Wondering what to read next? You’re in luck. Almost 700 writers are scheduled to appear at more than 120 independent bookstores on Saturday, as the first Authors for Indies Day takes place across the country.
The initiative is modelled on Indies First, started by the American author Sherman Alexie in 2013, which aims to increase support for independent bookstores. Last April, the Vancouver novelist Janie Chang e-mailed about 50 of her provincial counterparts in an effort to start a similar campaign in Canada. The numbers quickly swelled.
“Most authors probably have a closet fantasy of owning a bookstore or working in one,” Chang says.
Participating authors include Joseph Boyden, Guy Gavriel Kay and Naomi Klein.
“Once you get into the publishing industry, you can’t help but notice how bookselling is a really, really tough business, and it’s been toughest of all on the small, local independent bookstores,” says Chang, who published her first novel, Three Souls, in 2013.
Booksellers certainly appreciate the support.
“I pray that this becomes a yearly event,” says Kelly Beers, co-manager of the Avid Reader in Cobourg, Ont., which will host Wayne Johnston, Allison Baggio and Plum Johnson, the most recent winner of the RBC Taylor Prize, among others. “I want to see more Canadians coming to local, independent bookstores, and seeing what an individual experience it is.”
In advance of Authors for Indies Day, The Globe asked four authors about the stores in which they will be appearing.
“I’ve never been met with a blank stare when inquiring about a title at Munro’s Books. The neoclassical space houses everything from the hottest hardcovers to obscure finds, and even the literary skinflint will be satisfied by the finely curated paperbacks with some prices in the single digits. Many of the booksellers at this venerable CanLit institution have been there for two decades. Also, costumes are encouraged at book signing events. Who wouldn’t want to shop (or work) there?” – Emily Urquhart, author of Beyond The Pale: Folklore, Family, and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes, will be appearing at Munro’s Books, 1108 Government Street, Victoria
“I’ll be at the secondhand bookstore the Word on [Montreal’s] Milton Street. I first walked in when I was at McGill and was looking for a cheap copy of Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil. It is a tiny little store. Everyone says a prayer before walking in so that the roof won’t collapse. There are novels and photography books and collections of the pensées of mad philosophers piled up on chairs and tables and staircases. It’s a small miracle that such nooks of books still exist.” – Heather O’Neill, author of The Daydreams of Angels, will be appearing at the Word bookstore, 469 Milton St., Montreal
“Nestled along a pedestrian walkway leading from Duckworth Street down to the harbour, Broken Books started out just over a year ago as a bookstore-coffee shop – making the most of its space with a really fine selection of local writers, literary fiction, poetry and an innovative magazine rack. Last time I checked in, owner Matt Howse was busy renovating: The book business is doing so well, he hasn’t got room for café tables any more. But don’t worry: Once you’ve got something new to read from Broken Books, you can head next door to read it – at Fixed Coffee.” – Elisabeth de Mariaffi, author of The Devil You Know, will be appearing at Broken Books, 183A Duckworth St., St. John’s
“Type on Queen Street in Toronto is the kind of bookstore you tell friends from out of town they have to visit. Not only does it offer a thoughtfully curated selection of books (their back room children’s section is particularly charming), but it’s right across from Trinity Bellwoods Park (what, in warm weather, turns into Hipster Beach) and makes for an essential stop on any literate downtowners’ wander.” – Andrew Pyper, author of The Damned, will be appearing at Type Books, 883 Queen St. W., Toronto
For more information, visit authorsforindies.com