Friday saw the launch of a new idea in the Bega Valley as people gathered at Candelo Books in Bega to celebrate an initiative which aims to connect us all through the experience of a shared story.
The book in question is the newly-released third novel by Miles Franklin Award shortlisted author Favel Parrett There Was Still Love and the idea is that as many people as possible read it over the next few months, including individuals, book clubs, nursing home residents and school groups.
The idea was introduced locally by Eden Anglican Minister Michael Palmer, who pitched it to Jen Keioskie, NSW Local Health Coordinator at the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program, who was immediately on board but wanted to launch during October, which is Mental Health Month in NSW.
“One of the things that we know is protective of our mental health is community connections and being able to share our story and hear the stories of others,” Jen says in her introduction.
“It’s so important to ask each other, to encourage big conversations and tell personal stories.”
For Michael, ‘One Book One Community‘ is a way to reiterate the idea that we are all human and we all have similar hopes, dreams, doubts and fears.
“Favel’s book is a real cracker,” he tells the crowd “and the characters experience all those human emotions.”
“I hope that discussing the characters and the story means that people are just one step away from talking about their own hopes, dreams, doubts and fears.”
Since Michael and Jen first began talking, others have jumped on board to support ‘One Book One Community‘, the core group now includes Pambula author Kate Liston-Mills, Candelo Books Co-owner Myoung Jae Yi and renowned Bega based editor Julia Stiles, who has worked on some of Favel’s previous novels.
The group were sad to see Bega Library Coordinator Sam Fenton move to the Eurobodalla early in the planning stages but Acting Library Coordinator Megan Jordan-Jones has handled the role beautifully and rumour has it that Sam wants to introduce a similar idea to the Eurobodalla!
Kate was drawn to the project partly because she believes in the power of books to change lives and partly because she sees our culture becoming more fragmented and less connected.
“Back when I was a kid, I remember if people had differences of opinion they’d be able to have a chat about it in person in the shops, at a BBQ, in the street. People seem to have lost the ability to have these conversations. People have lost real connection. I’m just as guilty of it,” she says.
“We’ve always had differences of opinion and argued about politics but now, we often do it online and I see our culture becoming more polarized and more individualistic.”
Favel’s book is not political, Kate explains, giving us all a break from taking a stand.
“It’s a lovely story about a family who is physically separated through war and trying to hold onto their identities,” Kate explains.
It would be great, Kate says, if ‘One Book One Community‘ went some way in reminding us that we are “one shire and one community and that even though we might disagree on some things our commonalities are more than our differences.”
The group has been funded through grants from Bendigo Bank and Coordinare South Eastern NSW PHN, money that has enabled Bega Valley Shire Library have a bank of the book ready for borrowing. Candelo Books has copies available for sale and the audiobook is available for download through the library.
Bega Valley’s One Book One Community concludes early next year at the meet the author event from 4.30 pm to 7.30 pm on Saturday, February 15 at the Tathra Hotel.
For more, follow One Book One Community Bega Valley on Facebook.