Each Thursday, to celebrate #IndieThursday, I’ve asked authors, bloggers, readers & other lovers of books to write about how independent bookstores have influenced their lives, or the lives of those around them. Today I’m pleased to welcome author Lee Woodruff!
Why I Love Indie Book Stores
Ever since I was little, I’ve been an avid reader. I was the kid in the corner of the room who had eschewed cards, board games and neighborhood kick ball to curl up with my book. I was the one engrossed in a story.
After school, the local library was my hang out, the librarians and I were on a first name basis. They introduced me to history, new worlds and new frontiers, imaginary friends and the lives of memorable people.
Books remained important to me as I moved through my life. And when I married a man whose career took us to many different towns, the local book store in each one became my watering hole. I was drawn to them the way some women are to purses and shoes. If you’d asked me my idea of a perfect day, back when mothering four children sometimes felt like being sucked in a sinkhole, I would have answered, “Being in a bookstore alone.” I still would.
At that point in my life, I was a freelance writer, earning an income by putting words together, and that gave me the means to possess books. I loved the feeling of owning them, of lining them up on my shelves at home the way some people collect jewelry or gold. And unlike library books, I could bend the pages to keep my place or underline the sentences I found meaningful. My local book store owners came to learn my tastes, recommend new releases or direct me to a review. There was small talk and gossip, the questions about my children and family, and I, in turn, would ask after them. We’d shoot the breeze as my eyes ran up and down the shelves looking for the latest read or a book I’d kept forgetting to add to my list.
When I became a published author in 2007, I understood the value of indie book stores from a totally different perspective than that of a customer. I had the honor and pleasure of meeting some of the owners and employees at iconic stores like Rainy Day Books in Kansas City, Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, RJ Julia in Madison, CT, Politics & Prose in DC or Book Passage in Marin County, California. I learned to get comfortable with popping in a place like Bookshelf in Truckee, CA when visiting my brother in law, to introduce myself and sign the books in stock. And I look forward, with the release of my first novel this May, to hopefully heading to stores I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting like One More Page in Arlington, VA or Bookends in Ridgewood, New Jersey.
Every single employee in these indies is a true insider. They have tapped into the heart beat of their community, the pulse of the book clubs, readings and events in their towns. And each one has put their own wonderful signatures on their leg of my book tours, from driving me in their cars to a speaking venue to my memory of Roger in Kansas City showing me how he greased the signing table in the back so we could sign all 500 books in record time, to Roxanne in Connecticut letting me choose books for my kids in return for speaking there. I’ve kept up with many of the indie owners personally and I consider my relationships with them a great privilege. They are my partners, in a sense, recommending my books to their customers and championing me to their local book clubs or including my work in their “picks.” They’ve schlepped countless cartons of my books to sell at speaking engagements and fundraisers. They helped to put me on the map. And we book people are a loyal lot.
Arcade bookstore outside of New York City, is my hometown indie. My family gets all of our books from Patrick, who also happens to play in a Jazz band. School-assigned reading, my personal picks, gifts for friends, books on tape. Shopping local is the only way we roll and the doors are still open because so much of the townsfolk feel the same.
These are scary times for my indies. As if the big box stores, the chains and the internet hadn’t already eroded a once wonderful, dependable local business, now the e-book has de-stabilized things again. It’s more important than ever to be a patron, to retain what is special about your local independent book store and re-discover the magic of opening the door and hearing the bell tinkle as it hits the glass. If you haven’t visited in a while, please do. I promise you’ll walk out the richer for it.
Lee Woodruff is the co-author of the New York Times bestselling “In an Instant” which she wrote with her husband, ABC-News reporter Bob Woodruff, after his near-fatal injury in Iraq in 2006. Her second book of essays, “Perfectly Imperfect-A Life in Progress” was also a best-seller. Woodruff’s first novel will be published by Hyperion in May 2012. She lives in Rye, NY with her husband and four children.
Spend some more time with Lee Woodruff at her website www.leewoodruff.com or follow her on twitter @LeeMWoodruff
Participation in #IndieThursday is simple: just visit your local independent bookstore, either in person or online. Tweet what you purchased, as well as the name of the store, using the hashtag #IndieThursday. Help celebrate indie bookstores!
If you would like to do a guest post on how independent bookstores have influenced your life, please email me at jennsbookshelfATgmailDOTcom.