Tag Archives: Borders bookstores closing

The Ceiling that Started It All

palmer house cornerJack and I were sitting in the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago when my book sold; I talked to two different publishing houses, chose one, and off we went.

It’s a story I’ve been reliving from telling it at back-to-back literary festivals these past three days, and because my friend Tele Aadsen has sold her memoir. Rejoicing at a fellow writer’s recognition sparks happy memories.

Tele’s book on being a fisherwoman, which caught bids from no less than four publishing houses, will be out in about a year. Her blog is HOOKED; it comes right up if you google her. If you want to read my “sold the book” story, it’s “THE DAY THE BORDERS CLOSED AND OPENED AT THE SAME TIME” in the December blog postings.

palmer house ceilingBack to that ceiling: The Palmer House Hotel in Chicago is a wonderful place, and since Jack and I got it on a last-minute half-price deal a week before we left, it wasn’t ruinously expensive. And they have a swimming pool. Getting into water always makes me happy.

I sat under this glorious human-made sky, feeling like anything in the world was possible, the day the competing editors talked to me about their vision for my book. It was a heady time, and Editor Nichole turned out to be as lovely as she sounded that first day. She shaped and smoothed, guided with a gentle hand, and smiled the whole time with more than just gritted teeth. She was having fun, and that was fun.

teleWhich is what I’m wishing for Tele, whose sky and sea are of a different hue and temperament, and for all my new friends made these past three days. Whether you self-publish or work with a house, may you have a voice you trust, a hand whose firmness is comforting rather than restraining, and fun, fun, fun. Underneath the miasma of economics and marketing and other underbelly necessities of publishing, there are stories waiting to be told. Great stories, quiet stories, honest and enlightening stories, tales that will make us laugh and think and remember.

So here’s to all the storytellers giving us back the tales of our lives. I lift my own cup of overflowing happiness to you, and wish you well.


Filed under publishing, Uncategorized

The Day the Borders Opened and Closed at the Same Time

Last year, my husband Jack and I  decided to take a vacation in celebration of two things: 1) five years of keeping Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books open despite e-readers, a tanking economy, and online sellers; and 2) that an agent had agreed to represent my book about our bookstore–a woman whose kind heart, spot-on instincts and amazing brain got my book proposal shored up and out the door in three short months.

The day after the proposal ambled off to make its way in the world, we did what any small-town small-business owners would do: hopped on the Internet to hunt 1/2-price vacation deals. (We had a lot to celebrate, but not much to do it with.)

Chicago proved affordable; off we flew for a week of forgetting we were poor. Our last day there, I awoke to an email from Agent Pamela; two publishing houses wanted to talk. On holiday herself, Pamela nevertheless called me, her voice exuberant as she explained, “We have sold this book, Wendy; it’s just a question of to whom.”

Jack and I did the happy dance around our hotel room, pelting each other with pillows.  We half-waltzed, half-floated down the stairs and around the corner to our usual breakfast nook–

–where the newspaper on the table lay open to a story that all remaining Borders Bookstores were closing.

Human hearts can sing with joy even as they crack open.

“Bookstores are doomed” blared the op-ed, while the news story gave facts and figures. Jack and I both cried while reading; here we were, on vacation from our solvent-enough shop, giddy with happiness that a book about our bookstore would be published, and one of the big guys was going down for the last time. Drowning, not waving.

Jack looked at me. “We passed a Borders yesterday, near the hotel.” Off we went, coffees unfinished.

Some of the staff were dismantling computers, pulling wires out of walls. One was crying. I heard customers asking if the books were half-off now.

I don’t know that I can convey this well, but in that moment “my book” became a book honoring we happy few, we band of booksellers who make sure people have access to not just the best-sellers, but the quiet wonders as well.

What we booksellers do is important, more than nostalgia, more than casual access to retail. Social Justice, All God’s Critters Got a Voice in the Choir, Equality, Education: take your pick. We represent an open market of free ideas, with value tied to meaning more than money. We have to be in our children’s future, or more will be lost than the feel and smell of pages. So much will be lost that the next generation won’t be able to count it. Worse, they won’t even be able to name it.

So Jack and I came home from Chicago with a book deal, and 20 books we’d bought at Borders–plus Unabridged, Myopic and After-Words. And we came home with an unabashed–and unquenchable–fire in our bellies, determined to be lifelong advocates for books and the people who sell them. That impractical, improbable trip to Chicago has been on my mind lately, as Little Bookstore prepares to launch Oct. 2

Because bookstores are more than important; they are irreplaceable.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, small town USA