Propelled forward by looking back

I want to be on the road with the traveling bookstore. I want to set up at music festivals and in cities, by coffee shops in small towns and at county fairs. I want the sun to be out and people willing to engage in real conversations as we stand by the bookstore marveling at all the wonders one can find in print. I want to share ideas for how to make the world a better place and to exchange titles for some great books we read this winter. And I also want to feel comfortable with people going into the bookstore and as we stand outside next to the table with the typewriter set up, knowing we care enough to keep each other healthy.

I appreciate the book club in Eureka read a wonderful range of books this winter and has more coming up through the spring. We are a small club in a rural (and rather remote) community of northwest Montana. Since summer, we’ve met virtually. Yet we manage to have good conversations, decide on monthly titles that offer us a range of authors and ideas, encourage each other to grow and think. Some of our titles: Woman, Girl, Other by Bernadine Evaristo, Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Wolverine Way by Doug Chadwick, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger, My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor, The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai.

While looking for a photo that made sense to me for this post, this moment, I came across one from six years ago. My first bookstore trip out of town was to a two-day music festival in Yaak, MT and if you don’t know this place, you should. I worried driving there up twisted mountain roads, no other vehicles in sight, setting up in a field behind the Yaak Tavern & Mercantile, but then did extremely well selling books. Spent my first night ever sleeping in the bookstore. And the next day met this young couple from New York City who suggested I go to the Brooklyn Book Festival. And the following year I did. First time driving the bookstore across country. Barely able to breathe as I navigated it through the city, wondering if a traveling bookstore in NYC would even be noticed (but it was!).

Since then I have put lots of miles on the bookstore; taken it across country multiple times, up and down the west coast, through the Rocky Mountains. After that first book festival in NY, I’ve set it up in Seattle, Portland, Baltimore, Raleigh, Sioux Falls, Chicago, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and many more cities as well as numerous rural towns. And that couple who suggested the Brooklyn Book Festival – they have two young children now and are doing well. I follow photos of their family on social media. I’ve done things that I didn’t envision doing when I met them. And no doubt raising their two kids is something they couldn’t have imagined fully either. So looking forward to this summer, I want to believe it is possible to do more things – meet people who will change my life, have conversations that stick with me for years, and of course, read books that are remarkable.

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

 

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.

 

 

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.

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!

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

 

Get those ducks in a row

It is the time of year when traveling bookstores, especially those in Montana, are planning for spring.  Of course it isn’t as though we can put off doing bookish things until the cherry blossoms are out.  We ease into it with a Valentine’s Day Type-In at The Front Porch in Eureka.  Between 2:00 – 5:00pm stop by to type your sweetie a poem, create a valentine, compose (or copy) a sonnet, send off kisses to someone special, etc etc etc.  There will be a variety of manual typewriters as well as pens, markers, glue, crayons, stamps, glitter, paper and envelopes to assist in your effort.boarders

Then in late March we hit the road.  My oh my!  Exciting places lining up.  The bookstore pulls out of Eureka late March with the first event in Minneapolis on April 1 (no fooling!).  Then on to Woodstock, IL, Indianapolis, Asheville, Raleigh, and Wake Forest (we are partnering with Page 158 there).  On the return trip the bookstore has stops in Morgantown, WV and Sheridan, WY. Tempted to get tshirts like rock groups to advertise the 2018 Bookstore Tour.

Of course the Grand 2018 to North Carolina and Back Tour is just the beginning of the season.  There will be the farmers market in Eureka, the annual music festival in Yaak, MT and the blues festival in Libby, MT.  There will also be adventures in San Francisco and in Oregon.  It seems the trainer wheels have finally come off the traveling bookstore and its rolling!  If you want to have the bookstore visit you for a special event, don’t hesitate to ask.  Birthday parties, read-a-thons, literary luncheons, summer camps and family reunions (“The Relatives Came” by Cynthia Rylant being one of my personal favorites) are all opportunities to have a traveling bookstore pull up.

 

Kaleidoscopic self(s)

Some might think a traveling bookstore would be enough. After all by its third summer in operation, the bookstore had been all over Montana (no small feat), to the Brooklyn Book Festival in NY, to events in San Francisco, to Portland and to the Seattle area. It had set up in Illinois and Idaho.  It had been perused by the waitress at Trixi’s Saloon in Ovando and by a cop in Choteau.  It had blown a tire in S. Dakota and had a small fixable oil problem in Coeur d’Alene.

Processed with MOLDIVAnd of course there are times when the bookstore stays parked quietly at home while I wander forth with a small suitcase and only a book or two.  The current adventure has me in the Czech Republic with a brief foray to Vienna, and  then later to Israel, Hungary and Romania.  It was really just today though while buying a canvas (my third on this trip) that I realized different places pull out different aspects of who I am.  While in my hometown, I’m compelled to volunteer, to give to the community which gives so much to me.  In Brno, I find myself doing art on a daily basis – perhaps the lovely morning light in the flat where I stay.  In Vienna, I could sit for hours (and do) writing: writing on a bench in the midst of the Impressionist exhibit, writing in a small quiet cafe). I remember once being at the Oregon coast with a friend over a long weekend sewing.   As though I had to get as much sewing done as possible even though I rarely sew.  Different places draw out different aspects of me, as though there isn’t a static me but a me that changes with place.

I wonder if this happens to other people. Is it one of the reasons we travel?  And how do people who don’t travel manage to see all they are capable of doing?

The Road

June’s traveling bookstore events have been checked off.  Great adventures in Eureka, the Yaak, Portland and San Francisco.  There was musing with members from Cristina’s book club in Portland and learning about Mircea’s mathematical toys that are now IMG_1182carried (when available as they sell out quickly) in the bookstore. There was meeting Brittany when we set up at the SF Center for the Book and having conversations with her about the life style of a traveling bookstore owner.  There were wonderful people met on Mission Street who bought books and donated books.  There was Karen at Mission Pie who throws the best Type-In ever and exudes the feeling of community.  There was the magic of walking into the SF Center for the Book and seeing all those magnificent printing presses and people learning to set type and bind books.  There was Ethan’s mom in Portland who invited the bookstore to open up near Sacramento the next time it passes through that region and Cheryl who invited the bookstore to Healdsburg.  There was Matt at Ace Typewriter Repair in Portland who fixed five typewriters so quickly we couldn’t believe it, let the bookstore set up in front of his business for the day and offered new ideas for the next time the bookstore is in that town.  There was Gwen in the Yaak who knows how to make everyone feel welcome and makes the best BBQ sandwiches.  There was the young man at a Jiffy Lube in Spokane who helped problem solve a mechanical glitch with the bookstore on a Sunday morning and IMG_1196Melissa who lent cash when my wallet was stolen in Oakland.  There were all the children who marveled at using a typewriter, the individuals who were happy to find just the right book(s) to buy, the invites to bring the bookstore to other towns and events.

Yes, it was an exhilarating month and an exhausting month.  The traveling bookstore business is not for the fainthearted.  The conversations, the driving, schlepping books and typewriters, and the excitement of new people, new ideas and new problems require sufficient energy.  Which is why the hospitality offered by Cristina and Melissa and Kevin and Wendy meant so much along the way, along with meals shared with Shammus, Steve, Jesse and others.

And now we are teetering on July and more adventures.  The month opens on July 1,  setting up at HA Brewery just south of Eureka.  On July 14-15, the bookstore returns to the Yaak for the annual Music Festival there.  And on most Wednesdays we are open at the Eureka farmers market.  The bookstore travels across Washington to Kent Station and Tacoma at the end of the month with a possible event in Bellingham (still searching for the ideal location to set up there).  The shelves are tightly packed with new books, exciting finds and old favorites.  The postcard selection has expanded and of course, there is always a chance to sit down and talk for a while.  Follow us on FB for specific dates and times.  Really the word ‘traveling’ doesn’t begin to capture the wonder of all this particular bookstore is capable of being.