multidimensional

Libby, MT

Perhaps if I was more of a tech head, I could figure out how to have multiple columns in one post. There would be vertical lines dividing the different columns where thoughts could run parallel and distinct but at the same time could be scanned horizontally to see how ideas overlapped. That layout might capture the complexity of a traveling bookstore and its owner, at least at this moment in time.

Instead a dedicated reader must slug through paragraphs and sort out what and how different segments connect. In 1964, Lorraine Hansberry wrote, “Write if you will: but write about the world as it is and as you think it ought to be and must be – if there is to be a world.” Last summer a couple about to get married visited the bookstore. This summer over two thousand children are in US detention camps. In August, the bookstore set up at the Riverfront Blues Festival where many good conversations were had over the awesome two-day event about books, about life, about music, about writing, about the world. In August, a man killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio with an assault rifle. That event happened in thirty-two seconds.

Plans are underway for the next cross-country traveling bookstore trip. Friends, friends of friends, people I don’t really know, someone’s second cousin reach out to offer advice where to set up along the way, offer places to stay. This adventure stretches from October 14 to November 11, from Eureka, Montana to Baltimore, Maryland and back. The anchor event for the series of stops is the 24th Annual Baltimore Book Festival (November 1-3). Some people ask if I am afraid to take my bookstore to Baltimore, to set up there for three days, to travel alone. No, because I could be a victim of a mass shooting in Dayton or El Paso or at a garlic festival, in a school, at a place of worship. But that possibility does not stop me from writing about the world as I think it “ought to be and must be.” It won’t stop the bookstore from opening its doors in cities, in small towns, at breweries, cafes and farmers markets.

Lincoln County Fair 2017

But before heading off to Baltimore, there is the Lincoln County Fair on August 23 – 25. Kids enter their 4H livestock, judges sample pies, jams and breads, pavilions fill with quilts, art, vegetables and flowers, and there is the fairway with all sorts of food, booths and games. St. Rita’s Amazing Traveling Bookstore has been setting up at this fair since it first stocked its book shelves in 2015. The event is a highlight of summer to hear what young people are up to, how older residents are doing, what issues take up space in this county.

To give perspective for those outside of Montana – Lincoln County has more square miles than Delaware. It is a county where 24% of the children live in poverty. Libby, the county seat, has the Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD) clinic where 12% of county residents have been diagnosed with asbestos-related disease.

It is not entirely easy to be a traveling bookstore owner, but I am doing it because I believe in a world that ought to be.

Advertisements

midsummer

OverIMG_1357 coffee this morning jotted down some bookstore thoughts.  Now with a few weeks’ perspective, there is the wonder of my Western States Bookstore Tour and all the great things that came from that – new people, new gig locations, new sights to remember, old friends, revisiting places I had set up before that welcomed me back. For those of you who might consider starting up your own traveling bookstore business, I will caution that 3-4 weeks on the road is exhilarating and exhausting.  So many adventures! Some nail biting, some heart warming.  For now it is a treat to be back in Montana and know that for the rest of the summer I will mostly be peddling books in these parts.

Since returning home, bookstore wonders happen even in Lincoln County, Montana.  The county is large by some standards; has more square miles than Delaware but a population just shy of 20,000 people.  So lots of forests and mountains, rivers and lakes but rather small towns.  Last week with the bookstore at the Eureka farmers market, I started talking with Stella, a young person who obviously loves books.  Turns out she is an avid reader and hopes to become a journalist after college.  But as she is currently twelve years old, still has time to change her mind. She mentioned doing a regular podcast about books.  Definitely appreciate a young person who isn’t shy about her passion and is willing to actualize something she cares about.

A realization that came from having the bookstore at farmers markets – perhaps all those luscious vegetables and fruits at booths near by – was how books are like fertilizer.  They help ideas grow.  They nurture new thoughts.  They strengthen so many things from general knowledge to vocabulary to understanding of cultures.  I suppose having a Textual Apothecary, this thought shouldn’t have surprised me but it did.

A few short notes…

Mission Pie which is a wonderful place in San Fransisco that hosted the bookstore and Type-Ins numerous times will close its doors on September 1.  So very thankful for all they gave the community over the years.IMG_1440

I recently completed a chapbook with Shirley Jacobs and will have limited copies available at the bookstore.

Upcoming bookstore events (although there are bound to be more which will be updated on the bookstore’s Facebook page):

every Wednesday at Eureka Farmers Market 3:30 – 6:30

every Friday at Trego Farmers Market 4:00 – 7:00 (unless scheduled for another event)

July 18 TBC Laughing Dog Brewery, Sandpoint ID

July 19 – 20 Yaak music festival, Yaak MT

August 9 – 10 Riverfront Blues Festival, Libby MT

August 23-25 Lincoln County Fair, Eureka MT

September 14 Kootenai Harvest Festival, Libby MT

 

The West

Just finished ten days of the traveling bookstore’s 2019 Western States Tour. Two weeks to go but so much happened already, it made sense to write. In fact, so much happened, I need to write although I doubt I can capture it all.

Weather  Last year on the Grand North Carolina and Back Tour, the traveling 73F83AF2-BBC6-4943-8B84-B51A053A2DCAbookstore hit the road in early April. Having barely survived single digit temperatures, blowing snow, and fingers too cold to type, I decided to wait until mid May this year to start a major tour with the bookstore.  Thus a surprise to get hit by freezing rain in Wyoming and blowing snow in Colorado. Thankfully managed to dodge a major storm and made it safely through Glenwood Canyon the day after a serious rock slide closed the interstate highway.

15E4EDCC-B878-42F2-96E4-8AAF6868EA61Mechanics  Having a traveling bookstore by definition requires a vehicle.  Those mobile bookstores that stay in one city have the luxury of going to the same trusted mechanic whenever there’s an issue.  A travel-all-over-the-country kind of bookstore obviously requires a different approach. And then add the intricacies of a Sprinter van with a Mercedes diesel  engine to further complicate life.  There were indeed some intense moments.  I couldn’t bear to watch Aaron, a very patient tow truck driver, load the bookstore the morning it wouldn’t start (Sarah took the photo).  It was Farley’s in Casper that got us back on the road that day.  And when some issues persisted in Buena Vista, CO, All Valley Auto came through.  That mechanic didn’t have the necessary parts but managed to troubleshoot to get us to Grand Junction. There Scotty’s took over to get the bookstore squared away before the long Memorial Day weekend and the next leg of the tour.  I never had the opportunity to talk books with any of these mechanics but they all did their best to get the bookstore back on the road in a timely manner.  Only missed one day of gigs (Stella’s in Denver and Elevation Beer in Poncha Springs) and otherwise managed to get where we needed to be.

People How to describe so many good people met along the way besides the mechanics and tow truck 1FFAF4F6-B596-4D48-B609-42D942CF4BAAdrivers? It warmed my heart to open at Sheridan’s Black Tooth Brewery, and readers I met there last year showed up to buy books.  Virginia graciously housed us in Casper even when it required an extra day and she had never met us before.  The waitress at Johnny J’s Diner let us sit for hours over coffee and pie while waiting for the bookstore to get fixed. Connie and Duff held dinner til we finally pulled into Buena Vista, and served great White Chicken Chili to thaw us out.  Plus their neighbor donated a box of books to help my inventory! Cafe Dawn and Eddy Out @whitewaterwraps made room for the bookstore to set up in Salida.  A customer there stopped by to bring chocolate chip cookies and buy books. At Glenwood Springs during a non-bookstore stop, had the good fortune to meet Darwin Raymond who has a wonderful typewriter repair shop and an amazing Moluccan cockatoo named JJ.  In Grand Junction, a very kind soul traded two dozen fresh eggs for a book and told us stories about her chickens.  Besides the people who purchased books, there are those who provide space for the bookstore to open, put me up, offered meals, let friends know where I’d be setting up next, and in many fine ways support the quirky existence of a traveling bookstore.

Thank you.

Begin at the beginning

A time of year when it is hard to keep up with all that is going on. The 2019 Western States Bookstore Tour is about to begin.  You can find dates and places at the end of this post or more details on the bookstore’s Facebook page. Quite the tour!  A few cities where the bookstore has set up before and some new ones.  Look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new people. And of course, talking about books and life.  I am reminded as the tour gets organized, how much we are part of a wider community.  Beth, whom I haven’t seen in years offered to help with the bookstore’s gig in Denver and she put me in touch with her cousin Virginia who lives in Casper. I have yet to meet Virginia in person but she helped sort out where I could set up the bookstore in that part of Wyoming.  A friend of a friend in Grand Junction, old friends who moved to Buena Vista, Anne’s family in Sacramento, and on and on.  I don’t know how one would go about setting up a traveling bookstore tour if it wasn’t for the amazing network of people who are willing to help by making calls, suggesting sites, and/or offering housing.  Thank you!IMG_1480

The 2019 Western States Bookstore Tour runs from May 16 to June 5 which gives me a few days to get home before the local Creative Arts Center‘s annual Trash2Flash event on June 8th.  This arts center does so much to enhance the community where I live that it is obvious I need to contribute to their event.  And that meant creating my outfit prior to taking off on the bookstore tour.  I can’t reveal too many details about the outfit (we each keep ours secret until they hit the runway) but I will say I wanted photographs to be part of it. I put out the word and before the blink of an eye, people were dropping off large envelopes bulging with photos.  So many beautiful ones!  So many that inspired ideas for stories.  I will use some but have bundles that I won’t use in case you want to use them in your own project or to illustrate a book.

Needless to say, my kitchen table is presently covered with books to be sorted, photographs to be sorted, papers and maps, fabric, scissors and thread.

May 16:  Clark’s Fork. Bozeman, MT

May 17: Black Tooth Brewing. Sheridan, WY

May 18: Funky Junk.  Casper, WY

May 20: Stella’s Gourmet Coffee and Such.  Denver, CO

May 20: Elevation Beer.  Poncha Springs, CO

May 21: Cafe Dawn. Salida, CO

May 23: Kannah Creek Brewing. Grand Junction, CO

May 24:  The Christi Reece Group: Grand Junction. CO

May 26: TBA.  Salt Lake City

May 28: Drakes @ The Barn:  Sacramento, CA

June 2: Extracto Coffee.  Portland, OR

June 3: Ace Typewriter. Portland, OR

June 4: Populuxe Brewing.  Seattle, WA

June 5: TBA. Seattle, WA

 

books and maps and time

I suppose there are people out there who think if one has a traveling bookstore that certain months would be easy. Park the bookstore, stay at home, curl up with delightful books and read through the winter.  And then when Spring actually appears, get out the key, turn on the bookstore and hit the road. Although I am ever hopeful there will be more traveling bookstores in this country (and abroad), I should dissuade you – this is not the case.  There is a bit more work involved.IMG_1441

First there are the incoming books that pile up and pile up and PILE UP until the garage/warehouse is overflowing, and the top of the washing machine (don’t ask me why except it is a flat surface) is full of books and the floor space next to the front door has boxes of books which tip over when visitors come by and everything has to be sorted so the very best reads can then be put in the bookstore or boxed for upcoming trips.

Then there is applying to festivals (Yaak River Fest, Libby’s Riverfront Blues Festival, Montana Book Festival, Baltimore Book Festival, etc) and setting up trips.  The first long distance trip this year is scheduled May 15 – June 7 and is called in my notes, “The Western Bookstore Adventure”. This means getting out the maps, the phone, the computer, and starting to talk with anyone and everyone who might know something about Sheridan, Denver, Grand Junction, Sacramento, Ashland, etc etc etc.  How many miles is it from Casper, WY to Buena Vista, CO?  Who do I know in Salt Lake City who might put me up when the bookstore is there?  Is it a good idea to set up in Winnemucca the last weekend in May during the Run-A-Mucca Motorcycle Rally?  Will the owners of Populuxe Brewing who I briefly met let me set up in their parking lot when I am in Seattle? And how do all these places fit into a three-week travel schedule?  The mantra becomes Pace Yourself. Balance. I am typically not good at either.

Because of course there are so many places I would enjoy taking the bookstore. And there are invites from people whom I would dearly enjoy seeing and meeting.  But for some reason whether I use a paper calendar or the one on my phone, there are only so many days in a week, weeks in a month, months in a year.  There are community commitments in Eureka, MT up until May 14 and the Trash2Flash fashion show/fundraiser June 8. These make bookends for when the traveling bookstore can be out-of-state.  Of course the rest of June and July, the bookstore will set up in Eureka and other parts of Montana, land of my heart.

But for now, its back to organize books, maps, phone, computer, and oh, remember to order business cards, set an appointment for the bookstore to get a tune up, pace yourself, and balance.

Map reads

Getting in some travel this winter without the bookstore but of course there are books involved.  The last trip was by train down through Portland, along the west coast in jumbled connections arranged by Amtrak that included trains, taxi, buses and more trains to finally arrive in Albuquerque.  On the way back to Montana passing through the Bay Area, managed to take trams, ferries, and BART.  Sufficient opportunities to see what people are reading on public transportation.  Saw many copies of Michelle Obama’s Becoming being read, most in English while others were translated editions in Spanish, German, French and one I couldn’t quite decipher.  Had the pleasure of hearing two IMG_0902thought-filled poetry readings, meeting a travel writer for the NY Times, experiencing Pegasus Books and East Bay Booksellers, Powell’s and Broadway Books, and marveled at the number of little free libraries in most neighborhoods we passed through.

At Powell’s, pleased to see people of all ages roaming the aisles which are carefully numbered and mapped out.  Thought about what a map of my traveling bookstore might look like if I designed one. Although my bookstore has only one aisle, it does offer diversity of place.  The map would need to incorporate those places in various times.  Powell’s has one map as its aisles ( and bookstore) are stationary.  A map of St. Rita’s Traveling Bookstore would obviously require more advanced cartographic techniques.

Appreciated Amtrak‘s customer service, especially Libbi in Portland who helped out with muddled reservations, the woman at the Sacramento station who arranged for a forty-eight mile taxi ride so we could make our connection, and the Amtrak bus driver between Bakersfield and LA who had a lovely smile, purple braids and made us feel warmly welcomed despite the damp weather.  In general, nearly everyone encountered renewed our faith in humanity: the waitstaff at Milo’s, Don at Robertson & Sons Violin Shop, the man at Smyths Accordions who didn’t mind us all squeezed into the tiny showroom as Ray tried out various accordions.

Arriving home inspired to try harder, to start planning the spring bookstore trip heading south, and to be kinder to people met by chance on the road.

 

 

A new venture

We started a new book club in the Tobacco Valley.  It’s called the Open Book Club because you don’t have to RSVP to attend. You just have to read the book and show up to talk about it at HA Brewery. Okay…so maybe there are a few more suggestions.  You should show up by 2:00pm when it starts and only one person talks at a time.  No doubt this is something many of us heard growing up (“Let them finish – don’t interrupt”). When there is a group discussion, listen to the person talking before adding your ideas.  img_0840

Today was the first meeting and it did go well.  People showed up and we had a great conversation. The book was Ivan Doig’s The Sea Runners which seemed like the ideal story to begin a new venture with.  We set out without knowing exactly where we were going.  No idea what we might run into. None of us knew who might be there to take part.  Eight readers showed up for this first one – a hearty group to begin the adventure.  At the end of the discussion, different individuals took on a month they will be responsible for. This means selecting the book and promising to be there for that month’s discussion.

This is an interesting community activity I hope other communities are trying.  It might be easy to have a book club where we know each other well like an old shoe.  Its comfortable. You know what to expect. But an Open Book Club where you aren’t really sure what the person sitting next to you thinks – helps push the envelope on communication skills.  And perhaps it brings up ideas you hadn’t considered. The people at the table aren’t old friends you met with monthly for years, but whoever wanted to talk about Doig’s book this particular Sunday afternoon.  One woman at today’s gathering brought a marine atlas so we could look at Canada’s western coastline to better imagine what the men faced as they canoed from Alaska to Oregon.

I already look forward to next month.

Feb 17: Soundings: The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor by Hali Felt (Collins)

March 17: White Waters and Black by Gordon MacCreagh (Schloeder)

April 21: Utopia by Thomas More (Elrod)

May 19:  Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship and Sacrifice by Adam Makos (Hvizdak))

June 16: The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow (Gill)

July 21: East of Eden by John Steinbeck (Hindle)