Meet Odessa from Fiend Bookstore
Hi Odessa, what prompted you to start Fiend bookstore?
Hey! I guess Fiend is a product of several things coinciding. Over 2020’s lockdown I created a small book called Creak which I mostly just sold through Instagram as well as at Metropolis and with you guys at Error404. Creak aside, there are so many cool publications that were springing up locally at that time, but I think when I had that personal experience with Creak made me realise that there wasn’t really a space where these kinds of publications (zines, small press etc.) were elevated. It was exciting to be stocked at various places, but at the same time I felt that the publications were often an accent to the main event, kind of like the finger food of the literary world. That thought was on the backburner but when the 2021 lockdowns rolled around I needed a project, and threw the idea around with a few people, got a name for it and then Fiend was born – the actual creation of Fiend happened pretty quick, it was kind of made on an elongated whim haha. I remember laughing with a friend about how I’d accidentally started a business, it really does feel that way.
Can you speak to your personal story – what’s Odessa’s connection to reading?
I love it! I studied English at uni but to be honest the most valuable things I’ve learnt from reading has been the reading I’ve done in my own time. I think it’s so valuable for self-exploration and building empathy. When you’re reading more often than not you’re forced into someone else’s shoes and ways of seeing and thought processes, all of that, for the duration of the book – in some ways it’s like a cheat into trying on someone else’s clothes. It shifts your own thinking in a subtle but sure way. It’s good for educating yourself, good for patience, for articulation, for distraction, it helps you sleep if you read before bed.
Can you tell us about the local line-up of publications you stock? And what gets you excited about these creators?
Hmm, I don’t know where to begin! When I began gathering publications I started by messaging friends who had made some - like Casual Link, Empty Mind Plaza, The Big Hole, and a few friends who had made some artist books with Stray Pages – and I kind of worked my way out from there; contacting publishers I knew of like Incendium Radical Library, No More Poetry, Glom Press, Mont, Surpllus as well as publications like More Than Melanin, Highly Contagious and Gusher. Once Fiend was on its feet more publications like Silence as Romance, Headthreads and a few others soon sprang up. The line-up is definitely not exhaustive (and I don’t think it ever will be) but it’s growing. What gets me excited is that all of these publishers in turn are elevating local voices and creators and doing so in different formats, for example Glom Press fill a gap between comic and graphic novels, whereas No More Poetry publishes volumes of poetry (duh) and Mont explores counter-culture with their publications. At the same time a lot of the publications are silly and fun too. I think the end product is that opportunity is created, by the publishers especially, for voices that might have gone unheard or unseen and I’d like to think Fiend plays a small part in helping that.
For lack of a better word, Fiend’s ‘catchphrase’ is “You are what you read!”
What does this mean to you?
Reading has the ability to shift the way you think and so to an extent you’re a product of what you read, or more generally speaking, an aspect of who you are is informed by the voices you allow yourself to hear, or ideas you open yourself up to. Of course this can be a good thing or a bad thing, but I thought it was a good catchphrase for a bookshop, haha.
At Fiend, you aim to centre and serve publications situated in varied socio-cultural positions, how does this show up on your online store?
At the moment it’s just me that does Fiend, so I’m conscious of parts of the line-up being inevitably driven by personal taste, so I try to mediate that as much as possible by being critical of the way I’m sourcing publications and what the product of that is. I want Fiend to provide a space for people and publishers who are representing themselves and their communities, not necessarily just a space for me to collect publications that I think are cool, you know (even though I think they are all cool). When it comes to approaching publishers and publications I try to find those that align with this/have similar values. Fiend also has an open submission policy which ensures that the line-up isn’t representing one group’s taste, and I’d like to think that that again empowers people who are representing themselves and their communities by encouraging their practice. Ultimately I think the line-up is reflective of this, and it’s forever changing.
Every month you donate 10% of Fiend profits to the 100 Story Building; Can you tell us about this organisation and why they’re meaningful to you?
Yes! They’re an organisation that work with children and young people from marginalised and disadvantaged communities to help build literacy skills, confidence and a sense of belonging. They do this predominantly through storytelling, they write and share stories with each other and foster imagination. I was meant to start volunteering with them at the beginning of last year but Covid swooped in and I couldn’t anymore; that’s how I know of them. Literacy skills, in all of their forms, really are so powerful and empowering, they’re a gateway to opportunity, so I’d like to think in giving back a little bit, Fiend helps that process. It’s a small amount but it’s something.
What advice do you have for people locked down and struggling to read? Any tips on how to put down the screen and pick up a book?
Omg it’s hard! I struggle sometimes too. My first instinct is to say stop thinking about putting the screen down and just do it, but that’s so much easier said than done, haha. When you’re out of sync with reading you just have to retrain yourself. Lockdown sucks for testing patience (lockdown brain is real) so go easy on yourself when it comes to how much you’ve read or the pace you’re reading at – quality (as in how much you actually take in from a book) over quantity when it comes to reading! I also find that when I haven’t read in a while a good simple plot-driven novel or nonfiction bounces me back. Know that reading is good for your brain even when you don’t feel like it.
You’re about to set up a Fiend bookshelf here at Error 404 Store! What kinds of publications are you excited to showcase?
I am! The thing I’m most excited about is having the physical space for people to browse the books in (lockdown pending obviously). With the kinds of publications Fiend stocks – zines, small press, independent etc. – I think having that space to browse is especially important. You want to hold the book and flip through it and to an extent you want the book to pull you in too you know, so I’m excited that Fiend and the stocked publications will now have that space with you at Error404.