Reader Profile: Jason Lee Norman

For every day of our Indiegogo campaign, we’ll be sharing profiles from readers and supporters of Glass Bookshop both local to the city and from across Canada. Visit our campaign page now to claim cool perks and support us in building a beautiful brick-and-mortar space in downtown Edmonton. And read on to discover why today’s featured reader is excited to one day visit Glass Bookshop!

Jason Lee Norman would probably prefer a short bio—something like “He lives in Edmonton and edits Funicular Magazine”—but he’s done so much for the Edmonton literary community that he deserves many more characters. He’s the author of two short story collections, Americas and Beautiful Girls and Famous Men, and his writing has also appeared in other cool places, including Wigleaf, Avenue Edmonton, and the inaugural Short Story Advent Calendar. He publishes stories in book form through Monto Books, digitally and in magazine form through Funicular Magazine, on coffee sleeves through the #yegwords project, and on receipt paper through the Short Story Machine at the Edmonton International Airport. He also connects writers in Alberta in his role as the Edmonton Program and Events Coordinator at the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. Read on to discover how his favourite book changed him and what he thinks Glass Bookshop can offer the community.

How did books and the act of reading come to be meaningful to you?
Reading books was the first thing I was ever good at. I was read to at a young age and devouring books quite early on. Throughout childhood, books were always there and it was the discovery of new books, new writers, and new stories that was the most exciting part. I could feel my brain getting bigger while I read. That’s how brains work, right?

What is your relationship now to books and reading?
I have the same relationship with reading now as I always have. I am discovering new writers all the time and reading short stories and poems and new forms. Things I didn’t ever come across when I was only reading books. As a publisher I’m now trying to help writers create books and am thinking more about the product of a book and how it will feel to the people who discover it. It’s a totally different perspective but the main thing is that books are just so cool.

Is there a book that has had significant impact on you?
There were so many great books I read before I found One Hundred Years of Solitude and I’ve read many afterwards, but that book is the one that changed everything for me. It showed me what is possible, which is basically anything.

How does literature influence your sense of community?
Reading books is like plugging yourself into an empathy machine. It’s the best way we have of learning about one another. Literature isn’t just dusty old books that were written in England 250 years ago. Literature is chapbooks and zines and online literary journals and so much more and if I’m living in a place where we’re not creating our own literature and reading our own literature then we’re really missing out.

How do you find new books or writers?
I still learn about and discover many new writers online first. You can find some of their writing online and then get pointed towards a lit mag that they’re published in and then go and find their first book of short stories or first novel after that.

Can you share a memorable experience you’ve had in a bookstore? What makes it stand out for you?
Many years ago I organized an event I called a Word Crawl. It was supposed to be like a typical pub crawl but in bookstores and other venues. One of the stops was in a local bookstore and the employees stayed after hours to let this busload of people in for a reading with glasses of wine for 45 minutes before we loaded up the bus and went to the next event. It was probably one of the best crowds I’ve ever seen at a literary reading. Everyone was so supportive and excited to try something different. The bookstore got that we were trying this new idea and they helped us to make it special and went the extra mile for us. It meant a lot.

What do you think Glass Bookshop could offer Edmonton’s community of readers and writers?
I personally believe that writers in Edmonton need more places that they can call their own where they can go to meet with their peers, celebrate new books and publishing achievements, and also just hang out and find a new read. I think Glass Bookshop can be a place where readers and writers can come together more. A place where new friendships are made and crazy schemes are hatched.

Want to help make this reader’s dream for Glass Bookshop a reality? Support Glass Bookshop’s Indiegogo campaign by buying some cool perks today here:

Jason Lee Norman
Matthew Stepanic