In between the job applications, while scrolling idly through Facebook one day, there it was. One of my favourite bookshops in town looking for help. The mountains to sea festival is a literary festival held in Dun Laoghaire . Busier every year, the book shop did not have the resources to deal with the amount of events they would be selling books at and were looking for volunteers. Here it was, my big break, landing in my lap. Thank you universe!
Let’s back track here. I am a reader. It’s less of a hobby and more of an obsession. I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a pile of books beside my bed. From those early days with Roald Dahl and Tom McLaughlin to queuing in New Zealand for the release of a new Harry Potter and crying and laughing on planes trains and automobiles around the world, books have been my constant companion over the years. Indeed, a school report (which my mother still has) commented that I was a bit of a ‘loner in the school yard’. Little did that teacher know that I had a world of company, hanging out with Matilda and the twits and those girls in Malory towers.
Given this passion for words, it will come as no surprise to you that I have long dreamed of working in a book shop. It has been on my ‘if only’ list for some time. Also on that same list was a hankering to volunteer and give back to my community. With small bookstores under constant pressure to compete against Amazon and others, I am always delighted to support them in any way I can (admittedly, this usually takes the form of adding to my already toppling book towers at home)
Arriving at the stunning library in Dun Laoghaire, I found everything I needed to set up my stall. The wonderful Martha had already been in touch and I had no trouble setting up my little bookstore, ready for the class of six year olds about to descend. My foray into the world of bookselling was not as daunting as I imagined. Proving that not all dreams have to be big, I could not be happier standing behind my little stand, having carefully rescued all the bright picture books from their cardboard cocoon and neatly stacked them in front of my little cash box to entice their new readers.
Could not be happier that is, until the wonderful Yasmeen Ismail arrived. Amazingly, here was the woman responsible for my table full of creativity. More amazingly still, she was chatting to me! Had I now entered the book world? I had to force myself to brush aside the imposter syndrome as yet another children’s author came along to peruse my stock. Wow! At first I felt that I had donned Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak but instead of making me appear invisible to others, it made me appear to be a bon fide member of the book industry. However, then I realised that perhaps my love of books is so intrinsic that I was already part of this club and so it was an easy transition.
Soon, the 6 year olds bounced in with book loving joy that did to my heart what the sun does to ice cream left on a hot car roof. Yasmeen brought the house (errr… library) down making mischief and memories with her friends Kiki and Bobo and then launching into some crafts with the kids.
Sales were not brisk. I guess the six year olds are not a viable market with no resources of their own other than a sense of adventure and unlimited imaginations. My own purchase made up half of our takings and Yasmeen kindly signed it for two little friends of mine in Waterford.
However, despite the disappointment in revenue, my first attempt at volunteering for something turned out, much like a good book to take me to words far beyond my own daily one. Only for this, I would not have ever found the stunning Dun Laoghaire library – such an amazing resource for young an old with tremendous sea views. The experience also allowed me to make my own dreams come through and try something which I would never otherwise have been able to do. The next day, I would find myself back in the library with far better sales, this time to 12 year olds and learning about suffragettes in Ireland. What other witchcraft but volunteering could allow one such an amazing opportunity to meet inspiring people and see behind the scenes of a busy literary festival. It’s good for the soul in anybody’s book.