This time of year holds a lot of magic: the landscape is changing from green to vibrant hues of orange and yellow; chilly nights spark flames of conversation in cozy rooms; and reflective thoughts abound as the year comes to a close. One of my favorite places during the winter is in front of a fireplace, with a book in hand. Books are often an escape but reading next to a warm hearth makes me feel more present and grateful for that moment.
Today, most of what we read is digitally ‘printed’ on a screen, and many people read entire books on an electronic device. Digital texts have many positive elements (saving physical resources such as trees cut for paper; increasing our ability to share valuable knowledge and information), but there is something magical about holding a book. A book will not distract you with message notifications; a book is created simply for reading.
Though the act of reading has become increasingly dependent on a screen, physical books, and bookstores are still something to be cherished. Books connect people, both on the internet and in-person, but the physical connection is often lacking in communities. A local bookstore just up the hill in downtown Winston-Salem, NC is dedicated to infusing the community with books, and the connections that happen as a result of literary conversations.
Bookmarks was established in 2004 as a nonprofit literary arts organization. The bookstore opened in 2017. The mission of Bookmarks encapsulates the spirit of National Book Lovers Day so well: We believe in books with purpose and are passionate about connecting our community with books and authors.
I reached out to Juliana Reyes, the Communication Coordinator for Bookmarks, to understand the impact that books and bookstores have when we can appreciate them in the flesh.
1. Thanks for taking time to share your story. Tell us about your role at Bookmarks, and why you do the work you are doing.
I have been as part of the staff as the Communications Coordinator since May 2021 so this summer has been a huge learning experience for me.
As a kid, I loved reading and learning. For many kids, education opens so many doors and opportunities so I knew I wanted to help give them more access to inspire their future. When I heard about Bookmarks and all the work that they do as a non-profit for the kids in the community, I knew I wanted to be a part of that.
2. Tell us about Bookmarks, why was it started?
Bookmarks started off as a literary non-profit 17 years ago in Winston-Salem, NC. They were known in the community for their annual Festival of Books & Authors held downtown. It was a small group of locals that wanted to connect the community--especially children--to books and authors.
After over a decade of running the festival, the board and staff decided that a bookstore was needed. In 2017, the Bookmarks store was opened to the public. Since then we have grown to include many public events and expanded our outreach programs from Book Builds to Little Free Libraries around the city.
3. What is your role at Bookmarks? What role does Bookmarks play in Winston-Salem?
As the Communications Coordinator, I handle anything related to social media and event promotion. When you comment or message us on social media, I am the person that responds! My goal in this position is to reach as many people in our area and in North Carolina. There are so many people who need literary resources, who want to volunteer with the organization or who just want a good book recommendation.
Bookmarks’ role in Winston-Salem is to help connect our community with books and authors whether it's through our festival, school author visits, or hosting storytimes for families.
4. What do independent bookstores do for communities? People may view reading as a solitary activity, which it is, but I imagine that a bookstore allows people to interact with literature more so.
Independent bookstores help connect readers in the community through a central location. One of the reasons that our bookstore is located in downtown Winston-Salem is so it is accessible to everyone in the community. It’s a place for people to not just pick up a book, but to be welcomed into this community of individuals that love reading and want to share it with the rest of our city.
This summer we established our Book With Purpose program that aims to unite the Winston-Salem community with a one-read initiative for all ages. The focus this year was anti-racism and we used the books by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Jason Reynolds, and Sonja Cherry-Paul. We partnered with many organizations and groups in the community by supplying them with books and supporting events about this topic. Through this program, we were able to donate and offer more than 2,500 books to schools, organizations, and individuals who wanted to participate and facilitate conversations about antiracism.
5. Okay, I’ve got to ask: what is your favorite book?
I just finished Sally Rooney’s new book, Beautiful World, Where are you.
I love how Sally Rooney writes about people and relationships. They aren’t perfect and relationships can be awkward, weird, and a bit messy so it’s nice to read something like that.
It will be released in September and you can pre-order it at Bookmarks!
6. We ask all our interviewees to pick a favorite Jenni Earle bandana mantra. Which is yours?
My favorite bandana mantra is ‘feel the fear’ because you have to live a bit outside of your comfort zone and that is doing things that scare you so you can continue to grow. A coach once told me that if you are scared and nervous before something it’s a good thing because that means you care enough and want to do good. So don’t let the fear keep you from doing things, but feel it and embrace it!
So true! Thank you, Juliana for sharing your love of books with us, and with our community. Visiting your local bookstore, supporting fellow bibliophiles and your community may be the best way to celebrate National Book Lovers Day