The author of The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest is benefiting more from a cancelled book signing than if it had gone off at the New Glasgow Coles store without a hitch.
“Although the book signing (protest) was meant to suppress the book, it couldn’t have backfired in a bigger way. This book would have never made national headlines, if there hadn’t been attempt after attempt made to suppress the book signing,” said Joan Baxter.
Baxter now has two book signings planned in Pictou County: one at the Water Street Studio in Pictou, from 1 to 3 p.m. on Dec. 9, and another at The Art of Divination in Stellarton, from 1 to 3 p.m. on Dec. 16.
Baxter said she is also happy to reschedule a book signing originally planned to take place at Coles, after the company proposed an event at an alternate location.
“I spoke with them early on last week, before this story went all over the place, and with someone from (Indigo) headquarters,” said Baxter. “They asked if I was amenable to signing somewhere else, and I said I’m amenable to signing anywhere.”
This proposition from Indigo, the company that owns Coles, comes after a letter writing campaign from mill workers and retirees threatened to boycott Coles if it held the event at its location at the Highland Square Mall. That campaign eventually led to the cancellation of the signing.
Baxter expressed her disapproval of the boycott, “which I think is unacceptable,” she said.
“What bothers me most about the letter, apart from the stuff in it, is the fact that I think it was being sent to people who haven’t even had a chance to read the book. People who might have never lain eyes on the book.”
Baxter stressed that people should be allowed to read and form their own opinions, before simply signing a letter condemning the book, and threatening to boycott a bookstore.
“You could write a retort, or get your views known that way, there’s freedom of press in this country.”
The problem Baxter sees in Coles’ cancellation is that “I don’t know who made the decision, or why it was made.”
Baxter said she can understand the decision to cancel if there were genuine concerns for security and safety, but “I’d feel differently about signing elsewhere if it was only on the basis of a threat of boycott that was coming, orchestrated by the mill’s letter writing campaign.”
Baxter finds it troubling that Coles, a business that provides books for the Read by the Sea festival in River John, “is getting a lot of flak that should be directed elsewhere. I beseech people not to harass the manager, or the staff of Coles in New Glasgow.”
Although she feels that people coming to her aid is gratifying, Baxter maintained that what is not gratifying is the polarization that has taken place, on both sides, when it comes to the debacle of the mill and its effluent treatment plans.
“There are divisions are being sowed here, in the whole tone people are using. Whatever is being said to the mill workers and contractors attending those information sessions … are divisive and dangerous,” said Baxter. “Pictou County needs healing, and I don’t want to be pitted in there as a divisive force. The book was not meant to be divisive.”