From book-selling to counseling to event-organising, Sharmaine Lovegrove has become a vital player in the expat lit scene.
Ever been to a reading featuring the likes of Eve Ensler, Adam Thirlwell, Eleanor Catton and Thomas Pletzinger? Thank Sharmaine Lovegrove. An event manager, consummate networker, e-entrepreneur, she also manages to be a wife (her surname was invented by herself and her husband), a mum and an unrepentant party animal. “Being in Berlin makes all these things possible,” she laughs.
Lovegrove has been working with books since the age of 16 – first in bookshops such as Foyles, then for literary publicity company FMcM. There, she did publicity work for a murderer’s row of London publishers from Penguin to Random House to Harper Collins. Yet in 2009, following many visits, she decided to move to Berlin, a city where, at the time, English-language literature was confined to a small alternative scene of self-published authors and spoken-word poets organising rather private events at underground bars and English bookstores – and little interaction with the wider world of German literature. Why make the move? “Berlin is multicultural, flexible, and with enough hard work and a vision, you can make it here.”
With a newcomer’s enthusiasm and networking fervour, Lovegrove took the local expat scene by storm, first focusing on events and readings. By December 2009, she was opening Dialogue Books in the backroom of a Mitte tea shop. Eighteen months later, she had her own store in Kreuzberg, with the goal not only of selling books, but acting as a cultural hub for Anglophones.
“It was a kind of boutique concept originally,” she explains, “concentrating on quality rather than vastness, and with a brilliant programme of readings!”
Since then, her involvement in Berlin’s literary world has snowballed: in 2011, she formed literary agency Lovegrove & Gosling together with Victoria Gosling of The Reader, and since 2012 she has been working in international author relations at e-publisher epubli.com. And while Dialogue’s physical shop had to close at the end of summer 2013, Lovegrove’s kept it going online and continues to offer literary advising on top of organising readings at Soho House, all from her cosy office in Wedding. Believe it or not, she swears she still manages to read four books a week.
Recent favourite book: Booker Prize winner The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.
Favourite Berlin literary place: Café Literaturhaus. “Old-world literary; the perfect place for meetings for my new literary endeavours!”
Originally published in issue #122, December 2013.