By Margaret Alkerton
Stop reading. That’s right. It’s not reverse psychology, but it is what authors across the country are asking readers to do. On April 30, they want you to put down your paperbacks and get out to celebrate Authors for Indies day. They want to talk books with you.
For the second year running, Canadian authors are heading to their local, independent bookstores to support the small-time sellers that support them the most. “Authors for Indies is a day when Canadian authors give back to independent bookstores,” explained Janie Chang, Vancouver author of Three Souls and founder of AFI. “They stock our books, they invite us for readings, they put us on the ‘Staff Picks’ and ‘Proudly Canadian’ shelves. So we want to bring in more customers on April 30 and help these bookstores have a great retail day. It really ends up being a celebration of indie bookstores and lots of fun.”
And at Novel-Teas in Niagara Falls, Authors for Indies [AFI] is shaping up to be quite the page-turner.
While every day is a hub of creativity at Novel-Teas, with the shop hosting a range of events each month including tea readings, colouring parties, and euchure nights – Authors for Indies is special.
“I was hooked and on board right away,” said owner and operator Dale Rutherford, of her first introduction to AFI in 2015. This year, her event will run 10am-4pm and boasts readings, signings, recommendations and general chit-chat with ten different authors, writing everything from children’s books to horror novels. Rutherford will also be opening her doors to the Sights and Sounds festival in the evening, adding live music and art to her day’s celebrations.
Rutherford’s line-up of authors is equally excited to be taking part in AFI. “The best part is connecting with readers,” shares Susan Orchard, author of the Port Aster Secrets series. “Writing is a solitary occupation.” I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that reading is too. As readers, we don’t often share books in real-time, the way we share movies or songs. Sharing a book is sharing something we’ve felt, and perhaps that is why it’s so satisfying. Wayne Mallows, author of The Vampyre Tales series, offers a similar sentiment about the opportunity to connect through AFI. “Events like this bring people out and gives us all a chance to meet each other, talk with one another and actually be a ‘community,’ something I think is so vital.”
The Downtown Niagara Falls community has been overwhelmingly supportive of AFI. Jeffro’s BBQ and the Old Crow Bar & Bistro are getting involved by giving 15% off coupons to AFI-goers, and The Cigar Experience is also providing 10% off coupons. All can be found in Novel-Teas’ AFI event package, available in-store.
With growing interest, Rutherford anticipates a full, weekend-long celebration of literary arts next year. “It means a lot to me to have people come downtown and spend time here,” she says. “Downtown Niagara Falls is growing and gaining in popularity. Small locally owned shops are popping up and it’s important that we support them so that they stay here. This kind of day will help do that.”
My one complaint about the way this story ends is that Novel-Teas is the only bookstore in the region currently registered for AFI, despite Niagara being home to a number of unique and personal sellers. Rutherford notes Hannelore Hedley’s in St. Catharines as one of her favourites, and Booksmart Books on Scott Street also gets great reviews.
So, what are the bibliophiles to do?
Janie Chang has one suggestion. “It’s pretty simple […] Sign Up.” Authors for Indies offers a comprehensive website full of FAQs for writers and shop-owners alike. Upon signing up, authors and booksellers can connect locally with one another to structure their event and continue the growth of AFI. Last year’s event saw increases of 18.5% in daily sales.
As a movement, AFI is about so much more than the sales it produces. These professional booklovers want you to be reading and want you to be sharing. Authors for Indies is about raising ongoing awareness of literary spaces and about finding our places within them. It is about shifting what exists in the mind and on the page into memorable, real world experiences. In Niagara, it is developing, one chapter at a time.