Columns

Shopping small has big impact

By 10:15 Saturday morning, the line at the counter at Auntie’s Bookstore was several people deep. Shoppers juggled stacks of books while reaching for their wallets. A toddler clutched a board book, unwilling to part with her find even for the minute it took to ring it up. Teens milled around in small herds, jostling each other in the aisles, while parents pondered coloring books and consulted Christmas lists.

As a reader and an author, nothing makes me happier than spending time with book lovers. These are my people – my tribe, and in their company surrounded by bookshelves, I am happiest.

While I love to browse at Auntie’s, I wasn’t there to shop, but to take a shift as an honorary bookseller during Small Business Saturday. The day is also a designated Indies First event. Indies First, a collaboration between authors, publishers, retailers and readers, celebrates independent bookstores and local communities. Speaking of local, this national movement was launched by author Sherman Alexie, who was born and raised on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

I have a vested interest in the success of bookstores, and as the wife of a small-business owner, I’m passionate about seeing locally owned companies succeed. I’ve helped out at my husband’s store on occasion, but I have to admit I’m better at selling books than cutting tools. I may not know a drill bit from a tap or a reamer, but I do know mysteries from memoirs.

In addition to interacting with customers, I got to hang out with some pretty cool local authors. When I arrived Jess Walter was already there, and he’d brought donuts a la “Citizen Vince.” Walter fans will remember the protagonist in that novel was in the witness protection program and worked at a Spokane donut shop.

Walter dispensed donuts, recommended books and offered writing advice to an aspiring writer.

“Writing is more like a religion than a career,” he said.

And writers around the world whispered, Amen.

Author Bruce Holbert joined us, and when I mentioned how much I’d enjoyed, “The Mountains and the Fathers: Growing Up in the Big Dry,” by Joe Wilkins, he said, “Oh yeah, I know Joe.”

Turns out he also knows Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire books; the books on which my husband’s favorite television show is based.

I admit to having a geeked-out, fan girl moment or two, but then Shawn Vestal showed up.

I’m sure Shawn knows some awesome authors too, but we mainly discussed surviving a post-election/post-apocalypse Thanksgiving meal – which could be the basis for a hair-raising short story. Stay tuned.

When a customer asked if there was a coffee shop nearby, it was fun to be able to point them to Madeleine’s and Atticus, both nearby, while there wasn’t a corporate coffee shop in sight.

After my stint at bookselling ended, I headed out for my own shopping spree. I stopped to take a photo of the Clocktower against the background of Saturday’s blue skies, when a scraping sound jarred my ears.

I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye and watched in amazement as an elderly woman pulled out of the parking lot and onto the sidewalk! Pedestrians hollered and jumped out of the way as she slowly proceeded down the sidewalk along Spokane Falls Boulevard.

Sometimes shopping is scary, but I made it safely to Boo Radley’s where I purchased some Spokane-themed items to send to my son in Columbus, Ohio. When the clerk rang up my purchases she said, “By the way, I really enjoyed your nonfiction panel at Get Lit this year.”

Shopping small put a smile on my face. It makes business owners happy, too.

John Waite, owner of Auntie’s Bookstore and Merlyn’s Comics and Games, said of Saturday’s event, “We were up from last year at both Auntie’s and Merlyn’s.”

While it’s great to have a day dedicated to supporting local businesses that help create jobs and boost the economy, shopping at small businesses can have a far greater impact if we patronize them more than once a year.

“I can’t stress enough what it means to our local economy and local jobs,” said Waite.

That sounds like a big reason to shop small all year long.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval

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War Bonds

Indies First a boon to authors and booksellers

 

This weekend during Small Business Saturday, I got to spend a few hours as an honorary bookseller at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane. Saturday was a designated Indies First event.

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Indies First is a collaboration between authors, publishers, retailers, and readers, and it celebrates independent bookstores and local communities. Speaking of local, this national movement was launched by author Sherman Alexie, who was born and raised on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Authors/honorary booksellers signed copies of their books, visited with shoppers and offered book recommendations. I was thrilled to see scores of shoppers buying stacks of books!

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Plus I got to hang out with brilliant authors like Jess Walter.

My shift also overlapped with Bruce Holbert and Shawn Vestal.

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Bottom line? When you support your local bookstores, everyone wins.

War Bonds

A Bookshelf of Our Own

Running my hands along the spines, I can scarcely believe it– 14 books featuring my stories.

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From the first time a writer picks up a pen or pounds out a story on a keyboard we wonder if it will ever be read by more than just a family member, close friend or teacher. Rarely in love with our own words, we weigh, sift, edit and groan over balky transitions and awkward phrases. We look back at our first stories and they sometimes seem like primitive scratches in the sand.

And if we’re really lucky, we find our tribe– a group of supportive readers and writers, who push us to do better and who ask for more

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And we celebrate their publications, adding their books to our shelves, always leaving room for the next volume.

How wonderful to take a moment and realize no matter how arduous the journey from idea to print, it is possible to achieve out what every writer longs for– a shelf of our own.

War Bonds

Writing from the reservoir

I don’t know any writers who haven’t at one time or another thought, Why am I writing this? Is anyone even going to want to read it?

Whether you write memoir, fiction, essays or poetry, the words are or should be, uniquely yours– your voice, your character’s voice,  your story, their story that you’re trying to tell. And there’s the rub,  the risk of the writing life– you feel compelled to tell a story birthed in the isolation of your own mind and heart and send it out into the universe

While wrestling with the organization of my second book, a collection of essays and columns about life, love and raising sons, I’m getting tripped up, and bogged down with second guessing just about everything from the title to the contents of each chapter.It’s hard to have perspective when you’re writing your own life.

Then I remembered something award-winning author Shawn Vestal said at a recent reading of his debut novel Daredevils. Someone asked if it was difficult for him to write from the perspective of Loretta, a 15-year-old girl.  Vestal replied that it was actually quite freeing and then added, “Really, the only reservoir you have is your own life.”

Yes! Everything from our wildest flights of imagination to our earliest childhood memories, comes from the same reservoir.

Don’t be afraid to drop your bucket down into its depths and pour out what you find.

 

Columns, War Bonds

That literary glow is tinged with blue

If today’s column seems littered with superlatives and exclamation marks, you’ll have to pardon my excess. I’m still coming off a literary high.

No, I haven’t been sniffing bookbinding glue, but I am basking in the bookish brilliance of Get Lit! 2016.

April 11-17, Spokane was awash in literary events. Poetry, panels, pie and whiskey, and plenty more were served up at venues across the city.

What began in 1998 as a one-day event filled with literary readings is now a weeklong festival. Conceived as a way for residents to engage with writing and working writers, Get Lit! offers aspiring authors, poets and folks who love reading a variety of ways to learn from, and engage with, published authors.

Best of all, most events are free. However, the festival is like a luscious chocolate cake, you’d like to consume it all, but frankly it’s just not possible. So it’s important to grab a guide and map out the “must-dos” on your literary list.

This year’s festival featured everything from “Sexy Beasts” to “My Worst Job” and included dozens of local writers as well as visiting scribes.

One of the highlights for me was the Shawn Vestal/Sam Ligon book launch at the Washington Cracker Building. Vestal read from his debut novel “Daredevils”; Ligon read from his short story collection, “Wonderland,” as well as from his novel, “Among the Dead and Dreaming.”

Jess Walter served as emcee and quipped, “One middle-aged white guy introducing two other middle-aged white guys. Guess that’s why they call this the Cracker Building.”

I had to miss one of the most popular Get Lit! attractions: Pie and Whiskey, which is just what it sounds like – an evening of pie and whiskey featuring short readings by authors whose stories feature, you’ve got it – pie and whiskey.

Fortunately, I got to hear one of those stories when I served on a panel with author Elissa Washuta. Her summary of the Tinder dating site was witty, poignant and razor sharp.

The panel “The Nuts and Bolts of Creative Nonfiction” was at Spokane Community College and also featured author Julie Riddle. Both sessions were filled with a mix of students, faculty and community members.

The audience was engaged, attentive and asked great questions that prompted interesting discussions.

The Convention Center served as the Get Lit! hub. I accidentally wandered into the wrong area where some kind of business conference was concluding. I asked an usher for directions to the Get Lit! panel I was looking for and one of the conference leaders overheard. He said, “Get Lit? That sounds a lot more fun than what we did today.”

“It is!” I said, and promptly invited him and his friends.

Kris Dinnison, Stephanie Oakes, Sharma Shields and I had fun serving on the “Queens of the Page: Debut Authors Tell All” panel. I’m not sure if we really told all, but we told quite a bit.

A scheduling conflict meant I had to miss Garth Stein’s reading at the Fox. This was a disappointment, but in some ways a relief. I really wanted him to autograph my copy of his best-selling book, “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” but I didn’t relish explaining why the edges of my copy are bright blue.

I’d borrowed the book from the library awhile ago. It absolutely captivated me, so when I traveled to my writing retreat, I tucked it in my bag. Some cleaning supplies were also in the bag. Somewhere en route, the toilet bowl cleaner tipped over and splashed “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”

Did you know toilet bowl cleaner may clean stains off toilets, but leaves stains on books? Neither did I. Neither did the librarian who took the cash I offered as I purchased the now-bluish book.

Thankfully, only the edges were blued and I got to weep my way to the finish of this beautiful novel. I think Stein would have been happy to sign my copy, but unless he returns to next year’s Get Lit!, I’ll never know.

War Bonds

Recapping Night at the Library

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Auntie’s Bookstore was on hand with copies of the author’s books.

What a great event! Night at the Library featured readings by six authors. PEN/​Robert W. Bingham Award winner Shawn Vestal read from his soon-to-be-published novel Daredevils. Sharma Shields read from The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac.  Bruce Holbert read from his as yet unpublished 3rd novel. I shared from War Bonds and poets Maya Jewell Zeller and Laura Read, shared some of their work.

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Best of all, new friends were added to the Friends of the Spokane County Library, so we can schedule more fantastic programs like this!

Thanks so much to all who attended and for all who support their local libraries!

War Bonds

Lifelong Love of Libraries

When I was a child my dad was in the Air Force, so we moved a lot. Finding the library in each new town made the transitions easier– walking through the doors felt like coming home, no matter where those doors were.

That’s why it’s such a thrill to find copies of War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation on library shelves.

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And tomorrow I’ll be one of six featured authors at a special event called Night at the Library.

Night at the Library invite

Emceed by KXLY’s Kris Crocker, the event will showcase The Friends of the Library and provide information on how you too, can be a member! It’s free! Snacks are provided, a no-host wine bar will be available and Auntie’s Bookstore will be on hand so you can purchase signed copies of your favorite authors latest books!

I love libraries and I hope you do too!

War Bonds

Night at the Library

Night at the Library

Really excited about this upcoming FREE event! Enjoy short readings by six local authors, including myselfSharma Shields, Bruce Holbert and Shawn Vestal. Mingle among the stacks, have some tasty treats,grab some wine at the no-host bar and purchase selected books from Aunties Bookstore.

Hope to see you September 17, 7 PM at Spokane County Library, Argonne Branch, 4322 N Argonne Rd Spokane, WA