Tours virtual and real
The virtual: My buddy Rick Kleffel has recorded a quickie (an interview, that is) podcast over at his agony column, made just before the inaugural event for Touchstone at the Capitola Bookcafe on Monday night.
The real: Wednesday was Portland, with escort Elizabeth driving me to drop-ins all over the city, including one of my favorite little shops, Murder By the Book. Itâ€™s always hugely encouraging to see a shop like MBTB going doggedly on, held aloft by the hard work of the owners and the support of the community around it. Itâ€™s the sort of place to show people when they ask why they shouldnâ€™t spend all their book dollars at chain stores. Chains can be great, especially when they come into a newly developed area and offer a center for coffee and culture, but all too often they overlook one element in bookselling: love. The love for books and the love for other readers is not what immediately comes to mind when one walks into a supermarket-sized bookstore, although even there one can find islands of Booklove among the managers and staff.
The real institution in Portland, however, is Powellâ€™s. An independent with several branches, both general and specialty, Powellâ€™s is central to Portlandâ€™s identity. I was asked to do an event at one of the branches, down in Beaverton, and found a crowd of readers that gave me one of the best events Iâ€™ve ever had–120 people turned out on a rainy night, listened with care, laughed at all my feeble jokes, and then rewarded me by buying books.
And today Iâ€™m in Seattle, buzzing about doing drop-ins at chains and at the superb Elliot Bay books, then a lunchtime hour with my long-time friends at Seattle Mystery Books. They do informal events, plunking the author in a big comfy chair and letting people come up and chat and have their books signedâ€”and then at the end going into high gear and trucking in cartloads of books to be signed for customers near and far: Why would someone in England want a book dedicated to Yomama?
And distant smoke signals reached me on the road that Touchstone has ventured into the NY Times extended list and a whole lot of regional Booksense lists, which are all Good Things for Laurie. Now if we all talk it up lots and lots, it may climb upward, right?