Sharon Budnarchuk is emphatic, hitting the table of the Jasper Avenue greasy spoon with her palm for each word: “Authors are the most important part of what we do—without them we wouldn’t be here.”
Sharon and her husband Steve own and operate Audreys Books, the longest-surviving independent seller of new books in Edmonton. On May 2, Audreys will be the Edmonton hub of Authors for Indies Day, a national celebration of Canada’s independent booksellers. More than 20 local authors—including Todd Babiak, Aaron Paquette and Caterina Edwards—will be staffing Audreys in three-hour shifts, talking books with customers and running the till.
More than 600 authors across the country are taking part in Authors for Indies Day. Inspired by Indies First in the US, this year marks the first time the day is being celebrated in Canada.
Jessica Kluthe, author of Rosina, the Midwife—a transgenerational story of the Italian immigrant experience in Edmonton—is one of the local writers volunteering her time at Audreys.
“It’s clear that Audreys still believes in books—a lot of people don’t,” Kluthe says, sharing a table and coffee with the Budnarchuks. “Talking about and celebrating books is really important to the whole process. If we don’t do that, the books just sit on shelves.”
The fact that Edmonton still has an indie bookstore that works so hard to support local writers is worth a party. Audreys opened in 1975 and has survived the arrival of big-box booksellers and Amazon. Its longevity has meant a lot of hard work, with the store hosting more than 50 literary events and readings annually to connect authors with readers.
“Between the chains, supermarkets, Costco, Walmart and online we only get a tiny piece of the bestseller, or pop-fiction market,” Steve says. “So we rely a lot on our local authors—that’s where a lot of our sales are. It is really crucial for us that we continue that strong relationship.”
Sharon and Steve took over Audreys in 1988 after decades of experience in the publishing world. Thanks to high education levels, Edmonton has long been a strong reading city—but it hasn’t been recognized on a national level like Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary. Edmonton, though, has had more than its fair share of literary talent.
“Everybody has to start somewhere: Margaret Atwood, when she taught at the U of A (1969 -– 70), she had the autograph signing for one of her poetry books at the Bay,” Sharon says. “She sat beside the socks, signing books for like half a dozen people. But I love that—I know I’m going to turn around one day, when an Edmonton author is really famous, and say, ‘We had their first book at Audreys.'”
For its 40th anniversary year, Audreys is going to continue doing what has kept the store alive: connecting local writers to local readers with readings, special guests and events. With that in mind, Steve says making Authors for Indies Day an annual event is a no-brainer. And Kluthe agrees.
“The whole thing just just makes sense to me,” Kluthe says. “We should be coming together in more ways like this. We need each other.”
Sat, May 2 (9:30am – 4:30pm)