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The One Block North project follows its own serendipitous path, timed to something that doesn’t follow clocks and seasons.

Two weeks ago, James Wilson’s team—in particular, Antonia Goga—completed the book design for the One Block North project. My book was ready for publication. I’d have thought this would be the easiest part, but it isn’t. For the entire two years, I’ve been approaching publishing houses to gauge interest. It’s been polite at best.

Last week, James had dinner with a friend, the chief editor of a well-known Toronto daily newspaper. They talked and at the end of the evening, James gave the book—in its entirely—to this editor. She read the whole five hundred pages last weekend. All of it (she’s not a cyclist, in case you’re wondering). Her assessment was that it was a good project, “pretty well-written” and engaging. She also felt it would never pass muster at a publishing house, especially if the design element were already complete. James advised me to look into self-publishing.

I blanched. I’m shy and a little insecure about this part. If it’s okay to admit this, James’s suggestion brought on temporary feelings of terror. What if, after all this time and money and hard work, the whole thing just fell apart?

I’m passionately committed to this project and having watched its extraordinary development whenever I step forward, I’ve had to just stopped worrying. Without fail, opportunities present themselves organically. Case in point: this week at a LEAF volunteer event.

At 10:00 a.m. on Monday morning, my bike and I arrived at the Old Mill subway station, where one of LEAF’s Learning Gardens has been set up. I’d agreed to come work in the garden, with other volunteers.


Andrea Bake, LEAF’s arborist, was overseeing the day’s work. In attendance were two other volunteers, one I’d never met named Whitney French.

“Hullo,” I greeted Whitney, and promptly forgot about her existence. A fragrant sumac needed pruning. Seventy-five minutes later, I was chatting with Andrea about my frustration with the book’s progress.

“Excuse me,” Whitney interrupted me. “Did I hear you say you’re a writer?”

Distracted in my unhappy state, I briefly described the situation to this stranger. She listened intently. Her face lit up when I told her what the book was about, as most faces do. Well, it’s a great project, and my energy for it is contagious. But maybe not this contagious. She was tenacious in her questions. And then she dropped the “p” word.

“What are you doing to get it published?” Whitney has self-published. Better yet, Whitney has a business that offers assistance to struggling writers who want to self-publish. She asked several pertinent questions, questions that indicated she knew what I was feeling, and what I needed to do next. Whitney French is the next key in this project.

When I started One Block North, I was green. Honestly, I didn’t know how to do any of this. I just knew someone should be leading this project.

Three years ago over a coffee, my friend Katie gave intuitive advice on how to approach the interview process. Then, my friend Peter appeared to advise me on blogging and social networking when I needed to start that. Last year, after all the interviews were complete and I was in despair, Marie-Lynn arrived to tutor my creative writing skills. Then, Nancy came on board for final editing. I didn’t even know what the phrase “book design” meant, but James appeared, based on a business card I’d placed on a colleague’s bike. And now, Whitney has appeared just in time, from beneath a fragrant sumac bush, to give direction at the publication stage.

Of these six people, the only one I actively sought out was Marie-Lynn. Does the universe know? Does this book project have a life of its own? That’s a question you might ask yourself. I don’t know. I just go with it.

Whitney and I met this morning. I am now (if I may say so without conceit) an expert on self-publishing. I’ve already narrowed to two candidates my printing company. The book will likely only come out in soft cover and e-book, because that makes the most sense. I know how to get an ISBN, and I know the answers to all the tough questions the Library of Congress is going to ask me. I know that, because of the time of year, I want both a soft launch (this summer) and then a true launch next spring. There are too many excellent reasons to do it this way (and here I was worried over our having missed a spring 2013 launch)

I already have a much-needed sell sheet, thanks to James and Antonia. The blog continues to share bike stories through Facebook and Twitter. Three Toronto locations have already offered, unsolicited, to host a book launch. I’m going to take them all up on that offer, and approach a couple more. Next week, I hope to officially set the self-publishing machine in motion.


When I called James Wilson this afternoon to report on the book’s progress, his enthusiasm was tangible.

Bikes. They sure can work magic, can’t they?