I admit, I’m a bit of a stalker when it comes to indie bookstores.
Whenever I visit a new city, the first place I look for is the nearest independent bookstore. I’ve even amassed quite a collection of bookmarks from The Tattered Cover in Denver, Crazy Wisdom in Ann Arbor and Shakespeare and Company in Paris.
It was in an indie bookstore in New Hope, Pennsylvania that I stumbled across a book called The New Diary by: Tristine Rainier. I had attempted to keep diaries over the years with many pages filled with the hastily scrawled words “forgot to write.” The obligation to write on every dated page was stifling. The New Diary opened up a new way of journal writing that was more spontaneous, deeper and even (gasp) fun. I began filling up blank pages with my words.
Then one day I was attending a seminar in Philadelphia. During the lunch break I browsed this amazing little bookstore off Sansom street. I can still see the table filled with this book called Writing Down the Bones. Just the title gave me goosebumps. I picked it up, stroking the image of ink spilling across the cover, already aware on some level that my life was about to change.
I began filling notebooks with what Natalie Goldberg called writing practice. Practice made it easier to approach. I wasn’t “writing.” I was practicing.
I was becoming a writer.
Of course, the flip side of writing is reading.
Indie bookstores have always been able to fill my voracious appetite for reading, often pointing me in new directions. My favorite indie bookstore, Changing Hands, is in Tempe, Arizona. When I lived there, I visited it at least once a week. Probably more. They had used books marked with stickers on the spine mixed in with the new, making the browsing much easier.
I remember walking in one day and telling one of the booksellers that a teacher wanted me to read more male writers. He grabbed a book off the shelf, opened it up, sat me in a chair and said, “Read this.” That was my first exposure to Tobias Wolff and his amazing story Bullet in the Brain.
Someone has to love literature, books and the power of reading to open an indie bookstore these days, which is what draws me in. It’s their passion not only for books, but for supporting writers, as well as creating and nurturing community that keeps me coming back.
So, on this National Indie Bookstore Day, Saturday, May 2 why not drop in on your local indie bookstore to support your passion and theirs, to thank them for persevering in a struggling economy and a climate that deems books are dead and to ask what they’ve been reading lately?
Maybe you’ll get nudged in a new direction and who knows where it will lead.
Author: Kim Haas
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock