BOOK TALK WITH GSPL: HEATHER CAMPBELL
Heather Campbell is one of the founders of Latitude 46, a local publishing company, and the festival director for Wordstock Sudbury Literary Festival, which takes place November 2 – 4. As someone who literally gets to read books for a living, it is clear that books have had a large impact on her life. We talked with her about how her passion for reading started and what specific books changed her life.
Book Talk is a new monthly discussion on books with local Sudburians brought to you by Greater Sudbury Public Library. This on-going series will highlight conversations about the books that changed the lives of readers right here in Our Crater. The Greater Sudbury Public Library offers programs and events each month at various locations across the community. One new program starting this month is the Read-a-Latté Book Club taking place at Old Rock on Minto Street at 6:30 PM on September 21. Join us for a discussion about the book Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. For more information please visit SudburyLibraries.ca or call 705-673-1155.
Were you a reader growing up? What books influenced you early in life?
Books have always been really important in my life. I discovered them very early on. It wasn’t just that it provided me with an escape; I loved what I could learn from books. I remember being really young and loving Rupert Bear, a book my grandmother introduced me to. I am not sure if I could read at that point but I loved the pictures. Then I started reading at 7 or 8 and got into Trixie Belden books, the early version of a Nancy Drew book (the first book in this series is The Secret of the Mansion by Julie Campbell. As soon as I could read, there was no stopping me. I always loved English class, and writing book reports, but the first book that really blew me away was The Stand by Stephen King. I read this when I was 13 years old. Stephen King was already popular with The Shining but I discovered The Stand, a quasi-real story that had important messages about who we are as humans. What struck me as a 13-year old was discovering the idea of good and evil… it was my first really big book. In grade 12, I read The Wars by Timothy Findley and I was just blown away. I loved the way he wrote, how it just flowed. It was like listening to good music to me and I was fascinated by the history and his storytelling. Then I started discovering Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. I was 17 or 18 years old, taking the TTC and reading these books on my way to school.
What is it you find in a good book that you can’t find anywhere else?
Growing up, when I wanted to know something, I would go to books. It was “pre-Google”. And, even now with Google, if I want an answer to something quick I go there, but if I really want to understand something I go to books. I think it also relates to good music. When you hear great music and have fun at a concert, you are inspired and feel good. With the Wordstock Sudbury Literary Festival, it takes that idea and makes it about books. Lots of times writers and readers are introverts so it can be hard to get us out but in the same way we might jump to go to a concert with a musician we love. Listening to writers talk about their books does the same thing. Listening to Gregory Scofield read his poetry is like going to a concert; you get the same feeling of inspiration.
How did your love of books lead you to Latitude 46 and the Wordstock Sudbury Literary Festival?
I think it is important to have a venue for writers, to have that support and access to the bigger publishing industry in Canada. A big part of what we do is nurture writing. We want to create books that meet the standards of the Canadian publishing world and nurture writers that people will want to talk about in book clubs. It’s not easy, and the reason we do it is out of a deep passion to create the kinds of books that I was inspired by growing up. When it comes to Wordstock, I think there are a lot of readers-in-hiding in Sudbury (laughter here). There are quite a few book clubs and so people are already reading and talking about books, the next step from that is to bring authors in and talk to them. We want to talk about what makes people write the things they do. We want to know things like ‘what made you write this? What were you thinking?’ When you read a good book sometimes you would love to talk to that author about how and why they did it.
What is your advice to people looking to find their next great read?
I seem to find books without even looking. I was with friends in a New York City bookstore; I started browsing through the biographies section and pulled out something I had never heard of and I read the back and thought “I can totally relate to that.” It was Turbulent Souls by Stephen Dubner who went on to be a popular podcaster. I also love going into libraries and discovering something totally new; I have found some really good books just by accident. You just need to go in and start looking; the book will just talk to you – visit libraries, book stores, book sales. There are just as many books as there are songs in the world and just because you haven’t heard of something doesn’t mean it isn’t good. That is another thing I’m hoping Wordstock will do for Sudbury readers – introduce people to writers and books they have never heard of. People like Cherie Dimaline (who wrote A Gentle Habit: a Book of Short Stories) who has done a lot of writing but likely many people in Sudbury haven’t heard of before.
What is the book that you think everyone should read?
I think everyone should read Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis. It has won awards for good reason (this novel was the winner of the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize, the 2015 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, as well as the 2017 edition of Canada Reads). The author was a master in putting the story together. I love the insight he brings to us through this book. Also, I can relate to this book because it is set in Toronto, near High Park – I know those streets, I know that park and I love to hear about another writer’s experience in places that I have been and know well.
*All books listed in this article in bold are available at the Greater Sudbury Public Library. Titles can be reserved online at www.SudburyLibraries.ca and picked up at any one of the 13 library locations.
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