Chapter One – Will This Be The Year?
Every year someone on my staff, Eldridge, makes the same promise to me. He avows that if I staff the Downtown Farmington Early Bird Sale, which entails my getting up at 4:00 am on the first Saturday morning of November, and then making my way over to the bookstore by 6:00 am, that I will find a diamond considerably larger than the Hope diamond left out for me on the counter.
There has been an interesting thread in the online bookselling listserv this week: should stores charge for wrapping or not? Opinions vary widely, and we seem to talk about this every year. Being able to get wrapped presents, either for birthdays or the holidays, is a wonderful thing. It saves the customers time and money and that’s always appreciated. But gift wrapping during the crazy rush of the holiday season, and it’s a short one this year, takes up valuable staff time and let’s face it, gift wrap is far from cheap. So, what’s a store to do? Continue reading
I love seeing how customers think about the bookstore. We are on customers’ minds far more often than I’m even aware. And I’m surprised anew almost daily at this. Yes, people call us to order books, and more often than not, no matter where I happen to be, someone approaches me to order a book or just to talk about one they’ve just read. Occasionally, I get a window into how folks try to remember to call us. Continue reading
A while ago, I wrote about my favorite, lesser-known Mo Willems picture book, Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator! which is just perfection, and now I cannot help myself from writing about yet another pitch-perfect Willems book — this one done with irresistible art by Tony DiTerlizzi — The Story of Diva and Flea.
A very small dog, Diva, and a very large cat, Flea, live nearly opposite Parisian lives. Diva stays in her protected courtyard, while free-spirited Flea wanders, with no home or predictable meals to call his own, but with an adventurous spirit and many stories to share. One day, Flea spies Diva in her courtyard and is immediately taken with the tiny dog. He pokes his head through the gate — and thus begins a great friendship. Because of this meeting, their lives comically overturn as each bravely experiences the strange world of the other.
Mallett School’s Prime Time Reading, aka Jammie Night, is my favorite event of the year. Obviously. After all it has some of the best ingredients an event could have: a shared love of reading, widespread community support and partnerships, great authors, a great crowd, amazing decorations, and pajamas.
Author Elizabeth Bluemle thrills the crowd of a Jammie Night from years past!
Here’s how it works: The Mallett community comes back to school at 6:00 in the evening – parents, kids, teachers, librarian, principal, all dressed in pajamas for an evening of read-alouds. I produce a children’s book author. The evening starts with that author reading her book to the assembled throng in the gymnasium, which has been lavishly decorated around the book’s theme. Afterwards, families can either go listen to one of five different community readers in five different classrooms, read together in the gym, or purchase a book and have the guest author sign it. The evening ends with the author reading a second book to the whole audience and then concludes with goodnights and more book signing.
I often lament about the retail rush to get from one season to the next, and this year is no exception. Our holiday books have been out since Halloween, and calendars, planners, and gift wrap are on full display. What’s interesting to me is how this year the shopping patterns are different than in years past. People are planning ahead and this is a new thing for my area. I’ll be perfectly honest, this time of year the only people I would hear exclaiming,”I’m done with my holiday shopping!” are the senior citizens who plan ahead and then enjoy the fun of the holidays without the frantic shopping. This year is different. Continue reading
As often happens in the retail world, the tough customers tend to come in at the end of a long day. I have sometimes wondered if I would find these folks as challenging first thing in the morning, and yes, I probably would, but there is something about the last half hour of the day that can make certain kinds of customers particularly hard to help because my brain isn’t working as quickly with book recommendations. I’ve created a short list of the kinds of patrons that give most bookstore staffers fits the last 30 minutes of the day. Continue reading
In Janet Taylor’s Into The Dim, when 21st century lead character Hope Walton enters 12th-century London, she reflects that “My mom was a renowned historian… Reviewers wrote how Sarah Walton’s lectures painted such vivid pictures, it was as though she’d seen the history with her own eyes. I snorted. Kinda cheated there didn’t you, Mom.” Of course we frontlist buyers have our own means of cheating about future trends: ARCs. In the space of thirty minutes of sorting through spring frontlist titles I divined the newest hot sub genre of 2016. I encountered three really good time-traveling books in a single pile. Had my future self come into the ARC room and grouped them together so I would make that discovery? Probably, but I won’t be sure until I intersect with that point in time. Still, there’s no need to wait to have a look at this new trend.
I’ve blogged before about the Rochester Children’s Book Festival and its splendors, but I can’t help writing about it again. It is a splendiferous occasion, full of funny moments with kids and parents, staffed by the most well-trained team of enthusiastic, helpful volunteers you could ever hope to meet. And at the end of it all is a dinner with colleagues and a writing-themed, sing-along musical penned by one of the festival organizers, Elizabeth “Sibby” Falk.
To give you an idea of what the day is like, here’s a representative moment:
Photo ©2015 Rochester Children’s Book Festival
I’m not sure how many people attend, but it’s in the thousands. The doors open, people pour in, and it’s packed from 10 am to 4 pm. Continue reading
Before we moved our store to Shelburne, we got upwards of 400 costumed children trick-or-treating on Halloween. It’s a long-standing tradition that kids from Charlotte descend on the one-street village and trick-or-treat. I used to love seeing all the different outfits the kids would come up with, ranging from the simple Ninja Turtle to the very complicated sarcophagus that practically had its own transport system. But Shelburne has something Charlotte lacked: neighborhoods and sidewalks, so kids tend to seek candy where they live. As a result we don’t get any kids seeking candy on Halloween. This has always made me a little sad. This past weekend I was at my favorite coffee shop in Shelburne when a family approached me.
I hadn’t gotten my coffee yet, so was a little sleepy when Maddy came up to me. Maddy is about seven or eight and newly moved back to town. Her grandfather has been a stalwart supporter of the bookstore since the day we opened. Maddy asked a little nervously, “Do you want to see a picture of my jack-o-lantern?” Of course I did. I was expecting a cute little pumpkin, not an homage to the bookstore. Apparently, young Maddy has fallen in love with the store since her family moved back to Shelburne after a multi-year absence, and this love translated to a sketch of the pumpkin and the carving of the actual pumpkin. To say that these made me happy is an understatement. The lit pumpkin is almost haunting it’s so beautiful. And honestly, it’s not every day a child designs and executes a fire-breathing flying pig!