Reader Profile: Charlotte Cranston

For every day of our Indiegogo campaign, we’ll be sharing profiles from readers and supporters of Glass Bookshop both local to the city and from across Canada. Visit our campaign page now to claim cool perks and support us in building a beautiful brick-and-mortar space in downtown Edmonton. And read on to discover why today’s featured reader is excited to one day visit Glass Bookshop!

Charlotte Cranston has been in love with words since the first time she heard one, and she shares that love in the poetry and arts scenes of Edmonton. She was the inaugural Youth Poet Laureate of Edmonton from 2015-2016. She is a two-time member of the Breath in Poetry Edmonton slam team, which performs at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. She began exploring spoken word poetry at YouthWrite, and was a member of the camp’s professional troupe, the Spoken Word Youth Choir. Her work has appeared in Glass Buffalo, The Gateway Magazine, and numerous online publications. Read her interview below to learn how she believes books and storytelling can help build community.

How did books and the act of reading come to be meaningful to you?
I started reading young and never stopped. Perhaps I chose to learn so young because I’d often lose my big sister to Archie comics, which frustrated me to no end. If she wouldn’t pay attention to me in the real world, then I’d have to join her in hers. That said, reading was an inevitability for me. I wrote my first poem when I was four. The towns I grew up in were small, but my world felt large. I was always a huge daydreamer. I loved reading survival guides and imagining myself on some desert island or digging myself out of an avalanche. Giving myself over to an imagined world makes me feel more connected to the one I’m in.

What is your relationship now to books and reading?
Lately I feel as though every time I pick up a book I’m reuniting with an old friend. The combination of depression and university made reading feel like a chore for a long while, which I never thought would happen. In the last year or so I’ve relearned how it feels to devour a book, to experience the thrill of a new hold coming in at the library, to borrow from a friend and gush about the characters as though they’re mutual acquaintances. When I started working for Edmonton Public Library I felt like a fraud in a way because I had only read about twenty books in the past year, and even that was a significant improvement from the last. Now I love coming home from work with a backpack full of books, from cookbooks to rock and mineral guides to action-packed mysteries. I feel like myself when I’m reading.

Is there a book that has had significant impact on you?
There are many, many books that have had significant impacts on me. A few years ago, I wrote an email to Anne Mazer to thank her for The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes. I first read the series when I was ten or eleven, and Abby’s notes, purple pen, and unwavering drive inspired me to keep my first journal. My mom took me to the tiny mall in our town, where I picked out a fuzzy journal and purple pen. I’ve kept a journal for about 15 years now, often writing in purple. When I rediscovered the books in adulthood, I felt compelled to write the author to let her know how Abby nurtured my love of writing. Mazer wrote back encouraging me to inspire the next generation of Abbys (and Charlottes), and my heart soared. My beloved Abby books now live on the bookshelf in my living room.

How does literature influence your sense of community?
Reading feels like being in on a secret. When I talk to someone who has also explored the world of a certain book, we become co-conspirators, or partners in an adventure that has in some way changed the way we see things. In the wake of a good book, the world changes colour, just a little; there’s a certain relief in knowing that someone (or many someones) else can see the change, too.

Talking with other writers feels similar. There’s nothing like sitting by a backyard fire on a cool spring evening and getting lost in an increasingly convoluted hypothetical plot with a kindred spirit. One can read about the publishing industry and literary politics until their eyes sting, but for me the best part of loving words is sharing. It’s cool to just like stuff.  A little magical.

How do you find new books or writers?
Working in a library means being surrounded by people who are interested in things. Every day I talk to coworkers and customers who are excited about something they have read or are about to read. I am a holds fiend. At any given moment, I have at least a dozen active holds, though I’m trying to cut down—I’ve already lost a backpack to strap-snap thanks to my heavy hobby. These days I try to focus on the materials that I can’t wait to crack open and throw myself into, instead of those I think I should read. There is no should when it comes to reading.

Can you share a memorable experience you’ve had in a bookstore? What makes it stand out for you?
As a small-town kid, I’d never had a proper bookstore nearby. When my family moved to Alberta, my best option was to request dozens of inter-library loans—I knew my card number by heart—so bookstores were a special road-tripping treat. I’d spend as long as I could in each store, meticulously writing down the titles and authors of every book that interested me on a coil-ring notepad. I’d leave with a book or two if I was lucky, and a list of titles to request from the library.

There was one bookstore in southern BC with a coffee shop on the first floor and a second floor full of cozy nooks and mismatched furniture. I remember losing myself up on that second floor, curling up by the window and watching dust spiral in the sunbeams. I’ve looked for it since, but can’t for the life of me remember where it is.

What do you think Glass Bookshop could offer Edmonton’s community of readers and writers?
I think we see reading and writing as very individual acts, but they’re not. Storytelling connects us to the world and to others; it’s a way of building and exploring relationships and finding belonging. In a world where it’s so easy to burn out and isolate, readers and writers especially need spaces to belong, to celebrate and commiserate, and to exist as a community. I know that Glass Bookshop can be one of those spaces. And I know that the community it nurtures will be welcoming and warm because the people behind it are welcoming and warm.

Want to help make this reader’s dream for Glass Bookshop a reality? Support Glass Bookshop’s Indiegogo campaign by buying some cool perks today here:

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Matthew Stepanic