Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas is coming, the books are getting fat!

I am ALL about this time of year. Starting in fall, with the crisp air and beautiful colors, I do my best to slow time down so I can savor every day up until New Year's. Christmas, Hanukkah, Halloween, Thanksgiving, I love every single moment of it!

Now, at 10 days to Christmas, I'm doing my best to race through the rest of my holiday knitting (I may not make this year... I think my family and friends will forgive me...) and buying gifts and getting packages to the post office.

Books are my favorite gifts to give, along with hand knitted items, usually a scarf, hat, or cowl. I love considering which yarn and pattern to use that my closest loved ones will enjoy, that will flatter them when they wear it. Plus, handmade gifts mean a little more, I think. Anyone can go out and buy the latest electronic gadget (and I do, will, and have given those! Happily, I might add.). But handmade gifts say that the giver thought about the givee and put a lot of time and effort into the process.

I think books carry a very special significance as well. And not just because I have a self professed bibliophile, but because the giving of books is also very personal. The giver has to consider what their givee likes, what they're interested in. A gifted book says that the giver considered the givee's personality, hobbies, and joys in life. A book looks like a very simple gift, just a little rectangle with some (hopefully pretty) cover art. But between those pages lives characters and stories and cultures and worlds of joy and information and enchantment. A person who gives a book, especially to a child, is not giving them a pile of pages. They are giving them a bit of our culture, oral history, and a heap of magic. Even those books about real world events carry magic between their pages. They take the reader to another time, another place. One that reader might not ever be able to visit. If that's not magic, I don't know what is.

In Iceland, the traditional Christmas gift is, in fact, a book. The country calls it Jolabokaflod, or the Christmas Book Flood. (Just take in that visual for a moment... a flood of books!) This tradition stems back for years, and is one that almost every citizen looks forward to. On Christmas Eve, books are gifted to friends and family, and then the rest of the night is spent reading. What a spectacular cultural tradition! It reminds me of when I used to stay up all Christmas Eve with my sister, reading to her from our favorite holiday books because we were too excited to sleep.

So, this holiday season consider giving the gift of a book. And I'm not saying that just to pull people into my store. Really and truly, consider what you are giving a person when you give them a book. Christmas is a'coming, and the indie bookstores are ready and waiting to help you find the perfect literary gift!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why a literary angel tree? Why Seattle Children's Hospital?

Since opening The Neverending Bookshop, I have been busier than any other point in my life. Except maybe college, and that was a different sort of environment. The store is an amazing, ever growing entity. I can't wait to see what it is like a year from now, when it and I really have had time to flourish. In the meantime, there was one, very special project I wanted to launch this year, despite being a new business. I wanted to set up a literary angel tree to benefit Seattle Children's Hospital.

Many years ago, 31 almost 32 to be sort of exact, I as born with a rare spinal birth defect. I was diagnosed at two weeks old, and subsequently spent time at Children's, though it is now a very different hospital that it was three decades ago. Technology, both medical and social, has changed, and Children's has changed with it. As a toddler, I actually spent Christmas Eve at Children's after one of my first operations to fix some of the damage done by my birth defect. I went home Christmas morning, and I only have vague recollections of this hospital visit. It blends in with all of the others. But one thing I do remember quite strongly is Santa coming for a visit with presents.

Being confined to bed so often after surgeries was one of the catalysts that led me to become such a massive bookworm. My parents, both smart and funny and encouraging, were more than happy to buy books and read to my sister and me. I loved reading about characters who overcame their circumstances. These stories made it microscopically easier to handle what I was going through. I could become lost in the pages of a good novel, follow the characters as they fought and won through their own battles. Science fiction and fantasy quickly emerged as my favorite kinds of books.

These reasons are important for you, dear reader, to understand why it is so important to me to bring books to Seattle Children's during this holiday season. It is a way for me to help, to comfort, from afar, those children and teens who are fighting through their own struggles. I can't understand these individual battles, but I do sympathize with them.

Please consider stopping in at The Neverending Bookshop, Third Place Books, or Queen Anne Book Company between now and December 20th to pick up a tag and donate a book for a patient at Children's Hospital. Because:

why not?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Day 13 at The Neverending Bookshop

It's day 13 here at the store, and I'm still loving every moment. Even though it has only been 13 days, I can't imagine a time when I wasn't here, in this awesome space, steeping in books. Of course, I'm loving every minute differently... Some moments, I love that I'm the sole owner of a bookstore and can set my own schedule within the store. Other moments, I love the memories from when I worked with a staff of 35 or more people at Third Place Books. It helps keep the loneliness at bay.

That was something I had considered when I first decided to open my own store, all by my booksellery self. That I would be on my own every day, with no back up, no co-workers, no managers to help with the occasional challenging customer. No one to cover if I were to get sick. I miss my friends at Third Place Books, giggling with them in the backroom over book covers and cute new pets books.

But I'm also so happy to be running my own shop. That has far and away outweighed the occasional bought of loneliness I've felt. My upstairs neighbor (a graphic artist), is very friendly and stops in with her baby almost every day. My landlady is a very sweet, elderly woman who likes to stop in and see how I'm doing.

And, of course, the members of the Bothell community that have stopped in are all full of joy and happiness at having me here. That, above all, brings so much joy to each and every day I'm in the shop.

Today's featured book!
During some of my quieter moments, I've been working on ways to get the word out even more about The Neverending Bookshop. Today I launched my Featured Daily Book on the social webs, which will promote a new book I have for sale every day. I also have an Etsy page, where I'm selling my handcrafted scarves and cowls. I've almost always got my knitting with me at the store, and I welcome local crafters to stop in and talk about their projects!

I also have the bits and pieces of a website!! It's very exciting, though definitely a work in progress. You can view it at www.theneverendingbookshop.com. My awesome friend Jordan has helped me set it up, and I am eternally grateful to him and his computer prowess.

So, now, the eternal question in retail: What would you like to see out of your local bookstore, Bothell? What am I not doing that you wish to see? How can I serve your literary needs? Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions below! I'm always open to new ideas!

Happy reading all!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

...And then there was a bookstore!

After all of the hard work, stress, and tears, the end product is beautiful. The Neverending Bookshop is open! This last Saturday was my opening and the store was hopping. Sunday was quieter but I expected that. Saturday was launch day. All of my friends and family were there, and Sunday was all community and some friends.

It was so special and spectacular to unlock the door to my own store. To vacuum and wipe down the bathroom and open the door to customers. Customers for my space! How incredible to take care of my own shop, even the not-so-fun chores like vacuuming and bathroom maintenance.

It still doesn't feel quite real. Like I'm dreaming it all, and I'll wake up tomorrow and it will have all been an amazing, vivid dreamscape. I look around my shop and think "these books make this place look like my livingroom." Which says a lot about the state of my house (drowning in books). But people off the street walk in and look around with smiles and say "this looks wonderful, thank goodness you're here! Bothell has needed a bookstore for a really long time."

So as I mentioned before, Saturday was very busy, but the days since have been slow. As I expected. To encourage people in coming by, I'm organizing some events this week! On Thursday at 5 p.m. I'm planning on a crafting meet up. If you have a portable craft, bring it by! Friday at 6 p.m. I'm hoping for nerdy types as I'd love to have a science fiction book group meet here one Friday a month. And Sunday, of course, launches National Novel Writing Month, or Nanowrimo, and I'm hosting write-ins Wednesdays at 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m., starting this Sunday. I'll be participating this year for the seventh year in a row.

I'm bursting with excitement and happiness now that the store is a physical thing I can work in and on. I have a regular schedule again, which makes me a very happy person. There are still stressful moments (like trying to program a discount into my freaking cash register is like beating my skull against a brick wall...), but now that the store is up and running, I'm so happy that the stress sort of fades to the background.

I hope you come visit me in my new store. It's small, and the shelves are a bit patchy as far as book selection goes, but it's a happy, positive space to spend some time browsing and talking books with me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Book groups, writers' groups, knitting groups, oh my!

We're T-minus 11 days from the opening of The Neverending Bookshop! And while my palms get sweaty every time I think about the store being in several pieces and places (bookshelf construction in the space, books in my garage, ideas running so rampant through my head I can't keep track of them), I do hold on to the fact that I'll be able to host groups in the space almost as soon as I open my doors. Or door, rather, since there's only one.

I'm so excited to create a book group, invite writers in, and have cozy knitting going on in my brand new bookstore. When I first had the idea to open a bookstore earlier this year, the first thing I pictured in my as-yet unknown space was a group of happy people, sitting around a table, knitting and talking about books. It filled me with such joy and fuzzy feelings, I had to follow through just to see that dream realized.

I also daydreamed about having my own National Novel Writing Month write-ins in the space, and come this November, that will be a reality as well! On Wednesdays, from 5 p.m. until close, and Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m., I'll be hosting official Nanowrimo write-ins for all of your Wrimo-ing needs!

Just picture yourself, happily settled around a table with a cup of tea or coffee, talking about your favorite read. Doesn't that sound amazing? Or working on your next sweater or shawl project while surrounded by lovely literature? Working on the next book that will fill the shelves of The Neverending Bookshop? Doesn't that sound amazing? It's one of the perks I'm offering with this new space, and I'm focusing not just on creating beautiful bookcases and a well cultivated inventory, but also a place people want to be social in.

That's a big part of of bookstores, and my store specifically. Creating a space where people feel like they can gather and have fun, intelligent conversations and meet new people.

So I invite all of you book worms, hopeful authors, and premier knitters to stop by in my first week of business, and let's talk about how The Neverending Bookshop and I can provide you with a space for book groups, writers' groups, and knitting groups. See you all in a week and a half!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Financing a love of literature

In the last two days, I've put two things together that are the hardest part yet of opening The Neverending Bookshop. They are an Etsy shop (https://www.etsy.com/shop/NeverendingKnitting) and a GoFundMe account (https://www.gofundme.com/ub59cjzk).

Why is this so hard, you might be asking yourself. Well, it's because I'm asking for help. And I'm asking for money.

I never ask for help. And I never, ever ask for money.

I have a very hard time asking for help. Mostly because I'm offered help all the time when I don't actually need it. Visually, I look like I'm about to tip over at any moment. Many people who don't know me at all are very concerned for my well-being - for example, my ability to open a door or lift something heavy. Through the years of politely waving off offers of assistance, I have a developed a bit of a complex about asking for help. It's very embarrassing for me to ask, even someone very close to me like my parents, husband, or friends. I really don't need help most of the time, even when I'm whining at my husband that I do. He knows I don't, and usually makes me do whatever I'm asking myself. As significant others are wont to do.

My reaching out to you through social media, in person, and through other networking mediums, is kind of a big deal for me. Especially because I'm asking for money.

When I decided to become a bookseller at the age of 15, I already knew that it would not be a career path full of money. Many authors have second jobs. Some live in poverty for their art. I've rarely heard of an average bookstore owner driving a fancy car, or buying a multi-million dollar house. I have no doubt those bookstore owners do exist (Powell's, The Strand, etc.), but most booksellers don't get into the literary business with money in mind. They do it because they love literature, each and every bookseller in a different way, but that combined love overshadows the love of financial gain.

I do not expect to make a lot of money with my store. Hopefully enough so it is sustainable, and enough for groceries and to feed my personal book habits. But the reason I'm opening The Neverending Bookshop is not for monetary gain. It is to spread the love of books and reading to the Bothell community and beyond. It is to share my joy at the latest Young Adult or Science Fiction novel It is to encourage readers and writers young and old to embark on their next adventure.

However, to get started, The Neverending Bookshop does need an infusion of funding. I've made the personal decision to not pursue loans at this moment in the store's inception. That might possibly change. But I'm hoping and counting on the kindness of my friends and of strangers to get the store off the ground.

I'm asking for help, that rare thing that many people outside my inner circle have rarely witnessed. Please help me in launching my dream by donating to my GoFundMe account or purchasing from my Etsy shop!

(Here is a video that helps explain my request!)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hitting the wall... and finding the other side

So far, in this blog, I have written about my experiences in opening a bookstore. I haven't yet shared too much about myself personally, and I haven't shared much with regards to the stress involved in a project like this. I may have mentioned it, but I'm really good at paving over whatever stress I'm feeling.

I'm really good at doing that.

Then something small will come along, and it's the lit piece of straw that sets off the entire bomb, blowing that smooth road all to hell. It usually blows up at those closest to me, and then at myself. Why am I not doing more? How am I not working harder on this project? When in reality, it's just the mess of stressful thoughts that have already been swirling around my mind for the last several weeks.
My amazing family unit!

This is a cycle that has gone on essentially since I was a child. Mixed in with the "normal" stress of puberty, body image issues, bullying, and classroom/home life, I also has the extra strain of numerous surgeries from a rare spinal birth defect. I won't begin to say I've fully recovered from those years of screaming tantrums and fights with my mom and dad that my sister often witnessed. But time does shade over them, and brings with it maturity and wisdom. And forgiveness. As an adult, my parents and sister and I have had numerous talks about those years and the pain and fury I felt and inflicted.

Chemo me, circa summer 2008. I'm reading the YA novel "Carpe Diem."
I won't say it was easier to cope with scary, scary cancer as a 24-year-old, but again with growing up comes maturity. Despite the 13 surgeries I had already gone through - some of them pretty terrifying in nature - I had come out of that experience a (mostly) happy and content young adult who was ready to explore the world. The rage I felt at the universe, God, Gaia, whatever deity or science that created those tumors in my body ignited in me both fury and a fiery need to live. I HAD NOT gone through everything as a child and teenager JUST to be brought down by another, unrelated disease.

This battle, now six and a half years behind me, brought its own stresses, blow ups, and triumphs. In the last year or so - when I finally started really feeling strong in body, mind, and spirit, rather like that plucky 20-year-old version of myself- I began to dream of what I would do with my life.

The answer was so easy. Books. Books have been, from day one, something I've clung to, to see past the scary. Past the darkness in myself. I could see the goodness in characters, and if these characters were battling (and winning!) big, scary circumstances like I was, I could surely rise up and conquer whatever was in my way. The wall. The wall I hit every time I had a tantrum, a blow up, a fight with a loved one. On the other side of the wall, there were tears, but also hugs and reassurances of love.

Yesterday, I hit my wall with opening this store. I said a lot of things like "this just isn't worth it" and "I should just set this down, walk away" minus an expletive or five. I yelled at my husband, who took the brunt of it and then started helping me brainstorm. Who assured me that under no uncertain terms would I be able to let myself walk away. That this is important. The Neverending Bookshop is already a part of my life, and while large parts of it are currently in other people's hands, this bookstore feels like the culmination of what I've been working on throughout my life.

World Book Night 2014 with friends.
I hit the wall yesterday, and now I'm on the other side. Who knows what's waiting for me over here. I hope it's strength and guidance and love and silliness. I think that's all anyone can hope to find on the other side of life's wall.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Painting, party of 12?

My husband, wielding painter's tape.
In my ongoing quest to open my own bookstore, I have now secured myself a space and it's been painted! Yesterday, a group of my plucky friends and family got together and slapped a new coat of paint on my future bookstore space.

My husband and I got there early, donuts in hand, and started taping off all of the doors and outlets so that when everyone else showed up, we could get straight to work. Shortly thereafter, we discovered all of the items we needed and did not have, and my parents arrived just in time for me to go racing off with my mom to fetch such items. Really, it was just so fetch. (See what I did there? See, see?) By the time we returned from our outing for more supplies, everyone else had shown up, and the painting was already underway.
The best "before" picture.

The space is roughly 560 square feet and, if you can believe it, housed a wine-tasting bar and bistro until December 2014. The paint job the former tenants had applied would definitely work for an intimate, adorable bistro with candles on the table and low lighting. But wouldn't work as well for a cheerful, cozy little bookstore where the community comes to browse used books. The previous business had put in some nice touches, like a tiny stage under the only window, and really nice fake wainscoting along the long wall. Most of which, let's be honest, will be covered up by bookcases.

Besties being silly!
The colors I decided on, after comparing a few with the red ceiling - again painted by the previous tenants - were Ice Rink Blue and Zanzibar Spice. So very light blue and a darkish tan color. Together with the red ceiling, they brightened up the small space considerably. So even on the darkest of days, overcast and rainy, The Neverending Bookshop should hopefully shine as a beacon of cozy through the hypothetical storm. 

One of the better "after" pictures.
I suppose that's some quite dramatic wording there, but the lighter paint did help brighten up the store space and make it seem bigger. The light fixtures are not in yet, so the light was limited, but as we covered up the old, dark paint - jiving to Michael Jackson and Imagine Dragons - the bookstore began to really take shape. At least for me. And having the laughter and goofiness of my friends and family as they painted, yet again reminded me that opening a business is not the undertaking of just one person. Everyone around you whom you love and respect pooling their wonderful positive energy to help with your goal is the most powerful and amazing things to witness. Despite being the owner and only employee of my shop, I am clearly not launching into this alone. Thank goodness.

Monday, September 7, 2015

...and then there was a SIGN

It's officially official. I signed my lease, forked over a huge amount of cash (it could have been higher, it really could have), and got my key. The space is still in the midst of being remodeled, but I have a painting party set, colors of paint actually picked out, AND a sudo "watch this space" sign in the otherwise papered-over window. It is the first of many signs. A dear friend of mine is even now working on my logo/sign image (which is turning out so, so adorable, I can't even!), but until then I have a very basic "bookstore coming soon" message up.

And with this sign, and every step I take (every move I make...), the store feels more and more real. I'm so freaked out that I'm doing this. But at the same time it just feels so natural to imagine myself in my own shop, ringing up books and chatting about authors with customers. That's because it's what I've been doing since I was 15. Possibly earlier than that, as I would yammer ad nauseam at the dinner table about whatever favorite author I had discovered that day. So while opening my own store comes with all of the anxiety and stress of being a small business owner, it is also a business I can do blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back. At least, the books part. Deal with the other parts - lost mail, a possibly incorrect address, business insurance, FINANCING, for the love of GOD finding inexpensive furniture - is all new, and somewhat panic-inducing. Thank all that is holy I have my amazing family and friends to fall back on when I start hyperventilating. Not to mention that image of me, standing behind my own counter, chatting about JA Jance or Sarah Dessen or John Scalzi. That's a pretty powerful image for me right now.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Building a bookstore

I'm finding, as with most things, it is taking a village to open a bookstore.

Let me back up. I am opening a bookstore! And soon! Probably in October! I'm so so excited to be able to write this news for all to read and rejoice in. For a long while I could only be excited around a select few. But now that I've given notice at my current job and I have a location, I feel safe in sharing this news with the world.

And what news it is! At the same time, I am completely exhausted and find myself a bit panicky, sort of like a small excited animal that isn't sure if it's happy or terrified. My days are full of to-do lists that look like:

*get business license
*call for insurance
*how much toilet paper for store bathroom?

No joke. These lists go on and on for miles, and I still don't feel like I'm getting everything done. I'm working hard at staying organized, and as a fairly Type A control freak, that's been semi-easy.

But it's really the village around me that is getting me through the panicky, hyperventilating moments in this process. Numerous people - including but not limited to my parents, my sister, my husband, my two bestest friends, all of my friends at work, friends in my life and on facebook, my dog and cats (cuddles totally help in panicked moments!), and random people I'm encountering on this amazing journey - have pitched in with their loving words, enthusiasm, and kind offers of help. I can't believe I've actually followed my dream all the way to this point, on the cusp of opening. I could not have done it with all of you. If you're reading this, that means you!