Indie Spotlight- Beach Books in Seaside Oregon

It’s my great pleasure to introduce one of Oregon’s great coastal bookstores, Beach Books in Seaside, Oregon. Store owner Karen Emerling graciously took a moment away from the holiday rush to share her thoughts with the Mixed-Up Files.

Everybody who opens an independent bookstore has a bookstore dream, and that’s what makes each one unique. What was yours? 
UnknownI hadn’t really thought about opening a bookstore, despite my life-long love of reading, until I attended Wordstock in the Spring of 2005. Standing in the Convention Center, surrounded by booksellers, publishers, authors, and thousands of books, I realized this was where I should haimages-1ve been all my life.So, that Fall when I became an empty-nester, I made that dream a reality. I opened a cozy little bookstore on a side street in Seaside and in the Spring of 2013, moved to what I consider the best spot in town.
Congratulations on your move! I love the bigger store on Broadway and Holladay. The new place feels so light and airy. What have you added or changed since moving?
imagesThe move has given us more visibility and space to expand, adding more books, but also more sidelines such as art supplies, puzzles, socks and a whole lot more cards. The expansion also gave us more room for our events, including participating in the monthly Seaside Downtown Art Walk and hosting our delightful Lunch in the Loft series which we host monthly with regional authors. It’s a wonderful way to introduce our local customers to some of the Northwest’s finest authors. They get a chance to chat and share a catered meal.
How do you help connect readers
with books they will enjoy?
The Lunch in the Loft series is one of the ways we connect readers with books and authors they come to love. The other thing we do is to have tags hanging off some of our staff favorites. Over time, customers seem to identify with one of us that has similar taste and they look for what that person is recommending.
In a small bookshop, there is only room for good books. How do you decide what titles to carry?

I choose books based on ones we read and like from the advance copies sent by publishers, recommendations from customers, lists of what is selling well at other independent bookstores in similar markets and books discussed on NPR. We carry many local authors – and there seem to be more and more local authors – and books related to the coast. Children’s books with stories/information based on the beach are particularly popular with tourists.

And finally, any big plans for the holiday season?

images-2For the holidays were participating in Small Business Saturday and carrying the Pacific Northwest Bookseller Association holiday catalog with a 10% discount on the great books they have included. We also celebrate by having a Wishing Tree for books requested by the school libraries at the four schools in the Seaside district. Customers earn a discount on the books they give and on a book for themselves.

Thank you so much for sharing Karen. If you happen to be on the Oregon Coast You can find Beach Books at 616 Broadway, Seaside, Oregon 97138. They are open from 10-6 on winter weekdays and 10-8 on the weekend. And if you are not lucky enough to visit the Oregon coast, please visit your independent bookseller this holiday season. Beyond all the benefits that come from shopping locally, independent bookstores play a vital role in keeping literary fiction for all ages alive and thriving in a world of chain stores that cares more for the predictable blockbuster than the art of good story telling. I would not be able to write the books I do if indie bookstores were not out there looking for them and sharing them with readers.  Thank you!

Interview–and Giveaway–with Shelley Tougas

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Shelley Tougas writes fiction and nonfiction for tweens and teens. Shelley is a former journalist who also worked in public relations. Her award-winning book, Little Rock Girl 1957: How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration, landed on the top ten lists of Booklist and School Library Journal. Shelley lives near the Twin Cities.

little rock girl

Today, Shelley has joined us to talk about her new book, Finders Keepers (Roaring Brook Press 2015).

Christa spends every summer at the most awesome place in the whole world: her family’s cabin on Whitefish Lake in Wisconsin. Only her dad recently lost his job and her parents have decided to sell the cabin. But not if Christa can help it. Everyone knows Al Capone’s loot is hidden somewhere near Whitefish Lake, and her friend Alex’s cranky grandpa might have the key to finding it. Grandpa says the loot is gone, or worse -cursed – but Christa knows better. If she finds it, she can keep it and save her family and their beloved cabin.

Booklist gave it a starred review “A charming story of family history and personal connections (both lost and found) that is reminiscent of Blue Balliett and the Penderwicks‘ adventures.”


Finders Keepers is your second novel, but you have ten published nonfiction books as well. How does your nonfiction inform your fiction writing?

I was a journalist for seven years, so my background is nonfiction. Working at a daily newspaper is a writer’s boot camp. Deadlines range from a week to a frantic thirty minutes. When you have limited space, you learn to treat every word like gold. Clarity and economy are essential. There’s only room for the most telling details and the best quotes. I learned about everything from police investigations to murder trials to elections to sewer systems. I met fascinating people, including a man who walked around the world, a barbed-wire collector, young men who canoed from Canada to the Amazon, a family who raised wolves, an anti-government militant who barricaded herself from the FBI for three months, and so much more.

I did a little Internet research on gangsters in Wisconsin’s Northwoods and was surprised at how many Chicago criminals spent time there. How much of the Al Capone content is fact and how much is legend? How much of it did you make up?

I invented the characters and their adventure, but everything about Capone is based on facts and legends. Capone didn’t use banks or accountants, so even historians and journalists believe he hid money or gave it to colleagues for safe keeping. His illness caused him to be delusional, so he wasn’t making rational decisions. In 1986, journalist and entertainer Geraldo Rivera had a live television special during which his crew used dynamite to blast open a vault of Capone’s. He thought he’d find Capone’s loot and maybe even human remains. IRS agents were there to collect Capone’s estimated $800,000 in unpaid taxes. Thirty million people watched him enter the vault where he discovered … nothing.

The setting in Finders Keepers felt very real to me, even though I’ve never been there. How did you do that?

Christa’s beloved cabin on Whitefish Lake is actually my parents’ real cabin on Whitefish Lake. The difference is my parents’ cabin is part of a group of cabins near a lakeside restaurant. Christa’s cabin is a standalone place near the Clarks’ home, which is also invented. The town of Hayward does have a popular candy store with a fudge lady, an ice cream store, and the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in the shape of a huge muskie. I think it’s safe to say there aren’t underground tunnels in town!

800px-HaywardMuskie-061-050507Photo credit: Bobak Ha’Eri

If there was one single thing that you wanted readers to get from Finders Keepers, what would it be?

Put down your electronics, unleash your imagination, and play outside. That’s a message for adults, too.

What other books do you recommend to readers who enjoyed Finders Keepers?

It’s a bit self-serving to suggest my debut novel The Graham Cracker Plot [recently released in paperback], but it’s also a funny adventure story. Two novels I always recommend: Savvy by Ingrid Law and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. I recently read Lisa Lewis Tyre’s novel Last in a Long Line of Rebels, which is also about kids seeking a hidden treasure, and I loved it.


What’s your favorite thing about middle-grade fiction (as a reader or a writer)?

Kids are hilarious, often without meaning to be funny. I’ve had more laugh-out-loud moments reading kid lit than adult work.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to write middle-grade fiction?

Spend a lot of time with kids. Listen to the way they talk and observe how they handle conflict and problems. Read your work out loud to kids and pay attention to their body language. If they’re staring out the window, you know you’ve got work to do. My daughter is my first editor. My early draft of The Graham Cracker Plot  opened with backstory. When I read it to my daughter, she said, “Mom, it’s really good. But when is the story going to start?” And she was right. In middle-grade novels, you need to invite the readers immediately. Most are impatient and won’t wade through a sluggish beginning.

Shelley has kindly offered to give away a copy of Finders Keepers. Leave a comment below by midnight on Monday, November 30 and the winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 1.

Jacqueline Houtman is the author of the middle-grade novel The Reinvention of Edison Thomas (Front Street/Boyds Mills Press 2010) and coauthor, with Walter Naegle and Michael G. Long, of the biography for young (and not-so-young) readers Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist (Quaker Press 2014).

What Are You Grateful For?

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it. I love this time of year, and have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. My older daughter has been suffering from an eating disorder, and after living at Oliver-Pyatt (an amazing eating disorder facility in Miami) for the past six months…she’s home and way stronger than I’ve seen her in a long time!

People often spend so much time concentrating on food for the holidays. While it’s nice to enjoy special treats, I’m definitely going to celebrate being with both daughters and my husband. It’s such a gift to spend quality time together!

I originally had a different topic in mind for this post, but since it’s the day before Thanksgiving, I started thinking about how much books have meant to my daughters and me. I have so many wonderful memories of snuggling together, reading books from the time they were little. One book I’m extremely grateful for is Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. It was one of my favorite books as a child! I’ll never forget reading it to my girls. My younger daughter was in pre-school at the time, and both girls listened intently to every word and laughed at Fudge’s antics.

When my first born was a bit older, we read My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville. She loved it so much that when I had to stop reading it during an appointment, she grabbed the book, sat down in the corner and said, “I’m sorry, Mom, but I just have to see what happens next.” What priceless words!

Now that my girls are older, we haven’t read together in way too long. I really miss it! I think I’ll see if they’re up to picking out an amazing middle grade novel to read together this weekend.

Besides being grateful for family, friends, good health, and awesome books–I’m also grateful for SCBWI (and the SCBWI Blueboard, which is an amazing message board for anyone interested in writing, illustrating, or involved in publishing or being an agent for children’s books). And I’m thankful for everyone at the Mixed-Up Files blog, and all of our wonderful readers. 

What are you thankful for this holiday season, and which middle grade novels helped create special memories for your family?

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s TwitterFacebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.