Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Junie B. Jones next week (great kids' event in Athens)

The ever-busy folks at the Classic Center scored a really great show for next week:  staggeringly popular kids' book character Junie B. Jones will be dropping by for two shows on October 8. Shows are at 9:30 AM and 11:30 AM. 

Interested in scoring 15 or more tickets, or know of a school group that wants to attend?  Check out the Classic Center's group discounts and perks page, or email group sales coordinator Megan Mauldin.

Have fun!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

brief book review & GIVEAWAY: Rhodi Hawk's A TWISTED LADDER

This past weekend at SIBA, I listened to author Rhodi Hawk discuss her debut novel, A Twisted Ladder. Of the 40+ books I acquired at SIBA, this is the first one I picked up to read once I got home, and that's mainly because it sounded like nothing I'd read before.  Hawk's 540-page book is by turns mesmerizing and eerie and thought-provoking.  I suspect its haunting, lyrical questions about relationships, identity, and the power of the mind will linger.

Here's the description from the back of the book:

Psychologist Madeleine LeBlanc has spent her whole career trying to determine the cause of her father's schizophrenia. She always felt that if she could unravel the disease's origins, she could cure the man who left her and her brother, Marc, to practically raise themselves on the Louisiana Bayou.  When Marc takes his own life, Madeleine embarks on a shocking journey into her family's history--fraught with dark secrets, conjured demons, and a powerful relative who puts Madeleine's own life and property in peril. The only way she can save herself is to face the ghosts of the past, the dangers of the present, and the twisted ladder that links them all together.
The imagery in A Twisted Ladder conjures realistic snapshopts of the bayou, both antebellum and prohibition-era Louisiana, and post-Katrina New Orleans.  I'm not an Anne Rice fan, but I hear she's an influence on Hawk's writing (and other reviewers claim that Rice fans will be Hawk fans).

I recommend this book to fans of psychological thrillers, well-written scifi, magic realism, and Southern gothicism.  People who are interested in the human brain and its mysterious functioning will also have a great adventure with A Twisted Ladder.

Want to win an autographed copy of A Twisted Ladder?  In the comments field below, tell us about one book you chose to read because it sounded quite different from what you usually read or because you wanted to explore outside your reading boundaries.  How did you experience reading outside your comfort zone? Winner will be randomly chosen and notified Wednesday, October 7.   

UPDATE:  Thanks to the four folks who gave interesting and intricate answers to my question!  I used a random number generator to determine the winner.  Congratulations to Katie B.!  Katie, I'll contact you personally to get your mailing address.  Hope you enjoy this autographed copy of A Twisted Ladder.

(Thanks to Rhodi Hawk and her publishers for giving me a free copy at SIBA two weeks ago.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

New books & new friends at SIBA

This past weekend I ventured to Greenville, SC for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) trade show.  Originally I'd planned on driving up super-early one morning only to return the same day--this would save me from spending hotel money but would also mean having to just pick one of several fun days to attend.  Turns out my fairy godmother (read:  very real biological mother) decided to come with me AND throw in dough for the hotel.  Score!

My mom's love of reading is probably the most predominant factor contributing to my complete and utter bookwormdom.  She has been a voracious reader since she was a young girl, and she holds degrees in English and book club management.  (So I'm inventing a second degree here--but hey, she's deserving of the title if anyone is.)  As I've changed my job plans frequently since graduating from college in 2002, it stands to reason that my parents might not be entirely ready to jump in full-force behind these bookstore plans.  But now that I've been planning Avid for two years and show no signs of slowing, I think they're beginning to understand that this is it.  This is for real.  So having my mom at SIBA with me was pretty great--she got to meet some of my real-life and virtual-life friends and got to pick up lots of ARCs (advanced reading copies), which is a thrill for any reader.

Janet, Mary Carol, & Marsha Wood

Robb Soriano
Among the real-life friends I got to reunite with were Marsha Wood and Robb Soriano from Ingram Book Company; Jef Blocker and Jeff McCord from Bound to Be Read Books; Charley Greiner from Baker & Taylor; and Laura and Anne Devault (sisters from Charlottesville, VA whom I met at the Paz & Associates training). 

There were several people whom I've emailed or tweeted with whose faces I'd never really seen. I'm happy to report that all were just as nice in person as they seem to be online. These folks included writers Laurel Snyder and Donny Seagraves as well as SIBA gurus Nicki Leone, Elton Porter,  and Wanda Jewell.  Of course it was lovely to finally meet online book industry folks in person: Rich Rennicks and Caroline Green of Malaprop's, Michael Hill (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Bob Gray (Shelf Awareness), and more. 

 Robert Jackson Bennett & Rhodi Hawk

 Mary Carol, Janet, & author Batt Humphreys

A few weeks before SIBA, I looked through the day-to-day schedule of the show and recognized very few author names.  Attending two Book Expo America shows taught me a valuable lesson, though:  not having heard of many names on the program is not a bad thing at all.  In fact, it's a thrill to walk into a trade show on a Thursday with a program chock full of strangers' names and leave on Saturday having met (and acquired signed books of) many of those authors.  Now I'm thrilled to have a staggering new collection of books I can't wait to read.  Some books I'm most excited about include those of authors that appeared at two panels I attended:  the "Got Us Shaking in our Boots Author Panel" and the "Writing the South" panel.  I'm not a big thriller/suspense reader, but when I met the gracious and funny Robert Jackson Bennett at a mixer hosted by Fiction Addiction, I decided to support him by attending the panel he'd be taking part in.  And am I glad I did--it turns out I am interested in suspenseful, scary books (at least the ones presented by this collection of authors). 

Jenny and her mom, author Donny Seagraves

chef/author Ted Lee and author Laurel Snyder

Mary Carol with Jeff & Jeff of Bound to Be Read Books

Now if only I could freeze time and spend the next couple of months reading the 40+ books I acquired in the last few weeks.  Sigh.

What new (or new to you) books are you excited about reading?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Avid Bookshop survey 2

Avid survey #2 is up! Please take 3-5 minutes to let us know what YOUR dream bookstore is like. We'll do our best to make sure Avid is a place you'll love. (And please share with Athens friends via email or FB if you're so inclined.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

learning a lot & making connections at booksellers school!

Hello and greetings from Fernandina Beach, where it's overcast and breezy and I can *just* see the Atlantic beyond the condos across the street.  We're two days into the Paz & Associates workshop (Opening a Bookstore:  The Business Essentials) and I'm completely energized and excited by all the work we students have accomplished and all the great ideas I've had (or have stolen from other people in class).


One thing I keep hearing over and over is that it's a good thing that it's taken me a little longer than originally anticipated to open the store.  In the last two years, I've accomplished a lot in the name of Avid Bookshop and feel so much less daunted by the idea of opening the store.  Now I actually know what I'm getting into (which, in all honesty, I didn't quite get or want to get in the early days of planning when I was more dreamy and less realistic).  Much of the advice given revolves around booksellers' need to create and foster real relationships within the community, the need to get feedback from customers and find out how exactly the community will support an independent bookstore.  I feel spoiled and glowy when I think about how excited many Athenians are to have Avid coming to town next year.  There are many more marketing opportunities and connections to be made, but, all in all, we've got a head start on a lot of things.  I'm happy to report that in Athens fits the description as an ideal town to open a new bookstore in (more details on that later).

What do you want to get from Avid's presence in Athens?  What sort of environment do you seek, and what sort of books would you like to buy there? A more formal, specific survey will be coming soon, but for now please feel free to toss around some ideas and let me know what you hope to find at Avid Bookshop.

Friday, September 11, 2009

You can buy ebooks from your indie!

Over the past several months, I've had many (many!) talks about the book industry with novices and experts alike.  When I tell people I'm opening an independent bookstore, even the most excited approach the topic of ebooks with hesitation.  "What about ebooks?" is the vague question I'm often met with, and until recently, I've had to tell people that I'm hoping to sell ebooks but am not quite sure how it'll work.

Now the groundwork for my ebook selling has been laid.  According to yesterday's article in the American Booksellers Association (ABA) newsletter, Bookselling This Week, many ABA member stores are already able to sell more than 220,000 ebooks directly from their websites.  What thrilling news for independent bookstores and their customers! 

By the time Avid opens next year, there will undoubtedly be more changes in the ebook industry, but I suspect that the ABA will keep up with them and ensure that member booksellers (like me) will be able to offer customers the chance to buy ebooks directly from their local bookshop.

(image of Sony eReader from

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Extra, extra, read all about it!

Katherine Shell at Athens's own Flagpole magazine (our wonderful alt-weekly) has written a piece about Avid Bookshop!  She discusses my soon-to-be bookstore as well as Jackson Street Books, a used shop that's been going strong for 25 years.  Read the article here and let me know what you think!

Book Recommendation: NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm stunned.  This book seemed to slowly envelop me like fog--I began it quickly, really enjoying the story and going through it fast, thinking I liked the concept but didn't really feel invested in the characters.  I soon realized that even my non-book time was dipped in this feeling of foreboding and wonder. Ishiguro was masterful at pulling me in:  by the time I was halfway through, I looked up to realize how emotionally involved I was with the story.  As I got closer to the end, the discomfiting sense of dread grew increasingly powerful, leaving me with a heavy feeling on my chest.  I closed the book just minutes ago and can't think of immediately opening another novel as I usually do.  I've too much thinking to do.

Never Let Me Go  will stay with me for a long time.  It's disturbing and beautiful and thought-provoking.  I highly recommend it.

(For a synopsis of the book and to find a nearby indie bookstore carrying it, go here.)

View all my reviews >>

Booksellers School next week!

Let's face it:  I'm one of those people who loves school.  I love teachers and projects and homework and scribbling in those little blue exam books.  Shopping for new office supplies is one of my favorite activities, and my desk drawers, all full of pencils, pens, cutesy erasers, markers, crayons, and notebooks, show it.

I'm not planning on returning to traditional school, but who knows--maybe in 20 years I'll change my mind.  At this point, I have enough Avid-related homework to last me the next couple of decades.  Every day there's something I could be doing--talking to other booksellers, working on the business plan, attending conferences, learning about software, meeting with my real estate agent, talking with potential partners, creating marketing plans, you name it.

The newest project I'm undertaking?  Paz & Associates Booksellers School in Fernandina Beach, FL.   I've been acquainted with Mark Kaufman at the company for over a year now and have been really impressed with how open, helpful, and resourceful he is.  At first I decided to skip the five-day workshop ("Opening a Bookstore:  The Business Essentials"), opting instead to purchase Paz & Associate's book instead.  And while I've learned a lot in my three or four readings of this huge volume, I'm frequently told by fellow booksellers that nothing beats the in-person workshop.  I kept trying to peek underneath the surface, trying to see if there was any subtext to people's compliments, trying to figure out what the catch was--were all these booksellers really as enamored of Paz & Associates as they'd seemed?

Yep.  As of a few months ago, I still hadn't heard a negative thing about the company's training sessions, so I bit the bullet and signed up for the workshop.  And my nerdy student self could not be more excited.  Yes, some of the information we encounter during the workshop will be familiar to me already, but this is a positive thing:  I want to get to where lots of this stuff is second nature, so it stands to reason that I need to know it really, really well.

This student is excited about getting school supplies ready and heading down to Florida for the workshop.  There I'll meet other prospective booksellers (it's true that I'm not the only crazy one--lots of indie bookstores have been popping up over the last few years and they keep on comin'!) and spend five days in my own little book world.