A farmers' market page-turner: See local authors and book lovers on display this weekend

·3 min read
St. John’s Farmers’ Market executive director Pamela Anstey describes the book fair as a combination of trade show, market and meeting place.  (Elizabeth Whitten - image credit)
St. John’s Farmers’ Market executive director Pamela Anstey describes the book fair as a combination of trade show, market and meeting place. (Elizabeth Whitten - image credit)
Elizabeth Whitten
Elizabeth Whitten

If your favourite day of the school year was the book fair, you're in luck.

The St. John's Farmers' Market on Freshwater Road is being taken over by book lovers Sunday, offering approximately 40 vendors taking part in a local book fair.

Farmers' market executive director Pamela Anstey described it as a combination of trade show, market and meeting place.

"We thought it would be a great thing to get together a whole wide range of various different book sellers, peripheral organizations, anything to do with books to bring people together and have their own little market that's just for book lovers," said Anstey.

The booths will range from local publishers and authors to used book sellers, as well as the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador. There will also be book-related paraphernalia, including letterpress embossing and the selling of handmade journals.

For people who get peckish, Fatima's Indian Food, the Jewish Deli and Casablanca Bakery will also be there, she said.

The book fair is putting the spotlight on what Anstey described as the province's high quality, but often overlooked, industry.

"I think a lot of times people don't realize how skilled the authors in this province are and how diverse the authors in this province are," said Anstey.

"So you have book sellers who are selling for all genres, not just traditional Newfoundland genres. So it's a really great opportunity to highlight the diversity of the skillset of some really talented local authors and local book publishers."

The event is also meant to give a boost to an industry that's been walloped by the pandemic, according to Engen Books co-founder and author Matthew LeDrew.

"It's really dire and everyone, to my knowledge, got through it and are now coming out the other side of it, thankfully, and adjusting their plans accordingly. But the big thing you've got to realize is that books get arranged to be published long in advance," said LeDrew.

He already has time booked with a printer in February and beyond for future projects.

When stores closed, many publishers didn't have a place to sell books and had to adapt to the digital world, he explained.

Fortunately for Engen Books, they were already publishing digitally and selling audio books during the pandemic's major crunch. The company even saw a surge from people staying home who needed entertainment, said LeDrew.

Elizabeth Whitten
Elizabeth Whitten

The event is aimed at helping the book industry and local vendors, said Anstey, adding "everybody coming here is a local small business. And we want to celebrate that."

The book fair also is also an opportunity for authors to meet and hobnob with others in the industry.

"I'd love to encourage writers to come out because there's very rare instances in this province when all the publishers are at one spot together. If you're a local writer, this is kind of like heaven for pitching your book and seeing who would be interested in your book," said LeDrew.

"Aside from the [Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador] annual general meeting, which is going to be virtual again this year, there's very few one-stop shops where you can come and network this way."

This is the first St. John's Farmers' Market book fair, with Anstey and LeDrew saying they'd like to see the it become a regular event.

"St. John's and Newfoundland is kind of starved for this type of book event," said LeDrew, pointing out Nova Scotia has book and magazine festival Word on the Street Halifax, something lacking here.

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