If it weren’t for independent bookstores and my local newspaper I would not be writing this blog. So this post is all about thanks and praise. There’s a role for you to play too, so keep reading!
I got the idea to praise these outstanding local institutions by reading this delightful Ann Patchett essay in the New York Times just before Stuart and I set off this summer for Petoskey, MI.
Following the places named in the Times article, we visited McLean & Eakin Booksellers shop, and there met the new co-owner Jessilyn Norcross, and her wonderful staff. Not only did we buy books about by and about Hemingway and the Michigan North Country, we also got “insider” tips on what to see, eat, and do in the area. Our journey was made twice as delightful by a visit to a thriving independent bookstore. The store gives back to its own community in very creative ways, benefiting local schools and libraries, as the YouTube below illustrates.
But back to my own community, where there are other newspapers, bookstores, and public libraries to celebrate. Even though I get much of my news from online sources and NPR, I still subscribe to The Kalamazoo Gazette. Why? Because I believe that local communities need local newspapers. They provide a forum for democratic conversation and commonly-shared information. And they can do much good by focusing the spotlight on community needs, local politics, and local perspectives on the national scene.
They also can foster writers and workshops and a host of other issues I care about. I became a memoir writer because of this Kalamazoo Gazette community literary awards competition, where I won prizes in the adult memoir category in 2007 for “The Fresh Air Girl,” 2008 for “Daddy’s Girl,” and 2009 for “My Mother’s Pulpit.” I enjoyed going to the Portage District Library to accept the awards because the room was full of people who love to read and write, and I especially enjoyed seeing children and teenagers and MFA program students reading their work. Fantastic community relations, Kalamazoo Gazette! I also enjoy the Kalamazoo Public Library where I can browse, use a study room, and listen to local writers (so many wonderful ones) read from their work.
The Community Literary Awards brings all three of these institutions together. The newspaper partners with the local libraries and four independent bookstores (Bookbug a bookstore just for kids, Kazoo Books, Lowry’s Books, and the Michigan News Agency) in giving out these awards. All of these stores contribute so much to the literacy and economy of western Michigan. If you live anywhere close by, get thee to one or more of them! And buy!
Now, please comment below to add other local newspapers, public libraries, and independent bookstores you love and endorse. Let’s show our appreciation here and help to make our communities stronger. Better yet, tell a story about how one of these three institutions changed your life.