The adoption started the usual way: the adopter wanted to do more.
Novelist Lisa Tucker, whose latest work, The Winters in Bloom (Atria, $24, 9781416575405), will be published in September and is an Indie Next pick, usually buys something whenever she does a reading or signing at a bookstore. But, she said, "I felt like there had to be something more I could do to support bookstores."
So Tucker decided to adopt her local bookstore, Towne Book Center & Cafe in Collegeville, Pa. Her first major project with the store is leading a fiction writing workshop. "The feedback has been tremendous," said Kit Little, the store's marketing director.
The first workshop started in June, ran for four weeks with an hour-long class each week, and garnered 10 sign-ups. It proved such a success that Tucker offered a second session for those participants and others. The four-week continuation workshop, which is currently taking place, has 12 attendees (the maximum allowed). There is already a waiting list for classes being offered in the fall.
Tucker has taught creative writing at the Taos Writers Conference, UCLA, and the University of Pennsylvania. "This is the first time I've taught in a situation where anyone from the community can join in, and it has been great," she said. The classes at Towne Book Center have drawn a diverse group of attendees, among them a lawyer, a nurse, an English teacher, a new mother and a soon-to-be ninth grader.
Each of the writing workshops costs $40 and, in addition to the instruction and a place to convene, includes an autographed copy of The Winters in Bloom. "Our intention with the workshops is not to make a lot of money," Little said. "It's to offer something to those people that support us and take care of us."
Participants also receive a 15% discount on a class reading list containing such titles as On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner. Tucker also recommends fiction reads based on each student's interests, both genre-specific suggestions like mystery and YA books as well as ones to illustrate aspects of the craft like Tayari Jones' Silver Sparrow as an example of using two first person narrators.
Being able to hold the workshops and other events in the store is something Towne Book Center wasn't able to do until this February, when the store moved to its current location. (The store was formerly in the nearby town of Trappe and was called the Trappe Book Center.) The new, 8,000-sq.-ft. space is 45% larger and has several new features: a café, an expanded children's section with tables and chairs and a meeting space. Some parents who saw in-store signage promoting Tucker's workshop asked if something similar was going to be offered for children. That is now in the works, along with a one-day short story writing class, an educational seminar with an area doctor and more.
In the great minds think alike department, thriller writer and Author Buzz founder M.J. Rose has been involved in developing an "Adopt a Bookstore" program. "The concept is to come up with actionable and formalized ideas to help bookstores and authors create long-term meaningful relationships that would be mutually beneficial," Rose said. "What Lisa has done proves how potentially exciting this could be."
If teaching creative writing isn't an author's strongpoint, Tucker and Little suggest they try leading a book club discussion or a conversation about modern fiction, offering a Q&A for people who have questions about getting published or teaching kids how to paint and draw. "It's a win-win for the participants and for the store," said Tucker. "And it gives me the chance to give something back to my local community." --Shannon McKenna Schmidt
Editor's Note: Look for more on the "Adopt a Bookstore" program in future issues of Shelf Awareness.
author photo: James Crotinger