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Second life for an unknown writer

by John F Brooke, over 2 years ago

This is not a particularly Canadian-culture story per se – my fictional cop Inspector Aliette Nouvelle is French. But I am a Canadian writer, from Toronto, living in Montreal, fortunate to have published 8 books. The message I would like to share is that for those of us who are not supported by major Toronto publisher PR budgets: The best way forward is LOCAL.

My books are published by a small publisher in Winnipeg, operating on an accordingly small PR budget. Being far away in Montreal and never been great at “selling myself”, there is too much distance. My books and my profile have never really got past a certain barrier. This past summer I experienced small revelation in Creemore ON, where I vacation to be near the core on my Toronto-based family.

A young (30’s) couple have recently assumed ownership of The Curiosity House bookstore in Creemore. They, and the people around them, are totally conversant with digital messaging and know how to create a continual energy around their enterprise. This summer they expanded beyond in-store readings and book launches and started the Dunedin Literary Festival, in the village 10km from Creemore. I was invited to be part of it.

I could not believe how fantastic it felt to be so closely supported and have a real audience show up to hear me (and about a dozen other authors) read and talk about their work. Not a large audience, but solid, INTERESTED, and very supportive of the community. Result: I am working at transposing my identity (such as it is) from “Montreal writer” to “Creemore writer”. There is a small group of writers in the area (which will surely grow); AND there is this dynamic town bookstore at the centre of it.

To me, it feels like the start of a second life as a writer. I really hope arts/culture agencies at federal and provincial levels will turn a serious eye toward small bookstores such as Curiosity House in smaller communities across Canada and make sure they receive support in cultivating local writers!

John Brooke

Montreal

20 Nov 2016

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