...aside from, you know, reading books and stuff...
A few days ago, an article shared by local writer Annabel Smith provided me with some food for thought. (Annabel's twitter posts often get the cogs in my brain turning, so if you're on Twitter, I would highly recommend following her.) The article was by Robyn Mundy, and it discussed the impact of loaning books to your friends on the larger literary ecosystem. I have to confess, I tend to loan my books although I don't often borrow them. I have an impulse control issue when it comes to buying books! But I'd never really thought about what the impact of loaning books might be on this industry I count myself as a part of.
This article sparked a lot of debate, with many book lovers confessing to loaning their books out, and one Twitter user objecting to the way the article seemed to make out like readers were in need of a telling off.
I'm still going to loan my books to people, especially as the people I loan them to tend to be book buyers themselves, but today I wanted to share with you ten great things you can do for your local literary community.
1. Attend bookish events
As someone who has been involved in putting on literary events, I know that it can sometimes feel like pulling teeth to get people to attend. Generally, readers are happy that the author is visiting, but they're reluctant to commit to coming along. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, the most notable of them being the Perth Writers Festival held each February. The bottom line is, time and effort have gone into putting on a great event, but if you keep saying 'I'll go to the next one', there will come a point when there is no next one to speak of.
Our local writers centres in Perth host a lot of affordable book events, including talks and workshops. Check out what's coming up by visiting their websites (there are links in the sidebar of this blog) or liking their pages on Facebook.
Here are some quick links to events in Perth over the next few months.
MAY 25 Stories on Stage at Kooliny Arts Centre with Natasha Lester and Rachel Johns
MAY 29 Creative Conversation with Michelle Michau-Crawford
JUNE 1 Short Story Book Club at the Centre for Stories
JUNE 11 Blogging workshop at KSP Writers Centre with Annabel Smith
JULY 12 Author Talk with Liz Byrski at the Grove Library
2. If you read something you love, tell people about it.
There's enough negativity in the world already! I don't need to know that you hated Go Set a Watchman, but I do want to hear about it if an obscure Japanese novelist just blew your socks off. Addicted to Ferrante? Let's chat about it. Blog, tweet, face to face, smoke signals, the important thing to know is that recommendations lead to sales, and unless that author is JK Rowling, sales are the difference between publishing one book and publishing many. (For more on this, Robyn Mundy's article linked above does break this down really nicely.)
3. Make use of your local indie bookseller.
They know things. They love books. They are the literary matchmakers of the world, and no algorithm can ever replace them.
4. Consider subscribing to a literary magazine.
These magazines give homes to stories, poems and articles that would otherwise go unread.
Some of my favourites?
Kill Your Darlings
5. Visit your library.
See above, regarding booksellers. Librarians are also book loving, book recommending machines, but the best thing is, they'll let you read the books for free so long as you bring them back in four or so weeks! Some of the books may even be out of print, so a library is the very best way to get a hold of them. Plus, copies of books held in libraries do generate income for their writers.
6. Subscribe to local publishers' newsletters
Fremantle Press, Magabala Books, UWA Press and Margaret River Press are four great WA publishers, and you can keep in touch with what they're working on by visiting their websites and subscribing to their newsletters. This is a great way to hear about new books as well as events and industry news.
7. Go to writers festivals!
This is always a really fun way to spend a weekend or a day. The Sydney Writers Festival is on now, which is a festival I haven't yet been to, but I always come home from the Perth Festival with a head full of ideas and my arms full of books. I'm also super excited to see that Perth is getting its very own Short Story Festival later this year, so keep your eyes on this website for more about that.
8. Join a book club
I joined a book club about a year ago and have quickly made some awesome friends because of it. Book clubs are a great way to discover authors you've never even considered trying before, and they're also a great excuse to go out and explore a new bar or restaurant. Our book club meets once a month, and it's a surefire way for me to turn a grumpy day into a great one. Food, books and good people are always a recipe for happiness.
In Perth, we're incredibly blessed to have a generous and supportive writing community, and oftentimes, you can even convince a local author to attend your book club meeting. (The availability of wine strengthens your case in this regard!) It's common courtesy to make sure that if you do this, everyone in the group buys a copy of the book, or borrows one from the library. They're giving up their time to be there, so the least you can do is buy their book!
9. Join a writers' centre
Writers' Centres are not just for serious novelists or travelling bards. Writers' centres provide programs for writers at all points in their careers, whether you write epic fantasy or family history. We have a few great ones in Perth. Check out The Fellowship of Australian Writers WA, the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre and the Peter Cowan Writers Centre.
10. Read blogs!
Bit biased here, but I love reading people's blogs, particularly bookish ones! Blogs are a great way to discover book reviews written by people who don't necessarily have advanced degrees or write books themselves (though a lot of us do!) They are reviews written by readers, for readers. Often, bloggers participate in excellent campaigns to raise awareness for certain causes, such as the Australian Women Writers Challenge, which seeks to address the gender imbalance in Australian reviewing, and the #LoveOzYA campaign, celebrating the unique and wonderful genre that is Australian Young Adult.
So that's it from me for now!
I hope you got some ideas about how you can get involved, and I hope to see you at an upcoming event.