Category: On Reading


Bookstore geek: WinterRiver Books

By Midge Raymond,

In the heart of Old Town in Bandon, Oregon, you’ll find the lovely WinterRiver Books, a gem of a book and gift shop.

This bookstore its excellent in its devotion to local and regional books — while so many bookstores tend to have the same bestsellers on the front displays, WinterRiver Books offers a bit of everything, and it’s a great place to browse, especially if you’re in the mood for something different but aren’t sure what.

And WinterRiver Books goes beyond being a bookstore in its wonderful selection of gifts, many of which are eco-friendly, which is always great to see. The store also carries fresh bread from a local bakery…

…and this, in addition to the chocolate selection (which includes Theo Chocolate — mmm) basically means one-stop shopping for a bookstore geek.



Bookstore geek: Books by the Bay

By Midge Raymond,

There are probably few better ways to spend a rainy winter day in the little town of North Bend, Oregon, than in Books by the Bay. (Especially if you’re a bookstore geek, but even if you’re not.)

Books by the Bay has a lovely selection of both new and used books, as well as cards and gifts. Even better, its cafe, The Grounds, offers lunchy items and the usual warm, highly caffeinated cafe drinks (another nice reason to be there on a rainy day).

There are a few cozy chairs — and the bookstore’s wide-open spaces and expansive shelves are great for browsing.

The store’s good light and whitewashed bookshelves remind you that the ocean isn’t too far away…and Books by the Bay is the perfect place to pick up your beach reading.



Bookstore Geek: Hammond’s Books

By Midge Raymond,

Hammond’s Books is one of those amazing discoveries you may make only when wandering the streets. I found this fantastic little bookstore while antiquing in St. Louis’s Cherokee neighborhood.

Part of the Cherokee-Lemp Historic District, Hammond’s Books is brimming with books and antiques — with a wonderful collection of used, rare, collectible, and out-of-print books — and it has the same fabulous stepped-int0-the-past feel as the rest of the neighborhood.

Hammond’s offers three floors of book browsing, and there’s espresso and cappuccino available if you need a little caffeine after winding your way through all the narrow aisles and chandelier-lit nooks.

And after shopping at Hammond’s, as long as you’re on Cherokee, save some time for browsing the other eclectic antique stores, where you’ll find plenty of wonderful, dusty old books. And, if you’re into beer (as my companion happened to be), check out the Lemp brewery — a stunning building that fortunately was preserved after Prohibition put the brewery itself out of business.



Bookstore Geek: Longfellow Books

By Midge Raymond,

Maine has a treasure in Longfellow Books, which is in the heart of downtown Portland and an amazing place to browse.

The store doesn’t simply host author events; it hosts parties, and it treats each customer like a cherished guest. Wine is served, along with homemade cookies baked and delivered by a local bookstore supporter who tailors each recipe to the event (for Wendy Call‘s recent event for her book No Word for Welcome, centered around the Mexican Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the cookies were baked with Mexican spices).

And in a lovely gesture, for this year’s Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, Longfellow Books gave every child child a free book up to a $10 value or the same amount off their purchase, donating 356 free books by the day’s end.

So don’t miss Longfellow Books the next time you’re in Portland. The store offers used as well as new books, and will buy yours as well. It also offers, in true indie fashion, “parking, gift wrapping, advice, dog biscuits, and a wealth of knowledge about books.” It’s well worth an extended visit — and try to make it to an event if you can.



Book Promo 101: The non-reading book tour

By Midge Raymond,

When my writing buddy Wendy Call and I began to plan our joint book tour for this past summer and fall, we proposed events from readings to workshops to writing-prompt sessions. And, as this Wall St. Journal article indicates, we are apparently not alone in thinking outside the traditional book tour. In fact, of the nearly dozen events Wendy and I did together, only two of them were straight readings.

We took this approach for several reasons: For one, we are two writers with quite different books that are very similar in theme; our books cover travel, globalization, and characters facing challenges, yet Wendy’s book, No Word for Welcome, is nonfiction, while Forgetting English is a collection of short fiction. So we wanted to bring readers together to offer something for both nonfiction and fiction readers, as well as to give them a chance to participate as an audience.

We also recognized that neither of us is (quite) famous enough to have fans lining up around the block. And when you are an unknown author, it helps to offer a little something beyond the book when you’re meeting your readers, most of whom will be new.

Finally, we planned to visit a variety of venues, from Grub Street  to The Writer’s Center to Boston University, as well as bookstores. And we also recognized that a bookstore event needs to draw crowds and sell books to be a win-win, and it’s up to the author as well as the bookstore to try to make that happen.

We learned a great deal — far more than will fit into a short blog post — but here are a few tips…

Team up. There are so many advantages to doing a joint book tour — and offering a little something different to participants is only one of them. And, as this WSJ article mentions, sometimes a bookseller will interview an author, which is another great idea.

Offer a workshop. Wendy and I taught several different workshops on our tour, all geared toward the themes in our books, from narrative writing to travel writing. Though we each chose sections of our books for the other to read, we also offered examples of work other than our own and included handouts and reading lists. You can also, as Wendy did at several of her solo events, offer slide shows with images that relate to your book; many authors use PowerPoint presentations as well. There are really no rules other than making the presentation engaging and relevant.

Talk about what inspired the book or certain scenes. It’s always fun to learn what’s behind the scenes of an interesting book, and by going this, you offer readers more than what’s between the pages. You’ll want to read enough to give readers a taste of what’s to come — but the idea is that they’ll be buying the book, so you’ll want to offer something they can’t take home with them.

Make time for audience participation, whether you assign a couple of writing prompts or start the Q&A with you asking the Qs. As novelist Jason Skipper says in this interview, on his recent book tour he took several fun approaches to his readings, from singing Wilco songs to inviting the audience to read with him.

Structure the event so that reading time is minimal. While Wendy and I both made time to read brief excerpts from our respective works (you definitely want to give people at least a little taste of your book), we spent only a small percentage of our event time on reading, which allowed for us to get to know our audiences and vice versa. We’d often begin with a brief reading and then conclude with one as well — this is a good way to bookend an event — but for the most part, while we were there on behalf of our books, we talked more than read.

In the end, the most important thing is that you have fun — this is something that readers will remember — and often the most fun and surprising events go well beyond the book itself.



Bookstore Geek: The Galaxy Bookshop

By Midge Raymond,

It’s not easy to get to Hardwick, Vermont, but it’s a town known to many thanks in part to the book The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food … And if you’re ever in Hardwick, be sure to stop into The Galaxy Bookshop.

Galaxy is located in what used to be a former bank building — there’s a selection of children’s books in what used to be the bank’s vault — and it’s home to two sweet bookstore cats.

As Shelf Awareness has just reported, Galaxy is actually about to move to a new location, where it’ll have better foot traffic and a more suitable space for its inventory, among which you’ll find a large selection of children’s books, cookbooks, maps, journals, notecards by local artists, and a whole shelf of books by indie authors. It’s very happy news that Galaxy will live on after twenty-three years in Harwick.



Bookstore Geek: Boston Book Annex

By Midge Raymond,

One of my favorite bookstores in Boston has always been the Boston Book Annex, where you’ll find an amazing selection of used books, with especially impressive collections in political history, literature, and art. The store has also always had some of the cutest bookstore cats ever.

I didn’t see the cats during my last visit, but I did some great browsing. The store carries more than 100,000 books and continues to buy used books. It’s everything a good used bookstore should be: a little dusty, with curious cats, creaky wood floors, and overstuffed shelves.

Plan to spend at least an hour, bring your cash or credit, and be prepared to carry home a new stack of books.



Bookstore Geek: Pudd’nhead Books

By Midge Raymond,

St. Louis’s Pudd’nhead Books is thriving in its new Webster Groves location, just down the street from its former home.

The new space is warm and inviting, with wide aisles for optimal browsing and comfy chairs that invite you to sit down and stay awhile.

The store also offers a wonderful series of events, from author readings (Jonathan Franzen recently visited) to Literary Speed Dating to the Pudd’nhead Book Club and the YA for Grown Ups Book Club.

Pudd’nhead is also part of the St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance, a brilliant idea conceived to keep indie bookstores helping one another stay strong. With Webster University nearby, it’s a great neighborhood in which to spend an afternoon — and be sure to leave plenty of time for Pudd’nhead!



Bookstore Geek: Big Sleep Books

By Midge Raymond,

I came across this St. Louis treasure in the city’s Central West End one recent autumn afternoon.

Big Sleep Books specializes in mysteries and detective books, new and used, and while it’s small, it’s brimming with great books and a staff that knows its stuff. Big Sleep also offers a few rare titles and signed first editions, so it’s a great place for collectors as well as mystery lovers.

Though it’s a cozy little place, Big Sleep does host readings and signings and is a big supporter of local authors, and while visiting the store is the best way to hear about new books and great authors in the genre, the store’s website also links to its favorites.



Instant books, via the Espresso Book Machine

By Midge Raymond,

It was a couple of years ago that I first saw an Espresso Book Machine (EBM) at work, at Village Books in Bellingham, Washington. It was impressive to see an entire book printed and bound in less than ten minutes — and even more impressive than the technology is the print-on-demand aspect itself: Books are made to order, which means no print overruns, which means no waste, which means more trees get to live.

Formerly used mainly for self-publishing, the EBMs are showing signs of going more mainstream. HarperCollins recently announced that it plans to make about 5,000 trade paperback backlist available for printing via EBM — and On Demand Books (the company behind the EBM) has also just announced that it plans to register with Google so that all EBM titles will become available through the Google Books website.

I caught a firsthand glimpse of the mainstreaming of the EBM on my recent book tour, when Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, printed up copies of Forgetting English rather than ordering the books and having them shipped. A couple of readers got to see their books being printed, which was fun — and the quality was amazing. The book cover was matte rather than glossy, and the pages were thick, the print crisp, and the binding strong. And I got a kick out of seeing a new and different version of Forgetting English, made to order.

The Espresso Book Machine at Northshire is located in a little nook near the front of the store, close to the cash registers.  Northshire also has its own imprint, Shires Press, which offers a variety of packages for authors who want to self-publish their books — a very smart idea and likely one of the many reasons this bookstore is celebrating its 35th birthday and going strong.

And Northshire is far from the only indie bookstore to have an EBM: Check out this list of EBM locations, which comprises indie bookstores, university bookstores, and libraries all over the world, including in the U.S., Canada, Japan, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, China, the Philippines, Australia, and England. If there’s an EBM located anywhere near you, I recommend checking it out (and printing up a book!); it’s a fascinating machine that may very well play a very large role in the way publishing looks in the future.



Bookstore Geek: Tree House Books

By Midge Raymond,

Tree House Books in Ashland, Oregon, is one of the town’s many treasures.  I first visited this sweet little children’s bookstore last year, around the holidays, while shopping for the little readers in my life. And I’m glad I did — it’s one of the most charming bookstores I’ve ever seen, and it’s fun to wander around inside even if you are a grown-up. There really is something for everyone here.

Tree House Books has been on the Plaza in Ashland since 1978 but has relatively new owners who curate a hand-picked selection of books for infants to young adults, as well as a small selection of their favorite books for grown-ups as well. The space is welcoming and inviting, and in addition to books there’s a wonderful selection of gifts, toys, and seasonal items that makes it worthwhile to stop in for a look whenever you’re walking by.

Tree House also has a book club for kids age 11 and older (if there’s anything better than a book club, it’s a book club for young readers) as well as many other events, including local author appearances. And be sure to check out Tree House’s October calendar, coming soon, for upcoming Halloweeny events.



Notes from a book tour

By Midge Raymond,

Years ago, before my book was published, I remember reading an article by a very successful author who was complaining about doing book tours. And I remember thinking, How can any author fortunate enough to have a book published and a tour scheduled complain about the privilege not only of having a book out in the world but of being able to meet her readers?

Now, after having just completed a ten-day whirlwind tour of my own, I can empathize a little more — it really is quite exhausting — but I most definitely cannot complain.

For one, I feel so fortunate to have teamed up with my friend and fellow writer Wendy Call, whose amazing book No Word for Welcome (University of Nebraska Press) was published two months after my book, Forgetting English, was reissued by Press 53. Though my book is fiction and hers narrative nonfiction, our books touch on similar themes — the global economy, home and travel, border crossings both literal and figurative — and we put together a series of workshops, seminars, and joint readings that made for a very busy ten days.

We did eight events in four states, traveling through Hurricane Irene-damaged areas that sent us on all sorts of detours, which were so very minor compared to what most residents were going through. It was amazing to see how these communities we visited bonded together; the photo below is from Woodstock’s Shiretown Books:

Wendy and I gathered a whole series of lessons from this tour, and if I had to sum them up as one, it would be: Be prepared. For anything.

We had water shortages, a car break-in, oddly timed meals (our first meal at 4 p.m. one day, dinner at 11 p.m. on another), and a lot of detour stress. Yet the less-than-fun aspects were offset by being hosted by fantastic indie bookstores and generously taken in by amazing friends. We met with inspiring students and writers, and, no matter how long the day, we  always managed to have a glass of wine and at least a few hours’ sleep at the end of it.

I’ve learned that book events are one thing, whereas an extended book tour is another thing entirely. Book touring is for writers who are flexible above all else —  you never know what you’ll encounter when you show up for an event. You need to be prepared for detours, of course, and for events that need to start late or end early. Be prepared for crowds larger than you’d expected, or smaller than you’d hoped. Be prepared for more questions than you have time for, or for no questions at all.

But most of all, be prepared to have a lot of fun. I reminded myself, even in the challenging moments, that we were out there talking about our books, which is something many writers don’t have the opportunity to do.

So if you’re a writer considering a tour, remember that, despite the inevitable challenges, when you do a book tour you’re not only meeting your readers but supporting indie booksellers, community centers, and other venues important to the literary world. And if you’re a reader, go to your nearest bookstore on an event day and see what it’s all about.



Bookstore geek: Rogue Books

By Midge Raymond,

I stumbled across this little gem in Ashland, Oregon, one afternoon while walking through the Railroad District — it’s a little hidden away in what used to be a gas station/garage. As you can see, the building hasn’t changed; it still reads “Haskins Garage” and the old gas pump still stands right outside.

Inside is a wonderful, eclectic selection of used books, signs, license plates — it’s like a museum, not only for its selection but for the building itself; it’s still got the wide-open space and the high ceilings.

 

Perhaps best of all is that when you visit Rogue Books, you’ll find that you’re right across the street from Noble Coffee, another neighborhood treasure.

Happy reading/shopping!



Book Promo 101: Reading aloud

By Midge Raymond,

While this post touches on some of the points from Book Promo 101: The bookstore reading, I wanted to devote a little extra time to the art of reading aloud, especially given the wonderful tips I received recently from Jack Straw Productions and Elizabeth Austen.

As part of the preparation for our joint book tour, Wendy Call and I visited Seattle’s Jack Straw Productions, the Northwest’s only non-profit multidisciplinary audio arts center, to record excerpts from our books.

 Producer Moe Provencher had wonderful advice for me as I stumbled through a practice reading — an excerpt I’d never rehearsed until that afternoon — and I found her tips  as relevant and useful for live readings as they are for audio recordings:

  • Mark up the text from which you’re reading so that you’ll know when to pause, what to emphasize, etc.
  • Develop a facial expression that reflects a character’s voice and/or mood; when you use your face to express something, this mood and tone will come through in your voice.
  • Read far more slowly than you think you need to — to the point at which you feel ridiculous — and this will likely be the perfect pace.
  • Practice. Aloud. Many times.
  • Breathe.

The good news for Seattle-area writers is that Jack Straw offers a Writers Program (Wendy was a 2008 Jack Straw Writer) in which writers spend several months developing a project while learning tips for readings, doing interviews, and more.

I learned a few more invaluable tips when, the week after the recording, I attended Elizabeth Austen‘s workshop at the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference: “Beyond the Page: Poems Aloud, Poems Alive” (a session I recommend all prose writers take as well). Elizabeth, with her background in theater, has a gift for the spoken word, and she reminded us first and foremost that language is physical, that we need to remember this when we read aloud, and to feel every word. She offered a few examples — words such as awe, hiss, tip, trapeze — and in speaking them we could hear and appreciate their pitch and length, their sharpness or languidness. (Give it a try, right now. It’s pretty cool.) Elizabeth gave us tips on everything from rehearsing (avoid mirrors or recordings; ask a friend to listen and offer feedback instead) to what to wear to a reading (whatever makes you feel comfortable and confident; also, avoid high heels, and rehearse in the shoes you’ll be wearing at the event).

Among Elizabeth’s wisest tips was this: “The performance requires you, but it’s not about you.” As readers, she explains, we are conduits for getting the words out into the room and to the audience. I love this eye-opening tip, not only because it takes the edge off the self-consciousness most of us feel when we read, but because it reminds us that our words need to speak for themselves — that, now that we’ve written them, it’s time to let them shine on their own.



Bookstore Geek: Orca Books

By Midge Raymond,

In my ongoing coverage of fabulous indie bookstores, I recently had the privilege of not only shopping but reading, with Wendy Call, at Orca Books in Olympia, Washington — and what a wonderful evening it was.

Orca Books has all the ingredients that make a Fabulous Indie Bookstore: a warm and helpful staff, a great collection of new and used books, a delightful array of gifts, a sweet orange bookstore cat named Henry, and a wonderful location in downtown Olympia near cafes, bars, and restaurants.

On a recent rainy Friday night, Wendy and I launched our joint book tour at Orca, and it was the perfect place to begin. We were so warmly welcomed and introduced, and we were thrilled to have a smart, lively crowd that made for a great discussion after our readings.

 

If you’re in the Northwest, do find your way to Olympia — this is a bookstore well worth seeking out. Be sure to leave plenty of time — an hour or two, at least — and while you’re there, give Henry a scritch under the chin for me.