It is summer

And the traveling bookstore is picking up speed. Most Wednesdays we’re set up at the Eureka Farmers Market. And on Thursdays, our books can often be perused at the Libby Farmers Market which is a nice weekly event held at the Libby Chamber of Commerce parking lot. There will be other summer bookstore events as well including the Yaak Music Festival (July 23-24) and the Lincoln County Fair (August 27-29). In September, the bookstore will put on miles heading out to White Sulphur Springs (9/17-18) and over to the South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood (October 1-2) with numerous stops along the way. It is such a pleasure after last year’s limited activity, to be back on the road again.

Perhaps it was missing out on a lot of bookstore action last year, or just the changing times, but this season feels more urgent to get books out to folks and to have conversations. When set up, the bookstore also offers Montana voter registration forms, plus a typewriter (along with envelopes and stamps) to encourage individuals to write letters to a local newspaper, to representatives in DC, to anyone who might benefit from knowing your ideas. At least in this region of the country (northwest Montana), it currently feels a struggle to maintain community spirit that is inclusive and supportive. A traveling bookstore has potential in its own small way for sharing conversations and discussions about books without hype or pressure.

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder

Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Resource Guide Southern Poverty Law Center

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Ready…set…go!

Tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow the bookstore heads east on its fall cross country odyssey and then settles for three days at the Baltimore Book Festival. Still sorting out last minute boxes of books because obviously I need to take lots of good books (although I also hope to pick some up along the way). And clothes that will work in the freezing mornings as I cross Montana and Wyoming as well as clothes that will suit milder temperatures in Maryland and Virginia. A month on the road also calls for art supplies (of course I need to make postcards) and a Ray Jacob dulcimer to practice when taking breaks at rest stops.

I have a bag of letters written by locals as when in Washington DC, I plan to have morning coffee with Montana Senators Tester and Daines, and I want to let these two gentlemen know what people in my community are concerned about. In the back of the bookstore I hope to squeeze in a large box of St. Rita’s Amazing Traveling Bookstore tshirts in a rainbow of colors prepared by Savvy by Design and a smaller box of greeting cards with my favorite Jack DeWitt bookstore photo.

Of course I will pack my workhorse Olympia typewriter for customers to express themselves and a good supply of typewriter ribbon and paper. Although usually I have only one copy of each book due to space limitations, I am bringing extra copies of Alicja Edwards‘ memoir, “As God Was Our Witness”, and Anne Johnson’s “Charlotte and Alice” as it is a long trip and I have no doubt many people will be interested in these. There is a tiny first aid kit, too many plugs for various devices, a small broom for sweeping out the bookstore and a flask of Buffalo Trace (in case of an emergency). It is not only a matter of remembering everything a bookseller/adventurer might need on such a trip, but narrowing it down to fit in a rather limited storage space.

And just in case you missed the bookstore itinerary, here’s the latest: Bozeman MT at Wildrye Distillery 10/15 4 – 7pm, Sheridan WY at Luminous Brewhouse 10/16 4 – 7pm, Sturgis SD at Jambonz Grill & Pub 10/17 4 – 8pm, Sioux Fall SD at Kaladi’s Bistro 10/19 8am – 3pm, Iowa City, IA at Hamburg Inn No. 2 10/21 from 8am – 2pm, Crete IL at Crete Creative Gallery 10/23 from 9:30am – 5pm, Toledo OH at Monroe Street Diner 10/25 from 8am – 1pm, Punxsutawney PA at Punxy Phil’s Family Restaurant 10/26 from 9am – 2pm, Leesburg VA at Loudoun Brewing 10/28 from 2 – 8pm, Baltimore MD at the Baltimore Book Festival 11/1 -3 from noon to 10pm, and in Woodstock IL Isabel’s Family Restaurant on 11/6 9am – 1pm.

It is a traveling bookstore after all.

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.

A different view

I can point to lots of things.  Just had cataract surgery so one eye is very clear and focused while the other lags behind until next week.  Then there is the political situation which is hard to easily capture.  Sides so divisive now some friendships are ending, there are those family members who stop communicating and various community Facebook pages are shut down due to profanity.  The aspen and larch trees have become golden.  And when I get up early in the morning to walk before the work day begins, it is dark out.  IMG_2524

The bookstore takes a break for a few weeks. Then in November we set up for Shop Small Saturday on 11/24 from 10:00 – 4:00 parked next to Montana Farmacy.  And on December 1, the traveling bookstore will be at the annual Holly Faire from 9:00 – 5:00 at Eureka’s Creative Arts Center. Both enjoyable events plus a chance to find great gifts and support local merchants and artisans.  The bookstore will offer its usual amazing selection of gently used books, St. Rita’s tshirts, gift cards, vintage postcards, and gift certificates.  And yes, the typewriter will be set up in case you want to type a poem or holiday greeting to send someone special or a letter to your representative.

See? This is what I mean.  There are truly dark moments when the days get shorter and the news out of Washington is utterly depressing.  Then I read a wondrous book (Pride by Ibi Zoboi) or watch the autumn sun come through the old school house windows as women hand quilt on a Friday afternoon.  Of course, none of this comes easily.  Ibi Zoboi, while immigrating to the US with her mother, actually had months of separation before the authorities would allow her in.  A quilt takes countless stitches (and sore fingers) to complete.  No doubt it will take even more work for us to make positive changes, to address the starvation in Yemen, the thousands of detained children still in tent camps in Texas. Despite the darkness though, we need to look at these things. And act.

Community

The traveling bookstore set up at the Lincoln County Fair over the weekend. Three days of 4H kids with their animals. Jars of jams, crusty breads and plates of fudge being sampled and awarded ribbons, a booth raffling a rifle, another raffling a painting.  There was live music and delicious pies, the most beautiful flowers people grew to enter as well as prize vegetables. A couboystyping2018nty fair in a county whose population is around 20,000.  Enough entries in Foods, Crafts and Arts to enjoy wandering through but not overwhelming crowds. A pleasure to talk with neighbors, hang with kids, visit with other vendors and, of course, sell books.

Lots of conversations over the three days about politics, about how to engage with people whose conclusions are fundamentally different from mine, about what makes a good community, about various books.  The one that still rumbles in my mind is about community.  Community is so closely tied to home that it is necessary to make sense of it.  At least for me.

When I am on the road with the bookstore, city people often ask what it is like to live in a small town.  I point out the things I like. I know my neighbors, I trust my mechanic, I can leave my front door unlocked. When there is a need I feel strongly about, it might be possible to do something about it.  Twenty years ago a group of us formed an organization to bring in an annual professional concert series.  It has continued and even grown.  This winter there will be jazz musicians from Seattle, Ghanaian performers, a classical quintet, a blues band from Vancouver, BC, and a Irish/Scottish duo from Oregon.  Living in a small town forces me to talk with a variety of people, not only those who think the same way I do.  Our local book club has women all across the political spectrum and from numerous religions with a few atheists mixed in as well.

I know that some local businesses I use are owned by people who don’t agree with my politics. And I don’t agree with theirs. But I shop in their store and they buy books from me. It is a necessity because otherwise we would each need to drive seventy miles one way to go to a bigger town.  A bit too far to pick up a James Lee Burke novel or get a can of spray paint. So we find ways to get along, some activities mutually enjoyed liked listening to good music, going to the local microbrewery. And sometimes we have to face our differences and try to have a civil discussion.  It doesn’t always work, but sometimes.

But do we have consensus as to what makes a good community?  There are diverse opinions about local schools.  Some of us want better academics, others are interested in a trophy winning football team. Should the elementary library carry books with Muslim characters?  Outside of school, where should the jobs be?  Open up the forests for more logging or train people for jobs that require other skills? I try to understand my role as a small business owner in this town, finding ways to improve the quality of life.  But whose life? The county fair gave me three days to glimpse the heart of this community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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