Count down to take off

The traveling bookstore has been around.  It set up on a street corner in Brooklyn, New York and in a field in Yaak, Montana. It has been visited by cool kids, hipsters, grooving elders, cowboys, cops, waitresses and parents with babies.  And now it is setting off on a crazy cross country adventure that is bound to push the envelope even farther.  If you don’t have time to read this entire post, here are the bare facts of where we will be so you don’t miss out:

3/28  Bozeman, MT    Wildrye Distillery 6-8collins05
4/2  Minneapolis, MN    Birchwood Cafe 9-3
4/4  Woodstock, IL  Isabel’s Family Restaurant 10-1
4/5  Indianapolis, IN  Coal Yard Coffee  9-3
4/6  Smiths Grove, KY  Quarter Moon Antiques 10-1
4/7  Asheville, NC  French Broad Food Co-op 10-3
4/8  Asheville, NC  French Broad Food Co-op 10-3
4/9  Asheville, NC  Moog Store 10-1
4/10 Raleigh, NC  Nickelpoint Brewery 5-9
4/11 Raleigh, NC  Nickelpoint Brewery  5-9
4/12  Raleigh, NC  Lonerider Brewery  2-9
4/13  Wake Forest, NC  Page 158 Books 12 – 8
4/16  Morgantown, WV  Fawley Music 9-2
4/20  Sheridan, WY  Studio Cafe  10-2
4/20  Sheridan, WY  Black Tooth Brewery 4-7
It might strike you as ambitious that a rather unpretentious bookstore carrying about six hundred volumes with a 132 inch (335cm) wheelbase is willing to set up in all these places including the urban clatter of Minneapolis and the small town calm of Smiths Grove, KY.  And, needless to say, a traveling bookstore deals with details your average brick-and-mortar shop rarely considers – like the oil change by the time we pull into Asheville.  Storage is quite limited and mostly given over to books, a manual typewriter, a small folding table, some folding chairs, a theremini and a spare tire.  While sorting out where the bookstore will set up (a major thank you to the businesses that agreed to partner with us on this trip!), we also figure out where to spend the night.  There have been times when I sleep in the bookstore especially after some remote Montana events.  On this trip though there will usually be two of us traveling so more space is required then the one aisle between fiction and biographies.
No doubt this is going to be a buffalo size adventure.  Hope that you are able to stop by to visit. And just in case you aren’t in these regions of the country during March/April, the summer bookstore tour to Washington, Oregon and California is already taking shape.




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.


Holiday reading and thanks

I am not going to suggest books to you.  I learned a while back that doesn’t work unless we are standing (or sitting) within a comfortable distance of each other having a conversation. I might ask what you enjoy reading. You might mention some particular titles. I would get excited because I also just read one of those and it reminded me of another that you might like as well.  It is personal. Its not Amazon. Its you and me discussing books, discussing authors, discussing ideas, discussing our travels and experiences and how I ended up owning a traveling bookstore and how you ending up living in Montana or Idaho or Illinois or Alabama.  pjshop

This time of year gets even trickier as people want to buy books for friends or relatives, the kid across the street or a woman at work.  “Do you think my eleven year old nephew would enjoy this book?”  I don’t know. I would certainly enjoy meeting your eleven year old nephew and finding out what he likes.  I can’t really say though what any generic eleven year old boy might be interested in though. Let’s talk.

But I am glad that you are shopping at this particular bookstore, at this somewhat local business, at this small business. I am happy that even when you had choices of box stores and online opportunities, you decided to track down this particular traveling bookstore and buy used books to make that gift even more special.   I can’t give you an easy answer for which book to buy for that rambunctious nephew or even the older woman who takes care of your cat when you are away. I will talk books and people with you.  I might suggest this or that title.  There are times when I might even suggest making your own book for a very special person.  There’s a typewriter and paper in the bookstore and some books that explain bookbinding.  Bookstore owner and a facilitator – perhaps I should put that on my business card.

Special thanks go out with this post to: 1) Peggy Jane who has the beautiful smile in the photo.  A gem of a friend.  And 2) to La Două Bufniţe, a wondrous bookstore I found in Timisoara, RO.  If you are ever in that area, stop by (


Quite the summer and here we are moving towards the end of August.  There are still more events happening so you can catch the traveling bookstore in northwest Montana before the snow flies.

And the traveling bookstore has slightly expanded its repertoire.  Besides a great selection of used books in all sorts of categories, there is a wonderful selection of postcards from all over the world, blank greeting cards and even a typewriter (with a FullSizeRender(2)fresh ribbon). You can type your sweetie a poem or write a serious note to someone in Washington to express your ideas and offer suggestions.  And now we even have a theremin.  It is a musical instrument unlike any you have probably tried. Odd enough that it doesn’t seem the least bit threatening.  You don’t have to actually touch anything to play it.  If you haven’t experienced a theremin yet, now might just be the time.  Stop by the bookstore and give it a spin.  Meanwhile you can see how a virtuoso does it in this clip with Carolyn Eyck. The theremin and the typewriter seem to be a good combo – wonderful inventions that allow people to be creative without overwhelming them.  At least that is how I feel when I interact with each of them.  And both compact enough to fit in a traveling bookstore.  What could be better?

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.


Get the keys

The traveling bookstore is hitting the road big time. Or at least bigger than it has since this venture began two years.  As St. Rita’s Amazing Traveling Bookstore starts its third season, the events where it is is setting up are far, wide andgirl in yellow exciting.  Here is a quick list to get started and then more thoughts about all of it:

…and more as summer unfolds.

Besides bringing a wonderful selection of used books and vintage postcards to a location near you, the traveling bookstore is also an opportunity to have conversations and to explore dreams.  That’s how it started after all; a dream to open a bookstore and the reality that it would be tough to make that business financially viable in a town with a population of 1,037.  So with enough conversations and enough brainstorming, here it is – a bookstore that can travel to where people are, a bookstore that has low overhead when parked in a small town, which can then travel to set up at a music festival, in a city or in front of your house (if you want to throw a literary party).  It’s about following one’s dream and finding ways to make it happen.

It would be great to meet up with you along the way. Hope you are at one of these summer events or decide to arrange for the bookstore to come to your town/city.  And, if you don’t mind, please help get the word out about this amazing traveling bookstore.

We are nearly there

Yes, there is still snow in the mountains but spring is here. The lilac bushes are slowly starting to get buds.  I heard there are crocus blooming although I haven’t seen any myself, and the season’s first event has been scheduled for April 22: Books, Bread and Beer as its the traveling bookstore, Yvonne’s Simply Sourdough and of course the mighty HA beers all at HA Brewery oIMG_0931n Grave Creek Rd.  Other events are starting to get sorted from a couple great times promised in the Yaak (June 17 and July 15) to an appearance in Tacoma, WA, the Montana Book Festival in Missoula, Eureka Farmers Market and others that are still taking shape.  Once the summer schedule is set I will certainly let you know.

For now it is enough that the snow is gone, people are thinking of gardens and I am taking the bookstore out on the road. The winter has been too long but now I am ready to put in piles of books I accumulated this winter, make a new sign (left the last one in Rock Island, IL at an event last September), and load up the typewriter.  And this season will be very special as I am quitting my day job to put more time into having the bookstore on the road.  A shift but I think sixty-five and a half is the perfect age for this sort of adventure. I can still manage those boxes of books,  drive a long day when needed and enjoy talking to just about anyone who shows up.


Taking another step in the adventure.  Tomorrow the traveling bookstore hits the road to go to Portland, Oregon. It will be the first time the bookstore has gone out of Montana to sell books and hawk postcards. There are some ideas what it just possiblyIMG_5206 might be like to stop at a gas station in the Tri-Cities area of eastern Washington and have someone ask what exactly is this St. Rita’s Amazing thing.  Or driving through the Columbia Gorge in the rain (because isn’t it usually raining when one drives there?).  And then arriving in Portland with its hundred of food carts/trucks and the outrageous Powells City of Books as well as Title Wave and Broadway Books and Passages Bookshop and countless others because it is Portland after all. So many awesome bookstores but there is hope that at least for one weekend there will be room for another one, a small one on wheels with used books that also offers conversation and a chance to try a typewriter. And surely food carts must be related to this traveling bookstore in some way.  Perhaps second cousins?

Nada is going along on this adventure. She is a good friend from the Czech Republic where we both used to teach at Masaryk University, and now older we are each transitioning into the next chapter of our lives.  During this transition, Nada is spending a month in the US helping me sort and pack books, drive to Portland and to New York, and talk with people about her own story.  We both have enough experiences to go into this long distance bookstore traveling with a sense of excitement and a wee bit of trepidation. We like the vision of us driving down through Idaho and the wide spaces of the Palouse in Washington. We will rock along to country radio stations and sip coffee from a drive-thru in Spokane.  We do wonder what it will be like though to deal with city rush hour traffic, to parallel park while other drivers waiting get impatient, and to discover people who don’t enjoy reading as much as we do.

If you happen to be in Portland, stop by to reassure us.  Friday 9/2 from 9:30-4:30 at 7433 N Lombard St. and on Saturday  9/3 10:00 – noon at 1448 NE 28th.

in the Yaak

That’s where the idea came to me.  I was in the Yaak for their annual music festival.  I assume most people don’t know the place unless you happen to live in northwest Montana or are familiar with books by Rick Bass.  Whether you know the place or not, it comes down to the same thing. Its an extremely  beautiful and remote section of the state that requires a fair amount of driving on narrow roads through thick forests. When you arrive, there are two bars: the Dirty Shame and the Yaak River Tavern and Mercantile.  That’s the town.  Image-1And the Yaak River Tavern and Mercantile throws a great music festival each July. I make it a point to take the bookstore there. Turns out people at a music festival in that nearly off the map valley enjoy books and I sell a fair amount. I also get to talk with interesting people.

Actually I meet interesting people wherever I take the bookstore, but it must have been hanging in the Yaak for a couple days away from electronics (no cell service) that shifted my perspective. I tend to mull over who I am and what this endeavor is – the traveling bookstore – a fair amount. It seems more than a business and less than a business. There is a lot of interaction as the average person doesn’t just walk into the bookstore, pick out a book, pay me and leave.  There is always conversation and often long conversations.  And because selling used books isn’t the easiest way to amass a fortune, I am obviously not in it for the money although I do have standards. So I wonder if the traveling bookstore is a hobby or an obsession or an art project or just an unusual business model.  While set up at the Yaak River Music Festival, it dawned on me. I am a repository for stories.

There was the woman from Flagstaff who after forty-two years of marriage and bankruptcy, decided to hike the Grand Canyon solo and a few years later had cancer and afterwards went to Nepal and now is thinking about where she wants to live.  And the young woman who hadn’t even heard of Yaak, Montana two years ago but was driving with her boy friend and looking for a place that accepted Wiccans and now they had an acre of land and a very small mobile home  and chickens near the river.  Or Malachi who was a rather young person traveling with his parents and brother out west.  He typed a poem, using a typewriter for the very first time in his life and then picked out the book, The Elephant Whisperer to give his dad.  And then the woman with the most angelic voice who was yes, I admit it, my favorite group at the festival.  I asked how to get in touch to hire her band for another event and she explained she had lost her post office box so I could send letters to her neighbor who would walk them over.  Or the retired teacher from Arizona who has a bunch of books she wants to give me and surely we can find someone driving from Gilbert, AZ to Montana later this summer who would bring them. I have no doubt this will happen.  A lovely woman from Florence, Alabama suggested I take my bookstore there next spring.  A man explained how he bought this great house in Cutbank, Montana for next to nothing with four bedrooms and he was living there alone and not much was happening in the town which is why he came to the festival. A guy in one of the other bands told me a crazy amazing story about a wedding he played at where a guy from India got drunk and broke into a neighbor’s house by mistake and caused thousands of dollars in damage but is getting drunk really a mistake.

These are just some of the stories.  There was the guy from Canada who told me he had too many books and then his wife told me he could buy more because she loved him and books made him happy.  And the old man who stood talking with me as it started to rain and we laughed about how great it was to have read Kurt Vonnegut. But I could go on like this for pages and it isn’t necessary as I do remember the individuals and their stories.



To every thing there is a season

People have been more willing to type especially at the Eureka farmers market. Perhaps they are getting use to seeing the typewriter set up every Wednesday and assume anyone can write something.  One of the vendors came over to type a verse from the Bible. A young boy Processed with MOLDIVwrote a funny limerick about his sister. A woman with her granddaughter solemnly typed both their names and where they were from in central Washington. Last Wednesday a visitor from Maryland stopped by.  We talked  books and her high school experience and what she was thinking of doing after graduation.  She wandered off to look at other booths at the market and at some point came back. She had composed a short story and wanted to type it.  Made perfect sense to me.

I appreciated her seriousness and her purpose.  She was polite and determined.  The friend with her was making jokes about how much she wrote. Was it going to be a novel? But he said it kindly and the girl kept typing.  We left her to it and began talking about his interests (baking) and his purchase, a used New York Times Cook Book.

There is certainly something to be said about the joy of youth, the abandon of children playing, the sound of their laughter.  And there is something to be said about young people who have a vision because after all, in these times, we can use all the good visions that are manifested.  The young writer was creative and willing to take the time to capture her story.  She was great at ignoring her friend’s laughter and other distractions of the market. She wrote her story and left it there for others to read.  Dare I call her brave? She was definitely focused and not the least bit hampered by what others might think.  All traits to be admired especially in one so young.  I wondered how we might replicate these among other young people in our community, in the county, in the country. To encourage them to have purpose, to dream, to act.