We booksellers LOVE the holiday season, especially in these early days of the rush, when our stores are brimming with customers and no one is seriously stressed out yet. We love these days because people want the beautiful books, the hardcovers and art books and decadent thick tomes with gilt-edged pages and fancy cookbooks (hello, Nopi) and other delicious gift-worthy gorgeous heavy satiny-in-the-hand BOOKS.
This weekend was so busy that no one on staff had time to eat lunch. We were literally flying all day, drinking coffee and eating sugar plum candies to sustain us. By about 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday we were staggering around the store crashing from the excess of caffeine and sugar. Before things got ugly two friends saved us by bringing us food.
My friend Kim had come by earlier in the day to shop and noticed we were knee-deep in customers and unpacking a surprise distributor order. I barely had time to chat with her before she and her friend left. An hour later she texted: “What do you all like on pizza?” We all chimed in, “Veggies!” Then she showed up with a steaming hot pizza for all of us. And serendipitously when she arrived, the store was empty long enough for the four of us to eat leaning (okay, slumped) against the counter. Refueled, we were ready to tackle the last two hours of the day.
Sunday found a similar situation. The store was busy, no one working had brought lunch and we found ourselves starving by 2 pm. There is a butcher shop next door to the store and Mike and Louiza were working. I popped over and asked if they had any sandwiches (sometimes they do) but they were out. I was about to turn and leave when Louiza offered to make us some of her famous pierogis that they sell uncooked at the shop. Turns out they have a hot plate and Louiza was more than happy to make us some.
There is a loveliness and kindness that always touches me when people see that we are all starving and too busy to eat and they walk in with food. It reinforces what I grew up with as a kid: food is love. And during the holidays there is a lot of love at the Flying Pig.
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.
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.