Sunday, April 03, 2016

Indie Bookstores, Yann Martel, Yiddish for Pirates, Indie for Authors Day and community.

I pose with Yann Martel and the great staff of The Book Keeper bookstore.

Over the last week, I read a few times from my not-even-released-yet novel Yiddish for Pirates (it comes out officially, tomorrow, April 5!) notably in two events arranged by independent bookstores in Sarnia and Uxbridge. Both events were with Yann Martel (Life of Pi, and just released, The High Mountains of Portugal.) I'd never met him and he turned out to be a fascinating and charming guy. I had quite a lot of time to chat with him as we took a limo (when you're Yann Martel you get a limo!) to the events and when we had dinner with the people from the bookstores. That was great and I'm really glad to have had the opportunity. And the events each had nearly 200 people in attendance who were extremely enthusiastic and engaged and bought books (and not just Yann's!—I was relieved there were some who lined up to have me sign also—I've been at events as a poet reading with a graphic novelist where he had a line-up of 300 and no-one, except my kind wife, came to my table. And she didn't even ask me to sign!)

What really struck me at these events was the vitality of the readership in these small communities. And the importance that these local bookstores (Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge and The Book Keeper in Sarnia) have in cultivating, maintaining and energizing these reading communities. These both were small independent bookstores with a handful of staff (but yet who regularly organize these large events.) Both were owned and run by very dynamic and knowledgable women who appeared to know everyone—the network of other booksellers, authors, and most especially, their customers and community. 

Here I am in Sarnia likely making a terrible joke about parrots or language.

This is perhaps something that isn't talked about enough. How local indie bookshops not only know books and know the tastes of their customers, but how they add to the community by participating in and organizing a host of community events and creating and supporting local initiatives—literary, cultural, educational, social, and more. 

The Book Keeper event in Sarnia, for instance, raised money for the Organization for Lambton Literacy. I know my local Hamilton bookstores (Epic Books and Bryan Prince Bookseller) do a ton of things in the city. Every time I look around, there they are, involved in events, supporting community, schools, local writers, etc. 

Indie bookstores make readers and writers connect and believe that writers and readers have a place in the community and that they add something positive to life in the city or town. That thinking and talking about ideas and literary is worthwhile, enjoyable, and fun. And that the whole shebang—reading, writing, thinking, talking and engaging—is an extremely positive and important endeavour. 

So many indie bookstores punch far above their weight. They don't just sell widgets but books as well as that thing that isn't selling.

AND they are enthusiastic, hospitable, friendly and supportive to an author like me. I'm grateful as both a writer and a reader. As someone who buys a ton of books he reads. And a ton of books he does't get around to reading but buy anyway. I'm really glad that I'm going to be participating in the Authors for Indies day on April 30 (I'll be at Epic Books and Bryan Prince Bookseller in Hamilton) to celebrate indie booksellers and let everyone know—including them—how much important they are to me and to our community.

No comments: