I took the first tentative steps into the traveling bookstore business. I have the van and the shelves, a garage full of inventory, a name and business cards. Even a Facebook page. I’ve become an expected feature at the weekly Eureka Farmers Market. I was an unusual attraction at a couple music festivals. I set up the bookstore up at a brew pub and a marina. A few people called me looking for books and I met them along the road to slide open the door to the bookstore. I got my first fan mail from a woman in Florida who was enchanted with the idea of a traveling bookstore and offered to mail me books. I have been invited to bring the bookstore to New York, Washington, Portland, North Carolina and Texas. And I have passed from the early glow of starting the business to a momentary hesitation. It reminds me of coming upon a river in the forest with a fallen log across it. You put a foot on the log to see if it’s stable and then start across the river focusing on your balance. But then at some point, maybe when you look down and see the water rushing below, there’s a hesitation. Is this safe? Is this really what I should be doing? But at that point it would be just as foolish to turn around to go back as it would to continue across. I am by no means half way into the traveling bookstore business. I am still a novice. Maybe this is the point where I am testing the log with my foot. Maybe this is the point where I actually start to cross the river.
Going into the second month of the traveling bookstore business and I still feel that I am continually and delightfully amazed and perplexed by the way things unfold. People give me books to sell. I had thought that there would be initial donations as friends helped to get me started in this business. But now strangers who visit the bookstore might ask, “So where do you get your books?” and I explain that they have been donated and before you know it, this person I never met before is taking my address to drop off books. Or when I was at the HA Brewery, a woman who saw on Facebook that I was going to set up there, came with a box of books in her car to give me. And there are the people who seem to so thoroughly enjoy visiting the bookstore. Sometimes I am asked, “What sorts of people buy your books?” and well, really all kinds. The traveling bookstore seems to be a big hit with little kids but there are the older kids and the adults and those older ones as well. Last week at the Eureka farmers market, a young couple stopped by. It felt to me that they were having a date as she found a book she wanted (by Janet Evanovich), and the young man offered to buy it for her. All these things that happen and even more that I don’t have time today to write about, but encounters and overheard conversations and questions and remarks that come out of people walking into a van that is really a bookstore. Recently one of the remarks and then the conversation that resulted was about authenticity. I am still not entirely sure what it means in this context. I know the person who said it to me meant it as a compliment. And I know that the bookstore is there (wherever there happens to be on a given day) to give whomever walks by a chance to buy books. I am not doing a hard sell. I am trying not to over charge (Anne convinced me to lower my price on kids books). I want to pay the bills and offer the best books that I can cull from the piles in my garage. I want people to appreciate the book that they buy. But perhaps authenticity stretches beyond that. It is still early – my 39th day in business. I still might figure it out.