Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Local Bookstores

“These are scary and uncertain times…” ~ “What’s a writer’s calling…”


These are scary and uncertain times... ~ What's a writer's calling...

Image courtesy of Antonio Jiménez Alonso ~ http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/Capgros-58778

One week ago, I published a post called “Words Are My Matter” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin.

I’ve been reading that book and can recommend it to all Readers, Writers, and Publishers…

The other day, I got to a particular essay that had these words:

“Where am I to find strength and hope in this world? In my work, in trying to write well. What’s a writer’s calling, now or at any time? To write, to try to write well. What work will make a difference? Well-made work, honest work, writing well written. And how might we create a community of purpose? I can’t say.”

The thoughts in that essay are explored by Maria Popova in her article, Inner Preacher vs. Inner Teacher: Ursula K. Le Guin on Meaning Beyond Message and the Primary Responsibility of the Artist.

Le Guin wrote it a number of years ago and the words I quoted up there reminded me of the import of a relatively new “community of purpose” called Main Street Writers Movement—which is actually for “Writers, readers, booksellers, publishers, editors, publicists, agents, and anyone who wants to participate in the literary conversation.”

The Founder of that Movement, a publisher in the state of Oregon, wrote what I can consider an answer to Le Guin’s words, “…how might we create a community of purpose?” — the publisher said:

“These are scary and uncertain times, but we must continue to use our voices and to listen to our neighbors’ words. By signing this pledge, you’ll become an official member of the Main Street Writers Movement, earning you access to literary community building tools, industry insights, and connections with #mainstreetwriters who are creating new opportunities in their cities. We’ll send you a newsletter once a month with ways to get involved and ideas to make a difference….Let’s honor and amplify our communities’ underrepresented voices. Let’s buy from local bookstores and small presses. Let’s leave our houses and dance in the streets to the sound of each other’s words.”

Obviously, some folks wouldn’t see important connections between a highly-celebrated writer’s words and the words of an Indie publisher…

Yet, there are two things I’m certain of:

1. Reading Words Are My Matter will give you the mental and emotional tools to decide what readers, writers, and publishers need in these times…

2. Joining the Main Street Writers Movement will help you gain a sense of Community which could help inspire readers, writers, and publishers to accomplish what is needed in these times…

One other thing I’m sure of is that reading Le Guin’s other essay, Staying Awake ~ Notes on the alleged decline of reading, could help you find, in yourself, the motivation to read Words Are My Matter and join Main Street Writers Movement
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“Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores”


You’re enjoying a visit to your local bookstore and you hear another customer say:

“So where do all these books come from? Do you get them from Amazon?”

If you don’t see why that’s weird to say, you’ve missed out on a few years of change in our Book World

So, see, there’s this young lady, Jen Campbell, who’s published a bit of poetry and short stories and works at an antiquarian bookshop in North London (Ripping Yarns) and she’s had another book published, Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores, and that quote about Amazon is from the book :-)

And, here’s a blurb from the Amazon page for her book:

“‘What is your biggest pet peeve?’ — This simple Twitter question posed by John Cleese inspired bookseller Jen Campbell to start a blog collecting all the ridiculous conversations overheard in her bookstore, everything from ‘Did Beatrix Potter ever write a book about dinosaurs?’ to ‘Did Charles Dickens ever write anything fun?’ Anyone who has ever worked in retail will nod knowingly at requests like ‘I’ve forgotten my glasses, can you read me the first chapter?’ Or the absurdity of questions like ‘Excuse me . . . is this book edible?'”

Even better, Jen is working on a sequel

So, if you’re a bookseller or librarian (or, you know one) be sure to check out how to send Jen Campbell some of the weird things overheard in bookstores or libraries!

Here are a few more weird comments from Jen’s bookstore customers:

“Do you have any Robin Hood stories where he doesn’t steal from the rich? My husband’s called Robin and I’d like to buy him a copy for his birthday, but he’s a banker, so…”

“I’m just going to run to the store to do the weekly food shopping. I’m just going to leave my sons here, is that okay? They’re three and five. They’re no trouble.”

“If my daughter wants to buy books from the teenage section, do you need to see some ID? It was her thirteenth birthday this weekend. I can show you pictures of the cake. You can count the candles.”

And, here’s a weird conversation from her book:

Customer: “Do you have ‘Dr. Who and the Secrets of the Hidden Planet of Time’?”

Bookseller: “I’m not familiar with that one. Hang on and I’ll check our system for you… I’m afraid I can’t find it in our database or a reference to it online. Are you sure you’ve got the right title?”

Customer: “No, not at all. I don’t know that it actually exists.”

Bookseller: “What do you mean?”

Customer: “Oh, I was just driving to work yesterday and I thought up the title and I thought, ‘Now that sounds like the kind of book I’d like to read,’ you know?”

What a Whoot :-)
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