Janice MacDonald is the author of eleven books, including novels, non-fiction titles, and a children’s book. She has been widely anthologized, and her popular Randy Craig novels were the first mystery series set in Edmonton. Janice has taught English literature, communications, and creative writing at both the University of Alberta and Grant MacEwan College. She currently works for the the Government of Alberta. Born in Banff, Alberta, Janice lives and writes in Edmonton and considers herself to be a quintessential Albertan.
I was in the bookstore today, for the important reason that it was in the same parking lot as the dim sum restaurant, and as I wandered from table to table and through the aisles, idly picking up too many books, I was suddenly struck by the depressing thought that there were probably a thousand too many new books for me to choose from…and mine was about to be one of them.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those tree-hugging types who see every bunk of paperbacks as a lost birch. I was an English major, which every other English major in the world will understand means that forever more, I shall obediently buy seventeen books whenever I wander into a bookstore, without looking at the sticker price. On top of that, I learned to read at the age of three and have spent the better part of my life reading at least three books a week.
I LOVE books. Trashy books, chapbooks, classics, CanLit, non-fiction, speculative fiction, chick lit, prize winners, Oprah’s choices, Richard and Judy’s choices, Heather’s choices, my daughters’ choices, my husband’s choices, the books on either side of the book I came in for, anything written by Jasper Fforde, books by my friends, books by my rivals, and – of course, mystery novels.
So, why would I feel depressed on this particular day, staring as I was, at table after table of “must reads” offerings? Probably a lot of it was due to the stacks and stacks of copies that would soon be vying with the copies of my latest book that this mega store would be stocking. There’s nothing like a new book to make you feel both invincible and invisible.
Writing is a by its very nature, paradoxical. It is a solitary act in which the writer – usually a very private person – sends out a clarion call to a multitude. Next, that same writer is asked to appear in person (thank goodness for guest blogs! Thanks, Lelia!) in order to promote their work, and while out in the open, to speak with people, sign books, smile, and try to appear as if they are enjoying themselves. All they want is to be back in their writing corner, wherever that may be. Or out having dim sum, and then browsing in a bookstore with their family.
All the books kept staring at me, but just then, my daughter appeared down the aisle, with several books in her arms. How alike we were, standing there, five or six books apiece, looking vaguely guilty, as if we’d just snuck a piece of chocolate cake and been caught with crumbs on our nose. I looked at her choices, not one of them the same as mine, but equally eclectic – and suddenly, I felt fine. Let all these thousands of books appear, and all the thousands to follow. There would be readers enough for all of them.
But please, pick mine.