“Indies First” and “Small Business Saturday” 2013

Let’s get small!

(Right now, on the inside I am the ten-year-old nerd listening to Steve Martin’s original standup comedy album on vinyl, hoping you get the reference.)

During the first-ever Sherman Alexie-founded “Indies First” campaign this Saturday, November 30, over a thousand authors will be volunteer booksellers at independent bookstores across the U.S. That’s a scary ridiculous amount of authors. I’ll be stationed at one of my local hangs, Inquiring Minds Bookstore in New Paltz, NY, from 1:00pm – 2:00pm.

The store asked me for a list of favorite titles I might be recommending, so they can have them in stock, and I’m hoping to pass on my love for these books to others. These include recent reads as well as books by friends that I honestly think are terrific. And of course, I’ll also be signing my own, the purchase of which are, ahem, an excellent way to up your gift game.

By the way, if you have an American Express card, be sure to register it to get a $10 credit on any purchase $10 or more at a small business on Saturday. That’s a free paperback!

Why do I think “Indies First” is such a nifty idea? Obviously, it’s important to support independent bookstores. We know all the myriad reasons why, and most of us have some extra reasons of our own.

For instance, I know that since the release of my debut novel over two years ago, Inquiring Minds has been a wonderful partner to me not just as an author, but also as a reader. They’ve hosted two book launches and a panel event for me, as well as events for other local authors I’ve been lucky enough to discover. I enjoy stopping in and chatting with one of the employees about what looks juicy on the “New Releases” shelf. I love that my daughters go straight for the closet-turned-magical-reading-clubhouse and dig into some picture books. I could really go on.

This gets me thinking more about the “Shop Small” and “Small Business Saturday” campaign in general.

When my husband and I lived in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, one of our favorite things about it was that we were conveniently close to all the “good shopping.” When we needed to kill a day, we’d head to the Americana mall in Glendale, with the fountains that dance to Frank Sinatra and the trolley that goes nowhere, or Burbank’s Empire Center, where we could eat at our favorite chain Mexican place, then hit Target and Lowe’s to fulfill all the Needs and Wants. When my kids were babies, we’d get them out of the house by taking a stroll to the Starbucks on the corner, followed by a time-killing jaunt through the CVS next door.

Sure, we patronized small businesses, too; there were plenty of independently-owned restaurants and boutiques in our hip corner of L.A. We had our places, and it always felt good to give them some action.

But it wasn’t until we moved to New Paltz, a college town in New York’s Hudson Valley thirty minutes from the nearest big-box store, that the idea of “shopping small” took on a much deeper and dimensional meaning. What it did, was it got personal.

Right now I’m picturing our Main Street. I see half a dozen businesses run by people I know because we’re friends, or our kids go to school together, or simply because I’m a regular. I see four times that many run by people I may not yet know personally, but know of through mutual friends or the local zeitgeist. I’m familiar enough with all these people to understand that this business of theirs — the restaurant, the gift shop, the coffeehouse, the hair salon — is a dream come true. I know they took huge risks to make it real, and continue to make great personal and financial sacrifices to keep it alive. I know that in most cases, it’s their family’s livelihood, and their success feeds into all our success as we live together as a community. Plus, I just really enjoy eating or wearing or gifting or decorating with something, and thinking of the very real person responsible for putting it in my life.

Then it occurred to me: although it gives me the willies to think of it this way, as an author I am also a “small business.” Writing for a living is a dream come true. I took huge risks to make it real, and yes yes to the part about sacrifices.

So I guess on Saturday, I’ll just be one small business helping out another small business, on a street lined with more small businesses. We’ll exist that day like we exist every day. Using our heads and hearts and hands, we make and we gather. Then we trade with our neighbors and everything just works.

Resurfacing

I just handed in a draft of my new book, after about four months of crushingly intense work. So intense, I stopped noticing things like the dried glob of spilled shampoo on the bathroom floor that has been there since, oh, late February. You know how I knew the draft was ready to submit? Because I literally could not spend another minute on it. I practically punted that thing over to my editor.

It’ll come back in a few weeks, probably with an editorial letter long enough to be published as a book in its own right. But I’ll worry about that later. In the meantime, I’m enjoying that “just finished my last exam of the semester” feeling and yes, I finally took a butter knife to that glob. Although I think I might actually miss it.

Read Local Red HookI’m also getting the opportunity to go back out into the world for some cool events. This Saturday, I’m pleased to be part of the Read Local Red Hook literary festival in the achingly cute town of Red Hook, NY. I’ll be on a panel at 12 noon with authors Michael Northrop and Robin Palmer, discussing the theme of “Surviving Life’s Traumas and Dramas” in our Middle Grade and YA books. The festival is co-sponsored by Oblong Books and Music, which in my opinion is an example of an indie bookseller doing everything right: fostering community, creating a dialogue between authors and readers, and meeting the changing needs of the business.

Next Friday, April 20, I’ll be one-quarter of a smashdown event at The Voracious Reader, a fairly awesome children’s bookstore in Larchmont, NY (just a few train stops from Grand Central, really). I don’t know why I’m calling it a “smashdown”…there’s me, and there’s my good friend Kim Purcell (“Trafficked”), along with Amalie Howard (“Bloodspell”) and Kristi Cook (“Haven”). So I’m thinking that with two “contemporary” YA authors and two “paranormal” YA authors, something interesting is bound to happen. That’s at 6:30pm. Consider yourself warned.

Then on Monday, April 30, I’m doing the campus thing at SUNY New Paltz. They’ve invited me to speak about my experiences as a YA author in today’s publishing landscape, to dovetail with a couple of courses being taught this semester on the history of YA literature. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this, because it’s giving me a chance to process and share my travels so far and also talk to a bunch of industry people about why they love working in the kidlit biz. Nicole, who writes the smart and insightful Word for Teens blog, has been taking the YA lit course and posting about it. Fascinating stuff. Check it out.

The lecture is open to the public. 7pm on the SUNY New Paltz campus, Lecture Center Room 104. There will be fun visual aids and I’ll be reading the first chapter of my new book!

I’m looking forward to meeting more readers, talking writing, and generally getting perspective before I crawl back into revisions and all the things that have been consuming me during work on this book. Here’s one of them:

Like many authors, I slowly build a playlist of music that somehow inspires the work…a feeling, a scene, a character, whatever. There’s always one track that becomes kind of the “theme song” for the project, and I can’t stop listening to it. With “The Beginning of After,” that was a song by The Weepies called “The World Spins Madly On.” Now, with this new book (and dear God, I wish I had a title for it, I really do), it’s David Bowie’s classic “Heroes” — so much that I actually mention it in the narrative. The song itself has so many nuances but then I found the “official” video, and I’ve watched that about 50 times. DB may have been the first artist brave enough to just stand there totally still, singing by himself for an entire video. With white light streaming from between his legs, no less. Truly stunning. This one’s for Justine, Nate, Felix, Rory, and Keira, who you’ll all meet in Summer 2013. Enjoy.