Something interesting happens in the brain when you pick up your bookshop’s telephone and a a voice says, “Hi! This is NPR calling.”
Yeah? Pull the other one; it’s got bells on.
But it really was NPR, in the form of a nice lady named Gemma, who in her gorgeous English accent explained they were interested in doing a story about our search for a shop-sitter.
Talk about viral: that’s what happened to our “vacancy” trading full room and board–but no salary–for two months of freedom for Jack and me to run around bookshops, selling my book and enjoying the camaraderie of other bookslingers. The info went into a Swedish literary magazine, several New York publications, the L.A. Times, and then Wednesday I picked up the phone and said, “Good morning, bookstore” and Gemma was on the line.
Happy as we are personally for this publicity, we take it as a sign that reports of bookstores’ deaths have been greatly exaggerated in the media at large (saving Linda Wertheimer’s presence; she was our very professional and kind interviewer). If no one cares about bookstores, or the printed books they sell, why have so many people applied for this position, with we don’t know how many more applying between now and Sept. 7? (That’s a Friday, and the new cut-off date; we want to do final phone calls Monday 10th and have the person by Monday night.) One article called it “The Last Great Job in America,” while a few thousand people online re-posted and re-sent and make wistful comments like, “Oh, isn’t this a dream job!” and “How I wish I could!”
Because we all long for what bookshops provide: honesty, kindness, a human connection, and a literary balance to our lives. Small shops are spaces that let us breathe; books are mind-blowing devices that change our lives. Who could ask for anything more?
Someone congratulated me recently on “successfully pulling off a viral marketing campaign” and I almost hit her. Sincerity is not marketing. We needed a shop sitter, asked Kim at Facebook’s Goodwill Librarian and Robert Gray of Shelf Awareness to help us find one, and hit a societal artery. I wish marketers everywhere would look at what we hit, and stop making assumptions about what Americans need when it comes to books and bookstores. Look again. LOOK!
OK, enough with the soapbox. Just please keep in mind that our shop-sitter will be someone who has that elusive yet easily-observed quality of being genuine. What else are we looking for? Jack and I laugh that we’re hunting someone who has a basic familiarity with the collective library of humanity, a sense of wonder at the stories humans tell and write down, and a brisk efficiency toward cat pee. One of our cats is senile. (Don’t get stars in your eyes; this is a real job involving dog hair, spiders and heavy lifting.)
We need this person or persons Sept. 20-Nov. 20 because the shop wants covering during the town’s annual Celtic Festival. Don’t worry; we will train you in all the other intricacies, but straight sales are the easiest part, and those happen during Big Stone Celtic, when the town is converged on by Celtophiles from around the States.
Potential shop-sitters please send to firstname.lastname@example.org your experience with litter boxes, history with books, proof you are nice but not a pushover, and what you would do if you were suddenly called home for a job or emergency, plus any questions you have for us. Thanks!
(Btw, if anyone wants to enter Caption Contest VI, it’s just a couple of blog posts down, and a lot of fun. The picture is so gosh darn cute. Scroll down if you fancy it.)