Farmers’ Market-goers can buy local merlot, baby carrots, sourdough bread, strawberries, Adirondack chairs, painted thank you cards, alpaca scarves and, now, books. A new pop-up bookshop featuring titles by Okanagan writers is creating a buzz as it helps readers discover the valley’s literature.
Read Local Okanagan’s stall features 52 titles by 24 writers from across the region—everything from vintage poetry collections by Sharon Thesen and the latest book of poems by John Lent to the bestselling new historical novels of Alix Hawley (All True Not A Lie) and Shelley Wood (The Quintland Sisters).
“People are always so surprised to see that all of these books are by Okanagan writers, and it is amazing to see them all together like this,” says Kate Mahaits, a Read Local Okanagan team member who runs the stall at the Vernon Farmers’ Market every Thursday.
Local writer and business owner Natalie Appleton came up with the idea of a pop-up bookshop featuring local literature after a trip to the Farmers’ Market last fall, not long after the launch of her first book, a literary travel memoir entitled I Have Something to Tell You.
“We have so many beautiful, beautiful books by writers in this region, and yet the people who love to read and want to support local arts didn’t have an easy way to find these books,” says Appleton. “The idea has been so well-received by both readers and writers. So many of the writers got back to us within minutes saying they’d love to be a part of Read Local and we had most of our books within a week, so I think the writers were really keen to have an opportunity like this to market their books.”
A strong and early supporter of Read Local Okanagan has been Vernon writer John Lent, also a former Okanagan College dean and creative writing professor. Many of the Read Local writers teach at Okanagan College or UBC Okanagan, have won awards and have national acclaim.
“Read Local gives us a way to have a stake in our own writers,” says Lent. “Back in 1991, there were around six writers living from Salmon Arm to Penticton who had published books. I now know of at least 35 professional writers who have moved here in the last 10 years. These are national writers who have a reputation outside of the Okanagan. All together, they have more than 100 merchandisable books.”
Some of the pop-up bookshop’s works also feature the Okanagan and the Interior, such as The Sudden Weight of Snow by Coldstream writer Laisha Rosnau (who recently won The Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize) and the acclaimed Shelter by Penticton writer Frances Greenslade.
Other titles are more eclectic or experimental, such as Armstrong resident Kevin McPherson’s Circadia; Kelowna writer Sean Johnston’s Listen All You Bullets, a contemporary retelling of the western classic, Shane; or Adam Lewis Schroeder’s All-Day Breakfast, a witty literary novel about zombies. Read Local Okanagan is also featuring a single children’s book, Marshall Plays Hockey, gorgeously illustrated and written by two Vernon sisters to tell the story of an ambitious moose.
“Whatever age you are and whatever literary style you’re into—or want to try—we really do have a title you’ll love,” says Mahaits.