Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Vision for the World - A Reading Manifesto

Warning; this is a very long story, it's personal and it's not about food.  Feel free to stop reading if you're passing through as part of Vegan Mofo.  I am posting this here on my food blog because it's the publishing space I have available.  

Life is not linear but I will try to make sense of a long and winding road.  As a few of you may know, I've been struggling to implement some ideas out in the world.   It all started with the thought that I needed to help my family.  This is not a bad thing, but what I noticed is that when trying to source great ideas while coming from an inner place or feeling of "lack" and "need", all of my thoughts and decisions were based in fear and anxiety.  Not very inspirational or productive.  It kept me mired there in the mental muck for quite a time.

So, I began to make lists and notes, writing out and exploring my interests.  I've always considered myself to be a bit of a dabbler, interested in a lot of seemingly unconnected and diverse things.  As I dug into this process, I began to see clues embedded in the activities that I've been involved in for the last few years, apart from mothering.  I deconstructed these activities by asking myself questions about what made them important or fulfilling.  Personal values began to emerge from the answers to these questions.  I value friendship, community, connection, compassion, creativity, learning and diversity among other things.  This is what I'm all about and I now had the beginning of something.  But what?

Let me back-track a for a minute and tell you that one of my first Aha moments in this process came this past summer when our friends Patty, Chris and their son Biko paid us a visit from Washington D.C.  Patty is my oldest and dearest friend in the world and we had a conversation where I shared my ideas about a project I was working on at the time.  The discussion was a huge revelation to me.  I realized that my world was too small, that my focus was too narrow and that I needed and craved MORE conversations with wonderful people like these.  Conversations that produced new avenues of thought, from people who were experts in other areas, who could bring their experience to bear on my situation.  I was starving for conversational nourishment and stimulation.  I felt like a mama bear coming out of her cave after years.  

At the time I knew something important had shifted inside me.  I made a decision to begin reaching out for more contact with the people already in my life and those to come.  I didn't have to figure it all out by myself.  People were out there, some of them actually cared about me and wanted to help!

Okay, now back to our present day story.  In case you don't already know this about me I'm a bit of a bookworm.  One of the things I've been involved in for the last few years is a community called Goodreads.  It's basically a social networking site for readers and authors with a huge database of books.   Each user has a profile and can set up virtual bookshelves, public or private.  Just discovering this was enough to keep me busy for quite a while.  I cataloged all the books I could remember reading (why didn't I keep notes?) along with rating and reviewing quite a few.  It felt like heaven for a list freak like me!  It wasn't too long before I started to make friends from all over the world who shared my love of reading and conversation.  The site is very user friendly and interactive, allowing you to comment on other people's reviews and host discussion groups, etc   I had joined several of these groups but had not found my home and so two years ago decided to start my own.

I named the group Comfort Reads. My intention was and still is to welcome readers of all genres who share the pleasure of a good book to relax with and who also enjoy learning from many sources.  Book snobbery is not what we're about.  Reading has never been a chore for me.  My whole life it's brought me comfort and joy, understanding and appreciation for others.  I can bridge the gap between cultures by mentally and emotionally walking a day in the life of someone else's shoes. Allowing myself to be lost in the narrative voice of someone completely different.  I've been thrilled, inspired, moved and engaged and in some tough moments, books have kept me from feeling alone in the world.

The Comfort Reads membership has steadily grown and there are now over 1000 members.  I am thrilled and happy to welcome each new reader who joins us as does my ever helpful co-moderator Lisa.  The community is kind, fun, responsive and supportive.  Our daily chat thread is a great place to say hello and connect.  We have threads where members may suggest or recommend all types of books they've enjoyed.  We talk about our current reads even if they're not "comfort reads".  Friendships have been formed among members from all over the world.  The people are simply amazing.  I am organizing a reader convention for this community which has been dubbed "ComfyCon" and will be held in Toronto, October 2012.  I look forward to deepening friendships in real life that have been formed online.

This past year, my friend Lisa and I started a Vegan Cooking and Cookbooks group also hosted on Goodreads that has tons of beautiful and compassionate people.  They inspire me every day and the community is so supportive and fun.  I feel blessed with the new friends that have come into my life as a result of both groups.  

Inspired by the potential of these two communities and what I have seen grow, I birthed an idea.  To create an organization of readers with a purpose that manifests my core values.  I'm going to share my vision, mission and goals for that organization now.  This is somewhat of a work in progress (except for the vision) but you will get the idea.


A connected, creative and compassionate world


Our mission is to connect people through their passion for reading.  Building relationships and communities that foster a culture of friendship, diversity and life-long learning.

  • To encourage and foster friendship and international understanding
  • To promote reading as a bridge to peace, kindness and compassion for all cultures, creatures and the environment
  • To build a world-wide community of enthusiastic readers 
  • To promote the idea that reading can bring comfort and alleviate feelings of isolation – that reading other people’s stories and experiences is uplifting and humanizing
  • To promote and share the joy that comes through reading, discussion and life-long learning 
  • To support local and international outreach to encourage reading
  • To celebrate the written word and story-telling in all its forms
  • To encourage writing and reading as a way to express, explore and understand oneself and others
  • To support and promote responsible stewardship of the earth’s resources
  • To support organizations that protect old growth forests and promote the use of environmentally responsible alternatives in publishing                   

While I am inspired by my idea, one of the questions that plagues me is how best to implement this vision, this mission and these goals?  My intention is to form a membership organization, because people working together can do powerful things.  And I love people.  I love connecting people to each other, meeting people and talking to people.  Every conversation I have confirms this belief.  I am one person and my work has already started but I would like to christen this organization with a name that speaks to the values above.  

I've been reading all about non-profits, social enterprises, and regular companies that make a difference in the world.  I tell myself there is no hurry to decide - just start Lee!  I flit back and forth between all three models trying to understand what will do the most good for all of us.  My goals are in line with a non-profit but the form and bureaucracy does not thrill me or feel dynamic.  Where do I fit in?  I'm a human being who wants to create something wonderful, show my daughter what's possible, live a life of purpose, and help support my family at the same time.    

Now that I have unleashed myself, the ideas are coming fast and furious but I want to get into action.  I am not the most patient of people.  I am full of energy and passion for this project and it's driving me hard.  I don't sleep much.

I have a vision for a connected, creative and compassionate world.  I have a ton of project ideas that are manifestations of that vision but right now I'm running with this one.  If you would like to join me, understand what I'm trying to accomplish and have managed to read this far.  I'm asking for your help. This is what I need and this is what you can do.

1.  Be my business mentor. If you have experience in any field (marketing, strategic planning, financial stuff etc.) I need coaching and support in order to execute my plans.  I'm a hard worker and am learning as fast as I can but I could use some support and guidance.  

2.  I need partners, sponsors or friends to support and join this fledgling organization (as yet unnamed).    

3.  If we are not already connected, find me on Linked In, Google+ or

4.  Leave a supportive suggestion, some feedback or a name idea below in the comments

5.  Email me privately with any or all of the above at

6.  Donate any amount to help me start-up and work towards my goals.  I need a website, a logo and a few other things to begin operating.  There is a button in the sidebar on the right, below my photo, where you can do that.  Thank-you kindly.   

I would like to thank my friends, old and new, for listening to me natter on rather incoherently over the last few months.  Your ears and eyes allowed me to process my thoughts and  I am finally outing myself completely now, with the whole story.  Big, fat hugs to you all.  I won't name you because I'm bound to forget one person and that would be unforgivable   

And I thank Lisa PetrilliGini Dietrich, Valeria Maltoni and Deborah Ivanoff for being women in business that have inspired and resonated with me.  



  1. I love the manifesto! I am going to email you with questions.

  2. Lee, Best wishes with this project! Love, Lisa

  3. Thanks Farrah, I would love to answer your questions!

  4. Lisa, thanks for your support. You are a big inspiration to me!

  5. You are amazing and inspiring!!! All best wishes to you!

  6. Lee,

    It's just beautiful to watch this come to life for you after hearing you "speak" your vision out loud only recently! Now that you've written about it and shared it I know that the right people to help you manifest it will start coming into your world. Keep your eyes open and get ready!

    So thrilled for you! Please keep me posted...
    Lisa Petrilli

  7. Thanks Lisa, your kindness has been so heartening to me and reading your blog has given me courage. You know I will definitely keep you posted and I am ready to embrace whatever comes next.

  8. Well done, Lee. Your passion for the project will make it succeed! xx

  9. The love and support of my friends gives me the power to do anything! Thanks Kim!