Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane is the central hub of the city’s reading and writing community. A thriving independent book store, Auntie’s invited me to read on Aug. 9. My fabulous publicist Andrea Dunlop helped me get coverage in two of the local papers, thanks to Rich Landers of the Spokesman-Review and Ted McGregor of the Inlander, as well as an interview on KPBX. Even with this coverage, I wasn’t sure if I would get a good crowd.
But soon, people started to trickle in, including Doug Sowder, my brother in law, and his wife Patty and then friend Duane Carlson. Slowly, the room began to fill until some 20 people were in attendance, a nice turnout for a reading, with lots of lively questions, and many books purchased. Long live independent bookstores like Auntie’s!
Ebooks. Kindles. Nooks. Ipads. Wave after wave of change rocks the publishing industry as tech titans Apple, Google, and Amazon carve lucrative new businesses from the digital world.
Amid the turmoil, many traditional book stores are closing or declining (witness the recent implosion of Borders), while others like Seattle’s celebrated Elliott Bay Book Company find ways to survive and thrive. How has Seattle’s iconic independent book store succeeded where others have failed?
It did not come easily. Despite its iconic status as one of the best independent book stores in the country, Elliott Bay was losing money in its former location in Pioneer Square, forcing a move in 2010 to try to revive it. Finding a new location in the bustling Capitol Hill neighborhood and using new media like Facebook and Twitter proved critical to turning things around.
“The new move has felt good,” says head book buyer Rick Simonson, who spoke to The Writer’s Workshop writing class. “But we’re still learning our way. It’s a volatile climate with ebooks and everything else. Will people read both ebooks and paper books? What will they read as ebooks? What as traditional books? We still don’t know what people are going to do.”
As the store finds its way in the new publishing world, they draw even larger audiences to the store’s signature reading series. Formerly, they would draw five to six people; now they draw 15 to 20. Well-known authors pack the store to standing room only. With some 500 author readings a year, the store continues to bring in customers.
Independent book stories like Elliott Bay are critical to the literary and intellectual life of the Seattle as well as that of the nation. David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars, for example, gained national traction in part from the early boost the book received from Elliott Bay. Similarly, first-time authors often develop their audiences through independent bookstores, even if they later gain national attention.
For all these reasons, it’s heartening to see Elliott Bay thriving amid all the transformations in the publishing industry. their reading series continues to be one of the best in the country, a great, free introduction to the riches of the literary world.
First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!
…with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always.
I was trying to write then and I found the greatest difficulty was to put down what really happened in action; what the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced…the real thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion and which would be as valid in a year or ten years or, with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always.
Literature is nothing but carpentry.
Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you.
Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.
Pleasure in a good novel…
The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.
For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth.
For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.
One false word, one extra word…
One false word, one extra word, and somebody's thinking about how they have to buy paper towels at the store.
Get it down. Take chances.
Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.
The forms of things unknown and the the poet’s pen…
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
William Shakespeare (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Writing a novel is a terrible experience.
Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I'm always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it's very shocking to the system.
There are only two or three human stories.
Isn’t it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes for thousands of years.
The difference between the right word and the almost right word…
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
It is wrong to have an ideal view of the world.
It is wrong to have an ideal view of the world. That's where the mischief starts. That's where everything starts unravelling.