History. Community. Family. Place. Memory. The thousand other fragile threads connecting us all.
Each is a strand woven throughout Lexington, Kentucky writer Crystal Wilkinson's work--both as a writer and as an independent bookstore owner. The striking cover of her latest book, The Birds of Opulence, published by the University Press of Kentucky in March 2016, features an image of the sankofa symbol. In the Twi language of Ghana, "sankofa" translates to "go back and get it." The Asante Adinkra sankofa symbol of a bird with its head turned to take an egg from its back carries the same meaning, and is often associated with a proverb translated to mean "It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten." Designed and created by the artist Ron Davis (also Wilkinson's life and business partner) the sankofa bird on the novel's cover is an apt symbol for Wilkinson's creative and connected work as a writer and business owner.
- Published: 05 May 2016
I don’t like being channeled—which is what happens to us in the digitized age. Our past behavior channels the new information we’re exposed to. Online booksellers have got this down to a science. All those nifty algorithms that tell us “If we liked this, then we’ll like that,” are channeling us. Sometimes I imagine these rutted grooves in cyberspace, worn deeper and deeper and funneling us more and more into the paths we’ve already taken. (I’ll resist the urge to quote Robert Frost here.). And it’s not just buying books. It’s news too. If you tend to look at news sites featuring women’s issues, then your browsers and your advertisers will give you more of the same.
This is the way lots of retail works too, of course. If you’ve ever bought, say, clogs online, well guess what? Here come more advertisements for more clogs. And large bookstores work the same way. If stories about teens dying of cancer were popular last year, then let’s buy lots and lots more of them. As a purveyor of school kids’ literature, I’m constantly befuddled by the number of series books about, say, dragons, repeating the same basic story over and over again.
And of course our brains work in “channels” too. We tend to reinforce the same neuro-pathways we’ve already created. We tend to notice information that fits with what we already believe. Data that doesn’t fit easily into our neural pathways often doesn’t even register. (Again, I’m resisting the urge to quote Frost.)
But my sense—my hope—is that indie bookstores are countering this trend. They’re not using the same data analytics. Instead you have real live people reading real live books and making real live decisions about them. Walk into an indie bookstore and you’ll see shelves populated with books based upon judgment calls and personal taste. I’m lucky enough to have three in my Atlanta neighborhood. One, A Capella, is going to be stacked chest-high with glossy literary hardbacks that I’ll pick up and heft in my hand and wish I’d written. Down the street, Charis, is going to offer lots of titles that empower women. And if I want someone to recommend to me the hottest kids books, I’m going to head to the Little Shop of Stories.
None have an algorithm to tell you in advance what you will like. You have to go inside. You have to pick up the books, hold them in your hands and riffle through the pages. You might find a different road. It may not make all the difference, but it will make some.
JULIA FRANKS has roots in the Appalachian Mountains and has spent years kayaking the rivers and creeks of Tennessee, North Carolina, and West Virginia. She lives in Atlanta, where she teaches literature and runs loosecanon.com, a web service that fosters free-choice reading in the classroom. Her novel, Among the Plain Houses (Hub City Press) was released in May, 2016 and is a SIBA Spring Okra Pick.
- Published: 02 May 2016
April 14, 2016
To The Honorable Governor Pat McCrory and members of the North Carolina General Assembly,
As the owners and managers of independent bookstores, part of our mission is to provide that “third place”, an additional public space other than home or work where folks can gather to discuss issues important to our community. Ray Oldenburg, in his book, The Great Good Place, “argues that "third places… are the heart of a community's social vitality and the grassroots of democracy.” As independent bookstores providing that third place in communities across our state, we believe it is essential to be non-discriminatory, inclusive and tolerant, to promote freedom of speech and equality, and to guard against censorship and unfair treatment.
Another part of our mission is to be profitable; to allow ourselves and our employees to earn a respectable living. What both of these mission statements share is the need for people to visit our stores and become customers. Authors have already started to cancel appearances at North Carolina bookstores over what the ACLU describes
as “the most extreme anti-LGBT measure in the country.” This can and will have a real negative impact on our businesses. It doesn’t make sense, financially or otherwise, to choose discrimination over inclusion. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what lawmakers have done by passing HB2.
Company after company is withdrawing from doing business in NC until this legislation is repealed. Retailers and others are already feeling the economic impact of this legislation and we are sure, because of the momentum behind more businesses, conferences, artists, rock stars, authors, and ordinary citizens choosing places other than North Carolina to spend their vacations, the worst financial impact is yet to come.
Small Business Majority’s polling found 67 percent of North Carolina’s entrepreneurs believe North Carolina should have a law prohibiting employment discrimination against LGBT people. Nationally, two-thirds of small businesses say business owners shouldn’t be able to deny goods or services to LGBT individuals. (more info on this polling is here:http://smallbusinessmajority.com/small-business-research/non-discrimination/index.php)
For North Carolina, the choice between small businesses and discrimination should be clear. We hope our lawmakers make the right decision and repeal HB2.
All Booked Up, Apex
Blue Ridge Books, Waynesville
Books to be Red, Ocracoke
Books Unlimited, Fayetteville
Buxton Village Books, Buxton
C. Clayton Thompson – Booksellers, Boone
City Lights Bookstore, Sylva
Downtown Books, Manteo
Ducks Cottage Coffee & Books, Duck
Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill
Letters Bookshop, Durham
Malaprop's Bookstore & Cafe, Asheville
McIntyre's Fine Books, Pittsboro
Novels & Novelties Bookstore, Hendersonville
Page 158 Books, Wake Forest
Pomegranate Books, Wilmington
Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh
Quarter Moon Bookstore, Topsail Beach
Regulator Bookshop, Durham
Scuppernong Books, Greensboro
Scuttlebutt Nautical Books & Bounty, Beaufort
Spellbound Children's Bookshop, Asheville
Sunrise Books, High Point
The Book Shelf, Tryon
The Coffeehound Bookshop, Louisburg
The Dollar Book Exchange, Raleigh
The Island Bookstore, Corolla
The Island Bookstore, Duck
The Island Bookstore, Kitty Hawk
The Red Door, Saxapahaw
Uprising Coffee and Books, Eden
Algonquin Books, a division of Workman Publishing, Chapel Hill & NYC
Eno Publishers, Hillsborough
John F. Blair Publisher, Winston-Salem
- Published: 15 April 2016
On a spring morning, a community of writers, readers, politicians and residents bid farewell to the beloved bookseller Nancy Olson, who died of kidney disease on March 27, 2016.
Olson was the founder and owner of Quail Ridge Books for 29 years until she sold it in 2013. In 2001, she was named Publishers Weekly’s Bookseller of the Year. Her business savvy and knack of picking bestsellers earned her a local and national reputation as running one of the best independent bookstores in the country.
As photographs flashed on a screen of Olson with her trademark white pageboy hairstyle and mischievous smile during her memorial service, a steady flow of literary and political figures filled the seats of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in west Raleigh, just a short distance from the former location of Quail Ridge Books. The store has moved to North Hills in Raleigh.
Family and friends from near and far came to honor Olson, who found a way to thrive as the bookselling business shifted from bricks and mortar stores to online retailers. She created a community gathering place, where readers and writers came together to get informed, buy books and hang out.
While Olson attended booksellers conferences, she always followed her own instinct as an avid reader and an astute observer of the community she served. “She believed the bookstore should stand on the side of literature, not commercial writing,” says Sarah Goddin, the store’s longtime store manager.
“Even though she held strong political view, she believed the store should not take a political stand because she wanted everyone to feel comfortable in the store and to be able to explore any ideas, regardless of their beliefs,” Goddin says. “She believed in hosting authors with widely divergent views and respecting that her customers could make up their own minds and do it better if they had an opportunity to hear from many different perspectives.”
“Nancy also believed strongly in good old hospitality, greeting everyone who walked in the door and helping them to the full extent possible,” Goddin says.
Olson was fan of many writers but she especially championed the local ones: Lee Smith, Kaye Gibbons, Angela Davis-Gardner, and Clyde Edgerton. The first signing at her original Books at Quail Corners was for Jill McCorkle of Hillsborough. She sold 6,000 copies of Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.
Frazier recalled during the service thinking that Olson’s store was a club of sorts. And that her customers were club members who all seemed to know each other’s names. And Nancy seemed to know all of them and the exact book they were looking for.
In short, the narrative was the same. Nancy Olson touched more lives and enriched them than most of us. She did it with wit and if you were lucky, a good book.
Bridgette A. Lacy is an award-winning journalist with a public love affair with food and culture. She authored a column “Morsels” for The News & Observer in Raleigh for many years and writes about food, chefs and culinary trends for The Independent Weekly and the North Carolina Arts Council. She's now the author of Sunday Dinner, a part of the Savor the South series by UNC Press and a finalist for the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize
- Published: 12 April 2016
(Columbia, SC) – The votes are in! Southern indie booksellers have chosen the finalists for the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize. Formerly known as the SIBA Book Award, the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize features an expanded list of categories – adding Mystery, Thriller, Literary, and History & Life Stories to the traditional categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Cooking, Children’s and Young Adult.
Finalists were chosen by southern independent booksellers from the long list ballot. The finalist titles will be sent to juried panels of booksellers, who will then decide on the winners in each category. Winners will be announced on July 4, “Independents Day.”
2016 Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize Finalists
GO SET A WATCHMAN | Harper Lee | Harper | 9780062409850
SOIL | Jamie Kornegay | Simon & Schuster | 9781476750811
MY SUNSHINE AWAY | M. O. Walsh | G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 9780399169526
THE SECRET WISDOM OF THE EARTH | Christopher Scotton | Grand Central Publishing | 9781455551927
MISS JULIA LAYS DOWN THE LAW | Ann B. Ross | Viking | 9780525427094
A PATTERN OF LIES | Charles Todd | William Morrow & Company | 9780062386243
BULL MOUNTAIN | Brian Panowich | G.P. Putnam’s Sons | 9780399173967
DON’T GO HOME | Carolyn Hart | Berkley Books | 9780425276549
LOWCOUNTRY BONEYARD | Susan M. Boyer | Henery Press | 9781941962473
WHERE ALL LIGHT TENDS TO GO | David Joy | G.P. Putnam’s Sons | 9780399172779
THE BONE TREE | Greg Iles | William Morrow & Company | 9780062311115
DESCENT | Tim Johnston | Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill | 9781616204778
ROGUE LAWYER | John Grisham | Doubleday Books | 9780385539432
THE SCRIBE | Matthew Guinn | W.W. Norton & Company | 9780393239294
ABOVE THE WATERFALL | Ron Rash | Ecco Press | 9780062349316
WELCOME TO BRAGGSVILLE | T. Geronimo Johnson | William Morrow & Company | 9780062302120
THE NEW & IMPROVED ROMIE FUTCH | Julia Elliott | Tin House Books | 9781941040157
CALLOUSTOWN | George Singleton | Dzanc Books | 9781938103162
DISPATCHES FROM PLUTO: LOST AND FOUND IN THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA | Richard Grant | Simon & Schuster | 9781476709642
LEAVING ORBIT: NOTES FROM THE LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN SPACEFLIGHT | Margaret Lazarus Dean | Graywolf Press | 9781555977092
MY SOUTHERN JOURNEY: TRUE STORIES FROM THE HEART OF THE SOUTH | Rick Bragg | Oxmoor House | 9780848746391
OUR ONLY WORLD: TEN ESSAYS | Wendell Berry | Counterpoint LLC | 9781619024885
THE WORLD IS ON FIRE: SCRAP, TREASURE, AND SONGS OF APOCALYPSE | Joni Tevis | Milkweed Editions | 9781571313478
BAREFOOT TO AVALON: A BROTHER'S STORY | David Payne | Atlantic Monthly Press | 9780802123541
JACKSONLAND: PRESIDENT ANDREW JACKSON, CHEROKEE JOHN ROSS, AND A GREAT AMERICAN LAND GRAB | Steve Inskeep | Penguin Press | 9781594205569
DON’T SUCK, DON’T DIE: GIVING UP VIC CHESNUTT | Kristin Hersh | University of Texas Press | 9780292759473
SAM PHILLIPS: THE MAN WHO INVENTED ROCK ‘N’ ROLL | Peter Guralnick | Little Brown and Company | 9780316042741
THE WORLD’S LARGEST MAN: A MEMOIR | Harrison Scott Key | Harper | 9780062351494
FOSTER’S MARKET FAVORITES: 25th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION | Sara Foster | Story Farm | 9780990520573
THE SOUTHERNER’S COOKBOOK: RECIPES, WISDOM, AND STORIES | the editors of Garden & Gun | Harper Wave | 9780062242419
SUNDAY DINNER: A SAVOR THE SOUTH COOKBOOK | Bridgette A. Lacy | University of North Carolina Press | 9781469622453
THE JEMIMA CODE: TWO CENTURIES OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN COOKBOOKS | Toni Tipton-Martin | University of Texas Press | 9780292745483
SOUL FOOD LOVE: HEALTHY RECIPES INSPIRED BY ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF COOKING IN A BLACK FAMILY | Alice Randall | Clarkson Potter Publishers | 9780804137935
HAMSTER PRINCESS: OF MICE AND MAGIC | Ursula Vernon | Dial Books | 9780803739840
SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK | ROBERT BEATTY | DISNEY-HYPERION | 9781484709016
YARD WAR | Taylor Kitchings | Wendy Lamb Books | 9780553507539
SEEDS OF FREEDOM: THE PEACEFUL INTEGRATION OF HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA | Hester Bass | Candlewick | 9780763669195
ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN | Will Walton | Push | 9780545709545
THE ODDS OF GETTING EVEN | Sheila Turnage | Kathy Dawson Books | 9780803739611
MOSQUITOLAND | David Arnold | Viking Books for Young Readers | 9780451470775
THE WRATH AND THE DAWN | Renee Ahdieh | G.P. Putnam’s Sons | 9780399171611
For more information about the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize,
- Published: 08 April 2016
While the saying “it takes a village” was popularized some years ago, but the residents of Powder Springs, Georgia believe the refrain should be “it takes a book store.” One book store in particular: The Book Worm.
For over a decade Susan Smelser’s independent book store has occupied a prominent spot in the heart of our community. It’s a popular place, drawing locals and visitors alike, some from as far away as Cumming, Newnan, and Conyers.
Take one step inside and you’ll know why. Books line the floor-to-ceiling shelves on every wall and here and there a cozy overstuffed chair waits for anyone who wants to linger. “But there’s a method to the madness,” Susan says. She and a tireless staff keep everything where it should be, whether it’s new or old, a novel or nonfiction, a children’s book, a book of true crime, science fiction, inspiration, or mystery. And if by chance the Book Worm doesn’t have exactly what you are looking for among its 30,000 titles, Susan will find it for you.
Finding long sought books for customers has been Susan’s trademark. That, along with her dedication to serving her customers. It’s not just lip service. Everyone gives the store high marks for friendliness and helpfulness.
In 2005, Susan’s online book business had outgrown her garage. She drew on her years of retail business experience to create a solid business plan and then bought the building housing the former Main Street Antiques at 4451 Marietta Street. Soon, she discovered she had a knack for “hand selling” books and making people happy and the business turned a profit in its first quarter of operation.
Ten years later, she still treasures the squeals of delight when a young reader visits the store for the first time, or seeing the smile on the face of a customer finding a favorite, rare, or out-of-print book. And then, there’s the smile she can’t see, on the face of a soldier far from home who just received one of the many books the store donated.
Even as society embraced ebooks and ereaders and some traditional “big box” book stores across the country closed, the Book Worm thrived. “What’s more,” Susan says, citing statistics from a recent industry conference, “there’s good news. Independent book stores like the Book Worm are making a comeback.” People are flocking to these inviting nooks where they find friendly faces and people who share their love of reading.
To this happy story, however, we add a footnote. After Susan and her husband Steven together lost a total of 280 pounds, she is embarking on a new direction. She’s now working as a health coach, where she says she’ll be able to make an even bigger difference in changing people’s lives.
It’s a calling she can’t refuse, but it’s a full time job.
Eventually, Susan decided to put the Book Worm’s charming building up for sale. While the realtor works to sell the building, Susan is searches for another book lover who wants to continue the book business. When asked what type of person she’s looking for Susan says, “Above all, someone who has their heart in the community. Merchants in Powder Springs are a close-knit group. We’re all just two doors down.” She also hopes that whoever takes on the Book Worm will continue to help customers track what they’ve read, offer credit for book trade-ins, and donate books to community groups.
While we wish Susan well in her new endeavors, we suspect she’ll be spotted from time reading a book or two in the comfy red chair in the back room.
To inquire about purchasing the building contact Delain Climmons at 770-891-5403. For information about The Book Worm Bookstore, contact Susan Smelser at 770-605-7323. thebookwormonline.com
Rona Simmons lives and works in Atlanta. Her freelance projects include biographies and articles for various publication. She is also the author of a short story collection, and the novels The Quiet Room and Postcards from Wonderland, Deeds Publishing.
- Published: 04 April 2016
A basket full of Spring 2016 Okra Picks!
(Columbia, SC) – Spring may be the time to plant, but Southern indie booksellers are already harvesting a new crop of Okra Picks. The 2016 Spring Okra Picks have just been selected–a basketful of a dozen great books representing the best in forthcoming southern lit, according to the people who would know–Southern independent booksellers.
All the picks have a strong Southern focus and are publishing between April and June, 2016, and all have fans among Southern indie booksellers; people who are always looking out for the next great writer who should be on your plate and in your TBR stack. So the next time you visit your local Southern indie bookstore, expect someone to hand you one and say, “You’ve got to read this!” Read them before they hit the bestseller lists and impress your friends with your impeccable taste and literary savvy!
The 2016 Spring Okra Picks
Lies and Other Acts of Love
by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Berkley Books, April 2016
Chasing the North Star
by Robert Morgan
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, April 2016
by Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press, April 2016
Juvenile Fiction, 9780763681173
The Other Widow
by Susan Crawford
William Morrow & Company, April 2016
Julia Reed's South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long
by Julia Reed
Rizzoli International Publications, April 2016
Over the Plain Houses
by Julia Franks
Hub City Press, May 2016
by John Hart
Thomas Dunne Books, May 2016
Lily and Dunkin
by Donna Gephart
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, May 2016
Juvenile Fiction, 9780553536744
Highly Illogical Behavior
by John Corey Whaley
Dial Books, May 2016
Juvenile Fiction, 9780525428183
Last Ride to Graceland
by Kim Wright
Gallery Books, May 2016
Field of Graves
by J.T. Ellison
Mira Books, June 2016
A Thousand Miles from Nowhere
by John Gregory Brown
Lee Boudreaux Books, June 2016
Okra Picks are chosen every season by Southern Independent Bookstores. For more information visit sibaweb.com/okra.
- Published: 01 April 2016
A few nights ago, I attended a signing at the wonderful Parnassus Books in Nashville. The signing author was Ariel Lawhon, who was launching her brilliant story chronicling the doomed flight of the Hindenburg, Flight of Dreams. As Ariel and I hugged and kissed hello, bookseller extraordinaire Bill Long-Innes smiled benevolently and asked, “Do you guys have a writer tribe? It seems like Nashville authors really make an effort to support one another. I wonder if any other cities have such a tight knit group?”
Ariel and I nodded, because we do have a tribe here in Nashville.
Our literary community, dubbed the Nashville Literati, is tight. There are cliques within it‑young adult writers in the SCBWI, crime fiction in Sisters in Crime, romance writers in MCWR, literary authors big with Salon 615 and Humanities Tennessee and The Porch Writers’ Collective. But when it comes to supporting another author, we cross genres like a boss. We lunch together. We attend each other’s signings. We hang out in East Nashville at East Side Storytellin’. We pull together all our writing buddies when a writer friend comes to town. We even go on writing retreats together.
And now one constant we all have in common is our indie store, Parnassus. I think the store’s staff has made it such a welcoming, open place for writers of all genres, of all stripes, that we can’t help but want to gather there.
When our beloved former indie, Davis-Kidd, closed its doors in 2010 (and Parnassus didn’t yet exist), it suddenly became much harder to get everyone together. We have the annual Southern Festival of Books, which is always well-represented with local authors. We did lunches and cocktails, drove out to other counties to attend signings, but not having an indie store that represented and celebrated all the writers in town was hard. A town without an indie store is a sad one indeed. It’s been very fun to watch Parnassus take hold in our community, to see stories being made there.
Davis-Kidd had a long history in this town. As a matter of fact, it was one of the reasons I was okay with moving here. When my then boyfriend (now husband) brought me to Nashville in 1993 to meet his parents, he drove me around, and our last stop was Davis-Kidd. “See?” he said. “This is the best bookstore in town. You’ll have plenty to read if we ever move here.”
(I’m not sure if I was more entranced by the idea of books‑books!—or the fact that my boyfriend had just hinted strongly he wanted a long future with me.)
Davis-Kidd was everything you could ask for in a bookstore: great staff, great events, a huge, diverse collection of titles. I attended my very first author signing there (John Connolly! My writing hero!). At that signing, I met a woman who became my other mother, who mentored me through years of writing, getting an agent, getting a deal. I did one of my first signings at David-Kidd. I hit my first bestseller list while I was launching my fourth book there. I attended Sisters in Crime meetings there. I wept with everyone else when it closed.
So to have an indie in our midst again is incredible. The Nashville Literati grows stronger day-by-day, with new writers coming up to join the established ones. And Parnassus is our hub. Several writers are booksellers there (And one co-owns it. You might have heard of her . . . her name is Ann.). This lends a verisimilitude unmatched anywhere else.
Yes, Nashville has a writer tribe, just as strong as Chicago, New York, and L.A. And thanks to our favorite indie, we have a place to call our own, too.
Writer J.T. Ellison lives and writes in Nashville, Tennessee. She is the New York Times bestselling author of fifteen critically acclaimed novels, including WHAT LIES BEHIND, WHEN SHADOWS FALL, and ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS, and is the coauthor of the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Her latest novel, NO ONE KNOWS, is available March 22.
- Published: 20 March 2016