April Dawn Gosling is the manager of the Tattered Cover Bookstore on Colfax in Denver, Colo. Since 2000, she has worked in three bookstores, one library and a comic shop. She hosts events, schedules book clubs and birthday parties, runs the monthly poetry open mike and handsells like she was born to do it. She sings a lot before the store opens. Here George Carroll, a publishers representative based in Seattle, Wash., puts several questions to her:
Tattered Cover is a destination site as well as a neighborhood bookstore. Does that fit together or do you feel yourself torn in different directions?
I've no issue being the neighborhood bookstore as well as a check on the bookstore bucket list. I enjoy getting to know my regulars as much as I love seeing the excitement in a traveler as they enter the doors. Tourist or neighbor, everyone who walks in is a reader wanting to be connected to a book.
Connection and handselling is one of your favorite aspects of bookselling.
I live to talk about books--it's thrown a wrench into my dating life. So many of the customers I interact with know exactly what they are looking for and getting a word in edgewise about another title is difficult. I've learned some quick associations: for example, if a customer wants Unbroken, but in paperback, I recommend Lost in Shangri-la.
What book are you excited about most right now?
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. Here are my instructions: Find the book. Open to page 144. Start reading the second paragraph that begins with "Or I should have said..." and continue until the sentence ends.
I understand you have an interesting theory about the relationship between cassava and poetry.
Everyone looked at tapioca in the elementary school cafeteria line, but hardly anyone tried it. If you did, you were mocked--intimidating stuff for an elementary school kid. But if you liked it, you're a die-hard fan.
Poetry falls in the same boat for me. Everyone has been introduced to it, and beyond any 100-level literature course, most eye it warily and believe it is best left alone. But if you like it, you live and breathe it.
You host authorless events at Tattered Cover. How do they work?
One is Family Friday Night. I was lucky to have a local music teacher volunteer to do it. Janet Casson sings, reads and really just rocks the pre-bedtime hour the last Friday of the month. The second is a poetry open mic night that’s been happening for a little over a year now. Last month, I had 40 people in the audience; only 12 of those were my poets. I like to see people get excited over their local artists.
The Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association just held its annual trade show. Do regional associations address the interests of young booksellers?
Regional show seminars address the concerns of booksellers across the age gap. We're all in this together, and we're all in bookselling for a reason. I might be slightly more techno-savvy than other folks, but in the end, we're all looking for the secret to keep us viable as bookselling continues to change.
If you could moderate a panel of your choosing at a trade show, what would it be called?
Handselling in a 21st Century Large (or Not-So-Large) Bookstore.
Do you think being a bookseller is a viable career track?
Spiritually, and if one has a passion for it, yes. It might not be as impressive as my original dream of being Indiana Jones. I'll never be financially rich doing this, but if I wake up every day and love my job, I'm good with it.
The final question is from Stacie Williams, the last interviewee in the series: A visiting author said he likes to ask musicians what they're reading, and authors what they're listening to--I love that crossover. David Gutkowski at Large Hearted Boy picked up on that books/music connection some time ago with fantastic results. So, if you could pick five songs to be the soundtrack to bookselling and/or your current reading, what would they be?
1) Mars by Gustav Holst. Not just because of the plethora of war books (fiction and non) on my reading pile, but it's a good warm-up for the holiday season.
2) Barton Hollow by the Civil Wars. The intro to this song gets me going every time I hear it come over our speakers. The entire album re-energizes me.
3) Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga has become the beacon of our off-key dance parties on Thursday mornings before the store opens. She is a great way to start the bookselling day.
4) My Favorite Things by Julie Andrews. Books are many of my favorite things.
5) Part of Your World by Ariel. It's just the first couple lines that I think apply specifically, but like anyone with an obsession, I think Ariel might've been a book lover if she wasn't a mermaid. "Look at this stuff. Isn't it neat? Wouldn't you think my collection's complete?" And no, my collection isn't complete.