be the chocolate bar I want to keep hidden from my ravenous boyfriend when he comes to visit! Shh.

IMG_20140402_214638Now these were the only two literary-inspired pieces I bought, however, I was delighted to find a surprise waiting for me when my package was delivered. Delicately wrapped, I found a beautiful hanging ornament made by intricately folding book pages. Can you just imagine having a dozen of these beauties and decorating an entire Christmas tree with them or hanging them in your window?

If you find these works of art as beautiful as I do then you should check out Benjamin Wieler’s Etsy shop, featuring many great book art and sculpture pieces you can purchase, or feel free to contact him personally like I did and get something designed with just you in mind. He also has a Facebook page and a blog.