Annie Carl, who until last month worked at the Third Place Books location in Lake Forest Park, Wash., is fulfilling her lifelong dream of owning her own bookstore. On Saturday, October 24, her Neverending Bookshop, a 560-square-foot, general-interest used bookstore will open its doors in downtown Bothell, Wash. To help raise extra funds for the opening, Carl has launched a GoFundMe campaign and opened an Etsy store featuring her own knitting. In addition to fiction, nonfiction, sci-fi, fantasy and the like, the store will have a children's section--or children's corner, as Carl calls it--with a mural featuring classic characters and locations from children's stories, including a pirate ship from Peter Pan and Rapunzel's tower. And at least initially, the only non-book inventory will be Carl's own handmade scarves, cowls and other items.
A bookseller with 16 years of experience, Annie Carl got her first bookselling job, at age 15, at Mr. B's Bookery (now the Kingston Bookery) in her hometown of Kingston, Wash. The store opened when Carl was just 14, and she began asking the owner for a part-time job less than a week after it opened.
"After a year of pestering them, and after they expanded the store, they decided to hire me part time," recalled Carl. "They couldn't pay me because I was 15, so they let me take home books. Which is what I would have spent my money on anyway."
Carl's love for books began very early in life. Born with a rare spinal birth defect, she had frequent surgeries as a child and young adult. She spent a lot of time in bed recovering from various medical procedures, she recalled, and her main source of comfort, aside from her parents and siblings, was reading. "It's a huge part of why I love books so much," she n.
She worked at Mr. B's Bookery for the rest of her teenage years, and returned while on break from college and even worked there on weekends after she got a job as a journalist with the North Kitsap Herald. In 2008, at the age of 24, Carl was diagnosed with Stage IV non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The cancer, unrelated to her spinal birth defect, kept her out of work for a year of chemotherapy, radiation and recovery. Books, along with her family and friends, helped her get through it.
"I think read Sabriel [by Garth Nix] seven or eight times while I was going through chemotherapy," Carl said. "Same with The Neverending Story, Harry Potter and Young Wizards by Diane Duane."
She was given remission status in 2009, and when she looked started looking for work again, she turned to bookselling. Carl eventually started at the Lake Forest Park location of Third Place Books and worked there for five years (and was the head of the science fiction and fantasy department for about 18 month). She began seriously considering opening her own bookstore in March of 2014, after her oncologist told her that she was not only in remission, but that her cancer was in fact cured.
"I started sobbing hysterically," said Carl. "And then I thought, well, what should I do? I started thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life."
Carl left her job at Third Place Books in September. The choice to leave a "wonderful and stable job" to start her own "possibly not-so-stable store" was difficult, she said, but she wanted to try. "I've never done anything risky on my own, it's all been pushed on me in the way of surgeries and cancer treatments." And though it's been at times a stressful process, she added, it's "also been exhilarating and incredibly fun. I'm testing myself and my resolve in new ways."
In addition to trying to raise as much money for the store by herself as possible, Carl has put some 90% of her own book collection into the store's inventory. She and her mother have been hunting for books at garage sales since the beginning of the summer. Carl has also been going to library sales and purchased backstock from the Kingston Bookery. And many of her friends, she said, are eager to sell their own books in exchange for store credit.
"The store might start with some empty patches, but I don't think it's going to stay that way for very long," Carl said.
Carl is eager to do events, but the small size of her store presents a challenge. She doubts conventional author events would be possible, as they'd be standing room only, but she's very excited to host book groups and knitting groups. Carl's mother will also do a regular storytime for children. And for November's National Novel Writing Month, which Carl has done for the past seven years, she'll host write-ins for participants.
"It's a small store. I'll be utilizing the space as best I can, to support the literary, writerly, crafty community in Bothell," she commented. --Alex Mutter