Author Archives: Sue Cowing

Indie Spotlight: Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville NC

malaprop's logo #2Independent bookstores are undoubtedly one of the most hopeful things  going for writers and readers today.  With special pleasure this month we feature Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe (www.malaprops.com) which spoke up and pushed back pushed back in North Carolina this spring.  We are talking today with store owner Linda-Marie Barrett.malaprop's front #1
MUF:
During the recent controversy over gender laws in your state, you appealed to authors and businesses not to boycott bookstores as part of their protest. Was the response encouraging? What role do you think bookstores like Malaprops can play in shaping independent and inclusive outlooks, particularly in the young?
Linda-Marie:After our open letters to authors, published in Shelf Awareness, in which we urged authors not to boycott us, we received very encouraging and supportive letters and phone calls from authors, publishers and other booksellers. Independent bookstores like Malaprop’s Malaprop's Thanksare often the only space in communities where controversial ideas are discussed. Independent bookstores are guardians of freedom of expression. We host authors and carry books that nurture inclusivity and awareness of different ways of being in the world.

MUF: Describe the atmosphere you have created in your shop.   What do you want people, especially young people, to experience when they visit? malaprop's interior #2
Linda-Marie: We hope most to be welcoming, inspiring and safe. We want to be a place where people relax when they enter our doors, find their next great read, laugh at some of our silly gift items, and engage with our booksellers and learn something new. We love our young readers and encourage them to find books that open their minds and their hearts and spark imagination.

MUF: What’s a good day at Malaprops?
Linda-Marie: Every day is a good day, but the best day for me is when I have a conversation with a customer malaprop's languagesand learn something from them that I can apply in my own life. I love when matching readers with books that might change their lives, or at the very least, bring a smile and a lightness to their hearts.

MUF: Malaprop’s is a relatively small shop. How do you decide what titles to carry and feature at your store?
Linda-Marie: We are not small for an independent bookstore, but we are very selective about what we bring in. We purchase based on what our customers have loved in the past, what we see being favorably reviewed in media we respect, and according to our tastes, too. We carry all of the favorite books of our staff. We also look for those special books that readers won’t find anywhere else. We like to surprise and delight our customers.Malaprop's Mr. PuffballMalaprop's League of Seven

MUF: As middle -grade authors, we’d love to know what titles, old and new, fiction and nonfiction, you find yourself recommending to ages 8-12 these days? Linda-Marie: I love Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars by Constance Lombardo, and The League of Seven by Alan Gratz. Lombardo and Gratz are local authors whose reads have a lot of heart, humor, and imagination. Lombardo illustrated Mr. Puffball and her drawings are hilarious!

MUF: Does Malaprop’s have any activities or events coming up in July or August that would be of particular interest to middle-graders? Malaprop's Harry potter
Linda-Marie: Our big event will be the Harry Potter midnight release party. Too much fun!

MUF: If a family from out of town came to visit your store, would there be family-friendly places in the neighborhood where they could have lunch or snacks after shopping?
Linda-Marie: We are fortunate to be surrounded by family friendly restaurants. Great places to eat are Early Girl, Laughing Seed, Tupelo Honey, and Loretta’s.Malaprop's interior #1

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for talking with us, Linda-Marie.  Readers, have you been  to Malaprop’s or think you’d like to visit?  Please add your comments.

Sue Cowing is the author of the middle-grade puppet-and-boy novel, You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012)

Indie Spotlight: The Twig Book Shop, San Antonio TX

Twig books frontIt’s always a pleasure to feature an independent shop that has thrived for decades! We’re talking today with Claudia Maceo, manager of  The Twig Book Shop of San Antonio.  Twig front sign

MUF: How did your shop get its unique name?
Claudia: The legend behind the name of the store is that the previous owner had purchased it from a man who had named the store after himself. Wanting to have a fresh start, at a cocktail party the new owner was discussing the options for a new name for the store. As is not unusual at a party where there might be alcohol, the literate attendees tossed around a few quotes including the one from which The Twig Book Shop sprang. Alexander Pope – “’Tis education forms the common mind; just as the twig is bent the tree’s inclined”

MUF: Great Story! One reviewer recounting a visit to your shop spoke of its “innocent charm.” What sort of atmosphere have you tried to create for your customers? twig interior #2
Claudia: Given the limited space, we want people to be drawn in by the warm colors of the wood and wall color. There are winding ways through the children’s section and nooks and crannies along each wall. Our cash wrap is in the center of the store and has a huge old Italian-made chandelier from a previous Twig owner that has been placed in our care. We have two entrances- the front-front door and the back-front door. We do have some quaint hand-lettered price signs and computer-generated section signs that I would hope seem “innocent” or quaint.

MUF: A small independent shop has to/gets to be very selective about the titles it carries. How do you decide what books to carry?
Claudia: We have several publisher reps who have known us over the years who advise us wisely. They, after all want us to do well, too. That, and our buyer has been at this job a long time; Susanna was the manager before I was. Our “floor” staff also are great listeners tuned into what customers are asking for.Twig LondonTwig Sarah PennypackerTwig DiCamillo

MUF: How do you help browsers find “the” book. As middle-grade authors, we’re curious to know—what books old or new, fiction or nonfiction do your booksellers find themselves recommending to middle-grade readers these days?
Claudia: When a customer comes to us asking for a book, we usually look it up in the system first, but then we go to the shelf with the customer. That is where the magic occurs – wonderful conversations about reading likes and dislikes, favorite books read, or in the case of a gift, what the reader knows about the intended recipient. We sell a lot of the award winners, classics and the popular authors like Pennypacker, DiCamilo, Henkes, Barnett, London… there are so many.

MUF: The Twig is known for its strong collection of Texana and Texas history. Any especially fine books appealing to ages eight through twelve?Twig Mysterious TrunkTwig, Boy in the Alamo, Margaret Cousins
Claudia: We have sold over 100 copies of Goodnight San Antonio which includes local sites and bits of history. There is the age-old classic The Alamo by Margaret Cousins, an Alamo A to Z that includes a bit more text than a typical alphabet book, and the Mr. Barrington’s Mysterious Trunk series that fictionalizes a variety of events in Texas history.

MUF: Most long-successful book shops like the Twig have a strong connection to their communities. Give us an idea what you and San Antonio do for each other.
Claudia: We are very involved with many organizations like church groups and schools, libraries, and literary organizations, non-profits and charities. We provide books for bookfairs, conferences, and author visits that sometimes includes making donations of the proceeds to the non-profits.Twig logo

MUF: If a family from out of town came to visit The Twig, would there be family-friendly places nearby where they could get a snack or meal after ward? And if they could stay a little longer, are there some unique sights and activities nearby that a family shouldn’t miss?
Claudia:
We are located at the Historic Pearl Brewery where all the shops and restaurants are locally owned and operated for a distinctive shopping and dining experience. This summer and fall, several new building projects will be completed like an artistic water feature for kids, informal dining, and a shaded plaza.
We are also on the Museum Reach of the Riverwalk which is the turnaround basin for the river taxis. Along this branch, or reach, a bat colony lives under the Camden St. bridge, water fowl make their homes here, and locks make the river navigable from downtown to Pearl. Within a mile or two of Pearl are the San Antonio Museum of Art, the new children’s Do-seum, and the Witte Museum.

screenshot_2228Thank you , Claudia, for telling us more about the Twig. It sounds like a treasure for those who live in  San Antonio and a great place to visit.  Readers, put this one on your map!
And remember, tomorrow is Independent Bookstore Day, so buy a book or two or more to support the stores that you want to thrive.  Independents are the future!

Sue Cowing lives in Honolulu and is the author of the middle-grade puppet-and-boy novel You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012)

 

 

Indie Spotlight: Learned Owl Book Shop, Hudson OH

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Ah, the smell of books!  You certainly can’t get that online.  It’s a pleasure to feature yet another successful small bookshop this month, The Learned Owl Book Shop (www.learnedowl.com,) and to interview its owner/manager Kate Schlademan.
MUF: Learned Owl has recently made an apparently seamless transition to new ownership. What do you feel is special about your shop and what keeps you going?
Kate: Over the years The Learned Owl has become a hub for the community.  Being almost 50 years old, many people have grown up coming to the store and now bring their children here.  We are a meeting place and information place.  We are very fortunate to have tremendous support from our community.screenshot_2205

MUF: Describe the atmosphere of Learned Owl. What to you hope people will experience when they come in?
Kate: The store is housed in a building built in 1867.  It has been a number of different things over the years including a carpentry shop, shoe repair, and art gallery.  We have an upstairs and lower level with lots of nooks and crannies to explore. We always hope people will feel welcome and at home when they enter the store.  Many people comment one two things: they love the smell of books when the walk in and it reminds them of the store in the movie You’ve Got Mail.

MUF: A small store has to be selective in its collection. How do you decide what books to carry, and how do you help a customer find his or her next book?13-Story Treehouse Andy Griffiths
Kate: Deciding what inventory to carry is always difficult, especially when you consider the massive amount of books that are published every year.  It is very important that I understand my market and customers.  I try very hard to have a broad selection of titles for customers to choose from.  When helping people select books, I always ask them what they like to read or what they have read recently that they enjoyed.  This really helps me narrow down where to start.screenshot_2201

screenshot_2200MUF: As middle-grade authors, we have to ask: what are some screenshot_2199 13-Story Treehouse Andy Griffiths Warriors Erin Huntertitles– old or new, fiction or poached Stuart Gibsnonfiction– that you find yourselves recommending to middle grade readers these days?
Kate: Some of my current favorites as well as old stand-bys in no particular order are: The Apothecary series by Maile Meloy, School of Good and Evil series by Soman Chaining, The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, Counting By 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Three Times Lucky series by Sheila Turnage, Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, Poached series, by Stuart Gibb, 13 Story Treehouse series by Andy Griffiths and the Warriors original series by Erin Hunter.

MUF: Do you have any activities or events coming up that would be of special interest to readers ages eight to twelve?flamecaster
Kate: We are having a launch party for Cinda Williams Chima’s new book Flamecaster on 4/5.  She is local to the area and we are big fans.

MUF: How do you plan to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day next month?screenshot_2207
Kate: We will have a number of specialty items for sale that day as well as hourly give aways.  We are partnering with some other stores in the area to create a passport of independent bookstores to show how many are around and in hopes of getting people to visit as many as possible.

MUF: If a family from out of town came to visit the Learned Owl, are there family-friendly places in the neighborhood where they could get a meal or a snack afterward? And if they could spend more time, are there unique activities or places of interest nearby that a family would enjoy?
Kate: We have a number of family friendly restaurants within walking distance.  We also have a few game and novelty shops which are fun to visit.  The Cuyahoga National Park is about 15 minutes away and one of the most visited National Parks in the U.S.  There are tons of trails to explore.  We are only about 30-40 minutes south of Cleveland where we have a wonderful Art Museum, Natural History Museum, and you can’t forget the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  About 20 minutes south of us is Akron which also boasts a beautiful art museum and a minor league ball park which is always a fun option for affordable family fun.

MUF:  Thank you, Kate.  Readers,  don’t you love the idea of a passport for visiting independent bookstores?   If you’re in Ohio or planning to go, you might want to include Learned Owl Book Shop in your itinerary.

Sue Cowing is the author of the middle-grade puppet-and-boy novel, You Will Call Me Drog (Caroldrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012, Harpers UK 2014)