Writing at the Ledges  | Mid-Michigan Authors & Poets

LSJ Article – Lansing’s Independent Bookstores Get Boost From Contest

Lansing State Journal

11:05 PM, Jun 1, 2012
Written by
Mark Mayes

Time — and technology — are taking their toll on simple literary pleasures.Handwriting a letter. Relaxing with a newspaper. Leafing through a book.

All are becoming rarer by the day, succumbing slowly to the convenience and immediacy of high-speed Internet and Wi-Fi connections.

The related struggles of independent bookstores has weighed on Randy Pearson, a Lansing author and book lover. Like many of us, he finds comfort amidst the narrow stacks of bound treasures. So he approached a local bookstore owner about bringing writers together to support the neighborhood institutions that are rising on the endangered business list.

The result is called the “Save the Independent Bookstore” writing contest, which encourages local scribes to expound eloquently on the subject. The writing can take the form of fiction or nonfiction, as long as it contains characters, a plot or content related to neighborhood bookstores. The effort is sponsored by Writing at the Ledges, a writer’s group that meets monthly in Grand Ledge, and EVERYbody Reads bookstore, 2019 E. Michigan Ave.

The cost is $10 to enter, with half of the total entry fees serving as prize money (minimum of $50) and the other half being donated to the Capital Area Literacy Coalition. Winners also will have their work published in “Voices From the Ledges,” an anthology featuring local writers.

We’ve watched as neighborhood drug and hardware stores have been crushed by the big-box stores. We’ve witnessed Internet streaming make so many record and videos stores irrelevant. Pearson hopes, with the help of the public, some independent bookstores can survive a while longer.

“There is something wonderful about being able to walk around a bookstore,” he said. “The sights, the sounds, the smells. I love the old bookstore smell.”

Difficult times

Scott Harris, EVERYbody Reads owner, signed on to the project right away because it is focused on a building community and supported literacy education efforts, he said.

Harris is an example of the challenges facing small-bookstore owners. He opened his store six years ago in the midst of a troubled economy and was hit soon after by the Kindle and Nook rollout that changed the industry landscape. He hopes to maintain relevance as a niche provider of books outside the mainstream.
“We’ve never turned a profit,” Harris said. “We’ve seen sales continue to erode. But we’re just an anecdote. Very few small businesses are doing well. We’re doing this for a reason. This is a life-affirming project. There’s more to it than trying to make money.”A panel including Pearson and Harris will perform the initial judging and choose the finalists. The final judge for the contest is none other than John Schneider, my predecessor as columnist, who retired in April.

Contest details

• The “Save the Independent Bookstore” contest is open to all Michigan residents age 14 and up.
• All stories must have a plot line or content that explores the importance of the local neighborhood bookstore.
• Word count cannot exceed 1,111 words.
• The deadline is July 31.
• Submission guidelines and other details are at www.writingattheledges.com.

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