Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Behind the Books, with Producer Judith Keenan

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Judith Keenan

When we think of the people behind the books we love, we generally think of writers. But many people work in a variety of professions to get those books onto your shelves. In our new series, Behind the Books, Open Book speaks with the printers, publicists, book sellers, book bloggers, event programmers and many others who work in the publishing industry.

Kicking off our Behind the Books series is Television, Film and New Media producer Judith Keenan. Judith has credits on six documentary films, twenty-five short films, a national television series and on-screen editorial and news segments.  She works independently as a Contract Producer and Business Development Executive as well as producing original film, television and new media properties through her company BookShorts. BookShorts Literacy Program is her not-for-profit organization that works to promote literacy. You've seen many of Judith's fabulous BookShorts videos featured on Open Book as Videos of the Week.

Open Book:

How long have you been at your current job?

Judith Keenan:

Being self-employed for so long, I suppose the technically correct answer is exactly 20 years. In fact, it was this question that just made me realize the last time someone other than me signed my paycheck was 1993! After a rather winding but never boring trajectory in Canada and US undertaking many types of jobs, the most recent iteration would be my job as Producer for my two companies, namely BookShorts Inc., where we make film, TV and digital media properties, and BookShorts Literacy Program, that focuses on its not-for-profit mandate to foster literacy in all its forms using the film, TV and digital projects BookShorts creates — including a huge emphasis on reading literacy. We do that by creating and implementing marketing programs including live events, online campaigns, publicity and promotions of various kinds.


What does an average work day look like for you?


Happily, there are few “average” days, primarily because the work we do is all of creative, technical and business in one, and therefore spans so many “languages.” For instance, in any one day, I could be pitching sponsors, negotiating with publishers, cajoling writers into doing just one more script draft, writing television series outlines, balancing budgets, hiring camera crews, working with picture editors on thorny post-production issues, architecting entire new website enterprises, strategizing social media marketing campaigns and prospecting for new books and authors works to turn into a film project or web property. Makes for long days sometimes, but variety is the spice of life, which means my job is one hot tamale.


What's the best thing about your job?


The same aspect that makes it challenging makes it incredibly rewarding. For instance, when a film gets finished, and we watch the long list of credits go by, that's an amazing feeling — to know that all those differently talented people came together to make something powerful happen. And those “somethings” can be pretty amazing. We’ve had tales of audiences crying at screenings, of practically illiterate grandfathers in small towns purchasing their first book of poetry, of librarians and teachers being able to convince classes of young adults to stick with reading even though its not “cool,” of writers who have sold feature film options, sold more books, received more press attention, get the second book deal as a result of media made and campaigns rolled out. My favourite feedback stories are the ones where someone says to me, “I didn't know that writers work before, thanks for the introduction.” That really makes my day.


When you were a kid, what was your dream job?


Gosh, I don’t much remember being a kid, in the same way that I look at my 48 year old face in the mirror today and see a 17 year old! I can tell you this though, I do love being a Producer. To bring seemingly disparate things together, sparked by a creative vision, driven by someone’s imagination, a team of imaginings, to make a whole new shiny thing that will catalyze someone out there to take a look, or read a book, or pick up their own pen or camera — that’s a dream I’m privileged to be living now.

Read more about Judith Keenan and her work at

For more information about BookShorts, please visit

Check back for more Behind the Books interviews with Ontario's publishing professionals.

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