‘I wrote my book in Starbucks’

A blank page is exhilarating for a writer.

The vacant computer screen holds the promise of an adventure. Carefully crafted words and strategic sentences breathe life into characters.

It is also intimidating.

Where to begin?

“Writing is lonely,” said Bonnie Herron. “Complete silence means that every sudden noise is distracting from the thrill of creating a story.”

Herron set up her laptop for years in a location that surrounded her with background music, conversation and a steady supply of coffee. She wrote her first novel in a Starbucks, encouraged by fellow customers and store partners (employees) who followed her progress.

She began writing fiction after a career in marketing at IBM and after using her Ph.D. in English to teach at the college level. For about three years she carried her laptop and pages of research notes to the Cook Street Village Starbucks in Victoria, British Columbia.

Sitting at a table, clutching a cup of dark roast brewed coffee, she thought about the female heroine she was creating. Tapping on the keyboard, she brought her to life. Herron penned the novel, My Courage Rises.

The story is a fictional tale of a young woman who, in spite of a physical attack, stalking and deceitful lovers, becomes a successful entrepreneur. Set in Scotland, Western Canada, and New York in the 1920s, the author compels readers to cheer for Fiona Gilman as she overcomes challenges.

Social by nature, Herron appreciated the camaraderie she felt at Starbucks. Being able to meet people from the neighborhood at Starbucks “takes away the loneliness,” she said.

A warm, welcoming culture of belonging is what Starbucks partners create in stores. Susanne Puerschel managed the Cook Street store before moving recently to another Starbucks location in Victoria. "When a customer feels so comfortable that it almost feels like home, that really says a lot about what we created for Bonnie and for so many others who come to Starbucks stores," she said.

Customers and baristas who watched Herron write for several hours each day developed a curiosity for her fictional character and said they felt some ownership when the book was published one year ago.

On a recent visit to her favorite Starbucks store, Herron noticed a woman reading the last chapter of the book at a window table. The woman looked up, caught her eye, held up the book and said, “Last chapter.” When she finished, she held the book to her chest and gestured for Herron to come over.

“We discussed the story that day, and many times after that, while we refilled our coffee cups,” Herron said.

Baristas at the Cook St. Starbucks will have many more occasions to top off her cup of dark roast. Herron is writing her second novel, a sequel, at Starbucks.

This is Bonnie’s Starbucks story, what’s yours? Let us know through: [email protected]

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