Monday, April 09, 2007

Link-Mad Monday; Comment: The Accidental Writer

Here ya go -- weekly linkage.

* Hey, here's a new twist on the doom-and-gloom indie bookstore closing story: Gothamist had a link to this story in the New York Post, confirming the rumors I'd been hearing that a Manhattan Barnes & Noble is actually closing (thanks to David for the tip). The end of the Astor Place branch will actually be a real loss to the New York bookstore scene; the store had an interesting and eclectic mix of books, including what several folks have told me was the largest and best poetry section of any B&N. And the comments on Gothamist indicate that it was a favorite haunt for impoverished NYU and Cooper Union students.

Several factors are involved in its demise, of course, the most prominent of which is insanely rising NYC rents, the bane of any business trying to have a long life in this overpriced city. But I wonder if B&N's emphasis on volume and discounting rather than customer service contributed to this store's role as a place to read books, not a place to buy books. In any case, at the end of this year East Village readers will just have to walk over a few blocks to the still-going-strong indie St. Marks (or up a few to the Union Square B&N) to get their book fix.

* In friendlier neighborhood NYC news, Comic Book Resources reports on the Big Apple's Spider-Man Week, April 30 to May 6. Corresponding to the release of the third movie, of course, the week's programming includes everything from spider features at the Museum of Natural History to original Spidey comics displayed at the NY Public Library to a tour of movie locations on the Grey Line tour buses. Here's the official site if you want to get in on the action. Now THIS is a book festival!

* It's now possible to find out almost exactly what's going to be going on at BEA: the ABA has posted its educational session schedule online here, and you can download the schedule for all BEA programming (including BEA-sponsored ed sessions and author events) here. Since, as the BEA website tells me, there are only 51 days and number of hours until the show, maybe you want to start drafting your show itinerary now...

In case you want to save the date, your Book Nerd will be appearing on a Graphic Novel panel on Saturday, June 1, at 2:00. I'll join a humbling group of folks in the industry -- publishers, critics, distributors -- to offer my retailer's perspective on "the graphic novel pandemic." Should be fun!

* Speaking of humblingly talented colleagues, my LBC compatriot Carolyn Kellogg (of Pinky's Paperhaus) is heading up a new literary journal, Hot Metal Bridge. Check it out -- some great writers already signed on to their first issue. Starting a lit mag is a nutty, quixotic gesture akin to starting an indie bookstore, and I'm so proud and amazed at those who are doing it. Hooray for more literature!

* And fellow LBCer Dan Wickett is rockin' his new publishing line, Dzanc Books -- check out their new title from Roy Kesey. Hot stuff!

* * *

Okay, for the non-link portion of the blog today, a funny observation that has occurred to me lately. When I was but a youthful high school Book Nerd, making my English teachers happy and working on the high school lit mag, everyone assumed I'd grow up to be a writer. I assumed it myself. Later, doing the English major thing, looking for jobs in publishing, and eventually applying to grad school, I went with that assumption, drifting between the idea of being an academic writer, a novelist, a poet, a columnist or journalist of some kind. It wasn't until that infamous epiphany with the ALP that I realized I had no great desire to be a writer at all. What made me happy was not the solitary striving for the right phrase; it was "being where literature hits the street," making a space for readers and writers in the real world, and interacting with the physical objects and human faces of literature. Being a bookseller is my calling, and I've happily put my college essays and poems in storage to pursue that dream, grateful in some ways for the escape from the pressures of literary creation.

But somehow, in becoming a bookseller-who-blogs, I've on some level become a writer after all. I discover people often who know my "work" -- my words -- but have never met me. I get quoted in print publications and linked by other blogs. I get compliments and criticism based on the content or quality of my writing. Bookseller Chick and I commiserated/exclaimed about this together when we met up in Portland: the irony that embracing our identities as booksellers had turned us into the writers we had sort of decided not to become. It feels in some ways like a secret blessing: obviously there's a part of me that's still fulfilled by stringing words together, and all I needed was to find my subject -- books and bookselling -- in order to make those words worth reading.

However, it does mean that I get back some of the pressures that come with being a writer. I'm no smash-hit first-time novelist struggling with the pressure to avoid sophomore slump, but I do feel that if I don't keep writing a couple of posts a week, the readership that I've built up may dissipate, or worse, I may disappoint someone. It's a lot to take on for someone who's not doing this for a living. But it's a joyful responsibility -- a practice, almost, like yoga or prayer -- and I'm thankful for the discipline as well as the creative freedom of this kind of writing.

So this year, I'm going to try to get into a regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday blogging routine. It's a little late for New Year's resolutions, but I feel like it's time to commit. Even if it's only a couple of words -- a link or a thought -- I'll get something done if my other obligations can possibly allow it. Sometimes the only words you see may be an apology that I don't have time to blog, but it will be something.

Thanks, in the meantime, for being the readers I'd accepted I would never have. It's great fun, and a privilege, to be writing for you.


Noelle said...

At the bookstore a few weeks ago, one of my co-workers kept telling me that I was a writer because the blog. I demurred, because I just think of myself as someone who writes, not a writer. Still, she insisted until I agreed that yes, I do enjoy writing and I guess I can be called a writer of sorts.

After that, a woman came up to the counter and asked for a recommendation of something interesting. I offered up and described "Cloud Atlas" and she said, "of course you would like that, you're a WRITER. You'd like really strange stuff. I'm looking for something that a normal person would like." Finally, she settled on a Jodi Picoult book suggested by my non-writer co-worker.

I thought you'd enjoy that story.

Book Nerd said...

Ha! Classic. Booksellers are often asked to be all things to all people, I think, and sometimes it's unfortunate if two different "all things" are needed in the room at the same time...

Too bad she passed up on CLOUD ATLAS, though -- I'm always sad when people get the impression it's inaccessible, when it's really so FUN.

You are a writer and a bookseller, Noelle -- congrats and thanks for both.

bhadd said...

Committing is always good. So are committees. You are a committee of thinker, communicator and capitalist I think.

The Hood Company

Bookseller Chick said...

I'm so glad that you referenced our conversation because it has stayed with me for so long. The cycle of how writing led to bookselling which led to writing always makes me smile because that was never the intent.

And re: Noelle's story, customers with their reading prejudices tend to crack me up. While I know that I have my own, to be turned off by something "writerly" and instead go for the Picoult (who would probably be insulted not to be considered "writerly") makes me roll my eyes. Reverse book snobbishness.

Sylvia said...

Hope you keep blogging because the difference between writing and blogging is becoming smaller and smaller.

Being into book selling,this portal3 is the one for you.

julia said...

I find it wild how blogging has taken such a real position and importance in literary community. You certainly ARE a writer because blog spots have become REAL spots. Your audience is real! I think it's great that we "little people", whether booksellers, or whoever (I'm more of a "whoever") have this open and developing venue to share thoughts and writing.