Many people think of writing as a solitary pursuit. And it is a lot of the time, with hours spent staring at the wall with nothing but figments of our imaginations to keep us company. We research, plan, chart, write, rewrite, then rewrite again. No-one can help us with this. This is on us.
However, in my experience, the literary community is a vital part of a writer’s development. I’ve never enrolled in a creative writing program. It was in writing groups in Victoria that I received feedback on my earliest work. Writer-friends in Montreal have read early drafts, and even edited entire book-length manuscripts for me. Don’t worry about it. This is just what we do, is the response I got back when I offered to pay for services generously provided. Since then, I’ve made it a point to pay it forward whenever the opportunity arises.
Independent booksellers are crucial to the literary community. Shops in Montreal like Argo Bookstore, Drawn and Quarterly, and The Word hold our launches, reading events, and feature our books on their shelves. They are a place for us to socialize, and drink the complimentary wine that helps make that socializing possible. Spots like Monastiraki, or the zine rack at Le Pickup offer unexpected venues for literary discovery. By championing our books to those who would most likely never come into contact with them, indie booksellers are the nexus between writers and the wider reading community. In fact, my first book wouldn’t be seeing French translation in the fall if an editor from Les Allusifs hadn’t randomly come across it on the shelf at Drawn and Quarterly. Why would Independent Bookstores support local talent when there are so many blockbusters to make a buck off of? This is just what we do, is what I imagine their response to be.
People are reading more than they ever have, they just happen to be doing most of it on a screen. There are established online communities of writers who publish and promote one another’s work. We have social media to disseminate our accomplishments across the virtual landscape. And how could we forget the rise of e-books and e-readers to the world of literary pursuit. But nothing will ever replace the flesh-and-blood connections made possible through our local independent bookstores. Real people, real books, and real long-term relationships in a shared place and time. Booksellers have dedicated their lives to the written word, and are in a unique position as mavens and purveyors of the literary arts. Let’s value this by giving back and supporting them.
Authors for Indies is happening across Canada on May 2nd at an independent bookstore near you. For the event, I’ve chosen to promote works from three Montreal writers who have put a book out in the past year: Anna Leventhal’s Sweet Affliction, Guillaume Morissette’s New Tab, and Jacob Wren’s Polyamorous Love Song. All three represent distinct literary voices from the local writing community. I look forward to sharing my appreciation for their work with writers and readers alike at Argo Bookshop between 2 and 5pm on the day. And I hope you’ll find the time to come out, talk books, and perhaps buy one while you’re at it, because, as a good friend once told me, this is just what we do.
(The original article ran in the Montreal Gazette on May 1st, 2015, as a promotion for Authors for Indies).