The Open Book Project
It’s almost time. On Friday, me and the husband will drive down from our home on the Isle of Skye to Edinburgh to spend the weekend with our son and his wife-to-be. It will be good to spend time with them and have a proper catch-up. I’m sure one of the main topics will be how the plans for the wedding in May in Cyprus are going––an event the whole family is looking forward to.
But quality family time isn’t the reason for this post. Edinburgh is a stopping off point before Iain and I embark on a bit of an adventure. On Sunday we’ll be heading off to Wigtown, a small market town in the south-west of Scotland. Wigtown is also Scotland’s National Book Town, a title earned not only because it has a high number of second hand bookshops relative to its size, but also because of its very popular annual book festival. However, as the festival takes place in the autumn, it’s not the reason for our visit.
We’re going to Wigtown because our application to take part in The Open Book Project was accepted. This is a six-month project being run by the book festival company. The project sought people to run a bookshop in the town for stints between two and six weeks and to blog about their experience. The bookshop in question deals in second hand books and is called The Open Book. It’s an unpaid residency but comes with a flat above the shop where we’ll live for the duration.
Below is an extract from the project’s pitch:
“Old-fashioned” bookshops have never been more under threat yet they have also never been more valued by bibliophiles. How do traditional bookshops thrive and survive in a digital world? How does the fantasy of being a bookseller compare to the reality? The Open Book is a matchless experience, offering participants the opportunity to discover what it’s like to run a bookshop in Scotland’s National Book Town, and to contribute to a unique literary community by helping to sustain one of its bookstores. While in Wigtown, guest booksellers will be asked to blog about their experience and consider the role of the bookshop and the bookseller in the 21st century.
Qualities looked for in visiting booksellers include a passion for books, good communication skills and a sense of humour. We are looking for people who will bring new ideas and new energy to Scotland’s National Book Town.
Preference may be given to those who may also use the period of their visit for writing or other artistic activities, although that is not compulsory.
We’re thrilled to have been selected. We’re excited at the prospect. We’re nervous with anticipation, unsure what to expect and open to this new experience.
We don’t know Wigtown or the wider area of Dumfries and Galloway very well at all, although we did have one summer holiday in a cottage Dalbeattie, thirty years ago when our children were small. I expect Wigtown will be similar to our own little town and I know I’ll feel at home in the Co-op supermarket.
We’ve never run a shop before, but between us I think we can cover all the bases. The most daunting aspect for us , I guess, will be doing the window displays as neither of us are particularly artistic. But we’re each going to give it a go.
However, as avid book readers, we’re both keen to explore the shop’s stock and to chat to its customers about the books they’re interested in.
The husband is a sci-fi and fantasy fanatic and he’s also interested in sport, technology and motorcycling.
I’m very interested in children’s fiction, both classic and modern. In the adult realm, I like mainly crime and romance. I also enjoy lots of types of non-fiction.
So it would be good if we found a first edition JM Barrie or HG Wells, or a Mary Stewart or John Buchan on the shop’s shelves!
Apart from blogging about how it’s going throughout our time in the shop, I plan to get started on my third novel for adults––just mulling over ideas at this stage, and I also plan to work on my next piece for the online writing magazine Words with Jam to which I’m a regular contributor.
Other than that we both have open minds as to the literary events and opportunities that could arise while we keep shop.
Watch this space for developments…
The project blog is here where I’ll also be posting and where you can read the posts so far by previous shopkeepers.
The Wigtown Book Festival runs from 25 Sept to 4 Oct this year and the programme is out now. See here for more information.