One of the joys of working in a bookshop is the opportunity for great conversations on wide-ranging topics as people stream in and out during the day. Sharing passionate opinions on books is an obvious and frequent topic. Often, talk turns to the news of the day or upcoming store events or issues in education. Some days there ends up being a recurring theme. Some themes are more pleasant than others. (Warning: if you’re reading this as you eat maybe you should save your food, or this post, for later.) Continue reading
I’m writing from the road this week! I’m currently in New York, wrapping up a week of publisher meetings, which I always enjoy. It’s always nice to come and chat with colleagues on their own turf. While I was here, I also took the opportunity to head out to Greenpoint to see the Enchanted Lion offices. I’ve been collaborating with the publisher, Claudia Bedrick, on a dedicated Enchanted Lion display for the store and wanted to connect.
Claudia’s books are beautiful and thoughtful, and her list reflects a great deal of care in vision and design. From the exquisite paper choices to the art direction to the stories told, her list radiates love for the picture book as art form. And I’ve found that when presented together, the books sing with a distinctive voice, bringing together titles in translation with original works under one carefully curated point of view—a point of view that I think brings something unique to the fabric of our store.
I got an email from HarperCollins in August that caught my attention. It began like this.
Indie Book Stores needed for HarperCollins Facebook Live Initiative!
The idea: Go LIVE from one Indie store in each of the 50 states in 50 weeks EVERY SATURDAY.”
Two things about the promotion appealed to me.The message noted that the promotion “costs nothing more than time creativity and a willingness to think off the shelf.” I liked the idea that a publisher was recruiting bookstores for a challenging project that called for creative thinking. Second, I had no experience whatever with Facebook Live and taking the plunge seemed like a good opportunity to learn something new that might have good marketing potential. I signed up right away.
When picture book author Ruth Horowitz (Are We Still Friends?) contacted us last fall for an author event in March, we wavered. March was shaping up to be a crowded month with several offsite events planned, and we wanted Ruth to have a successful reading. Since Ruth was sure she could help draw a crowd, and we like to say yes if we can, we did. And boy, were we happy we said yes! Little did we know how much of a crowd Ruth would gather.
Ruth has lots of local connections, having once lived and worked in Vermont. She was sure her friends and colleagues would turn out, got in touch beforehand to warn us that she’d run out of books at a previous event. We’d ordered 30 copies from Scholastic and another 10 from a distributor, so we felt comfortable. Authors—optimists that they/we are—tend to overestimate how many books will sell during an event, sometimes by a lot. They also aren’t usually aware that the cost of returning unsold stock can make a bookstore actually lose money on an event. Forty books is a solid number for most regular events, and we’d also brought in Ruth’s backlist.
Allan Wolf writes literary young adult fiction. Mo O’Hara writes bonkers early chapter books. On the surface, they couldn’t be more different as authors. But they share an amazing capacity for holding an audience captive and illuminating the work and the joy of writing. I was fortunate enough to host each of them at the bookstore over the weekend, and it was fascinating to learn how they each approached writing about childhood events and to watch them work the crowds– engaging, inspiring, and entertaining their readers. Continue reading
We are lucky enough to get a lot of touring kids’ authors coming through our store for either in-store or (even more frequently) school visits around Austin. Connecting readers with interesting authors who have something to say is one of the best parts of what we do. And a lot of what we do to host authors involves planning logistics, facilitating public conversations, and being a calming, structured presence in the face of fan ferocity. But sometimes we get a chance to just be fans ourselves, and it’s a whole lot of fun.
One of the things we’ve started doing is to periodically invite authors with robust backlists full of stories booksellers cherish, to sit down with us over some cookies or sandwiches and just chat. We don’t often have time in the schedule to do this, so it’s a luxury. But when we can squeeze it in, it gives us a chance to appreciate and enjoy an author’s presence and it arms us with new energy (and anecdotes) to use in our regular business of talking up his or her books.
With Spring looming, hard as the recent blizzard here in the Northeast makes that to credit, I made an appointment to speak with her and learn which books she has picked to feature during her coming term.
Kenny: Good morning!. How are you, Spring?
Spring: Good morning to you, Kenny. Truth to say, I am a bit downcast.
Kenny: I’m sorry to hear that. Is your mood a victim of the blizzard that came though earlier in the week?
Spring: Oh, nothing like that. The proximity of the seasons to each other is no cause of melancholy. No, it was the news of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s passing from ovarian cancer. Her work was beloved in the Vernal Glade. All the woodland creatures adored her books especially. It was hard to tell them.
We are a nation governed by distraction; If You Give a Mouse a Cookie could be our memoir–at least, our most benign one. Everyone I know complains of spending too much time online. They regret the minutes and hours lost, but admit to getting sucked down rabbit holes. We bemoan our lost book-reading time, but can’t resist the eddies of interest and tentacles of curiosity that Googling and link-hopping can provide. Fortunately, there’s a new book out that satisfies all of these tendencies—it can be dipped into like a squirrel’s nut hoard, enjoyed a quick nibble at a time, or dived into headfirst, one fascinating tidbit leading to the next to the next to the next—yet still qualifies as literary.
This new book I’m currently addicted to is called Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal about the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing by Ben Blatt (Simon & Schuster). It’s an entertaining, list- and graph-filled, statistical look at what the words in classic and contemporary literature reveal about writers, our attitudes toward writing, and the ways those are changing over time.
I hate to name-drop, but over the years I’ve hosted a lot of celebrities: Curious George, Corduroy, Winnie the Pooh, and Bad Kitty, to name a few. Picture books are the bestselling section at Spellbound, so costume character events bringing the stars of classic picture books into the bookstore can be pure gold both in terms of customer engagement and sales. The operative word here is “can.” Success is never a given for any kind of event, but over the years I’ve a learned a lot about what works for us with costume events. Continue reading
If you haven’t seen it, I would love to introduce you to the charms of My Pictures After the Storm, which explores concepts that cheekily open up prompts for all kinds of conversations between parent and child. Dramatic and delightful changes transform each page as we see the greasy aftermath of eating too many potato chips or the glamorous impacts of a hairdresser (who turns ‘a lion tamer unconcerned’ and a ‘seal having fun’ into ‘a lion tamer nicely permed’ and ‘a seal with a bun.’). While some pages may need a little parental explanation, I think it’s a whole lot of fun with an offbeat humor reminiscent of one of my favorite out of print books, Elephant Elephant by Pittau & Gervais, which I dearly miss handselling.
In honor of this instant bookseller favorite, I was inspired to document the after-effects of some tumult that came upon us just this very week.