Like most writers, I’ve been an avid reader since the day I learned to read, and some of my fondest childhood memories are of the independent book stores I frequented with my family. Every time we visited the small town in Ontario where my grandparents lived, for instance, a visit to the bookstore was in order. My parents would let my brother and me browse for ages and pick out as many treasures as we liked.
When I was about fourteen years old, I won my first student writing competition. It was put on by a local Montreal paper, The Westmount Examiner, and the prize was a gift certificate to Westmount’s indie bookstore, The Double Hook. Again, I remember my father smiling indulgently as I spent an hour poring over the shelves, finally leaving with their entire series of Margaret Laurence’s works. Later, as a grown woman, I returned to The Double Hook many times for poetry readings and other events. It was a fixture in the community, a wonderful place to buy and celebrate Canadian literature.
I left Montreal for good many years ago, and was sad to learn that my beloved Double Hook eventually closed its doors, but indie bookstores have remained a fixture in my life, and I have sought them out in every place I have lived. As it happens, my writing of The Dream Peddler was intimately connected with just such a place. In the fall of 2013, I had recently moved with my family to Collegeville, PA for my husband’s job, and I was looking for ways to meet new people and make friends. I discovered there was a local writing group that met at the Towne Book Center in a little Collegeville shopping mall about five minutes from my children’s school. I joined that group, and it changed my life. Every Tuesday morning we met for two hours to write, share our work and resources, and critique each other’s writing. I wrote my book, sometimes reading scenes aloud to the group. Some of them generously offered to be my first beta readers. They celebrated with me when I started querying and got my first manuscript request from an agent.
The Towne Store was home to many groups like this, allowing us to use the seating area in the back of the store for our book clubs and writing sessions at a very low cost. During the two years my family lived in the area, I was able to take my children there to meet some of their favorite authors at book signings, and to buy books for children whose families couldn’t afford them at the holiday book drive. When we moved again a few years later, my biggest regret was leaving that store and all its wonderful people behind. If I could have chosen only one place for a book launch of The Dream Peddler, it would have been there. Right now I can’t get back, but the store has ordered plenty of copies of my book so that my former writing group friends can all buy it there. I’m so grateful.
Now that The Dream Peddler is actually out in the world, some of my greatest daily joys are of booksellers posting about it or sharing pictures of it on store shelves.
To all the indie booksellers: thank you so much for everything you do for book lovers and authors in your community. We would be lost without you.