I used to struggle to find a good book recommendation until I found Bibliolifestyle. I subscribed to Victoria Wood's weekly newsletter at issue #105 and I just received #168 today. Her email has always been a welcomed sight to my busy inbox, something I also strive for the newsletter I write for Picot. I reached out to her sometime last year in an effort to make a new pen pal and see if she would be open to an interview for us. I've been wrangling my friends together over the years for various book clubs and book swaps, so anyone doing that on a digital platform is certainly going to have my attention. It's the habit of getting together and sharing about the similarities and differences in our lives, how one topic can bring all sorts of unique perspectives and relativity, and getting a book in my hands that wouldn't have been there if someone didn't recommend it for me. And her book lists are extensive.
I asked Victoria about scaling her work building a full-fledged media brand that provides solutions for publishers and authors, her self care routines, what she would want in a neon sign, and of course: her favourite books. I deeply admire her personal culture mantra and strive to embody it myself. Her response when I asked what she would tell her younger self made me grin pretty wide, and to cap it all off, the recipe she shared is really good.
If you had to summarize yourself in 6 words, what would they be?Creative and imperfect student of life.
Do you have a favorite daily routine? What does it involve, when is it? How often do you stray from it?My favorite daily routine is meditating and journaling. I tend to journal first thing in the morning while drinking tea or coffee. Meditating is something I’ll do throughout the day, even if it’s just for five minutes. I’d say once a month, I’ll go a few days and not journal, but I pick right back up without worry. I’ve let go of the guilt and feeling that if I miss a day, I’ve messed everything up.
How does this help your overall well being (psychological, spiritual, physical, emotional)?They help to keep me grounded more than anything else and help me put things in perspective. It’s easy to get distracted or simply veer off course, but these rituals help bring me back to myself and ground me.
If you had to describe yourself as a scent, what would it be?That’s a very interesting question. I’ve never considered myself in terms of a scent before, but my favourite scent is the outdoors, in nature, after rainfall. Friends have described me as grounded, so something earthy in smell but also airy, as I love feeling free.
What would you tell your younger self? (and how old is she when you think about her?!)I wouldn’t tell her anything because she wouldn’t listen, but I wouldn’t want to change her experiences either. She needs those experiences to be the woman she is today. But if I had to say something, I’d just say -- hang in there, because it’s gonna be a wild, bumpy, and unpredictable ride!
You’ve evolved from a weekly email newsletter to a full-fledged media brand that provides digital marketing and advertising solutions for publishers, authors, and their books. Can you tell me about the process of scaling like this? What has surprised you about the way this resource has evolved? What were people asking for more of?The process of scaling has always been the result of fulfilling a need. The BiblioLifestyle email newsletter was born because the need was to build an audience of readers for a previous independent bookstore project I was working on. While that project was not successful, the newsletter was, and it gave me immense joy, so I continued on. Scaling to provide digital marketing and advertising solutions came from the need authors and publishers shared of looking for new places and ways to promote their books. This is still a work in progress, and I’m constantly testing new ways to get books and their stories in front of aspiring and avid readers.
What projects/products/ services are you most excited about working on right now?
There are so many things I'm excited about right now! The podcast, The Reader’s Couch, is now sharing those practical tips and resources that the newsletter and website have been known for, alongside great conversations and interviews. The biannual Epigraph Literary Festival, a free virtual 3-day event that introduces readers to authors with upcoming books and hosts sessions on everything books, reading, and the literary lifestyle, is growing and gaining traction, and it’s exciting to see. Especially because not all readers have the opportunity to connect with authors and other readers in person, this is a great option. Finally, I’m currently fleshing out plans to host consistent monthly virtual programming that will provide support and motivation for both aspiring and avid readers.
With each workshop and virtual get-together I’ve hosted to date, I’ve been reminded how significant community is, that despite how “connected” we are in today's world, it's easy to get incredibly lonely, and how hard sometimes it is to make new friends. So there are many exciting things on the horizon, and I’m looking forward to them being realized.
Is this something that you've always dreamed of creating or is there a good story about how you came to be doing this?
I’ve always loved books! As a child, I spent almost every weekend in a bookshop, and twice a week, at minimum, I was at the library. But the truth is, back then, I never thought working with books or in the publishing industry was possible for me. So I pursued a career in healthcare instead. In 2017 which was shortly after I moved to Florida, none of my three new friends were readers. But between talks about our families, work, and life, I turned three non-readers into avid readers and our once-a-month standing Saturday brunch into a book club of twelve. Simultaneously, in 2017 I created an Instagram page sharing books and photos from my travels. What I discovered was the Instagram book community and a larger online community, and I never looked back.
What lights you up about running your business? What drains you? How do you deal with balancing or managing each?
Nothing lights me up more than showing self-proclaimed "non-readers" how to start and maintain a reading habit and help readers get out of reading slumps and have more intentional and fulfilling reading lives.
What drains me is the administrative side of things and trying to finance everything, which at times can prove challenging and often times forces me to hit pause on projects.
I’m able to balance and manage the highs and lows because I have an amazing sounding board in my husband, I have the support of family, friends, and my online community behind me, and I have routines and rituals that help me slow down and remember what’s important, put things in perspective and have gratitude for the journey.
How do you get yourself out of a funk/low mood?Going for a long walk.
What’s a phrase that resonates with you so much that you would turn into a neon sign for your home?
What’s one common phrase that rubs you the wrong way?Get over it.
Do you have a personal goal this year? What would it change in your life to achieve it?My resolution for the year is to prioritize my health. The goal I’ve set to help support that is to move my body for 30 minutes at least five days per week. Achieving it would help support both my mental and physical health.
Tell me about a time when you had to make a big change or pivot in your life. How did you know that it was time to shift? What tools supported you?I’ve moved around quite a bit and lived in several countries, but moving to Florida was one of my biggest life changes. I left behind a life and career I loved, and my professional future was uncertain. After several attempts to replicate my life and pick up where I left off, I knew it was time to shift when I was experiencing more frustration than joy. Fortunately, I had the support of my family and friends. The tools that helped support me were having creative outlets (painting and journaling) and being able to escape into the pages of books. I also benefited from going to therapy, which is a privilege, and I’m extremely grateful I had the resources to support that journey.
What’s one of the best compliments you’ve received lately?I sent a survey out to folks who attended virtual events and workshops I’ve hosted, and after providing feedback, one respondent said, “you are doing fabulous.” While I don’t know if they intended it as a compliment, I took it as one.
What’s something you notice about others right away?Their body language.
How do you know if it’s your head or your heart that is leading you somewhere?If I am super expressive or emotional, it’s my heart. If I’m measured, it’s my head.
In our company, we want to build a life that we don’t need constant breaks from, so we are focusing on building a strong personal culture instead. How do you define your own personal culture? How does that translate into your professional life?
In general, I believe culture starts and ends with me, and this is especially important as a leader. My personal culture is a mantra, “taking care of myself so I can take care of others.” Setting ethos in my personal life translates to the professional because it allows me to prioritize my days so I can achieve my goal of living a life where I can take care of others and show up for them as my best self because I already took care of myself.
For example, I schedule time for meditation on my work calendar throughout the day. I also have clear blocks of time when I’m open for meetings and interviews. Before creating my own personal culture, I used to give in to my job’s culture and they had a common practice of changing meeting times constantly, and I didn’t push back even when I had existing appointments. As a result, I stopped meditating and slowing down, and I wasn’t showing up to work as my best self. It became an environment where I always needed to escape. But now, I lead by taking care of myself first, and when I’m intentional about my days, I show up better, have more productive days.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?Action brings clarity.
When you’re reading a book and you’re not really into it, do you keep going or move on?I stop reading and move on. Sometimes I’ll revisit it if I believe the timing wasn’t right when I started reading it. Other times I abandon it completely. Life’s too short to read books you don’t like, especially when reading for pleasure.
Your favourite fiction book(s)?
It’s so hard picking favorites, but books I’ve read, reread, and absolutely loved are Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop, Assembly, by Natasha Brown, The Outline Trilogy by Rachel Cusk.
What non-fiction/ personal development book/podcast had an impact on you recently?
The Seven Circles: Indigenous Teachings for Living Well by Chelsea Luger, Thosh Collins.
What are you most proud of?The relationship I have with my family.
When are you the most inspired?In the mornings, after a nap, or after a long walk or bike ride at my local park.
What music are you listening to right now?My music tastes are very varied, and it’s mood dependent, but I’m a big fan of all things 80s music, reggae, and EDM.
Tell me a few favourite things in your home.
My red Le Creuset kettle, fresh flowers, and candles.
Imagine this: You have a day off and decide to walk around your city and indulge in all your favorite things. What do you do, where do you go?I would spend the day at a local museum! I love museums, and I find them incredibly relaxing and inspiring. But first, I love my alone time, so I’d wake up make coffee, have a bite to eat, and meditate and journal. I would then go to the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida, and slowly go through the exhibitions. I would have tea service at The Flagler Museum's Café des Beaux-Arts. I would then find a spot on the museum grounds with a view of the water, and spend some time reading before heading home.
Tell me 5 random things about you that may not be well known
- I’m an introverted extrovert.
- I’ve lived in five different countries.
- I could eat curry for the rest of my life.
- I’m content wearing jeans and a t-shirt every day.
- I love Bravo TV and the Real Housewives franchises.
Will you share a favorite recipe with us? Something that you make of your own or form your family, or one from a cookbook/ blog that you love to make?
- I’ve never actually followed a recipe before as it was something I grew up seeing being prepared, and I make it based on memory, but salt fish fritters, also known as codfish fritters or stamp and go, is something I love to make. It’s quick, easy, and tasty. It brings back childhood memories and keeps me grounded in my culture, as this was often made in my home growing up. I found this recipe from My Forking Life, and it’s pretty spot on: