Interview of a Bookstore
So I’m spending my last day of (my) summer vacation watching my granddaughter J.S. She’ll be two this November. Since about 7:45 this morning she’s: eaten an apple (that I peeled), played with her stuffed cat (that I pick up and hand to her whenever she throws him while laughing), said “puppy” while pointing to Omar, and helped me price some books for Author’s Ink. It’s 10:55 now and basically we’re not getting much else done. Mostly because Omar is such a brat when she isn’t the only toddler in the house, and because J.S. is pretty chill. And since she can entertain herself some, I’m sneaking in some side hustle. In fact, before she came over, I wrote 839 shiny new words on my current WIP.
After updating my row on the 365 spreadsheet, part of the 10Minute Novelists' attempt to keep writers writing all year long, I snuck in some reading on LitHub too. I love their column “Interview with a Bookstore. Today’s pick: A Radical Bookstore in Southern Appalachia: Firestorm Books & Coffee. A rather intriguing bookstore that once talked about adding on a bowling alley and a laundromat. Hey...whatever suits your fancy, I say.
Since J.S. doesn’t talk much yet (puppy, kitty, uh-oh), and likely won’t be interviewing Author’s Ink today, I figured I’d take on the task. After all, have you met a bookstore that doesn’t deserve an interview? I thought not.
An Up-and-Coming Book Boutique in Southwest Alaska...Author’s Ink: A literary boutique celebrating readers, writers, and the pages between us.
Author’s Ink is a combination pop-up/online bookstore in Bethel, Alaska. Launched in January 2019, Author’s Ink is a one-woman show hellbent on bringing the creative vibe to the YK Delta while sharing a love of literature, books, and pretty notebooks with anyone who comes along.
What’s your favorite section of the store?
My favorite is the section the new books. Since Author’s Ink is a start up, I don’t have a lot of new books, but I expect this to change in the near future. My new book goal is to support indie authors and I’m dipping my toes into purchasing titles wholesale to share with my customers. The first indie book I want to get on the shelves (other than Shooting Sdax, the next book in my Calricaraq series) is Finding Claire. If you haven’t found your book boyfriend yet, you’ll find him in Finding Claire.
What would you say is your bookstore’s specialty?
I recently partnered with Beach Girl Publishing to create composition books featuring cover photos from around the U.S. We’re closing in on our first dozen books with more to come. I think the composition books not only demonstrate a love of travel, but also a sense of commitment to the writing community. Author’s Ink isn’t just a book boutique, it’s a community of writers and readers.
Do you have bookstore pets or animal regulars?
Omar is definitely my bookstore pet, though she doesn’t get to show up at the monthly pop-ups. What can I say? She’s a true introvert.
What’s your favorite book to hand-sell?
Wally Lamb’s This Much I Know Is True is my favorite. My older sister gave me this book almost twenty years ago and I’ve read it dozens of times. I come across a lot of people who haven’t read the book or even heard of it and it breaks my heart. Before I started Author’s Ink, I always kept a spare paperback copy of TMIKIT so that I could loan it out to others. It’s a thousand pages of pure grit and substance.
If you had infinite space what would you add (other than a bar/restaurant)?
If Author’s Ink had a brick-and-mortar, I would add a corner stage with exposed brick and a black chandelier. It would be the literary karaoke stage where folks young and old could read aloud from their own work or their favorite works. From poetry, chapbooks, shorts, fiction, non-fiction, to journal entries...this is my dream.
What’s your favorite display?
My favorite display is the cupcake bar. I know, I know, those aren’t books. But, the kids in the community love them and as a mom/grandma, I love seeing those kids grinning through frosting and sprinkles.
How do you use the bookstore to build community?
I use my bookstore to build community by making note of what my customers are looking for. If I don’t have the book or author they request, I make a note to find that book/author’s work on my next supply run. It’s about sharing that love of literature and getting to know one another. What better way to do that then through talking about our favorite reads? And someday, when we have that literary karaoke corner, we’ll really build community then.
What’s your favorite thing to sell at the bookstore that’s not a book?
Hands down, my favorite thing to sell that’s not a book are literary postcards. People love these and it’s an absolute joy to get to know people while they thumb through the cards. Did you know there are folks who spend their Saturday mornings sipping coffee and writing postcards to their friends all over the world? Yeah, me either. I really want to be like them too.
P.S. Keep an eye on Author’s Ink...A new line of literary postcards is in the works!
What’s a children’s book that made you cry or that you think all adults should read?
Dear God, It’s Me, Margaret is a children’s book that comes to mind. In fact, it may have been the book that taught me God listens and how to journal. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a book that adults need to read so that they can recall just how freaking hard it is to grow up.
What’s a bestseller that could only be big in your town?
Good question and one that I’ll have to let simmer. Too new to the game to know just yet, but I do sell a lot of Alaska specific books...