“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.

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