This blog first appeared as a column in the Saskatoon Express.
Saskatonians are the best book buyers in the country, according to Amazon.ca.
This is a clever little piece of tracking shared by the mammoth book-and-all-else company, to create some news and buzz. I’m thinking authors are grateful, too. Anything to keep reading in the public eye is much appreciated.
Saskatoon was third last year behind Vancouver and Calgary in the Top 20 Canadian Cities that Love to Read list. This year, we are collectively Number One, partly due to our insatiable thirst for science fiction and non-fiction. Indeed, Saskatoon bought the most books in those genres in the entire country.
For the purposes of clarity, the data reflects sales on a per capita basis, includes all Canadian cities with populations over 100,000, and was compiled over the 12 months from May, 2016.
Hopefully, this is good news for local authors, too. It’s quite incredible to watch the numbers of local books come out.
Last week, for example, topping McNally Robinson’s Saskatoon fiction best seller list was the late Wes Funk with Frostbite. His character’s marriage is in shambles, he’s living in a Saskatoon high-rise with his dog, and enduring a particularly nasty prairie winter. You’ll have to read it to learn more.
Very recently, poet Katherine Lawrence launched her new book Stay, a bit of a departure for her. The new book is young adult literature written in the “novel-in-verse” style. Lawrence, in an email, said she tested the manuscript with local students years ago.
“The feedback prompted a dramatic change in the direction of the book. The kids told me that my main character, Millie, needed more technology in her life. Also, her family was too perfect to be real. They suggested something more dramatic, such as a family going through a break-up.”
She used that feedback to improve her book, and now it’s ready to read. Authors do that feedback thing, you know. Beta readers, content editors, copy editors . . . even kids. They are always trying to make things better.
Also writing in the young adult category is Regine Haensel (disclosure: we belonged to the same book club), who recently published the second book in her series, Child of Dragons; the first was Queen of Fire. She also published the short story collection Rain of Dragonflies, which read and can recommend.
Sitting beside me at the moment is a book lent to me by a friend. The book, A Light in the Dark, is self-published by Kelly Bedford. I haven’t had time to dive into it yet, but I’m again amazed at how people are just writing it, and getting it out there.
Amy Jo Ehman has been on fire with her non-fiction books Prairie Feast and Out of Old Saskatchewan Kitchens. Now she’s diving into Saskatoon’s history. Go AJ, and so pleased to say I was part of the early days when you columnized about eating food within 100 miles of town.
Art Slade has been really busy, especially as writer-in-residence at the Saskatoon library. While there, he relaunched a series of young adult books, published Amber Fang (a librarian vampire! Or is that a vampire librarian? Too much fun) and is working on a piece based on Julius Caesar.
I attended Art’s WIR farewell reception, where four writers who benefited from his advice and guidance read from their books. It really began to dawn on me that evening just how much writing is going on in Saskatoon and area. I mean, I watch this stuff at least on a regular basis, and I had no idea.
Art is a genius, by the way, not just as a writer but as an advisor on how to publish and market books. I visited him twice and have seen some of his advisory power points and stuff. We were very lucky, as writers, to have him as WIR.
I haven’t even weighed in on the big names in our community, like David Carpenter, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Anthony Bidulka and the like, but bless them. They’re the anchors and inspirations of the writerly bunch.
So yes, Amazon, this is a literary place. We write books, read books and apparently even buy books. Do we realize what a great thing this is? In a world where our attention spans are scattered to the winds, where the unintelligent and under-read rise to great power, we manage to focus on the written word, to be entertained and informed; to understand other points of view; to enrich our lives and expand our brains.
Keep on buying those books, fellow Saskatonians. And if you can find it in your heart, buy local while you’re at it.