When I used to tell stories for a living, I dreaded radio gigs. Telling a story on the radio was like being in a black box; you knew there were people out there but you couldn’t see or hear their reactions to what you were doing, be guided by them in how you told the story.
You could only say what you had to say and hope for the best.
Writing Little Bookstore reminded me a lot of telling stories on the radio. Just say what you mean, mean what you say, and make your deadlines with the editor.
So one of the delights of being a bookstore owner who wrote a book about her bookstore is having people who’ve read the book show up at the bookstore and tell you about their experience reading it.
Wednesday saw 21 readers of LB wander through our place. 18 were from two book clubs run out of Pike County Public Library in Kentucky. The others were a solo traveler and a girlfriend team. The book club asked questions about Scottish history and compared notes on small town life from the book to their life experiences.
The solo traveler was an 81-year-old lady named Virginia from a small town two hours up the road, whose children had forbade her to visit us alone. “But I could come today and I knew you were in today–last time I came you two were away–so I just ignored them and came anyway.”
Sorry, Virginia’s family, but we really enjoyed your mom. She is a hoot, and so intelligent and well-read. She asked us lots of insightful questions about biography writers and epochs of American history. When she left about 5, we thought the day just couldn’t get better.
In walked The Lady From Bristol. She had read Little Bookstore and loved it, had several questions to ask Jack (I was out running an errand) and told some stories of her own about setting up business in a small town. She bought two whacking great stacks of books, refused help carrying them to the car, then came back inside with an armful of bakery boxes.
“Here,” she said. “From one small town success story to another.” She had a dozen doughnuts, several decorated shortbread cookies, and a Key Lime Bar from Blackbird Bakery, in Bristol. (Bristol is a town half in Virginia, half in Tennessee; I don’t know which side of the street Blackbird is on, but it’s well known for its confections. With good reason.)
“Thank you for opening a bookshop, and for writing this book,” she said, set the baked goods down on the counter, and walked out at 6:02.
It’s sweet to be given baked goods. It’s lovely to entertain intelligent conversationalists in the shop. And it’s flat out wonderful to hear directly from people how your book touched them, and why.
Black box begone. Life is good. *munches doughnut*