It’s a long time since I had a real holiday, and I can’t see me getting one this year either, due to family commitments, writing commitments and finances. In the past, I’ve usually been spending my time dashing around the landscape doing stuff with, and often for, other people. Then there’s work; the ‘day job’ does have a habit of getting in the way. That’s life, but not as we know it.
So when I decided to book a couple of weeks annual leave from the daily grind, thinking that a change would be as good as a rest, I did rather wonder what I would get up to. As anyone who knows me will tell you, when I’m let off my leash I’m not one for sitting down, unless that’s to write!
I really did need to spend some time fixing up the house, and then there’s my dear old mom to look after, so it could be tricky. Aha! A lightbulb moment flashed into being. I would split my fortnight of supposed ‘rest’ into a second week of house battering and garden splattering, and a first week of… Hmmm.
Then I remembered that the end of June and the first week of July had been declared, of all things, ‘Independent Booksellers Week’ – a national event to promote that near-extinct but highly worthwhile species, the independent bookshop. I only remembered because recently Walsall had sprouted its only independent bookstore – the brand, spanky new Southcart Books located in a smartly converted Victorian shop unit in Lower Hall Lane.
Being both a writer and a book (amongst other things) geek I had of course leapt in with both boots to welcome the jolly nice proprietors, Scott Southey and Amy Carter, onto the Walsall booky scene, such as it is. Just as well they do a lot of mail order. But surprisingly, and pleasingly, they have gotten off to a good start in their delightfully Olde-Worlde outside, and Tardis-like bigger on the inside, shop, which I have since been doing my best to support in my own small way.
Of course if it wasn’t for Scott and Amy’s imagination, boldness and sense of enterprise we wouldn’t have an independent bookstore at all, so that’s all to their credit. And to the benefit of readers. writers and publishers, especially independent writers (and publishers) in the Walsall area and across the Midlands. So mutual support is clearly essential – especially from readers, who it is hoped will see how important this new shop is.
Nothing against Waterstones or The Works, or even WH Smiffs, but being corporate entities, while despite having greater monetary clout, they would find it difficult, or impossible, to do some of the things which Southcart Books can do, with their inherent flexibility, not being beholden as the big names are to the ‘powers that be’ upstairs. Southcart Books is also unique in the area now, being a stockist of largely second-hand books, though they do carry a small stock of new books and should be able to order most things in.
I had already offered to help Scott and Amy organise a small event at the shop where writers and publishers could get together for a chat and hopefully offer book fans the opportunity to hear about and read something different to what they might usually expect to find in the big name bookstores. Independent writers, local and regional writers, and independently-published books. The Writers Gathering, as it now is – but that’s another story, or at least another post. If you’re interested, do check out the link.
Anyway, I digress. The point is, I then thought to myself, why not have a week of Grand Days Out during Independent Booksellers Week, rocketing around looking for Science Fiction books in nice places, the logical culmination of which would be The Writers Gathering on Saturday 5 July, and then probably falling down in a dead faint on the Sunday… And blog it! Two birds with one stone: a jolly week out and about, and an excuse for a spot of bookish bloggery.
Splendid – and the idea clicked firmly into place after fellow writer Jan Edwards very kindly pointed me in the direction of a handy list of secondhand and antiquarian bookshops:
Hmmm. Where did I go first?
Well, you’ll find out in the next post in this series, A Bookish Week Off: Destination Moon.