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Features/Literature

10 tips on how to read local

26 May 2022

This week is Love to Read Local Week. From tours and clubs to retail therapy, Ara Jansen offers some creative ways to explore our local tales.

When was the last time you read a book by a West Australian? Love to Read Local Week (3-12 June) is the perfect chance to reacquaint yourself or discover a whole new world of stories. This is your chance to go totally local. 

In its third year, Love to Read Local showcases Western Australia’s writers and illustrators and has really started to gain traction. Writing WA’s Carrie Cox says it offers a perfect way to bring together WA stories and the people who make them and link them to locals who love to read. 

“I think a lot of people don’t realise how many fantastic books are written under their noses,” says Cox. “At the core of what we do is the belief in stories and how they help us understand our place in the world and help us connect with the cultures and experiences of others. It’s such a diverse state and our stories reflect that.”

The selection is also incredibly wide and suitable for all ages and abilities, such as novels for adults and YA, biographies, queer writing, poetry, children’s books, travel stories, stories on Aboriginal culture and language as well as other cultures, including the migrant experience. 

“It’s not only about reading but learning through the body of storytelling,” Cox says. 

Seesaw suggests these 10 easy, fun, affirming and potentially life-changing ways to celebrate Love to Read Local Week:

1. Go local

Head to your local library and find a book written by a West Australian. Read it. Find another and read that too. Make it a regular thing. Tell others. Ask your librarian if you’re not sure where to start. 

2. Visit a studio

A Studio Crawl tour takes you behind the scenes to discover just how picture books are made. Take a peek inside the private creative spaces (and maybe the heads) of a collection of local illustrators who approach their work in different styles from multimedia to comics and children’s books.

Each tour starts at Fremantle’s Paper Bird Books, takes you to an artist’s studio and then on to the Literature Centre. Illustrators featured are James Foley, Liliana Stafford, Michael Speechley, Wendy Binks, Aska and Frané Lessac.

“The tour gives people this unprecedented insight,” says author and illustrator James Foley. “It’s a chance to see how I work.” You’ll also get to see the bits and pieces which adorn the walls and the odd bit of Lego. 

“I try and make the digital look hand drawn,” he says of his work. “I will still do initial tiny thumbnails on paper because it’s fun to get a pen out and scribble and then I move it to the digital space.”

Foley says we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to authors and illustrators in WA and says Love to Read Local Week is a wonderful chance to expose even more people to local talent.   

Author/illustrator James Foley surrounded by his tools of trade. Photo: Jessica Wyld

3. Be bold!

Read outside your favourite or always-read genre. Swap crime for rural romance or try reading a fun children’s book just because it will make you smile. Have you ever read a poem written by a local? 

4. Tell your kids

Read a story written by a sandgroper to your kids before bedtime every night of Love to Read Local Week or fall in love with an illustrated character. Like broccoli, include locally created books regularly in your kids’ diet and encourage them to celebrate something made in their backyard. Who knows what it might inspire! 

“We’ve been reading to our kids since before they were born,” says Foley. “There’s always stories every night and during the day too. We have hundreds of books and our four-year-old always demands and expects his stories.”

5. Think differently 

Get a new perspective. Look at the world differently. One of the great joys of stories is their ability to change our minds, teach us new things and help us look at our world a little differently. A story out of your comfort zone might well get the cogs turning. Be brave.

6. Explore your area

How great is it to see your town or your state in a book? From Wyndham to Esperance and all points in between and across, different aspects of our state are celebrated, questioned and explored in books for all ages. This Literary Map will get you started. There are well-loved classics like Cloudstreet by Tim Winton, Benang by Kim Scott, Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey or My Place by Sally Morgan plus more recent books such as Karen Herbert’s The River Mouth set in Geraldton, Holden Sheppard’s Invisible Boys (set in regional WA), Lisa Ellery’s Perth-based crime novel Private Prosecution or the popular fiction series Lancashire Lasses by Anna Jacobs.

Love to Read Local. Groups of families with young children are inside a big marquee sitting on blankets and low chairs as they watch a man on a low stage. He has his legs crossed and his arms outstretched as if he is acting out a story
Love to Read Local author Alton Walley entertains families at an earlier Writing WA event. Photo courtesy Writing WA.

7. Join the club 

Start a book club. While we know it might evolve into more of a wine and chat event, consciously try and support local writers. We’d love to say make every other month a local book, but we’ll settle for a few more than you’re already reading. Encourage your local library to ask local authors and illustrators to come and speak on their latest work.

8. Silent reading 

Love to read but don’t like the usual book club ways? Try starting a Silent Book Club, which celebrates readers and introverts with chapters all over the world. It’s easy to do. Gather a few friends together – or even just one other person – meet regularly at a local bar or café and read together. Order drinks (food if you like) and have a quick, painless whip around to share what everyone is reading. Then settle in for an hour or more of silent reading and enjoying the ambience of being among company. 

9. Retail therapy

Go into your favourite bookshop, breathe deeply, browse and buy a book by a local author. You can do this online and even buy a copy for your e-reader, but there’s something really special about loitering about the actual bookshelves, picking up a book, checking it out – and hopefully giving it a good new home at your place. 

10. Tell the world

Be a selfie (or should that be shelfie) show off.  Share a picture of your favourite book by a West Australian author on your social media with the hashtag #LovetoReadLocal. Rinse and repeat year-round for extra points.

Love to Read Local Week runs from 3-12 June 2022. Check out Writing WA for all the details, resources and more ideas, or book a Studio Crawl

Pictured top: Love to Read Local authors Gavin Aungtan and James Foley sign books for young readers. Photo courtesy Writing WA

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Author —
Ara Jansen

Ara Jansen is a freelance journalist. Words, bright colour, books, music, art, fountain pens, good conversation, interesting people and languages make her deeply happy. A longtime music journalist and critic, she’s the former music editor of The West Australian. Being in the pool next to the playground is one of her favourite places, ever.

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