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A home for us, a home for you

In mid-November, a bookstore will open for indie writers – authors who publish books outside the major publishers – in Bergen, with a special focus on poetry.

That’s why I go to Steinkjellergaten 9 on an early Monday morning, where I see a small dog in the window in a cozy wooden house. The door is opened by Beate Helle, one of the four founders of Heim (Home) and a real Bergenser, of the fast-talking type.

Carefully thought out
The name Heim, says Helle, is not a coincidence. They will create a focal point for people who write and people who read, focusing on poetry and indie writers – authors who publish without publishing or through their own publishing houses.

– Where do you find the books for the indie writers, then? There may be a few hundred people in the city who are interested in it, but they are almost impossible to find. We will try to become a home for them here.

Helle explains that, among other things, they have taken inspiration from an independent store in Haugesund, which is doing well. However, the environment in Norway is limited. I wonder if she knows if there are many indie writers and poets in Bergen who are interested in coming here.

– Yes. I write myself, so I know a lot of people, and for many years I have been in writing groups online. In addition, we will include literature from the rest of the country and English poetry, which can also be difficult to find.

Helle says that Heim will not bring in mainstream writers unless they are particularly interested in getting their books in. They must also call in to each of the small publishers themselves and negotiate books for themselves if they are going to sell their books.

All the entrepreneurs write poetry, but Helle points out that this is not the driver of the project.

– I went online and in the big bookstores, and it was hard to find indie literature. It was even difficult to find poetry, short stories or anything that was not Crimean. I thought, “We have to do something about this” – that’s why we created this concept.

Hoping for an opening soon
Helle informs me that they now have a tentative date for the store opening in mid-November, but that they are still waiting for artisans. And just that is beyond their control.

For a shop that caters to a small segment of people, the location is important.

– There is something about location, location, location. But what makes this street exciting for us is that they are creating an environment of independent small shops and restaurants here – that is what Skostredet tried to do before they became a restaurant-only street.

It is a very cozy street, Helle points out, but they didn’t succeed in the mix of small cafes, restaurants and shop.
The oversized streets in Skostredet stole the street’s soul.

Ambitious plans for the future
Helle believes it is necessary to be true to their own concept. Among the things that make them unique, she mentions, among other things, a children’s section, an open scene, text- and writing courses.

– We are not necessarily innovative, but we are the only ones who focus on poetry. I think that is unique with us, and with that we make the concept bigger. You should be able to sit down, have a coffee, relax, and maybe talk to the writers who sit here and write on that day, she says.

In addition to the bookstore it turns out that they also have a book bus, it just hasn’t come out on the road yet.

– The idea is to reach people with poetry, as a bus is a little easier to move than a house. The Heim concept is about getting people’s poetry and literature out to the people. When the stores became mainstream, they left a void. We want to fill that void. We do this by creating a concept where we have Heim here, with the opportunity to move on the poetry bus, so that we can get the indie literature out to the people.

Maack adds that this will be a kind of mini-pop-up café with a book salon.

In addition to all this, the entrepreneurs are also going to create their own foundation. Helle envisions that an artist creates a walking trophy that is given to the best poet in the city each year. The winner will receive a cash prize of NOK 20,000 and a stay at a writing office in Tuscany, as planned. This is only in the planning stages yet, Helle emphasizes. I wonder where the money comes from for everything.

– It’s private money. They are not stolen, they are honestly earned, says Helle.

Poetry may not be commercial enough for the big bookstores, I ask.

– No, that’s probably right, Helle agrees. And we don’t think we can live off of selling poetry here either, but we think we can live by a multi-tiered concept. We have budgeted that all these small income streams can make the concept viable.

She emphasizes that it is up to the indie writers whether Heim’s bookstore will work – it depends on whether they will help support this. Maack explains that poetry is an essential part of all cultures.

Poetry is an incredibly important part of all cultures, Maack explains.

– Our inner souls are stored in poetry, and if we lose the poetry out of our inner souls, what will remain of us as a species, he asks rhetorically.

Published inReviewsWriting

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