Fiona Stager is a bookseller and co-owner of two independent bookshops.
Positioned side-by-side on Boundary Street, in Brisbane's inner-city suburb of West End, her shops Avid Reader and Where The Wild Things Are cater to a wide range of readers. The latter store was launched in March 2015 and specialises in titles for children and young adults. Its neighbour, Avid Reader, opened in 1997, and has since established itself at the centre of the city's literary culture by hosting regular book club meetings and author events.
Avid is where I launched my first book, Talking Smack, in August 2014, in conversation with Brisbane author – and previous Penmanship guest – John Birmingham, who also used the cosy room above the store as a place to write his novel Without Warning (2008). It's my favourite bookshop in Brisbane, not only because it's my local, but because walking through its front door always feels like returning home. This is a wonderful feeling for a bookshop to give to its customers, and I suspect that I'm not the only one who has this experience at Avid Reader, since it is now approaching two decades in business.
My conversation with Fiona took place in early November, in the writers' room above Avid, where handwritten plot outlines and chapter structures are posted on the walls. Our conversation touches on her unusual path into bookselling; her philosophy and vision for what she wanted Avid Reader to represent; the advantages of hiring writers as her staff; how she manages a formidable reading schedule, and her recent involvement in a national news story which highlighted the store's decision not to stock the biography of the former Premier of Queensland.
Fiona Stager is the co-owner of Avid Reader Bookshop and Where the Wild Things Are Bookshop. Avid Reader has gained a national reputation for its extensive events program which regularly features international, national and local authors. The Queensland Writers Centre named her the winner of the 2009 Johnno Award for her contribution to the Queensland writing community. She is a regular judge of literary awards including the inaugural Stella Award and the Queensland Literary Awards 2015. After sitting on the board of the Australian Booksellers Association for twelve years, Fiona was awarded life membership in 2014 for her services to the Australian bookselling industry. National Bookshop Day was one of her initiatives. Fiona lives in West End with her family, three chickens and her native bee hive.
Show notes and links to what was discussed in this episode: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-14-fiona-stager/
Avid Reader on Twitter: @AvidReader4101
Penmanship on Twitter: @PenmanshipAU