Amanda Leduc and Allegra Young are the two women behind the upcoming Bare it for Books 2014 Calendar. What’s BIFB? It’s an idea that originated from a candid Twitter conversation between the two in July of last year . Get authors to pose nude or semi-nude for a calendar in support of a good cause. Now in full production mode, the calendar will showcase twelve Canadian writers with proceeds going to PEN Canada. Writers in order of month are Angie Abdou, Trevor Cole, Farzana Doctor, Dave Bidini, Miranda Hill, Steven Heighton, Yasuko Thanh, Terry Fallis, Sachiko Murakami, Vincent Lam, Saleema Nawaz, and Yann Martel.
Tell us a little more about you.
We’re friends based in the Greater Toronto area who met, initially, through Twitter. We’re both avid readers and dip our toes occasionally into the world of publishing—Amanda as a novelist and Allegra as a blogger—and when the idea for Bare It For Books came up last summer (again through Twitter – Amanda proposed it, and Allegra was first to jump on board!) we knew we had something that could combine all of our loves into a great campaign and cause.
When we’re not BIFB-ing and working at our other, Real World jobs (Allegra works as a classical music producer in Toronto and Amanda works at a hospital in Hamilton in addition to her work as a freelance writer), we’re both big fans of tea, reading, and scraping together cash to go out for dinner!
What were some of the unforeseen challenges of getting this in motion?
One of the biggest challenges, without a doubt, has been managing all of the logistical requirements that had to be put in place for a campaign such as this. We needed to get a website up and running, we needed to find someone who knew something about calendar design, and we had to figure out marketing strategies, fundraising initiatives to cover calendar costs, and then look at tiny (but oh-so-important) technical details like proper dates for 2014! So what began as a fun little idea has morphed into something significantly larger than what we’d originally envisioned. This is, beyond a doubt, fantastic, but every now and then we pull back from the work and think, “Wow. Bare It For Books has gone above and beyond our wildest dreams.” It just seems to breed more and more work! But it’s all fun work, so we have no complaints at all.
Who is your photographer and how did you choose him/her?
We’re actually working with a number of photographers based at different points throughout Canada. This was the easiest and most cost-efficient way to ensure that we could get photographs of our authors with comparatively little fuss—we are, after all, asking our authors to step out of their comfort zone for us, and we figured that the easier we could make it for them to do this, the better! Right now we have seven photographers on our roster that we’re really thrilled to be working with. They are Anastasia Andrews, Emily Cooper, Dallas Curow, David Findlay, Shelagh Howard, Emma Love, and Kevan Wilkie. You can find information about them and links to their websites over at Bare It For Books.
Would you pose naked for a cause? Under what circumstances?
Amanda: I sure would! Though technically I’ve already posed topless at this point, so I’m not sure that the literary world needs (or indeed wants) to see any more of me.
Allegra: Naked? Maybe not. But if it was nearly-nude, then yes. Heck, most of us show more in a bathing suit at the beach!
Why did you choose PEN?
We had originally discussed a number of different charities. Our aim for Bare It For Books is to be able to donate the calendar proceeds to a different literary charity every year, and in so doing raise awareness of a number of great organizations that continue to promote Canadian literature and a love of reading to all Canadians.
For this first year, though, the more we thought about it, the more we realized that donating the first calendar’s proceeds to PEN Canada was a great way to get across the core message of the campaign. For one thing, PEN Canada, as we all know, is our country’s foremost supporter of freedom of expression—including the freedom to, say, pose in a cheeky calendar! We also thought that the choice of PEN Canada could spark an ongoing discussion in the country around free speech, and how that plays into campaigns such as this one. (For example, the freedom of speech that people exercise when they take to newspaper comment sections to argue that the campaign is a tired and outdated idea.)
We are very hopeful that the coming months will see a great amount of discussion and engagement around the core values of Bare it For Books. We want people to engage with the idea of freedom of speech, and censorship, and artistic expression, and we think that the calendar – seeing as how it’s basically a physical extension of that idea — can be a great launchpad for these kinds of discussions.
Newfoundland and Labrador has such a thriving writing community. We have Lisa Moore, Michael Crummey, George Murray, Randall Maggs, and a ton of other strong voices. Would you ever consider going regional with a project like this? What other projects can we expect?
We definitely would! We have a number of East Coast writers in mind for future editions of the calendar, and have been talking to East Coast writers about the project for some time. We’ve been quite conscious, over here at Bare It For Books, of really trying to come up with a list of writers that reflects the diversity and breadth of Canadian writers. Having said that, we also know that it’s not always as simple as saying “Hey! Writer X is from this area and would be perfect!” – we have to have the consent and excitement of Writer X too! But hopefully, once the 2014 calendar gets off the ground, we’ll have more writers coming to us feeling a little better about potentially baring themselves in a project such as this. We are in the process now of sourcing out regional representatives for Bare It For Books – people located in different provinces who can be our on-the-ground champions for the project. More details about our regional reps will be coming, so stay tuned to the BIFB website for details.
What are some of your favourite Canadian books?
Amanda: Ooooh – great question! One of my all-time favourite Canadian reads has to be Annabel, by Kathleen Winter. I also recently finished and really enjoyed Maidenhead, by Tamara Faith Berger. And some other tried-and-true Canadian favourites include Anne of Green Gables (what kind of Canadian would I be if I didn’t say that?), Trevor Cole’s Practical Jean, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, and Kilter, by John Gould.
Allegra: Yikes, too many to mention! I will say that those I most frequently recommend would be Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden, The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, February by Lisa Moore, Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay and One Bird’s Choice by Iain Reid. I love nothing more than recommending Canadian literature to friends and challenging the view they have from high school of Canadian literature as “required reading.
Find out more about Bare it for Books and the women behind it here.