Anna Dreda is the owner of Wenlock Books. She is also the Founder of the Wenlock Poetry Festival and in 2014 was one of the poetry judges for the Costa Book Awards. If anyone can say ‘Books Are My Bag’, it’s Anna, and she is forever coming up with new ways to share her love of books with young and old alike (most of which involve cake and/or wine, especially the bubbly variety). She will be in the bookshop throughout Books Are My Bag day, introducing our literary guests and special mini-events. See our BAMB plans here!
1) Why are high street and independent bookshops important to you?
“All my life, as a child, and then as a parent I have loved going to bookshops wherever I was. Imagine my dismay when as a grand-mother to four dearly loved little children (who adore books and reading!) it's harder and harder to find high street bookshops! I so wanted them to have the same joy and delight in bookshops as I had - and I want that for everyone. I make a point of visiting bookshops with Abbie and Joe, Sid and Elsie whenever we can: so we are regulars at Aardvark Books and Cafe (luckily almost on my doorstep at Brampton Bryan) and most Fridays we pop in to Much More Books in Wenlock (known to Abbie as Lizzie's Bookshop - and her favourite!). Whenever we can we go to Pengwern in Shrewsbury and Booka in Oswestry - and we don't just visit: we spend! It's my small way of helping them to be there. If everyone spent just some of their book money in bookshops rather than online our towns would benefit immediately - and so would we!"
2) Name your three favourite independent bookshops (apart from us, of course!). What makes them special?
“I've mentioned some of my Shropshire favourites already - but also The Kibworth Bookshop just outside Leicester is a tiny shop with lovely stock, presided over by the gorgeous Debbie: She works her socks off and is always welcoming and enthusiastic.
I have a very soft spot for Much Ado Books in Alfriston: they won Independent Bookshop of the Year in 2007 - and I was one of the judges who voted for them. They are marvellously crafty and artistic and specialise in all things Bloomsbury.
Lastly (though I could go on and on) my nostalgia vote goes to Women and Children First, in Chicago, Illinois, which I first visited with my dear friend Jenny Sheridan (this year's American Publisher's Rep of the Year, she is a children's rep for HarperCollins USA) back in the early 80's. They still focus on women and children's books - and they are still there: hurrah!"
3) What is the best, funniest, quirkiest or most moving experience you have ever had in a bookshop?
“Oh so many! (and an astonishing amount feature Paul Francis - go figure!) I would definitely share Paul's Jackie Fleming moment - that was so moving, it has to be one of the most special moments I've had.
Every time someone tells me how much they love the bookshop it does my heart good - but when they go on to say that they used to have a bookshop like this in their town too, I find that really upsetting, because I think that one day the people of Much Wenlock might well be saying that to a bookseller in another town one day too, and my beautiful bookshop that I have loved so well for so long might become a gift shop or a coffee shop or ...
Amazingly, given that I have been in this very shop since the day we moved in from across the road (1994), every day is still a special day for me: I love turning the key in the lock, switching the lights on, making it all look beautiful - and then enjoying the day. I really don't think I could be more grateful, or be luckier!"
QUICK FIRE ROUND!
I really can't do quick-fire when it comes to Wenlock Books so I am going to answer these next questions in the style of Liz Lefroy!
4) What three words come to mind when you think of Wenlock Books?
“Home: by this I mean that the bookshop is my home, and I live here everyday, surrounded by books, in the high street, with people that I love coming in and out. I also want it to feel like home for the people who visit here: coffee, chairs, flowers on the table.
Miracles: by this I mean that little miracles of serendipity happen all the time: people find friends, colleagues, old neighbours, old teachers - that they haven't seen for years or even decades, browsing the bookshelves. Someone will find an old book upstairs with a German inscription in it, and there will be someone in the shop who is fluent in German. Someone will be looking for a poem to put in her husband's pocket before he goes away to serve in Afghanistan, and another customer will know exactly where to find what she's looking for.
Children: by this I mean that I love it when children come into the shop as if they own it. One of my favourite sights is a child reading, or being read to. It signifies love to me, and I want the bookshop to be one of the paces where they fall in love with books."
5) What has been your favourite book of 2015 so far?
“It's nearly always the book I've just finished, but I think the one I'm most excited about because she's a new author and I have always had a real soft spot for contemporary American and Canadian fiction is The Mountain Can Wait by Sarah Leipciger."
6) What books are you looking forward to reading before the end of the year?
“At last, a one word answer: everything!"
7) What are your top three desert island reads?
“Oh, The Poisonwood Bible (and everything else) by Barbara Kingsolver, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels because I can read them again and again, but also Middlemarch by George Eliot, Portait of a Lady by Henry James, Stoner by John Williams, and always, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Beloved by Toni Morrison - and everything by Louise Erdrich and more, and more: I hope I'm on my desert island (or preferably Berneray in the Outer Hebrides) for a very long time!"
"Thank you Jasmine - my gorgeous and fabulous apprentice, without whom, none of this would be happening."