Thanks

Thanks to the very good friends who put me up (and put up with me) while I was on the recent west coast road trip with the bookstore.  I much appreciated the parking spots for the bookstore, the beds for me, delicious meals and, of course, that strong morning coffee.

And thanks to the gracious businesses that hosted the traveling bookstore. Some were Processed with MOLDIVreturn venues which are always a treat.  Some were entirely new and delightfully surprising.  Your support for this small pop-up business is appreciated. If it weren’t for you providing a space, I would probably get citations from local law enforcement.

And the wonderful people who stopped/shopped at the bookstore! Parents with kids, wise elders, hipsters and folks who just happened to walk by and decided to investigate a van that was actually a bookstore.  There were many individuals whose conversations stay with me….talk about current politics, the Wieliczka salt mine, the dire situation with ICE detainees in Oregon, favorite authors, the struggles as urban neighborhoods gentrify, the challenging twists that life sometimes throws our way, the wonder of book clubs in all sorts of communities, bees, homelessness and expanding tent neighborhoods, the death of a young daughter, typewriters and the people who use them, fix them and collect them.

Now back in northwest Montana sending thanks to all of you who make this happen.

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Perplexities

The traveling bookstore is on the road because, after all, that is what a traveling bookstore does. It goes places. Last Sunday was an event at Extracto Coffee in Portland, a lovely day filled with new people stopping by to experience the bookstore, and old friends stopping by to enjoy the scene.  On Monday, while still in Portland, we set up at Ace Typewriter which is always a treat, talking with Matt, visiting with folks who brought in a typewriter to be fixed or who stopped by to pick up one Matt repaired to missiontypeinperfection.

Within the hours parked near Extracto Coffee and the hours parked on N. Lombard by Ace Typewriter, there were numerous conversations.  Two young people just finishing college talked about thoughts for their future. A man from the Bronx with his grown son enjoyed Father’s Day together. A friend provided information about a vigil in Sheridan, OR where hundreds of asylum seekers are being held in the federal prison.  A woman talked with me about growing older and what services and support are available (and those that are not) in urban Oregon and in rural Montana. A mom with a cute little kid dressed in a Superman outfit stopped by.  The boy found a picture book about dogs he wanted and his mom gave him a dollar to pay for it.  She told me it was the first time he ever bought something and we agreed buying a book was a good place to start.  There were discussions about the gentrification of neighborhoods and about the growing number of unhoused individuals in our cities, some of the startling inequalities that face us daily.

People go past the bookstore walking, on bikes, skateboards, pushing shopping carts, and pushing strollers.  A man in an electric wheelchair rolled by with a boy and a dog sitting on his lap.  A young man asks me to hold his carryout container of soup while he digs out his wallet to pay for a book. A woman is pleased when she hears she can take her dog in the bookstore with her.

There were conversations and experiences that touched on hope.  People working to express their opposition to a proposed gas pipe line across Oregon, to speak out against the incarceration of asylum seekers and the separation of families. Having faith that if enough people speak up, these atrocities can be stopped.  But how many constitute enough?  And how do we stop these sorts of things and also make positive changes? Why in this country are there people camped on city streets because they have no where else to live?  Why are so many still without sufficient healthcare?

Today the bookstore heads to San Francisco.  It will set up for two days at SF Center for the Book and on June 23 at Mission Pie for the Third Annual Type-In. No doubt there will be more conversations, more heartache in that city, more challenges for people to face politically, humanely, and more decisions about what each of us will do.

Get these dates down

This upcoming month is an exciting one for the traveling bookstore. I want to be sure you have all the dates and places and times because chances are good that the bookstore is setting up some place you would enjoy going.  As always, this traveling bookstore isn’t just about buying awesome used books. It offers opportunities to type something creative, to have conversations and possibly to solve some problems.  I recently returned from a Humanities Montana meeting reinvigorated that there is hope in civil discourse.  So don’t hesitate to bring a beverage and/or snack and plan to stay a while talking at the bookstore about things that matter.

bookstore in yaakJune 13 Eureka MT Farmers Market   Eureka, MT 3:30 – 6:30

June 17 Extracto Coffee Portland, OR 10:00 – 2:00

June 18 Ace Typewriter Repair  Portland, OR  10:00 – 4:00

June 21 – 22 SF Center for the Book  San Francisco, CA  10:00 – 3:00

June 23  Mission Pie Third Annual Type-In!  San Francisco, CA 10:00 – 1:00

June 25  Port Orford Library  Port Orford, OR  10:00 – 5:00

June 28  Lilo’s Hawaiian BBQ  Hood River, OR  11:00 – 2:00

July 14  HA Brewery  Eureka, MT  4:00 – 7:00

July 20 – 21 Yaak River Festival  Yaak, MT

plus more to come in July and August around Montana!

There’s reading and there’s writing

The sun hits my face. The rude nudge wakes me. I wonder why I slept late into the morning as the sun comes through an upper window of the front door. And why did I fall asleep on the sofa? Wait. It’s not morning. It’s afternoon. I took a nap. My mind adjusts to the mayhem of time. The original waking thought of morning and coffee tumbles into late afternoon. I need to start dinner.Processed with MOLDIV

Writing is like that. A sharp awakening with ideas barely focused but a need for sentences to take shape. Then a realization it’s not what I thought. It’s suddenly something different. Don’t think about putting coffee on, because it’s dinner time.

Actually it’s more complicated than that. When you go to a doctor’s appointment with the flu, you’re asked the ridiculously basic question, how do you feel? You have no idea where to start. The list is too long. Of course there’s an idea of what the story is about or the arch of that essay. There is that first sentence, which needs to be spot on. The specific words, the pacing, the rhythm – you want readers to catch everything. Is the tone exactly right or does it sound so pathetic it conveys the writing of a fourth grader?

Is there an incantation that works with writing? Some spell uttered before putting that first word down? Or an image to hold clearly in mind that will manifest on the page? Or is it simply the advice given when asked how to get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.

Readers naively assume words adhere to the page. Each word neatly placed in an orderly fashion remains fixed forever. Words build into sentences and sentences into paragraphs exactly like a child’s Lego set.  Sharp corners, straight edges. Writers know this isn’t so. Words slip and slide between lines, sneak into another sentence. And it’s not just words that are difficult to cement correctly. There is punctuation, tricky commas and the godawful challenge of semicolons. You finally go to bed thinking you have every letter and possible dot where it needs to be, only to find under dark of night that everything shifts into a mess that needs to be tackled. Again. And again.

Corralling words is just the beginning. Even if you manage to string them into a readable structure, it’s not enough. As though you managed to put a skeleton together but still need muscles, tendons, organs, nerves, and skin. And don’t forget toenails. Eyebrow. Anyone can read a list of words but you want readers to leave with ideas they didn’t have before that first sentence. You want the flow of words to get under and lift them into unimaginable realms of towering clouds and swirling galaxies. Or pull them through a whale’s baleen to be carried into the darkest sea.

How to transform words, letter strings to draw emotions? You endeavor to use writing magic to twist hearts, release tears. You want your story to be a whisper in every reader’s dreams. Because the story came from every reader’s dream. It is a piece of the genetic code everyone had from birth, yet may not realize it is part of their life until they read your story. An important part of life across times and place, captured by a hand print in a cave, submerged with Atlantis, seen from the Apollo. The reader’s breath changes with the words, the heartbeat quickens. You want readers to sigh heavily as they turn the final page. You want the publisher to suggest having a packet of tissues in the back of each book.

Measuring success

The traveling bookstore returned home after an event yesterday in Libby, Montana. Libby is slightly larger than Eureka and has a different feel although it’s only about seventy miles south.  As the county seat, it feels more prosperous although at the same time a tad sleepier.

The bookstore had set up in Libby a few times last year in front of a friend’s house and in a drive way. Nothing that attracted too much attention but had managed to sell some books, meet some locals.  This time marked the beginning of a new Libby-bookstore relationship though.  There are actually three official upcoming gigs in Libby this summer

Mid afternoon Friday, the bookstore pulled up to Cabinet Mountain Brewing.  Seemed bookstorecowgirlquiet but that was good at the beginning as a few friends stopped by and it was possible to catch up.  Then a woman with her young daughter showed up as they actually follow St. Rita’s Amazing Traveling Bookstore Facebook page and knew we would be there. The daughter loves typewriters.  Besides a pile of books, they also ended up purchasing a typewriter ribbon for the daughter’s typewriter at home.  Turns out she had asked her mom for one after after visiting the traveling bookstore last year.

A couple about to get married stopped by on their way to the brewery, the bride lovely in her white summery dress and corsage.  Two women came by curious about the bookstore and then noticed the chalkboard sign, “Voter registration forms available.”  Really? They could get a form to register to vote from this odd traveling bookstore?  I explained how to fill out the form and then to drop it off at the county courthouse (conveniently located two blocks from where we were standing).  The woman confessed that in her late forties, she had never voted before. Her friend and I both told her it wasn’t too late to start.  She took the form. I am confident she will submit it and get her ballot for the upcoming primary and vote.  Perfect timing!

A Colorado couple who had been mushroom hunting came by.  At first they thought they might be too dirty to go into the bookstore but of course, as a Montana-based bookstore, everyone is welcomed as long as they have an interest in books. A reporter from the Libby paper also stopped to visit and took some photos.  One of the musicians playing at the brewery came out during his break to look the bookstore over.  Yes, I am ready to take the bookstore back to Libby.  Customers too good to pass up. Catch us at these upcoming events in Lincoln County:

  • Yaak Music Festival July 20-21 (Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon)
  • Historic Hotel Libby August 10  (10am-2pm)
  • Libby Riverfront Blues Festival August 10 – 11 (Friday afternoon to Saturday night)

 

 

Betweenness

The Grand 2018 North Carolina and Back Bookstore Tour was glorious. There are the facts: thirty days, 6,223 miles, sixteen gigs. But the splendor of the tour was really about people. There were the business owners who let the bookstore set up in their parking lots.  There were the individuals who housed us.  There were the fantastic 25A0DCC1-1135-4627-B8E1-A57FA726E985customers who lingered to talk and who shared ideas, book titles and suggestions about where the bookstore might set up in the future. And there were the great co-pilots/booksellers who helped navigate, ease concerns, and hand the driver chocolate when traffic was bad.

Did we learn anything?  Yes!  As the primary planner/driver I realized there should be more days to just savor experiences on a long tour.  Too many days in a row bookselling and driving creates an overload.  There needs to be moments if not hours to reflect on all a traveling bookstore is about, on who we met.  We learned Nebraska is more beautiful then we anticipated.  We discovered the ladies parlor at the historic Sheridan Inn where Buffalo Bill used to hang was an ideal place to write postcards. We found surprises in Chillicothe, Missouri and a great Mexican restaurant in Oggalala, NE.  And while talking food, the cornmeal muffin with sausage gravy at Lucettegrace Cafe in Raleigh is a treat to be remembered (and I hope to recreate that recipe some day).

Now with memories fresh and lessons learned, the next tour takes shape.  It is shorter but no doubt will also offer amazing new experiences.  It officially starts on June 18 at Ace Typewriter Repair in Portland.  Then gigs at the SF Center for the Book (6/21-22) and at Mission Pie on 6/23 for our third annual Type-In there with those good folks.  On 6/25 the bookstore sets up at the Port Orford Library for a day selling books, good conversations and then a Type-In from 2-5pm. A few more stops might materialize before starting out on the tour, but I do want this one to have time to reflect.

One might think traveling bookstore tours would get tiresome.  On the contrary, they offer enough shared conversations,  new insights on this country and driving time to ponder difficult questions that I suspect they will continue a while longer.

#missionpie #lucettegrace #acetypewriter

 

Checking in from the road

The twenty-first day of the tour; 3,741 miles so far.  Thirteen events in six states.  Many new people and some remarkable conversations.  Stayed with good friends along the way and so appreciate their hospitality: Addie’s room with her amazing art, Tama’s dog Scout, Sarah’s delicious breakfast, Bill and Mary sharing their new home which they had barely moved into, Tom (West Virginia) appreciative when we brought out the Buffalo Trace bourbon we had chanced upon in Illinois, Dawn letting us do laundry while we sat over dinner. A friend from college days drove to Morgantown from Annapolis to see the bookstore 4DF90BE4-8EC2-4BB4-8D6B-76A896AAB5B4in motion.  Thirty-four years to catch up on while standing in the rain there and finally moved to a diner to share past, present, future. People throw out questions I don’t know how to answer: what’s the goal of the traveling bookstore? Is it successful? How long do I plan to do this?

The bookstore does well navigating steep hills, mountain passes, tight urban spaces. When it seems the inventory is dangerously low, people drop off bags of books that turn out to be exactly what is needed.  When business is slow so disappointment starts to creep in, someone shows up and in delight buys numerous books they had been looking for.  Or I lament we aren’t getting enough young customers and suddenly there are so many kids wanting to look at books, try out the typewriter that a line forms.

And those wonderful bookstore owners met along the way and we instantly bond. Page 158 Books and the Battery Park Book Exchange come to mind.  And other places we hadn’t expected but found when hungry or just in need of coffee.  Or the Rhiannon Giddens concert we were fortunate enough to attend in Raleigh.  Now in Dayton ready to cross the miles to Sheridan where the bookstore sets up on April 20.  But first a moment to reflect on the richness of this adventure and enjoy a snow-free morning.