Searching for truth

Where to begin? The traveling bookstore rolled into Missoula for the Montana Book Festival.  An exciting weekend with fascinating panel discussions, a wide range of readings, even some music.  Fellow vendors at the Florence building were a delight to talk with and to explore their wares – books, zines, literary postcards and pins.  I don’t think the beverage Processed with MOLDIVprovided by Whiskey Tit influenced me too much on Saturday.  I certainly recommend their selection of books which are well designed and offer an intense read.  Hope to travel with these folks some day providing a traveling bookstore for their author readings. Far Country Press was also at the Montana Book Festival which had Lincoln County’s very own Bernice Ende‘s book, ‘Lady Long Rider.’

Yes, the weather was chilly and quite windy.  The bookstore’s sandwich board blew over so many times, I finally put it away.  As it is difficult to be a bookseller wearing gloves, I came home with chapped hands.  But this is a very small grumble compared to the individuals I met and the ideas that flowed standing on N. Higgins Ave in the autumnal gusts.

As the Book Festival began Thursday, by Friday when we were well under way, it was also when the Kavanaugh hearings gripped many people’s attention.  For myself, I wondered what more I could be doing then being an itinerant bookseller set up on the street. Our country seems to be seriously slipping into a dark realm I don’t recognize.  As a nation, do we no longer champion respect for others, active listening, and women’s rights? Even as the hearings held everyone’s attention, there are still thousands of unrepresented children in detention centers, a national debt that is skyrocketing and a president who doesn’t believe in globalization in the 21st century.

I began asking customers (if they seemed likely to pause a bit in their shopping), what they were doing in these challenging times.  A man who thoroughly enjoys books and works for a firm that helped sponsor the Book Festival, told me about the volunteer work he did with young people in his community.  A woman carrying Kathleen Williams signs empathized with me and pointed out the need to stay strong.  She is involved in local voter registration.

Then there was a boy who is currently homeless searching for a book on homesteading.  I didn’t have one available that day so he got a book on growing vegetables.  His hand was bandaged from fighting. I wondered what besides books was an answer.  A woman in very light pants, sweatshirt and no socks stopped by.  She asked for cash to buy winter clothes.  A customer who happened to be taking a picture of the bookstore at that moment, gave her a contribution.  An Australian photographer stopped at the bookstore. He is doing a project on faces in Montana.  I asked how he could even begin to capture the essence of this state unless he took a million photos.  I feel even three days in Missoula presented too many individuals for me to grasp.

There were state queens from the SUPER Mrs Pageant, a poet from southern California, a man elegantly attired who spoke of places he had lived all over the world and how he came to be in Missoula on that particular afternoon.  Students from the university stopped by, some of the wonderful people connected with Humanities Montana, friends from Eureka in town for their son’s track meet, and an individual with a great smile who told me I was ‘living the dream.’  When he said that, I wasn’t sure how to respond.




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!

Book clubs

It started when two Czech friends happened to visit around the time my local book club was going to meet.  The two young women had enough time (and enough English) to read the month’s selection and attend; A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and of course this group in Eureka does it up right. The woman who hosted the book club in September prepared a delicious Iranian meal.  We had a very good discussion and towards the end of the evening, one of the Czech women lamented it was too bad there weren’t book clubs like this in her country.  I felt surely there must be but when we did a cursory GooglIMG_1468e search as one tends to do when such questions are posed, we saw book clubs aren’t nearly the phenomena in the Czech Republic that they are in the US.

While looking at articles and such about book clubs in other places, I read about book clubs in the US, the millions of members and wide variety that have developed here over the years.  I realized this was a force to be considered.  Not that the demographics are identical across book clubs or even within book clubs. Actually it is one of the factors that makes the local book club here so awesome – we have a variety of political views, religions, ages and formal education, and yet we manage to have respectful discussions on all sorts of topics ranging from marriage to immigration to education to death.  There is a core element that keeps us meeting (this club started back in the mid 1990s!).  Perhaps its the thirst to learn, a love for reading and an interest in sharing ideas.

Recently while attending a Humanities Montana meeting, the idea was raised to find ways to exchange information across book clubs.  I realized this was a great idea but how many book clubs have a public presence to make something like this viable?  I began to ask around.  Most book clubs don’t even seem to have a name.  One woman who belongs to three clubs described them as the one that meets the first Tuesday and then there is the library one and….  And even with a name, how would they be contacted? In many ways this makes the phenomena of book clubs even more remarkable.  They aren’t often started by a formal entity although there are plenty that take place in libraries and bookstores.  They don’t usually have a name, tax ID number or even a web presence (some do seem to use Facebook for exchanging information).  So here is this significant group, millions and millions of readers according to some studies, who attend book clubs, who are able to hold civilized discussions and there isn’t an easy way to track them down.  Despite this, I believe book clubs make a significant difference.  Not only do they help book sales, they enhance communication in communities, they provide a vehicle for people to share stories and views.  They help us think and, yes, they give light on others’ points of view.

Book festivals and more

This weekend is the National Book Festival in Washington, DC. Although the traveling bookstore will remain parked at home, I will go to work the Montana booth at that festival representing Humanities Montana.  It’s an opportunity to tell people about the wonderful writers we have here, to lure them to read Judy Blunt’s Breaking Clean, Debra Magpie Earling’s Perma Red, Craig Lancaster’s 600 Hours of Edward, Pete Fromm’s Indian Creek Chronicles and so many more. girls readingIt’s a chance to let people know there is a rich literary tradition in a state that stretches across expanses of plains, forests and mountains.  Montana also has many talented writers under the big sky.

Then at the end of September the Montana Book Festival happens. The traveling bookstore will be there as one of many events including panels, readings, poetry slams, and of course, the infamous Pie & Whiskey at the Union Club on September 28.  I suppose my deep appreciation of these book festivals is akin to sports fans going to a tournament.  Its a rush to be surrounded by so many people who enjoy books and who want to read.  And, as often readers are good storytellers, I will surely get to hear some wonderful stories while at the huge Convention Center in Washington and when set up with the traveling bookstore on the streets of Missoula.

It is part of having this traveling bookstore business that I surely appreciate – the stories that people share (or hint at). Last weekend with the traveling bookstore at the Lincoln County Fair, a young boy typed a story about his pig.  In reality the pig was being auctioned at the fair and then sent to the butcher’s.  In the boy’s story, the pig had many adventures, being recognized for its cognitive abilities and bravery rather than its meat.  A girl with a Wonder Woman symbol painted on her face stopped to look at books and type.  She wrote a long story which she said was private, typing, going off for ice cream, coming back to type more. She did an entire page before pulling the paper out with a flair and heading back into fair activities, the page neatly folded and secure in the back pocket of her jeans.  And then there was the older gent who was searching for Louis L’Amour books.  Yes, there were a few in stock at the traveling bookstore, but he knew so much about Louis L’Amour that we eventually sat down so I could hear the full biography.  Stories and books.  Yes, definitely looking forward to the upcoming festivals.



It might take a while…

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these Processed with MOLDIVcouriers…” This winter seems as though it might just last forever.  Here it is March 5th and more snow on top of the piles we already have. And this is a  minor problem compared to the political situation.  But I am not giving up.  I shovel the snow around the bookstore, work on inventory that piled up in the colder months, go to rallys,  write letters and make phone calls to those I hope represent me in Washington, and talk with people.  I recently re-read Christopher Morley’s “Parnassus on Wheels”.  It’s about a woman who buys a traveling bookstore, so of course suits me but I think even those without a bookstore would enjoy it. The Professor (in the book) goes into towns, farms and even stops people along the road to tell them about the glory of reading.

I don’t know what the solution is for these current times but reading might help. All kinds of reading from classics to what is on the best seller lists, from nonfiction that explains history, geography and economics to foreign authors who offer views into other cultures. Discussing those books also helps which is why programs (like Humanities Montana) and, dare I say, serious book clubs are beneficial.  Someone (younger than me) said today over lunch, “Reading a newspaper or book makes me think about the issue, while getting information only on social media can cause a knee jerk reaction.”

As spring thaws the roads and I begin to take the bookstore out to events, I look forward to conversations I will surely have with people.  I look forward to sharing ideas, comparing views, listening to differences and maybe suggesting a book or two.  I am not giving up.