Why I Write For Kids (Reason #7)

Visitors to the Fire Escape may be keeping track of my list of reasons to write for kids. (FYI or to refresh your memory, here are reasons #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, and #6.) During a recent three-day tour with Charlesbridge publicity director Donna Spurlock and editor Judy O'Malley (lunch included, as evidenced in the photo), I discovered yet another reward of writing for children: the opportunity to connect with independent booksellers, commonly known as "indies."

These are usually cozy, welcoming sanctuaries where one may imbibe the culture and ethos of a community. They provide young browswers a venue to mingle face-to-face with fellow book-lovers instead of via the impersonal glare of a screen. They support local schools by providing curriculum-based literature to students (often at big discounts), host parent-child book discussions that spark lively conversations between the generations, and partner with libraries to unite towns around particular novels. Here's a rundown of the Massachusetts bookstores we visited in order of appearance:
  • Brookline Booksmith, where in a run-of-the-mill kind of event for the store, author Nora Ephron was speaking later that day about how much we hate our necks;
  • Cornerstone Books, a spanking new addition to the renaissance in downtown Salem, close to the wonderful Peabody Essex Museum;
  • Banbury Cross in Wenham, a children's-only cottage stocked with classic and contemporary goodies for mind and soul;
  • Sundial Books in Lexington, flooded with light and staffed by a couple who obviously live, breathe, and adore literature -- and each other, although we only met one of them;
  • Bestsellers Cafe, chock-full of the aroma of fair trade coffee and welcoming seats overlooking the river as it curves through Medford;
  • Newtonville Books, my bookstore, where I get hugged, kissed, and cosseted every time I pop in to visit The Lizard's Tale, their amazing new children's space;
  • Wellesley Booksmith, sister to the store in Brookline, where the community is about to be lavished with a series of visits from children's books luminaries like Megan McDonald, author of the Judy Moody series, and National Book Award winner Kimberly Willis Holt; and the
  • Concord Bookshop (pictured below), where we were greeted with words of gratitude for Monsoon Summer and a delighted anticipation over the publication of Rickshaw Girl that encouraged me thoroughly as I crawl back into my writer's cave.
In each place, Donna, Judy, and I marveled at the culturally-suited architecture, thoughtful decor, and imaginative display strategies. Everywhere, we met staff who are passionate about providing fun and transformative literature to young readers. As they've shown time and again, neighborhood handselling has the power to set nationwide trends that's beyond the capacity of the chains.

So, as we head to the New England Booksellers Assocation's Trade Show in Rhode Island this Friday night to banquet with a table of no-brand-name booksellers, here's a Churchill-esque cheer for the independent, budget-battling baristas of the book: "NEVAH GIVE IN! NEVAH, NEVAH, NEVAH, NEVAH ..."

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