For thirty-eight years–since I came here for university in 1978–I have frequented the aisles of an independent bookstore in my city, starting at its original location and moving with it to its purpose-built new home, which included a cafe, and after a few years, a cinema. I’m not exaggerating when I say it has been, and is, a cultural hub here, and is in part responsible for the fact that we have a small but healthy downtown, one filled with cafes and interesting stores, music venues and concerts, art shows, and summer markets. It’s been a labour of love from one family, into the second generation now.
I used to look at all eclectic books…and dream that one day a title of mine would join them. Delivered to them today, soon Empire’s Daughter will grace the Young Adult fiction shelves. I am excited, awed, honoured. Of all the places it can be bought, this is the one that matters to me. This is the one that validates me as a writer. This is the dream come true. Can you imagine how that feels?
Our revered and celebrated local bookstore/restaurant/cinema opens its restaurant/bar area to writers on Monday mornings. It’s just a quiet place to write, with internet access, coffee and tea, and focus. No instruction, no conversation.
I’ve just started attending this fall. Sometimes people record on the chalkboard what they are working on – business writing, theses, novels, short stories, memoirs, blog entries. I use the time to work on Empire’s Hostage. It’s highly productive: there are no distractions, and unlike working at the university library I can leave my laptop and phone on the table when I go to the washroom, or to move my car to avoid a parking ticket.
In a couple of weeks we’re doing an evening session, a salon – basically an open mike night for the writers who write here. I’m both looking forward to it and apprehensive. Two of the writers who come on Monday mornings – regulars – have both been nominated for prestigious national writing awards. And I’m going to read an excerpt from my genre fiction?
But yes, I am. While I’m in awe of writers who are writing work worthy of major book awards, I’m not one of them. I write to tell a simple story to entertain – and I hope to some extent challenge – young adults (or maybe anyone over the age of twelve) and to explore landscapes, both physical and of the mind. I do it the best I can, and that’s what I’ll read. And because I know this city, and the attitudes of those for whom this bookstore is an important part of their lives, there won’t be judgement, or negativity. We’ll appreciate each others writing, regardless of genre, or publishing contract, or experience. I’ll let you know how it goes!