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Showing posts from 2006

Comment: Year-End Limbo

So the store is still busy, somehow. Lots of tourists in the city this season. And I'm working make-up shifts because of my vacation in CA. And I've picked up that ugly bug that's going around, so my brain is fuzzy and mucus-y anyway. So you'll probably have to wait until the new year to read my Best of 2006, which guarantees it'll all get in there anyway. In the meantime, have a Very Happy New Year, and I'll be back in 2007!

Link-Mad Wednesday: Pre-Christmas Edition

Sorry about missing Link-Mad Monday; we're having a (thankfully) very busy holiday at the bookstore, with mountains of boxes to unpack every day, a constant stream of customers with requests, questions, and piles of purchases, and lots (I mean LOTS) of giftwrapping. It's all pretty joyous, except for the occasional nervous breakdown, usually remedied with a Mental Health Break (MHB) and some cookies or coffee (LOTS of coffee). Check out "'Tis The Week Before Christmas" by Janet Potter of Brookline & Wellesley Booksmiths in Massachusetts in today's Shelf Awareness for a taste of the flavor of Christmas week in an indie bookstore. I've got a day to rest up, make Christmas cookies and finish up those last mix CDs (my perennial gift to family and friends, along with books, of course), and to draw your attention to some items in the news, several of which relate to the ongoing conversation about indie bookstores and community. Russ Lawrence, one of th

Comment: New York Bookstores Need A Miracle

When my buddies in publishing and I decided to try to adapt the Emerging Leaders project of the American Booksellers Association to the New York area, it seemed like a perfect fit. The idea was to get the young people from the publishing community and the young people from the bookselling community together, informally networking and getting to know each other so that we could work toward the future of the book industry. But we ran into a problem I didn’t expect. The New York bookselling community doesn’t seem to exist. We’ve estimated (generously) that about 15% of the attendees at our Emerging Leaders Nights Out have been from bookstores, with all the rest from publishing houses or literary agencies. Almost no booksellers have attended more than once. And our invite emails to the “general” address of many, many local bookstores have gone almost universally unanswered. It's not from a lack of bookstores; I have a list of over 50 independents in the greater metro area that a

Link-Mad Monday, plus book reviews

SERIOUSLY back in action! I downloaded Firefox and everything seems to be working beautifully in blog-land (thanks John T., our indefatigable store factotum, for the advice). And after a super-lovely birthday weekend (our rather literary dinner and a movie were very satisfactory, and we did some local Christmas shopping), it's time to get back to business. Want to know the books indie bookstores sold this year? Check out the ABA's beautiful poster of Booksense Bestselling Books of 2006 , for reading or downloading. It's super-satisfying to be a bookseller at the holidays, because customers are more willing than usual to take you up on that passionate book recommendation, for themselves or their giftees. But it still ain't easy. Douglas Dutton of Dutton's Books in Beverly Hills and Brentwood, CA, reflects on the recommendation in this charming and illuminating article on the bookseller's craft in the Los Angeles Times. You may have noticed me mentioni

Chronicle: Milton, Harris, Trumbo, Nerd

According to this website , December 9 is the birthday of Joel Chandler Harris (creator of Uncle Remus, now sadly verboten un-PC teller of African-American folktales), Dalton Trumbo (author of JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN and famously McCarthy blacklisted screenwriter) and good ol' John Milton (you know, that poem about heaven and stuff?) It also happens to be the birthday of one small NYC bookseller. Twenty-eight somehow feels like a much more rounded, mature age than 27 -- I guess it's all those even divisors. I'm way older than Milton was when he wrote that birthday sonnet (23), but younger than Trumbo when he wrote JOHNNY (34). Anyway, I'm celebrating very sophisticatedly with fancy dinner and an art film with the ALP, and later this week having some folks over for some decidedly immature Christmas cookie decorating. This week will also see the venerable 31st birthday of the ALP, who shares his natal anniversary with John Greenleaf Whittier and Ford Madox Ford. Thanks to

Links, Books, Madness!

At last, it's just me and my beautiful iMac by the light of a (finally) lit screen, with all of these lovely links for something to do. Now, of course, Blogger is giving me trouble -- I hope I can work around it, but the extra time and the demands of the never-ending World Outside means this may not be the extensive post I'd hoped for. I hope you all somehow managed to amuse yourself in my absence -- I've been gratified to read your responses to my queries, especially the responses to the prompt "To me, books are..." You can read responses to the same question from Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Lemony Snicket, Susane Somers (?), and, um, yours truly in Forbes Special Report on Books . Thanks to my buddy Dave at Forbes who thought there should be a bookseller's reponse in there, I'm on a list with people I imagine my name will never be joined with again. Fun! And there's lots more in this issue of the Forbes online magazine -- I'

"To me, books are..."

Just one more day, o faithful readers, and I'll be back in action! I finally lugged my lemon of an Apple to the Mac store, and of course the kind folks replaced it immediately -- I've just got to wait until tomorrow for them to transfer all my files, and then I'll be in business at home. There is literally no time to blog (or at least to do links) here at the store, unfortunately, which sucks because there are LOTS of exciting things to link to and talk about. I'll be back ASAP, I promise! In the meantime, here's your reader question, which will make more sense when I give you the link madness soon. Complete this sentence: "To me, books are..." Looking forward to reading your answers!

Chronicle: ELNO Winter Edition; The Breathless Season

Folks, I'm still without a home computer, and to put the last topic first, it's begun to be a bit crazy around the bookstore. In addition to making schedules around everyone's vacation wishes and trading Secret Santas for the holiday party, we're working on beautiful new windows and display, a roster of staff recommendations, and other things to make the season bright. Yours truly is also scrambling to get the events schedule set in stone for the first few months of the new year and hoping against hope that our new website will be up soon, but those are my own struggles. Suffice to say, it's darned difficult to find a moment to blog. But will you be surprised if I admit that I love it? Aside from that whole magic-and-mystery thing, the Christmas season is a great one to work in retail -- at least in a bookstore, where you don't have to feel bad about what you're selling and the customers tend to be great. Folks are excited to buy, so every effort seem

Comment: Please Stand By... And Holiday Reading Anticipation

It's been an entire week since my last confession... er, post; my apologies. I'm having major computer trouble (i.e., I got a new one but it won't turn on - ??$#%@??), so I'm sans computer at home, and too busy to blog at work. But keep your eye on this space -- I'll be back as soon as I can with links, stories, and reviews. In the meantime, here's my question of the week: what are you looking forward to reading over your holiday vacation (if you're getting any)? I've got my eye on the Neil Gaiman collection FRAGILE THINGS -- I find good fantasy extremely appropriate for Christmas reading. (Of course, I am a big nerd about Christmas, among other things, and believe in the magic and mystery of it all wholeheartedly. You may find other genres express your sentiments...) I've also just dipped into THE WIZARD OF THE CROW, one of the nominees for the Litblog Co-Op spring selections, and have found in surprisingly engrossing for such Serious Liter

Mad Monday: Quick News, Quick Reviews #44, #45, #46, #47

Got stuff to do, but a couple of important notes before I dash. * I did succeed in honoring America Unchained! on Saturday. The ALP got up early to restock our coffee supply from local favorite Gorilla Coffee (gotta have Flash to see their site), which is not only locally owned and operated, but roasts the beans locally, and stocks only organic, free trade coffee. Hooray! We later went grocery shopping at our local Key Foods/Pick Quick; I did a smitch of research and found that apparently , Key Foods is a New York co-operative supporting local groceries like Pick Quick. Sounds good to me. We both need some new clothes, but decided we could wait on visiting mega-chain Old Navy until another day. I admit clothing stymies my ethical shopping impulses, since the only local places seem to be boutiques way out of my price range. I suppose I should just go back to the thrift-store shopping of my high school days. Anyone else got stories? * The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Associati

Challenge: America Unchained!

The American Independent Businesss Alliance (AMIBA) has designated tomorrow, November 18, for America Unchained! Here's an excerpt from their press release (you can read the rest here ): "Independent Business Alliances, community groups, partnering national organizations, and individual locally-owned businesses nationwide are urging citizens of their communities to “unchain” themselves on Saturday November 18—to do all their business on that day only at locally-owned independent establishments. The efforts are part of America Unchained, a national campaign of the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA). “Studies from small towns in Maine to urban areas like Austin, TX and Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood found locally-owned independent businesses to generate 3 - 3 ½ times the overall economic benefit to our communities as chains. Why? Home town businesses use far more of the goods and services provided by other local businesses, which chains centralize at co

Comment: National Book Awards

The National Book Award winners were announced last night. Hooray for ECHO MAKER! This Fox News article has quotations from Richard Powers' acceptance speech. The NY Times focuses on the nonfiction winner, Timothy Egan, author of highly acclaimed dust bowl history THE WORST HARD TIME. The NY Sun talks about the ceremony, with Fran Liebowitz, Adrienne Rich, and David Remnick waxing eloquent. GalleyCat was there, starstruck as I imagine I would be, and mentions the reading segment (with Gene Yang's AMERICAN BORN CHINESE and Danielewski's ONLY REVOLUTIONS projected overhead to help audiences follow their reading) and Nicole Kraus's remarks. LBC member Sarah Weinman was in attendance too, and has a similar reaction to Richard Powers' win, along with some choice remarks about attendees. And I missed hearing it on NPR this morning, but the ALP tells me that YA winner M.T. Anderson's remarks contained a declaration of respect for Gene Yang's work and

Link-Mad Monday: ELNO Winter 2006, Awards, Complaints, and the Pervasiveness of Powell's

Quick little link-madness for today. * The next Emerging Leaders Night Out has been announced! We'll be getting together on November 29, to celebrate the Small Press Book Fair on December 2 and 3. And thanks to the good offices of marketing wizard Steve Colca, Emerging Leaders NYC now has its own website . It's little more than a blog at this point, but it's a start, and hopefully it will be another resource for connecting with each other. Check it out, tell us what you think, and RSVP for the ELNO! * As I was making my Christmas wish list on Powells.com (yes, Mom, there are still books I don't have), I finally discovered the Powell's blog . And duh, it's great! Several of my links today are courtesy of the alert and witty folks at Powells, and there's more where these came from. Is there anything those Portland indies can't do? * The National Book Award winners are announced this Wednesday -- oh, the suspense! (If Richard Powers doesn't win, I

Comment: Check out the fat rat action!

I know it's weird for me to post on a weekend, but you should seriously check out the Litblog Co-Op right now , because FIRMIN Week is turning out to be awesome. Not only is there a fascinating conversation going on about whether or not Firmin is actually a rat, there's an opportunity to tell everyone which book you'd most like to eat (though the giveaway prize window is over), AND a podcast interview with author Sam Savage by the infamous Bat Segundo. Bat meets rat. Author talks about a book set in a bookstore. What could be better??? Have fun -- see you Monday!

Question: Who Needs a Bookstore?

No time for a real long post today -- my day-off schedule has been torqed nine ways from Sunday and I'm scrambling to get everything done. But I do have a question for y'all. This morning I had coffee with a woman who's about to make that crazy leap into opening a new independent bookstore. I think she's picked a great neighborhood. The rents are low -- there are some housing projects nearby -- but there are a few writers in the neighborhood, and she knows from living there that there are some folks with money to spend. Not much of a restaurant or bar scene, but it's one of those neighborhoods on the brink. And no bookstore for miles around. I'm excited for her. So my question is this: where do you think someone should open a bookstore? Is there a neighborhood, town, street or state that you think needs a bookstore and doesn't have one yet? Why would it be a good spot? What kind of bookstore could be a success there? Maybe we can get some more crazy folks

Link-Mad Monday: Housecleaning

I've got a bit of time this morning, so in addition to some recent links I'm excited about, I'm cleaning out my inbox of all the suggestions and requests I've received since way back in July. So it's a long list today. Enjoy! * It's Firmin week at the Litblog Co-Op ! Click over for the beginning of a roundtable discussion about Sam Savage's literate rat (including commentary by yours truly). Rumor has it Mr. Savage himself will join the discussion later this week. * Bookselling This Week has this article about the winners of scholarships to the American Booksellers Association's Winter Institute -- with some (as usual) slightly cringe-worthy quotes from your Book Nerd. * In the spirit of the documentary INDIES UNDER FIRE, Bookselling This Week also reports on a number of independent booksellers who are involved in fights to keep chains and big box stores out of their communities and encourage local, small-scale retail. In Montana and California , the

Book Reviews #39, #40, #41, #42, #43

I've finished two more books since I announced my recent reads, so I'll try to keep these reviews short, though I'm not always good at that. Here goes: Review #39 THE KILLING JAR by Nicola Monaghan (Scribner, April 2007) I have to admit this is one of those books that induced a groan when I got it in that Jiffy Pak mailer. Maybe it was the candy pills on the front cover, or the back cover copy comparing it to Irvine Welsh's TRAINSPOTTING. THE KILLING JAR looked like a sneering, adolescent, gratuitous drug trip of a book; not my favorite genre, as it tends to combine the self-dramatizing, overwritten prose I first encountered in my high school literary magazine with the self-righteous, damn-the-man self-destructiveness of drug culture. 'Scuse my snarkiness – I'm just not the Trainspotting audience, I guess. But Nicola Monaghan's story of growing up screwed up on one of Britain's "council estates" (suburban low-income housing projects) surpris

Halloween Link Lunacy

Happy Halloween! I love this holiday, despite my horror of horror films (and tendency to get freaked out when staying in the tower rooms of Victorian bed-and-breakfasts). It's an excuse to dress up and become someone imaginary (a thrill for a lover of the magical in literature), and a time to turn everything upside down: our version of the Carnival that provides a safe space for our strangest and silliest impulses. Whether or not you're planning on doing anything scary, eerie or carnivalesque today, it's a good time to get into the spirit of the macabre, if only as a break from your utterly reasonable interests the rest of the year. Here are a couple of suggestions. Chas Addams, the New Yorker cartoonist and creator of the Addams Family, is the subject of a new bio by Linda Davis that looks pretty great. Check out this excerpt and some cartoons on the NPR website. It's a great day to check out And Now The Screaming Starts , a blog dedicated to all things strange

Comment: Recent Reads

I'm running out the door today, so I'll save my book reviews for a day when I have time to do them justice. But as a sneak preview, here are my three most recent reads, all of which I enjoyed in their wildly different ways. THE KILLING JAR by Nicola Monaghan (Scribner, due out April 2007) KLEZMER BOOK 1: TALES OF THE WILD EAST by Joann Sfar (First Second Books) THE DISSIDENT by Nell Freudenberger (Ecco) In the meantime. I'd love to hear from you. What are you reading, or what have you read recently? What do you think of it? Where did you hear about it? Who would you reccommend it to? I'm always looking for new reading suggestions, and stories of how books find their readers. Looking forward to hearing yours!

Chronicle: Light-headedness

I skipped out of work early today to come home and nap -- the bug that's been going around caught up with me, and I've got that heavy-limbed, fuzzy-headed, dizzy, nauseated, generally charming thing going on. But that's not the only reason I'm light-headed. I'm going to Portland! I've been hearing about the ABA's Winter Institute since this time last year. It sounded odd at first -- like BEA, but without the sales floor: just pure programming for booksellers. But the booksellers who went to the first one in Long Beach came back singing its praises, saying they learned more practical stuff about running a bookstore, and had a better time meeting authors and each other, than at any other event ever. So yeah, I wanted to go to the Institute in Portland, Oregon this year, especially when I checked out the session lineup. Financial documents! Store design! Magazine selling! New media! Not to mention the author events, and the chance to hobnob with other

Chronicle: Coming and Going, Watching and Talking

Time for a Chronicle update, as there seem to have been a number of Doings in my little bookselling world to report on in the last couple of weeks. Job Did I mention I'm now the events coordinator for my bookstore? Our former coordinator decided a few weeks ago that he'd like to spend more time on the sales floor (he's in charge of the literature section, lucky guy), so I was tapped to step in. And I'm totally loving it. In addition to hosting events, I now get to work with authors and publicists to set up events in the store, figuring out what works best for us and them, trying to think creatively about what's likely to attract the best audiences. It's a lot of emailing, and also a lot of making up flyers and posters and ordering and returning books. I'm a lot busier at the store than I used to be, but it's something I've wanted to do for a long time. And spending half of the time in the back office and half of the time on the sales floor is great

Stay tuned

I just staggered home last night from a super-productive board meeting of the New Atlantic Booksellers Association, and I haven't quite collected my thoughts on that and other recent events. I'll have a nice juicy Chronicle post up here tomorrow, so check in then.

Happy Birthday, Blog

On October 20, 2005, I posted my first entry on my new blog The Written Nerd (a name I had tentatively floated to the ALP a few days earlier and been encouraged by his laughter). The post was called My Overenthusiasm . I'd been feeling a little isolated in my book nerdishness at the bookstore where I then worked, where folks didn't seem to share my enthusiasm for the work. I'd been inspired by Robert Gray's Fresh Eyes ; I sent myself an email with his URL and the text "Think about doing this yourself." I wasted a lot of work hours reading Jessa Crispin's Bookslut (yep, she's an inspiration too in some ways), and I was getting excited about the possibilities of talking about books on the web. A week or two after my first post, I sent my new blog address to almost my entire email list. That list included NAIBA Executive Secretary Eileen Dengler, who sent it to the entire NAIBA listserve, which is certainly how people in the industry started to hear ab

HOW TO COMMENT ON THIS BLOG

(I've got a lot of work to do today, so I thought I'd post this handy reference guide I'd written up and meant to post for a while. That way it'll be there on the sidebar under "Previous Posts" if you ever need to refer to it. I'll post something more substantial later this week.) I know I'm always prodding you readers to comment on the issues I discuss on The Written Nerd. However, it has occurred to me that since many of you are book people, not blog people, you may not know how easy it is to comment (or "post a comment") on a blog. Forgive me if this is all old news to you, but I thought I'd write up a brief tutorial to make commenting less of a mystery. These instructions look long, but I'd say they take about 30 seconds, plus however long it takes you to articulate your thoughts in writing. How to Comment On This Blog 1. Click on the "[#] COMMENTS" link at the bottom of the post on which you wish to comment. A n

Link-Mad Monday: Rats, Cranes, Ghosts

Hooray, actual links on an actual Monday! * Last week was Slate's Fall Fiction week , which of course I'm slow in noticing. My favorite article in their "Book Blitz" is this one on Overlooked Fiction , with comments from bloggers (including Bookdwarf) and booksellers (including my former coworker Carol at Three Lives, a voracious reader and supporter of the underdog if ever there was one; hi Carol!) Lots of other interesting stuff in the Slate lineup, too; I'll have to read through some of it before I can link and recommend. * And the winner is: FIRMIN! The Litblog Co-Op's Read This! Selection has been announced , and Sam Savage's literate rat takes the field. Click over for nominator Ed Champion's brief but thoughtful take on why he picked this book, including this great summation: Firmin challenges our narrative assumptions by presenting us with a tale told by a rat, signifying perhaps both nothing and everything, about the relationship between r