“A Town of Books”: it is time to buy tickets for Maleny’s annual Celebration of Books

Prue Mason and partner Kerry ready to launch Amazing Australians in Their Flying Machines

Prue Mason and partner Kerry ready to launch Amazing Australians in Their Flying Machines

Held over the weekend of July 14-16, the Celebration of Books offers film screenings, poetry performances, writer’s workshops, author’s events, children’s activities, Big Book Club, displays of rare books and book illustrations and some of the events are free! HT writer Dale Jacobsen investigated the rise of the  town’s love affair with the printed page and why Maleny is a “Town of Books”.

By Dale Jacobsen

Walking along Maple Street in Maleny, you may be surprised at the number of thriving book shops for such a small town. Maleny celebrates being “a town of books” rather than a “book town”, and it is important to acknowledge the difference.

Book towns, such as Hay-on-Wye in Wales, originated to stimulate often rural communities, filling empty shops with second-hand and antiquarian books. Maleny’s focus is much wider and maintains a healthy balance of bookshops and readers.

Maleny is well known for the creativity of its citizens, and the reading and writing community is alive and well; but the town has not always had a love affair with books.

Celebration of Books Maleny AdIn 2001, local award-winning author Steven Lang and his wife Chris Frances lamented the fact that the only place to buy books in Maleny was a second-hand shop.

“We knew nothing about running a bookshop,” said Steven, “but we felt Maleny really did need one. So we did some hard number crunching with the given population and figured we could break even.”

They opened the doors to Rosetta Bookshop in 2001. Not content with just running the shop, the couple staged author events outside business hours and slowly, the flavour of the town changed. After six very busy years, Steven and Chris decided to sell Rosettas, which is now owned by Anne Brown.

For the second year in a row Anne Brown from Rosetta Bookshop won a coveted "Glassy" business award presented by MPs Andrew Wallace and Andrew Powell

For the second year in a row Anne Brown from Rosetta Bookshop won a coveted “Glassy” business award presented by MPs Andrew Wallace and Andrew Powell

“After working in bookshops in Brisbane,” said Anne, “I started working at Rosettas and took the opportunity to buy the business when it arose. Two years later, I moved to the present position and added a coffee shop. It is a joy to own a bookshop in such a wonderful and creative town. I am proud to be part of a community that can support so many bookshops.”

This year, Rosetta Bookshop was voted by the public for a Bronze in the 2017 Glass House Small Business Awards. Maleny now boasts four successful bookshops and has its fair share of book clubs too. Over a dozen at last count.

Of course, bookshops would not be in business without authors, and Maleny is well endowed with writers who scribble away in their homes, creating books. Prue Mason wrote her most recent children’s book, Amazing Australians in Their Flying Machines, because of her love of aviation.

“Travel is easy these days but things were different years ago and I wanted to write a book to show how aviation played such an important part in our history. It celebrates the early flyers who put their lives at risk at a time when planes were made from cloth, wire and wood,” explained Prue.

Prue and her husband Kerry, who co-authored the book, own a vintage 1942 Fairchild Argus (flown by women of the Air Transport Auxiliary during WW2). Prue holds a private pilot licence and Kerry has been a training captain with Virgin “since the year dot”.

In all, Prue has five books published, including Camel Rider, winner of the Queensland Premier’s Prize for Best Children’s Book in 2005, and Birdie in the Sky, winner of the Notable Books Award in 2010.

Book artist,  Fiona Dempster selecting paper for a book

Book artist, Fiona Dempster selecting paper for a book

Not all books fit the traditional published format. Book artist, Fiona Dempster, uses books to create art. “They are more than a scrapbook of images. A good artist’s book provides layers of meaning, often challenging your understanding. I started as a calligrapher and decided that books were the right place for thoughtful and beautiful words.”

Fiona feels books have changed the world. “They are powerful tools in righting injustices, and my artists’ books are a small way of continuing that tradition.”

In creating Too Many Poppies, Fiona depicts 42 poppies on each page – the number of Australians who died in Afghanistan. In tiny, undulating handwriting, she has repeated the words “too many poppies, too many deaths” to form a landscape in which the dead are buried.

Recognising how important the book, writing and reading are to Maleny, six years ago a group of reading enthusiasts began a boutique community event, Celebration of Books Maleny, to share their passion.

To be held over the weekend of July 14-16, the event will feature international crime writer, Michael Robotham, and ABC Radio National’s book commentator, Kate Evans.

During the Sunday Morning Talking Writing session, Michael will chat with Kate about his craft and his much-anticipated new book, The Secrets She Keeps, to be launched just days before the festival.

They will be joined by Melissa Ashley, author of The Birdman’s Wife, and Roanna Gonsalves, author of a book of short stories, The Permanent Resident.

All details, including bookings, are available on the Celebration of Books Maleny website: www.celebrationofbooksmaleny.com