|The owners' sons hold a banner for Stories' offsite event with authors Sherry Turkle and David Denby.
Later this spring, writer Maggie Pouncey and her husband, Matt Miller, will open a children's bookstore called Stories in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. In addition to selling books and art and writing supplies for children and teens, Stories will offer creative writing workshops for children that Pouncey and Miller are calling the Storytelling Lab.
"I've always had this bookshop fantasy," said Pouncey, whose debut novel, Perfect Reader, was published in 2010 by Pantheon. Although neither she nor her husband have experience in bookselling, Pouncey has taught creative writing to a variety of age groups, while Miller, who has worked with tech startups as well as larger tech companies, brings business acumen.
"As a teacher of writing it's so exciting for me," continued Pouncey. "There's so much programming in Brooklyn for kids, but not so many creative writing courses."
Although the idea of opening a bookstore was always appealing, the pair did not seriously pursue the idea until coming up with the idea for the Storytelling Lab. Pouncey and Miller felt that having that kind of children's programming, in addition to book sales and more conventional events like author visits and storytimes, would help make Stories a more sustainable family business.
"We're new to this particular meeting our passions. We're trying to learn," said Pouncey. "Matt and I are a Venn diagram that doesn't have that much overlap. In that sense, we make really good business partners."
Stories will be a 600-square-feet store, with about 200 square feet reserved for the Storytelling Lab. Given the limited selling space, Pouncey plans to offer a selection of books for children and young adults, along with a very small section of books for parents. Pouncey isn't sure exactly what sidelines the store will carry, but she does have a "beautiful selection of school and art supplies" in mind, along with notebooks and stationery. She's also framed vintage book covers that she intends to sell. Said Pouncey: "We just want it to be the kind of bookshop where the recommendations feel very personal."
|Stories' Park Slope neighborhood.
Pouncey is still ironing out the details of the Storytelling Lab program, but the idea is to have a range of workshops for various genres and age groups. Each workshop course would last 10-12 weeks, with meetings once a week. One such course, for example, could be a "journey stories" workshop for children ages 10-12. She expects to offer mainly courses for ages 7-13, though she might eventually add programming for older teens in the future.
"The idea is to take the classic adult writers workshop and make it more fun and playful," said Pouncey, "but also substantial and challenging."
Although the store is not yet open, Pouncey and Miller made their bookselling debut on February 17, when they sold books for a Brooklyn Friends School Parents' Book Club talk that featured David Denby (Lit Up) and Sherry Turkle (Reclaiming Conversation). Pouncey would love to partner with other schools and related organizations in her corner of Brooklyn. She and her husband have begun to spread the word about Stories only relatively recently, but so far the feedback has been great. "It's been so exciting and so encouraging," Pouncey said.
Pouncey and her husband are also organizing a Kickstarter campaign that should launch in the next few weeks. The money raised would go toward the store's start-up costs and supplement their savings and a small business loan.
They aren't certain exactly when the store will open, but they intend to do all they can to open in time for Independent Bookstore Day on April 30. Ideally, they'd like to have a grand opening celebration that day with local authors and illustrators. "We're very excited to start reaching out." (Keep up to date the store's progress via its website or Instagram at @storiesbk.) --Alex Mutter