Category Archives: shopsitting

Parkville Bookworm in Maryland needs our Help!

 

This is a guest blog from my friend Melissa, a fellow bookstore owner. Please, if you live near Baltimore, share this information. Thanks!
melissaMy name is Melissa Eisenmeier. I own the Parkville Bookworm, a used bookstore in the Baltimore, Maryland, suburbs. It’s the perfect job for me: I have to read books to recommend them to customers. I get to talk to and meet all kinds of interesting customers, from Kathryne, a fellow history junkie and cat lover; Alicia, who plays guitar, likes science, and Stan Lee, my staff cat; the lady who comes in with her husband once a week and recently told me her cat is Stan Lee’s girlfriend; and Karen, my outsource buyer(Jack and Wendy would likely call her the no-cash crew). I enjoy showcasing all the cool books out there. My customers seem to like the store, too; I often get told this.stan

 

Things were going fairly well in June, but I still wasn’t quite making enough to pay the bills. The past two months have kicked my butt, however. July and August, as I expected and tried to plan for, have been slower than I would like, and I quickly ran through what money I had set aside. I tried some different stuff to draw people in, from art shows to book clubs(the art show with Jenny O’Grady went over really well, and she was a lot of fun to have in the store).

 

When the credit union told my business partner she was at her limit, I knew I had to act fast. I didn’t want to close the bookstore, and we couldn’t borrow any more money. I decided to turn to my customers. I did the math, and figured out if I could get all 325 people or so who liked the bookstore’s Facebook page as of Thursday afternoon to come in and spend $10 by the end of the month, then I could make the rent, pay my assistant Lisa, and pay all my other bills.

 

stan leeThe Parkville Bookworm is located at 2300 E. Joppa Road in Parkville, MD. The store is located across from Taco Bell, and the entrance faces Ed an Jim’s Auto Body Shop. You can also find us on Facebook.

And of course I encourage you to support your local bookstore if you’re lucky enough to have one. Should you not, you can message the bookstore’s Facebook page with a short list of books, or send an Excel sheet or Google spreadsheet list to me at parkvillebookworm@gmail.com. If it’s in stock, I can mail it after we do a credit card transaction..

 

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Filed under animal rescue, bookstore management, Life reflections, publishing, reading, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, writing

Shopsitter Janelle says Farewell

We’re running a bit behind on timing because of the author humiliation contest – more entries posted Friday! This is our first shopsitter of the summer’s farewell post, and Kelly, our second shopsitter will be sending a post next week. (BTW, if you’re interested in shopsitting, we are looking for a week in October and a couple of weeks in December.)

Sadly, our shopsitting visit is soon coming to an end already.

We are excited about the potential of our final day sitting the shop, and we are tickled to have company coming for lunch tomorrow, too…folks that moved from our home area near Green Bay, Wisconsin, to Chuckey, Tennessee, several years ago. We just now realized how near to them we are while here.

To be honest, this shopsitting gig has been far more like a vacation than work. We have come to feel far more like family than “hired” help. And we have done more reading and relaxing than we have work. The latter I understand, I think. If I were home I’d find plenty to do (I’m pretty sure I have weeds waiting for me in my yard, taller than I am) but no matter how much work I invent for myself to do here (like re-organizing book stacks or putting sections of books back into alphabetical order or sweeping the front porch or doing dishes or laundry) I’ve still been getting to read and visit with guests (and Facebook) more than I would if I were at home this week.

And as for relaxing vacation, I’m not completely sure what to make of that, but I think it’s the Wendy factor. She has told her local people to make us feel welcome, and they sure have. We have been included in invitations to dinner and swim aerobics and church and told where the local walking/running trail is numerous times…and been included in pretty much all else that has gone on while we have been here. We have eaten nearly every meal offered (that will need to be addressed when we get home, too!) and, when I think about it, taken up very few of the exercise offers presented us. But Wendy threw out on Facebook that we wanted to do some local hiking, and after all sorts of suggestions for where we should/could go, kind friend Destiny simply said she would come and lead us, and she and her son Jack did!

I learned a lot while we were here; there is no question. I go home no less eager to one day have my own bookstore, no less eager to have Natalie bake and maybe cook for me like Kelley does in the Second Story Cafe here. Wendy and Kelley make that all look like a very easy, symbiotic relationship, not a “tough” job at all.

Wendy does, indeed, make it all look enjoyable and easy…although I do fear that I’d find in my own shop lots to do instead of this relaxed “I could do that” style. We prevented Wendy’s work from getting done sometimes with plenty of conversations, several good meals, a mutual glass of wine or bottle of beer here or there. Sometimes I really wanted her to go “make stuff,” assured that we could manage things here, and when she did, that’s when I felt I was contributing the most.

Otherwise, let’s be honest: I’d far prefer to hear her conversation with a guest to the shop–the exchange of local chit-chat, or updates on pet adoptions or procedures, or discussion of a new book, or valuing of books brought in for trade. If she wasn’t really “gone” from the shop, it was too easy for her to step in and do those things, and I seized the opportunities, then, to learn from the master.

I’ve very much enjoyed this adventure with my two youngest daughters, watching them melt kitten hearts and make new friends, devour books (Natalie stayed up until 2:40AM Saturday night…err, Sunday morning… finishing Water For Elephants, which she had started only the night before. It’s one of my all-time favorite books! How can I be upset with that activity?!) And I loved us getting to see, together, parts of the country we had not previously visited. Delaney’s determination to be THE one to get to “do the Square” any time a customer paid with a card or to be the one to take their cash, for that matter, showed me she has those super original cashier skills, communicating clearly and doing math in her head to make change (rather than NEED a cash register to do it for her). We go home with a new bond of mutual adventure and with many memories to share.

It’s like reading a book with someone, only better. The girls and I have shared a tremendous adventure, and I can only imagine how soon we’ll all talk about coming back! I imagine it will come up in the thirteen-hour ride home.Janelle on porch
Thanks for your hospitality, all. We have had a great time!

 

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Crossing the Topiary Chessmen off my Bucket List

The winners of the AUTHOR HUMILIATION CONTEST in the author category will be posted Friday. Meanwhile, enjoy Wendy’s adventures in Scotland!

Digital CameraI hadn’t seen my friend Bun in eight years, since leaving Scotland for the States. We used to run a storytelling club together, and like me she is an avid textile artist.

So when she said she had promised to take her mother on a garden tour Sunday afternoon (the only day I could see her) I–who can’t tell an onion from a lily–said sure, I’d tag along.

“Great!” Bun said. “It’s at Leuchars, Earlshall Castle.”

Could it be…? Leuchars was only a few miles from New Gilston, where Jack and I used to live in Scotland. As a bride my first year there, I’d tried several times to visit a famous garden in Leuchars, listed in the guidebook just before the new owner had shut it up and installed security cameras.

Digital CameraHot diggety! In one of those rare coincidences life sometimes hands out, I not only got to spend a happy hour with my friend Bun, but she led me straight to something I’d wanted to see for more than ten years: the Topiary Chessmen.

Hey, I don’t make comments about what’s on YOUR bucket list.

Digital CameraThe pieces are laid out in mid-play. Allegedly, one king is under some threat; to really appreciate their positioning, you have to view them from the tower window of the castle. As the family weren’t offering that option in their Open Garden for Charity day, Bun and I contented ourselves with running about screaming, “Oh, here’s a knight! This must be the queen! Look, that one’s a Dalek!” and generally acting like school children.

Digital CameraMost of the people attending had come straight from the Church of Scotland’s Sunday Service, and were dressed in expensive shoes, sweater sets, and suits. Bun was wearing a lot of her own handiwork, plus a poncho. I was wearing “tourism casual.” We attracted several stares.

Which made us cut up more. “You will be exterminated!” Bun intoned in front of a Dalek-esque pawn.

Digital Camera Digital CameraA man in a flat cap with tweed patches at his elbow stopped, looked at us, looked at it, and said in a posh English accent, “Blimey! THAT’S what it reminds me of. Ta, ladies!”

Tis true that some of them required more benevolent imagination than others, but I’d been wanting to see these things for ten years. In fact, I suggested a run out in the last week Jack and I lived in Scotland, just to see if perchance we could get into the gardens.

Digital CameraJack does not share my fascination with hegemonic sculpture.

And now I’ve seen them. And Bun and I will remember our day out among the topiary chessmen for a long time. About as long as the owners of the garden remember us racing ’round shrieking in nasal drones, “Exterminate!” and doing mouth music versions of the Dr. Who theme.

Isn’t that what friendship is all about? Silliness, long-lost dreams helped to come true, and a really good cup of tea in the garden?Digital Camera

 

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, post-apocalypse fiction, publishing, reading, Scotland, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing, YA fiction

It’s a Tie! HUMILIATION CONTEST

embarrassedKaren Spears and I had a grand time reading the entries for the AUTHOR and HOST HUMILIATION contest. All we can say, dear authors and booksellers, is hang in there.

Who knew angst could be so very funny?! Many thanks to all who entered; I’ll be posting  several of the write-ups over the coming weeks.

Just so they’re not on tenterhooks, the dual winners of AUTHOR HUMILIATION are Stephen Friedman of San Raphael, CA, and Suzan Herskowitz of Winchester, VA. Each will be invited to choose a date for spending a week in Wendy’s Writing Cabin, no expenses paid, but the place is free and we comp you a couple of kittens. (Jack and I rescue cats, in case anyone’s wondering.)

We’ll be blogging Stephen and Suzan’s entries this Friday.

Congratulations, Kathy Siress, on winning the HOST HUMILIATION category. We literally spit tea across the keyboard, reading this one.

Seattle, large chain bookstore, 1997.  Celebrity chef, (now deceased) long running PBS show, recently subject of a number of sexual abuse allegations by young boys.  

He showed up to book signing with his (very young) male assistant, and they immediately demanded a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin.  (I was dispatched to the local liquor store.)

Both filled their tall water glasses with gin (STRAIGHT!) and set themselves up at the signing table.

Turnout for this heavily promoted event was very poor – he had been in the news a lot lately. We also had a small but vocal group of protesters outside.

Bookstore manager was embarrassed,so she had all the booksellers take off their name badges, pretend to be customers, and line up for books.  He caught on pretty quickly since we all asked for generic signatures – no names, just “Best Wishes…” etc.  Weirdly, he had his assistant sign all the books too.

long uncomfortable evening for everyone.  and yes, they finished the gin bottle.

 

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Welcome Shopsitter Kelly, and Humiliation Contest Updates

embarrassedThe entries continue to roll in, and they are side-splitting, sweet-tea-spitting, pants-peeing funny. Books are a noble calling, be it writing or selling-and it can go wrong in so many interesting ways!

You have until Sunday at 11:55 pm EST to enter your host or author humiliation story. Scroll down to Monday’s blog to get the rules and prizes.

If you’re visiting the blog, enjoy checking out the independent bookshops profiled on the BOOKING DOWN THE ROAD TRIP page. 3000+ still going strong in the States alone!

Today, we welcome Kelly and her daughter Rachel, who will be shopsitting while I’m in Scotland for a week. In their honor, I’m rerunning a blog for last year’s shopsitters, giving them a taste of what they’re in for:

When shopsitters tell their friends about coming to The Little Bookstore, reactions tend to divide into “Can I come too?” and staging an intervention.

We sympathize. Preparing the shop guide, we find ourselves typing bald statements like “When Valkyttie gets angry she pees down the bathroom heat vent.”

Will they even read the rest, the tried-and-tested wisdom of our cleaning guru, herself the owner of an angry kitty, plotting kitty, grrr, grrr, grrr? “Put a paper towel on the duster stick by the vent, swish-n-soak, then spray shaft with Heather’s magic elixir. Make sure it’s off first or you wear the elixir.” Or will they run in terror from a bookshop whose CEO is a pissing-mad eighteen-year-old Scottish cat clever enough to maximize effects?

Given corporate culture today, perhaps peeing down a shaft is not that bad, and having no boss is part of our bookshop’s fun. The place is yours: do as you will! The shop guide is assistance, not direction.

Jack and I wonder how Kelly and Rachel will react to the section “COLORFUL LOCAL CHARACTERS,” explaining the crazy psychiatrist, the schizophrenic man who believes he has PhDs in–among other subjects-canoeing and radiology. How ’bout Mr. S, a customer whose spider tattoo wraps around his bald head. Fixated on Fred Saberhagen, Mr. S keeps saying “BEE-serk-ER,” like a French surname, despite Jack’s efforts. Six foot six, hands like banana bunches, Mr. S picks up foster kittens and coos to them as he wanders the shop, fur baby curled purring against his chest.

Then there’s the back-scratcher hanging in the kitchen. Without it, you can’t turn on the light. One night Bert got this essential piece of equipment in his mouth and Jack and I chased him through the shop, screaming, “Drop it! Don’t chew!”

I’m not even going to talk to you about finding the light switches in this place, Kelly. They’re ALL behind bookshelves, so I’ve listed the titles you should look for.

As for dog chases, the guide tells how to recapture Bert and Zora should they slip out. [Equipment: two leashes, raisin-less breakfast bars, and a car key, kept in a Ziploc pouch at the back door.] It’s the kind of thing one doesn’t think twice about until explaining to someone else….

So, welcome Kelly and Rachel. And have fun while you’re here! I’ll be in Scotland if you need me.

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Dear John

As people are visiting in preparation for the Author Humiliation Contest, we’re re-running the infamous Dear John letter from last year, as incentive to have fun. (Mr. Grisham can take a joke. We hope and pray….)

Let’s face it: we’ve had some good times, but they’re all in the past.

You made me laugh; you broadened my horizons; I ran my fingers down your spine and felt sexy and smart. We even shared some values. I will never forget weeping over A Time to Kill, feeling that I’d found my soul mate (not to mention this generation’s To Kill a Mockingbird).

But we’ve grown apart. Put more bluntly, you’ve changed. Try as I might, I just can’t get past Playing for Pizza. 

It’s over, John. Our bookstore won’t be taking any more Grishams–not paperback, not hardback, not written on vellum. I tried. Through the mood swings from The Testament to A Painted House, I stood by you.

“He’ll find himself again,” I said to naysayers. “Really, he’s a sensitive ’90s guy; did you read Rainmaker?” And then I read The Litigators, and wondered.

Frankly, John, it’s just not worth it to try again. Your hardbacks are clogging a desirable traffic area among the Pattersons and Cornwells. (If it’s any consolation, she’s next. You may find comfort under each other’s covers in the bargain bin; rebounds aren’t so bad if you have a traveling companion.)

Plus, your hardbacks take up an entire shelf, and can’t lie sideways because of their height. Size does matter, dude.

So really, it’s not you; it’s me. You’re just… too much. You throw yourself at every Amazon, Dick and Barnes and Noble, and then come crawling in here expecting I’ll take you back. You’re not a cheap date anymore; I need space for the next guy; you’re all over the place–in the Quick Trades, clogging the discount bin, lying under our shelves. I’m tired of cleaning up your messes every morning, after you party all night with the foster kittens. You’re just too cheap and easy.

I know, I know; you want to talk about the past, the glory days when people couldn’t keep their hands off you. I get it. I should feel lucky to have you here, with me, now. But it doesn’t work that way.

The time has come. Let’s be adult about this–no blame, no regrets. Admit it; you had fun. So did I. Shake hands before you go? No, don’t kiss me. You’re dusty. Just get out.

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AUTHOR HUMILIATION CONTEST ANNOUNCEMENT

embarrassedFor those who’d like to see them, last week’s EDIBLE BOOK CONTEST photos are here: Tales of the Lonesome Pine LLC

We are pre-empting the Monday Book (but I’ll run one Wednesday or Friday, depending on whether Jack gets me a  blog from his Scottish tour this week) to bring you

THE AUTHOR HUMILIATION CONTEST!

It all started when a fellow writer online described her recent arrival at a Very Large Bookstore in a Big City to tout her Very Good New Book. Karen Spears Zacharias had the following conversation:

Asst. Manager: I had no idea you had an event here today.
Me: Wow. Really? It was in the newspaper and on television. We’ve been corresponding about this for months.
Asst. Manager: My boss didn’t tell me.
Me: Embarrassed. Humiliated. Diminished.
Asst. Manager: Snotty. Bugged. Annoyed.
Me: This book is local. It won the Weatherford.
Asst. Manager: What’s the Weatherford?
Me: Best in Appalachian Fiction.
Asst. Manager: I’ve never heard of that.

Her post sparked a veritable wordslide of other authors describing similar incidents, and an idea was born.

My 500th blog post will be next Monday. In honor of this earth-shaking occasion, Karen and I are announcing a contest: send us, in 500 words or less, your author humiliation moments. Are you an Author who arrived on the wrong day? Walked in to find your event cancelled? Discovered they were expecting someone else? Tell us about it, or any other mortifying circumstance.

Or take it from the other end. Are you a library, book festival, individual, or bookstore that has hosted an event that just would not get on track no matter what? Or a first class A88-hole? (Y’all know what an a88hole is, right? Similar to an a**hole, only worse.)

Jack and I have looked at book signings, author visits, and all that glamorous stuff from both sides now: as the people with the book AND the people with the bookstore. We’ve seen a whole lotta love and silliness from each, so don’t hold back. Tell us your story.

First prize winner in the author category gets a 5-day stay in my writing retreat cabin, in eastern Tennessee. (Sorry, you have to pay your own way there, but the place is free and we’ll even throw in a bottle of wine. Buy your own milk.) You pick your dates.

First prize winner in the author hosting category gets a signed copy of every entering author’s book. That’s the fee for entering, folks. When the winning host is announced, you are REQUIRED to mail, at your expense, a free copy of your autographed book. (Winners may donate their books to another address if they prefer.)

Second prize for both categories is an autographed copy of Karen’s and my book; third prize… how about a free kitten?

We’ll run the first place entries next Monday. The top ten after that will get blogged once a week, probably on Saturdays. And the MONDAY BOOK will return after this coming Monday.

The rules:

Entries are due by Sunday, June 29, at 11:55 pm EST.

Send entries to jbeck69087@aol.com, with tagline specifying author or host humiliation entry.

Entries exceeding 500 words (not including title) will be disqualified.

Don’t use real names in identifiable locations. We haven’t got enough money to be worth suing, but a88s tend to do that when reality invades the self-sphere. “A Barnes and Noble somewhere in America….” is fine. Make it part of the creativity to keep the names fun and clean.

Keep all entries family friendly. Some kids read this blog.

This is cheerful therapy. Don’t just vent; entertain.

Have fun doing so.

greyAnd remember, it’s okay to talk about the embarrassing moments. Many authors have put themselves into utter self-humiliation, and gone on to live happy lives.

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