As many of you may have read yesterday in Children’s Bookshelf, Gareth and I are about to start a new chapter in our lives – complete with a new job for me and a new apartment for us, in (drum roll please…) New York City.
Starting September 1 I will be the Senior Editor of Acquisitions and Merchandising at Scholastic Book Clubs. In this newly created position I’ll be working with David Allender, Vice President of Scholastic Book Clubs, to select and merchandise trade books for the Clubs’ monthly catalogs, which are sent home throughout the country with kids ages toddler to teen.
In many ways this job seems like a dream come true for me. I get to have the experience of working for a large publisher but, in much the same way as I’ve done as a buyer, I get to see and select from the lists of books being published by everyone. I get to steer an almost incomprehensible number and variety of kids and parents and teachers toward books, authors, and illustrators that I think are more than worth their knowing, and try to make those books affordable to all of them. I get to continue working with teachers—the customers with whom I think I’ve done the best and most rewarding work of my bookselling career—and I get to dip my toes still further into the worlds of both editing and marketing, without having to choose just one or the other.
The decision to make this leap, though, has not been an easy one. I’ve been an independent bookseller/buyer for 12 years – 9 of which I’ve spent at Wellesley Booksmith, and all of which I have loved. I have loved building the children’s section at our store and cementing our place in the larger community. I have loved working with the hundreds of authors and illustrators who have come through our doors and getting to know the editors and other folks in publishing who have made their books happen. Most of all, I have loved discovering terrific new books and putting them in the hands of readers.
I’m going to miss all the close personal relationships I’ve formed at our store with local teachers and librarians. I’m going to miss working with my fellow independent booksellers – some of the hardest-working, most creative, most intelligent people I know. I’m going to miss having daily contact with the public – of meeting new people each and every day and having meaningful conversations with them about what they’re reading, who they’re buying for, and what kinds of things they look for in a book. Those conversations have been such an important part of what I do that it’s hard to imagine going days, let alone weeks, without having them.
In making the decision of whether or not to take this job, though, I’ve had to reflect on what my chief goals have been as a bookseller: to put great books into kids’ hands; to turn reluctant readers into eager ones; to sustain the interests of fluent readers by introducing them to a ready supply of new, great books; to help teachers find the books that will reach each of their students and make their jobs more enjoyable; to discover great talent and spot new trends in the fields of writing and illustration; to ignite in others (of any age!) a passionate love for reading and for books – in particular those created for kids and teens. I believe my new role at Scholastic Book Clubs will allow me to accomplish all of these same goals, even if my daily work and means of getting there will look considerably different.
I am truly grateful to everyone who has helped shape the past 12 years of my bookselling career – this includes the customers I’ve worked with, the booksellers I’ve learned from, the sales reps who have guided my choices and shaped our store’s success, the authors and illustrators and editors and agents and publicists and countless others who have talked candidly with me about the work that they do and bonded with me about books. You have been the very best kind of company, and the very best teachers too. I’m looking forward to learning still more from you in this next phase of my life.
Let me make it clear that just because I will no longer be working in an independent bookstore, that does not mean I don’t still believe, heart and soul, in the value of and necessity for independent bookstores. I am still and always will be an evangelist for independent bookselling. I will continue to shop at independent bookstores, sing the praises of independent bookstores, send new business to independent bookstores, and educate the world about what it is that these stores do and why their work is so valuable to all of us.
I will be at Wellesley Booksmith through the end of June (my last official day will be Friday, July 2). After that Gareth and I will spend a month apartment-hunting, packing, and reveling in both the excitement and terror of pulling up roots and planting them in (yeesh) the great hub of New York City. Once there I hope to spend a few weeks getting back to work on my too-long-neglected book, before I start work at Scholastic on September 1.
I am sad to be leaving our store, and I am sad to be leaving the children’s section that I’ve spent 9 years building here. I am not, however, worried about how EITHER will fare in my absence!
Going forward, there are two amazing booksellers who will share the responsibilities of buying children’s books for Wellesley Booksmith and who are looking forward to meeting those of you who’ve been working with me for lo these many years. Margaret Aldrich is a bookseller and librarian par excellence who reads more books in a week than I read in a month (seriously) and whose taste is almost always 100% aligned with mine. (If you’ve liked my recommendations you will definitely, absolutely like hers!) Lisa Fabiano is a savvy bookseller, terrific mother, intelligent reader, portrait of efficiency, and cool head in any crisis. She’s been assisting Lorna and me in the buyers’ office here for two years now, and we weep bitter tears on the rare occasion when she takes a vacation. Together Margaret and Lisa will continue to bring all the enthusiasm, good sense, and keen organization to our children’s department that customers have come to expect from us, but they’ll also (because there are two of them) be able to spend more time on the floor with customers, which is a blessing for everyone! I can’t think of a better fit for this job than this dynamic duo, and I know those of you who meet Margaret and Lisa will find them a joy to work with.
Working with Margaret and Lisa will eventually be a third person, a Children’s Marketing and Event Coordinator, as soon as we find the right person for the job. This person will be in charge of running our extensive series of events with children’s book authors and illustrators, in addition to working part-time as a bookseller in our store. (If you know someone who’d be ideal for this position, please put them in touch with us!)
As for the overall health of Wellesley Booksmith, it’s probably right now the strongest it has ever been. While it’s true the store is currently for sale, there are several parties very interested in becoming our new owners, and all signs point to them being people who will continue to run our store in the way that it has been – efficiently, intelligently, and with the same dedication to superb customer service that has made us a vital part of this community for more than ten years. I have every reason to believe that our store will continue to grow and, in fact, thrive in the coming years — our amazing staff of booksellers will see to it that happens!
In the meantime, I am excited to try something different, and optimistic about the new opportunities and adventures New York may hold for me and for Gareth. I’m looking forward to getting better acquainted with the New Yorkers I’ve known for years but seen infrequently. I’m hoping our paths will cross more often now and would welcome any advice you have to give us soon-to-be-locals: things we should do; places we should explore; neighborhoods we should consider; apartments we should rent (!); experiences with renting an outside studio versus creating art in your own house; banks you actually like; doctors you’d recommend… We’d welcome your thoughts on almost anything! Please comment here with any insider tips or drop me a line (shelftalker AT gmail DOT com).
And if anyone’s got any cures for bookselling homesickness (would we call that “storesickness”?) I’d welcome those too!