Shelf Awareness for Friday, January 10, 2020

William Morrow & Company: Polostan: Volume One of Bomb Light by Neal Stephenson

Shadow Mountain: The Legend of the Last Library by Frank L Cole

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Elements of Marie Curie: How the Glow of Radium Lit a Path for Women in Science by Dava Sobel

Ace Books: Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Millicent Quibb School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science by Kate McKinnon

Annick Press: Bog Myrtle by Sid Sharp

Minotaur Books: Betrayal at Blackthorn Park: A Mystery (Evelyne Redfern #2) by Julia Kelly

Quotation of the Day

'They Understand You Need to Spend Money'

"We've got such a fantastic customer base, knowledgeable and loyal. So many people come in and say, 'How are you doing? We want you to stay.' And people really understand that that means not just coming in and giving you a 20-minute monologue about how great bookshops are and then leaving. They understand you need to spend money. It's quite surprising the difference it makes to how you feel about life. Going to work is a much more positive experience."

--British bookseller James Ashmore, co-owner of Read. in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, in a Guardian piece headlined "Indie Bookshops Grow Despite Retail Slump"

Running Press Kids: Your Magical Life: A Young Witch's Guide to Becoming Happy, Confident, and Powerful by Amanda Lovelace


The Bookloft in Great Barrington, Mass., Is Relocating

The Bookloft's future home

The Bookloft, "which has been a fixture in Barrington Plaza on Stockbridge Road" in Great Barrington, Mass., since 1974, is relocating to 63 State Road," the Berkshire Edge reported. Owner Pamela Pescosolido said the new store will be a freestanding structure, unlike the current location in a shopping center. She purchased the Bookloft in 2016 from founders Eric and Evelyn Wilska and had been looking to relocate ever since. The new store will open in late April or early May.

Pescosolido said she had two primary reasons for making the move: traditional bookstores are better suited to an environment that speaks to their customers' own tastes, and a renovated stand-alone building is better for her store's branding than a double storefront in a shopping plaza; and the second reason was financial.

"I was paying $96,000 a year in rent. My mortgage for this is a third of what my rent was over there," Pescosolido noted, adding that for the last four years the landlord had increased her rent by $2,400 annually. "So this is going to be worth it in the long run. I'll own the building and I'll have equity. I won't just be throwing away money on rent anymore."

The new space is comparable in size to the Barrington Plaza store at 2,400-2,500 square feet of retail, with small staff offices on the first floor. The design is by local architect Diego Gutierrez of Housatonic Architectural Services.

The entrance and parking lot for the new store will be at the rear, though there will be a front door facing State Road that Pescosolido described as "decorative." She is adding an extension to the front of the building, and expects to use that area for an event space that can accommodate as many as 50 people for book groups, book signings and book talks.

Pescosolido expressed optimism about the future: "Smaller bookstores are doing well because we can do what [Barnes & Noble] can't, which is relate on a one-to-one basis with our community."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: William by Mason Coile

Cupboard Maker Books Opening Second Location

Cupboard Maker Books in Enola, Pa., is opening a second, permanent location in the Colonial Park Mall in Harrisburg, Pa., PennLive reported.

The new location began as a holiday pop-up shop that Cupboard Maker Books launched in October, and is located in a space that previously housed a Payless Shoesource. At the time she opened the pop-up shop, owner Michelle Haring told PennLive that she grew up going to the same mall and was excited to start selling books there.

Cupboard Maker Books opened in 1998 as a used bookstore, and began selling new books in 2002.

Falling Rock Cafe & Bookstore Adds AirBnB Suites

Falling Rock Cafe & Bookstore in Munising, Mich., is now offering a suite of guest rooms that customers can rent through AirBnB. Along with BookBar in Denver, Colo., and Nantucket Bookworks in Massachusetts, Falling Rock is now one of a few indie bookstores that have entered the hospitality business.

Located directly above the bookstore, the suites were renovated in 2019 and are one- or two-bedrooms. The bookstore itself resides in a building in downtown Munising that dates back to 1896 and is only about a block away from Lake Superior.

Co-owners Nancy and Jeff Dwyer opened Falling Rock in 2003. The 4,000-square-foot store carries some 30,000 new and used titles, while the cafe serves fair-trade, custom-roasted coffee.

B&N in Greenfield, Wis., Closing

The Barnes & Noble bookstore in Greenfield, Wis., will move out during the summer of 2020, when the lease on the property expires, BizTimes reported. Ascension Wisconsin plans to open a 32,000-square-foot health center in the space.

"We have enjoyed serving our customers at this bookstore, and are actively looking for a new location in the Greenfield area," said Frank Morabito, B&N v-p of stores.

Sourcebooks Buys Most of Dawn Publications Titles

Sourcebooks has bought most of the titles in the catalogue of Dawn Publications (excepting some books whose rights are reverting to the authors) and will make the children's picture book titles part of Sourcebooks Kids. Sourcebooks will publish the Dawn 2020 frontlist, and will reissue its backlist under the Sourcebooks eXplore juvenile nonfiction imprint.

The 88 acquired titles include A Drop Around the World by Barbara Shaw McKinney and The Dandelion Seed by Joseph Anthony.

Founded in 1979, Dawn Publications, Nevada City, Calif., has been dedicated to inspiring in children a deep understanding and appreciation for all life on Earth. The sale followed the death last August of co-publisher Richard Rodrigue, which co-publisher Carol Malnor said "signaled a time of change for Dawn Publications. It was important to us that our mission to connect children with nature would continue. Sourcebooks has the leadership, resources, and commitment to carry that mission into the future." She and co-publisher Bruce Malnor will remain involved with Dawn Publications as consultants.

Bruce Malnor added: "We're excited that Dawn Publications has found a new home with Sourcebooks, giving our books a broader audience and allowing our authors and illustrators to thrive."

Sourcebooks CEO and publisher Dominique Raccah said, "Our mission is to honor and continue the exceptional work that Dawn Publications has done in using storytelling to illuminate environmental issues for young readers."

Obituary Note: Marion Chesney Gibbons (M.C. Beaton)

Prolific Scottish author Marion Chesney Gibbons, whose best-known pseudonym was M.C. Beaton, died December 30, the Guardian reported. She was 83. Although she also wrote as Jennie Tremaine, Sarah Chester, Ann Fairfax and Charlotte Ward, "these names were eclipsed by those of two of her fictional creations, Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin."

Chesney Gibbons wrote more than 160 novels in the romance and historical genres, but major success came with her switch to crime fiction and the introduction in 1985 of her Scottish police hero Macbeth, the Guardian noted. Immensely popular as well in the U.S. (Grand Central Publishing published her Hamish Macbeth books, and Minotaur Books published her Agatha Raisin books), she was vague about the number of titles she had written, putting her impressive total down to "the curse of the Scottish work ethic."

In a statement, Little, Brown, commented: "Success came to her later in life but she made up for lost time--since 2011 she had been the most borrowed U.K. adult author in British libraries and her M.C. Beaton titles have sold in excess of 21 million copies worldwide. However, she hated being referred to as a 'cozy' writer, saying that if anyone called her books cozy she'd give them a Glasgow Kiss. She always saw herself more as an entertainer than author."

Beaton's editor Krystyna Green observed: "I'm going to miss her dreadfully as after 23 years I'd grown from being in awe of her, to thinking she was absolutely wonderful--and very kind under her rather fierce exterior. She was forthright and uncompromising and never afraid to express a view, no matter how unfashionable. She was funny, wise, and truly an inspiring, utterly unique individual. This is just such a sad end to the year."

Andrew Martin, senior v-p, executive publishing director of the St. Martin's Publishing Group and publisher of Minotaur Books, said: "Marion was one of the most respected, successful, and delightful authors on our list. She was the model of the modern mystery author, our own Agatha Christie, and will be sorely missed by folks here, many of whom could call her their friend."

Ben Sevier, senior v-p and publisher, Grand Central Publishing, commented, "Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin are indelible creations who will live on in MC Beaton's wonderful mysteries for many years, even as her readers and publishers will miss her tremendously."

Crime authors paid tribute to Beaton. Val McDermid remembered her "generous and wicked sense of humor and her intention was to enjoy life to the full for as long as she had it." And Stuart McBride, a close friend of Beaton, told the Guardian: "Marion will be missed, not just by her friends and family, but by the millions of people who loved her writing. It didn't matter if she was writing Hamish Macbeth, Agatha Raisin, or her regency romances, every one of her books was filled with warmth and humour and a deviously satirical eye. And that wasn't authorial artifice, it's what Marion was like in real life too. She was a force of nature, a great writer, witty, generous, and one of the nicest persons it's ever been my privilege to know."


Front Window Display/Chalkboard Combo: Subterranean Books

Subterranean Books, St. Louis, Mo., posted an evocative photo on Facebook of its winter #wordmountain display, along with a sidewalk chalkboard featuring lines from The Land of Heart's Desire by William Butler Yeats: "Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,/ For I would ride with you upon the wind,/ Run on the top of the disheveled tide,/ And dance upon the mountains like a flame!..."

Bluebird Books 'Champions Local Focus In, Around Business'

For Melanie Green, who launched Bluebird Books & Cafe, Hutchinson, Kan., in 2012 and her café three years later, "buying local is important" and her goal for the business "was to provide a gathering place to support the community," the Hutchinson News reported in a "local flavor" profile of the bookstore and cafe.

"It's important for us and our business model to keep it local," she said. "It's the domino effect. If my sales decrease because people are shopping online, I'm not able to purchase as much as I can locally. I think that there's a general awareness that we use and support local business as much as possible.... Local is important. We have to develop and champion loyalty."

Personnel Changes at Princeton Architectural Press

Jessica Tackett has been promoted to marketing manager at Princeton Architectural Press.

Media and Movies

On Stage: Midwives

Ellen McLaughlin, "who originated the role of the Angel in the original Broadway production of Tony Kushner's Angels in America," will star in the world premiere of Chris Bohjalian's stage adaptation of his novel Midwives at the George Street Playhouse's new home in the New Brunswick, N.J., Performing Arts Center, Playbill reported. Directed by George Street artistic director David Saint, the play begins January 21 for a limited engagement through February 16.

The cast also includes John Bolger, Molly Carden, Michael Cullen, Ryan George, Monique Robinson, Armand Schultz and Lee Sellars. The production's set design is by Shoko Kambara, costume design by Lisa Zinni, lighting design by David Lander and sound design by Scott Killian.

Playbill noted that Bohjalian's novel, which has sold more than two million copies, was an early selection of Oprah's Book Club, and its 2001 film adaptation starred Sissy Spacek.

TV: Gun, With Occasional Music

Legendary Television is developing Jonathan Lethem's novel Gun, With Occasional Music for a TV series, Deadline reported. Johan Renck (Chernobyl) will direct and is executive producing the project with David Flebotte, who will be the showrunner. Flebotte co-created the Showtime series I'm Dying Up Here with Jim Carrey, and his credits include Masters of Sex, The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire.

The series will be produced by Aggregate Films' Jason Bateman, Michael Costigan and Daniel Pipski, along with Francey Grace. Aggregate's productions include Ozark, the upcoming FX drama A Teacher and HBO's The Outsider, which premieres Sunday. Matt King and Robert Atwood will oversee for Legendary Television.

Books & Authors

Awards: RBC Taylor for Literary Nonfiction; Story Prize; Audie Lifetime Achievement

The shortlist has been unveiled for the CAD$25,000 (about US$19,095) RBC Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction, which recognizes an author "whose book best combines a superb command of the English language, an elegance of style and a subtlety of thought and perception." The winning author will be announced March 2 at an awards ceremony in Toronto. Each finalists receives C$5,000 (about US$3,820). The winner also names his or her choice for the C$10,000 (about US$7,640) RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writers Award. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson by Mark Bourrie
Had it Coming: What's Fair in the Age of #MeToo
by Robyn Doolittle
Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by Jessica McDiarmid
The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths, and the Dangerous Illusions that Shape Our World by Ziya Tong
The Mosquito: A Human History of our Deadliest Predator by Timothy C. Winegard


The finalists for the 2020 Story Prize are:

Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf)
Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine (One World)
Grand Union by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press)

The winner of the $20,000 prize will be announced in New York City on February 26 at an event that features readings by and discussions with the three finalists. The runnersup receive $5,000.


The Audio Publishers Association will honor Stephen King for lifetime achievement at the 2020 Audie Awards.

Scheduled for March 2 in New York City, this will be the 25th annual Audie Awards ceremony. King has won Audie Awards four times and been nominated 17 times. He has narrated many of his own audiobooks and has been an outspoken advocate for the medium.

The APA also announced that Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers and co-owner of Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, N.Y., Adam Silvera, author of They Both Die at the End, and R. Eric Thomas, senior staff writer at Elle online, will be judges for the 2020 Audiobook of the Year.

Reading with... Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

photo: Amal Bisharat

Judy Melinek, M.D., and T.J. Mitchell are the co-authors of the memoir Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner. Melinek was an assistant medical examiner in San Francisco for nine years and today works as a forensic pathologist and medico-legal consultant. T.J. Mitchell, her husband, is a writer with an English degree from Harvard; he worked in the film industry before becoming a stay-at-home dad and novelist. First Cut (Hanover Square, January 7, 2020) is their debut novel, launching a forensic-noir detective series.

On your nightstand now:

Melinek: An advance copy of American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics and the Birth of American CSI by Kate Winkler Dawson and The Vagina Bible by science writer Jennifer Gunter. Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Pérez, a devastating read about how gender bias creeps into research and impacts women's lives.

Mitchell: A beaten trade paperback of Laura Lippman's novel What the Dead Know. I picked it up at a place I cherish, San Francisco's labyrinthine new-and-used bookstore Green Apple. Next is Milkman by Anna Burns, Kwei Quartey's Gold of Our Fathers and a noir classic I've never read, In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Melinek: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, because of its funhouse use (and misuse!) of language, and the illogical absurdity of the plot. I've been re-reading it with our youngest daughter before bed, and enjoying it immensely once again as an adult.

Mitchell: The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper. The library in my home town of Nahant, Mass., had a reading contest for school kids every summer, and every summer I tore through book after book, trying to win it. I picked this one off the shelf in the course of one of those reading frenzies. It stopped me dead in my tracks, racked me with nightmares and called me to re-read it--which I did, a couple of times.

Your top five authors:

Melinek: Mary Roach, Kathy Reichs, Oliver Sacks, Atul Gawande, Henry James.

Mitchell: Kurt Vonnegut first. Then, in no particular order, Margaret Atwood, Ross Macdonald, Joseph Heller, Ed McBain.

Book you've faked reading:

Melinek: There are many books that I haven't finished, but I don't try to fake my way through talking about them, because I am by constitution a terrible liar.

Mitchell: Dr. Zhivago, as a high school senior. I got busted for that one, come class discussion time. Faking Ulysses as an English major in college was a much easier con, and I pulled it off.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Melinek: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Thoroughly and brilliantly researched, and written with so much empathy. This is one of my favorite nonfiction books of all time.

Mitchell: The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood. I'm a fan of all Marwood's mysteries, but this one especially. Marwood's books have a deep and steady noir rip current that pulls you right along from the moment you dive in--and when you're caught in a rip, there's no use struggling against it.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Melinek: The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin. Kimmery and I are both physicians and moms, and met on Facebook through a mutual-interest group. When she posted the picture of her book's cover, a graphic design of a heart with flowers that reminded me of antique wallpaper, I knew I had to read it. Turns out it's an excellent mystery, so it was a happy impulse on my part!

Mitchell: 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King. I sat up all night reading it as a kid, and (a theme?) carried weeks of nightmares as my reward.

Book you hid from your parents:

Melinek: Fear of Flying by Erica Jong, because I was a teen and it was the 1970s, and the book was then considered soft porn. My mom caught me with it, but wasn't bothered that I was reading it. Instead it prompted a discussion of women's empowerment and sexual pleasure--which was awkward--but a necessary conversation any mom should have with her teenaged daughter.

Mitchell: This question, which I've never pondered before, made me realize something wonderful about my upbringing. I never hid any books from my folks. Both my parents are great readers and lovers of learning, and no book was off limits, ever. So--thank you, Tom and Rita!

Book that changed your life:

Melinek: The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka had a direct impact on our family's ecology of daily living. It made me appreciate the appeal of a small, intimate living space, and provided me with a blueprint for creating a home for our family of seven in the city of San Francisco.

Mitchell: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. I'm going to cheat and add Gárcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, because both books had the same effect--the author took me by the hand and led me away to worlds that were both completely real and wonderfully impossible.

Favorite line from a book:

Melinek: "So what if you are thirsty? Always be a river for everyone.... The translation from Persian to English is not technically precise, but the sentiment is unambiguous. Always try to comfort others, even if you are suffering. Offer compassion to your neighbor, to the stranger, to the roiling, boisterous masses of humanity. Share your gifts with the world, no matter how meager those gifts may be." --from An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice by Khizr Khan

Mitchell: "You know how it is, you're talking to somebody and he says something and the next fellow says something, and the first thing you know, you heard something." --from The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins

Five books you'll never part with:

Melinek: Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama; My Only May Amelia by Jennie Holm; Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein; The Annotated Alice by Lewis Carroll; Spitz and Fisher's Medicolegal Investigation Death, edited by Werner U. Spitz

Mitchell: The Novels of Dashiell Hammett (1965 Knopf collection); Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley; Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood; Going After Cacciato by Tim O'Brien; Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Melinek: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. My daughter is reading it in school right now and I feel the need to read it again, as an adult, because I don't feel I got the most out of it as a teenager.

Mitchell: The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. The steady and gentle but utterly inexorable revelation of the secret in this plot was more hair-raising to me than any red-herring double-cross before or since. Once you've seen it, you can't go back.

Your favorite screenplay:

Melinek: Without question it's The Princess Bride by William Goldman, from his novel of the same name. We're constantly quoting it to our kids. After all, that story explores the greatest of the great universal themes: love and loyalty--and revenge.

Mitchell: I was fortunate to work for many years as an assistant to novelist, playwright and Academy Award-winning screenwriter John R. Briley. I learned invaluable lessons about storytelling, just by osmosis while watching Jack at his craft. His unproduced screenplay I Remember, I Remember, about children's author and Polish national hero Janusz Korczak, is the most moving work of narrative nonfiction I've ever had the privilege to put under my eyes.

Book Review

Review: Verge: Stories

Verge: Stories by Lidia Yuknavitch (Riverhead Books, $26 hardcover, 208p., 9780525534877, February 4, 2020)

Lidia Yuknavitch (The Book of Joan; The Chronology of Water) evokes a wide range of strong and subtle emotions with Verge: Stories, a collection dealing with "the spaces between things." These stories are shocking, stark, pulsing; their power lies in their realism, even when the tone turns dreamy and approaches magical realism. Yuknavitch's clear voice, with its unflinching demand that her readers recognize pain as well as beauty, is as precise and distinctive as ever.

"Verge" as a noun means an edge or border; as a verb, to approach (something) closely; be close or similar to. Here, Yuknavitch pushes readers to approach closely the uncomfortable edge of many subjects they may be accustomed to avoiding. Addicts, sex workers, traumatized children and adults, queer people, immigrants and other misfits are centered in narratives that some people might like to look away from, but shouldn't, and in Yuknavitch's compelling and often oddly lyric telling, readers can't. She writes about the bright points in a dark world, and while the stories in Verge indeed lean decidedly toward the dark, those memorable points of light define them.

The earthshaking opening story, "The Pull," features a swimmer whose "shoulders ache from not swimming" in wartime, one of two sisters "twinning themselves alive." It feels as if set in a world far from the average everyday--until the final, heart-dropping line. Verge most frequently features female characters, but some male, including a couple of tender stories starring gay men. There are traumas--violent, sexual, emotional--and revenge, as well as quiet recoveries and acts of grace and mercy.

Other stories deal with children employed as black-market organ runners; men working at a fish processing plant in Seattle; a man seeking recovery both physical and psychological in an eye-opening cross-country drive. In "Shooting," a woman's want feels "like a mouth salivating... like the weight of an arm. Like the next sentence." In "Street Walker," a woman makes a telling slip in confusing one word for another. In "The Eleventh Commandment," a strange girl protects an awkward, bullied boy using the power of story. In "Cosmos," a janitor at a planetarium collects the detritus left behind by teenagers, building his own model world, until he finds himself perhaps overinvolved in his own work. In the longest story, "Cusp," a young woman wishing to connect with her brother reaches out to the men in a newly constructed prison. In "Second Language," "those bought-and-sold Eastern European girls are learning [something] besides English: They are learning to gut themselves open so that others will run."

Disturbing and essential, these stories emphasize the forgotten, the pushed aside, the marginalized. Yuknavitch's storytelling is urgent, raw and inspired, and if Verge is a love letter to those on the edge, it is equally important for all of us. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Dark stories about the disregarded misfits of the world force readers to look at "the in-between of things" and see beauty there, too.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Mapping Out an ARC Launch

Is there a secret map that will lead authors to the perfect marketing strategy for launching a new title? No. There are, however, ways to increase an ARC's chances of finding its best readers. For author Ellen Meeropol, whose fourth novel, Her Sister's Tattoo, will be published by Red Hen Press in April, the strategy actually did involve a map.

Ellen Meeropol

"Most authors take to the road with finished books, doing events and interviews and signing stock, and I plan to do that in the spring when my novel is published," Meeropol said. "So what was I doing in October and November was driving around New England with ARCs and chocolate bars covered in the image of the book jacket, visiting indie bookstores? The plan was to personally introduce my new novel to booksellers, store owners and fiction buyers. I asked them to take look at my novel, to consider stocking it, making an IndieNext nomination, recommending it to book groups and handselling it to customers."

Meeropol credits her friend and fellow Red Hen Press author Cai Emmons, who made a similar indie pilgrimage for her novel Weather Woman, with inspiring her to hit the ARC road.

"I loved the idea. As a former bookseller at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Mass., I'm a big fan of indies and love talking about books," Meeropol said. "My publisher provided the ARCs and my map-loving husband helped me figure out the routes. I e-mailed the stores ahead of time about what I was doing, ordered a magnetic sign for the door of my red Subaru, covered dozens of dark chocolate bars with the jacket image, and off we went."

The journey took her to 58 indie bookstores in 15 days, from the Maine coast to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, from upstate New York to Cape Cod. Visiting between three and five stores a day, she noted that "there were a lot of miles between stores.... almost 3,000 miles, mostly on back roads. I met with dozens of booksellers, some of whom I knew from my bookselling and author past, but most of whom I did not.... Most booksellers, even the ones who never saw my e-mail, were welcoming and gracious. A few booksellers were too busy to talk and a couple of stores were closed, but most folks seemed happy to get the ARC and chat for a few minutes about the novel."

Recalling her own time as a bookseller, Meeropol said, "In 2005, I left my longtime career as a nurse practitioner in a children's hospital to have more time to write. I started working part-time at the Odyssey Bookshop then, as their events and publicity person--partly because I'd always wanted to work in a bookstore and loved the Odyssey, and partly to learn about the bookstore part of the publishing world. After two years, I switched to coordinating book groups at the store, including facilitating the monthly Open Fiction Book Group, which I continued doing until two years ago. I've always been involved with the store's First Edition Club and continue to volunteer as a member of the selection committee."

As a reader, she described herself as "passionate about contemporary fiction, especially novels that address global themes and the complicated issues they bring up. I've always particularly tried to champion books by new authors, by women, and people of color. As a bookseller, reader, and author, I love book groups!"

Asked how her bookselling experience helped the ARC odyssey, Meeropol replied: "Hard to say. I think that knowing how busy booksellers are, particularly in the fall, and how much multitasking they need to do, I was conscious of not wanting to take up too much time. And, I brought chocolate!... I didn't use a standard pitch. When I handed them the ARC, most booksellers immediately turned to the back and read the short description and the blurbs. I followed their lead, about offering more information or not. Often our conversations were more about bookselling and our favorite current reads than about my book."

Is there anything she might do differently next time? "It may be too early to answer that question," Meeropol said. "I look forward to seeing some of those booksellers soon at Winter Institute, and maybe some of them will have suggestions for improving the tour."

Having had the opportunity to get an up-close snapshot of so many indies in such a brief period of time, Meeropol expressed optimism regarding the current state of independent bookselling: "The stores I visited were, for the most part, busy and bustling and full of the quiet energy that readers and writers love. What a treat it was to visit so many amazing community literary spaces.... What difference will it make to my novel? I don't know. But in these days of increasing grassroots book promotion, I'm happy to have driven those roads, visited those stores, and met those booksellers."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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