Thursday, December 11, 2014

Celebrating Independent Bookstores by Karla Stover

In September 2013, author Sherman Alexi sat down with his agent, Nancy Stauffer, and Betsy Burton, co-owner of the King’s English Bookshop to have a little chat about the demise of so many bookstores.  Starting with the question, “What can authors do to help the Indies?” Alexie came up with the idea of sending letters to a small group of authors, whom he called on to “become superheroes for independent bookstores,” and the letters started a movement were writers worked at Indies for a day, drawing in customers and recommending books. Over 400 national and international bookstores participated in the inaugural, Indies First on November 30th, 2013. This year, in Washington State, alone, thirty-two bookstores participated, and I was one of the featured authors in Tacoma, at King’s books.
Tacoma has four main Indies but only King’s participated. King’s has a great reputation for hosting community events: featured poetry readings with open mike, a religion and spirituality book club, a YA Book Club for adult readers, a Banned Book Club, and the LGBTQ Book Club, to mention a few. The local vegan organization meets there as does the sword and laser group. And those are just the regularly-scheduled groups.

Anyway, on Indie day, authors worked in shifts, were asked to provide recommendations for customers, and given the opportunity to read from their own books. I was lucky enough to have two friends face a bitterly cold day and come out to support me, one of whom was visiting from New York, where he is an occasional soap opera actor and Broadway dancer. Now, at least one of my books is headed for the Big Apple. Yay!

Last year my closest writer friend died, and this year my critique group dissolved. Indie day was an opportunity to be with other writers as well as book buyers. Unfortunately for me, the writers were all men who knew each other, and I’m shy when it comes to breaking into groups. Also, I simply had nothing to say to the fellow who wrote about his girlfriend forgetting (maybe on purpose) to flush the toilet, and their urine comingling. I mean, who would have anything to offer, other than an uncomfortable laugh? And the story went one and one and on.

Though no one asked for my book recommendations, it was a good day and I hope I can participate again next year. I’d love to hang around all day and talk books. But if I don’t, it was fun and Indies deserve and need support.