Shelf Awareness for Friday, January 22, 2021


Workman Publishing: How Magicians Think: Misdirection, Deception, and Why Magic Matters by Joshua Jay

Atheneum Books: Out of My Heart by Sharon M Draper

Bloomsbury Publishing: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Blackstone Publishing: I Am Not Who You Think I Am by Eric Rickstad

Scholastic Press: Room to Dream (a Front Desk Novel) by Kelly Yang

Andrews McMeel Publishing: A Tale as Tall as Jacob: Misadventures with My Brother by Samantha Edwards

David Zwirner Books: Making a Great Exhibition by Doro Globus, illustrated by Rose Blake

Tor Books: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Quotation of the Day

'I Need These Bookstores Like I Need Air'

 

"Here in Paris, independent bookstores like Shakespeare & Co. and the Red Wheelbarrow are community centers that bring people together to celebrate life and the written word. I need these bookstores like I need air. For several years, I led a writing workshop in the upstairs library of Shakespeare & Co. It was an incredible experience to begin class as the bells of Notre Dame chimed. Recently, I became an investor in the Red Wheelbarrow. It is my favorite bookshop. The owner, Penelope Fletcher, tells the best stories and recommends just the right book at just the right time. Walking into her bookshop feels like coming home.

"I wrote this novel as a love letter to libraries, to bookstores, and to book people. In these difficult days, we need the sanctuaries of bookshops and libraries more than ever."

--Janet Skeslien Charles, whose novel The Paris Library (Atria Books) is the #1 Indie Next List pick for February, in a q&a with Bookselling This Week

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Still Life by Sarah Winman


News

Itty Bitty Bookstore Debuts in Stoughton, Wis.

Dominique Lenaye

Itty Bitty Bookstore has opened at 123 E. Main St. in Stoughton, Wis. Madison magazine reported that owner Dominique Lenaye "makes sure there are books on the shelves that provide diverse representation and storytelling. Located above the restaurant Wendigo, Itty Bitty Bookstore holds the title of the only Black-owned business on Stoughton's Main Street."

Noting that the library was always her favorite spot to hang out growing up and owning her own bookstore was a childhood dream, Lenaye said, "Into adulthood, I started to realize there was a lack of representation in almost everything I read. I didn't see myself in much around me, and as I started teaching my daughter to read, it became more and more important to me that we bring representation into our household."

The bookshop's name reflects its 120-square-foot space. "I live a very minimalistic lifestyle and have always loved the idea of having only what's needed," Lenaye said.

After opening Itty Bitty Bookstore on January 10, she posted on Facebook: "Today was an amazing day! I am so blessed to have all of you following and believing in my dreams! Thank you all so much for supporting me and loving Itty Bitty Bookstore just as much as I do! I can't wait to meet more of you next Sunday."

Lenaye told Madison 365: "Having a space where we can come together, share our stories, [and where] allies can grow with one another to be able to create a more inclusive space, rather than just having the sign in your yard. You actually need to do some serious work to be an ally, and to make sure that you are not perpetuating racism and that you are bringing a welcoming and open community."


Parallax Press: How to Live When a Loved One Dies: Healing Meditations for Grief and Loss by Thich Nhat Hanh


Word Up Becomes Covid-19 Testing Pop-up Site

Word Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria in New York City's Washington Heights, has partnered with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to become a Covid-19 self-testing pop-up site.

The nonprofit bookstore's first day as a testing site was Tuesday, January 19, and founder Veronica Liu reported that Word Up will be doing this for at least the next few Tuesdays and "may continue beyond that till Covid numbers go down." Starting the week of January 25, Word Up will also be distributing books to those who come to get tested, though no one is allowed to shop in the space while testing is going on (Word Up has remained closed to browsing since the early days of the pandemic).

While the store is operating as a testing site, Word Up will still be doing online orders and virtual events. The online orders will be packaged and shipped from a different location; curbside pick-up service has been suspended; and most of Word Up's staff will be working remotely for the next few weeks. Word Up collective members, meanwhile, will not be required to be onsite during this period, but those who do choose to volunteer will be double-masked, face-shielded and maintaining social distance. The store is also not taking any used book donations at this time.

During the walk-up testing hours, everyone must wear masks while waiting in line and they must stay at least six feet apart. Staff from NYC Health and Hospitals and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President will be supplying the self-swab kits, collecting the swabs, packaging them and sending them to the lab. Results generally arrive in about 48 hours. Anyone over the age of 18 can get a walk-up test, though they need an e-mail address to do it, and children ages 4-17 can get tested if a parent or guardian is present.

Liu reported that Brewer's office first contacted Word Up in mid-December about becoming a testing site, but as holiday pick-ups and shipping were in full swing, it took some time to figure out how the transition would work. She admitted she was also initially concerned about how the collective might react to this possibility.

"I feel like I shouldn't be surprised anymore at how willing the group is to step up to neighborhood challenges," Liu said, "but again was floored by the immediately expressed support for being of service to the neighborhood and city in this way."


American Booksellers Association: ABA Children's Institute, August 30 - September 1! Register today!


Ark. Bookstore Goes from Little Free Library to Pop-up

Chelsey Smith

Stardust and Stories Bookstore in Jonesboro, Ark., has opened as a pop-up shop inside a local business called the Artsy Unique Boutique, KAIT8 reported.

Owner Chelsey Smith, who is also an English teacher, opened Stardust and Stories as a little free library last year, not long after a tornado hit in March and took out one of the few places where people could buy books in town. Stardust and Stories grew from a little free library into a mini-bookstore and is now a pop-up shop selling books for all ages across a variety of genres, with a particular emphasis on local and diverse stories.

Smith told KAIT8 that providing a place for people to buy literature at an affordable, accessible is one of her passions. She added that she wants to "promote diverse reading and make it available to anyone who would be able to read those books."


Rebel Girls: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic, 4 edited by Lilly Workneh


Barrington Books Closing Garden City, R.I., Location

Barrington Books in Barrington and Garden City, R.I., will consolidate the two locations by closing the Garden City store. Following the closure, the Barrington location will undergo extension renovations before reopening in early spring 2021.

In a message to customers announcing the closure, Barrington Books staff wrote that over the course of 2020, they realized that "less is, in fact, more." With the shift to online sales, they've learned that customers near and far "have come to expect a certain level of service and product availability, a special sauce of familiarity and attention, no matter how or where it originates," and the team no longer sees a need for a second location. As such, they've decided not to renew the Garden City lease.

"This is truly a consolidation and growth project and, to that end, all of our employees who wish to remain will stay on and be a part of this exciting rebirth," they wrote. The revamped Barrington store will highlight an enhanced culture, streamlined product mix and commitment to social values within the store's community.

From January 21 until its closure, the Garden City location will run a consolidation sale with everything 30% off.


Unbound: This Party's Dead: Grief, Joy and Spilled Rum at the World's Death Festivals by Erica Buist


How Bookstores Are Coping: Absence of Events; 'Wait and See'

Linda McLoughlin Figel, owner of {pages} a bookstore in Manhattan Beach, Calif., reported that her store had a great December after a "very, very tough year," and while the store was down in the fourth quarter overall, December was up by almost 30%. 

The store allows four shoppers inside at a time, with masks and hand sanitizer required. The store also offers curbside pick-up and Figel and her team are providing free local delivery. {pages} has also added personal shopping appointments, which occur outside of normal operating hours. With no lines outside the store, customers didn't have to rush during these appointments, and Figel noted that they tended to result in much larger purchases--$200, $300 and more. Despite customers' shopping habits being so different, the store was still busy right through Christmas Eve, with the last customer leaving around 5 p.m.

Figel praised her staff for pivoting to online sales early on during the pandemic and ensuring that the store "didn't miss a week of sales." She and her general manager Kristin Rasmussen committed to not laying off any employees for the months the store was closed, and they worked with the store's landlord to defer portions of rent from April and May to 2021. Generally speaking, the store is "really feeling the absence" of in-person author events and off-site events like the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Figel and her team began doing virtual events early and often, but they do not contribute to sales the way in-person events do.

So far, this January is running behind January 2020 in terms of sales. Figel and her staff are working hard to schedule events and find creative ways of engaging customers and selling more books, but they will likely have to go back to their landlord for additional relief. With restaurants closed or open only for take-out, downtown Manhattan Beach is a "ghost town," and {pages} is "definitely feeling it."

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In Denham Springs, La., Cavalier House Books was up during the fourth quarter when it came to in-store and online sales, said co-owner John Cavalier, but overall sales were still down due to the lack of school book fairs and other events. 

The "biggest, most obvious" change this holiday season was hearing customers "vocalizing their desire to shop with us instead of Amazon." That was a "huge psychological boost" for everyone at the store, with Cavalier noting that the community "is sort of a big-box community and we often feel like messages about localism go unheard." Holiday sales peaked during the weekend before Christmas, but some customers began their holiday shopping back in September. There were "way more people" ordering specific titles well in advance of Christmas, while people who came into the shop spent more during a single transaction than is typical.

Operations at the store are basically normal, though mask-wearing is strictly enforced. The store has not had to worry much about hitting occupancy limits, as increased online ordering creates more "in-and-out customers." Cavalier has also been staggering staff shifts to make sure there is ample space for booksellers to maintain social distance while on the job.

With January and February the slowest months of the year for the store, Cavalier's stance is "wait and see." They've got plenty of housekeeping things planned, and while they're optimistic, they are "pretty much just looking at summer to hopefully start taking a risk or two." --Alex Mutter


Notes

Images of the (Inauguration) Day: Bernie Hits the Road

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders attended President Joe Biden's inaugural ceremony on Wednesday clad in his typical winter weather gear, including mittens, and became a popular meme. Plenty of booksellers were happy to take part in welcoming Bernie to their stores, among them (clockwise from top left) Tombolo Books, Literati Bookstore, Capitol Hill Books, Portobello Bookshop in Edinburgh, Scotland, Left Bank Books, The Golden Notebook, Powell's, Old Town Open Book.


Broadway Books Celebrates Inauguration with Book Giveaway

Broadway Books, Portland, Ore., celebrated Inauguration Day 2021 by giving out 100 free copies of Wendell Berry's Think Little. It was the second time the bookshop had marked the occasion with a book giveaway. In 2017, copies of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie were distributed, and the gesture was so well received, the store decided to select another book for this year's Inauguration Day.

Sally McPherson and Kim Bissell, co-owners of Broadway Books, said in a statement: "We decided to do the Inauguration Day book giveaway in part as a way to give back to the local community in gratitude for customers making intentional decisions to buy books from a local independent bookstore during the pandemic.... Berry urges people to look not solely to government or organizations to solve pressing issues but to 'think little' and find meaningful steps each person can take toward ameliorating bad situations. It is a beautifully written book, poetic in its descriptions of the earth and its gifts, such as the music of streams and the joy of a heron's flight. We hope that people getting this book will find both solace and inspiration within its pages."

On Wednesday, Bissell told KGW: "Right at this moment, I'm feeling very excited, hopeful…. We're doing this as a way to say thank you and to celebrate the fact that independent bookstores are a member of our community."

McPherson added: "By reading the book we hope they find both solace and inspiration within these pages. That's what I found when I read it."  


PRHPS to Distribute BenBella Books

Penguin Random House Publisher Services will sell and distribute the entire frontlist and backlist of BenBella Books across all sales channels worldwide, effective July 1.

Founded in 2001 by Glenn Yeffeth, BenBella Books, Dallas, Tex., focuses on nonfiction, particularly health and nutrition, business, science, current events, and pop culture. Publishing more than 50 new titles a year, BenBella includes the imprints BenBella Vegan, Matt Holt Books, and Smart Pop Books. Its backlist features The China Study, Traction, The Happy Herbivore series, and The Actor's Life by Jenna Fischer.

Yeffeth commented: "We're all very excited about this transition to Penguin Random House. As we grow our list, international sales and marketing approaches, we feel PRHPS will be an excellent partner in enabling us to achieve our goals."

Jeff Abraham, president of Penguin Random House Publisher Services, said, "We've all followed the incredible trajectory that BenBella has been on for years and are thrilled that we can now work together to grow their program. Glenn and his colleagues are admired in the book publishing community for their focused commitment to partnering immersively with their authors to set and implement a collaborative publishing strategy."


Personnel Changes at the ABA

At the American Booksellers Association:

IndieCommerce senior manager Geetha Nathan and senior membership manager Daniel O'Brien have joined the senior staff team.

Jessica Stauffer has been named program manager. She was formerly program and development coordinator.

Molly Bond has been named advocacy & public policy manager. She was formerly advocacy & public policy coordinator.



Media and Movies

Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman on the Late Late Show

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman shared "some behind-the-scenes moments and her own political plans with a clearly enchanted James Corden" when she appeared on the Late Late Show virtually Wednesday night, Deadline reported. After reciting her poem during the Inauguration ceremony, Gorman "was widely celebrated for both the poem's profound message and her graceful recitation. When she tells Corden she was happy to be 'a small part' of the moment, the host disagrees: 'For me, you were the pivotal moment.' "

Gorman talked about how she was selected for the honor: "Dr. Biden, now first lady, saw a poem I recited at the Library of Congress. Turns out I ended up being her first choice for inaugural poet…. I'm 22 and I've overcome a speech impediment--like, who would want me onstage? Then they called me and offered me the opportunity, and I danced around in my socks like a crazy person."

Recalling what she was thinking and feeling during the event, she said, "I'm cold. I know Biden is right behind me, so how does my hair look? My nose is sniffling, don't trip, don't mess up. And you kind of just have to let all that go and be a vessel for the poem…. Barack Obama is standing next to me being like, 'You made us proud, you did a great job' in his characteristic voice. I didn't want to leave, and then Secret Service was like, 'No, really, you've got to go.' "

Corden concluded: "I genuinely feel there's a very real world where there's a poet speaking at your Inauguration Day. I'm not joking. Is that something you'd want to do?"

"Oh heck yeah," she replied. "Planning on it."


Media Heat: Evan Osnos on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: Evan Osnos, author of Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now (Scribner, $23, 9781982174026).


TV: Libra

Spectrum Originals is developing a limited series adaptation of Don DeLillo's novel Libra with author Lauren Wilkinson (American Spy), Wolf Hall producer Playground and Paul Giamatti's Touchy Feely Films, Deadline reported. The project is being written by Wilkinson. Scott Huff and David Stern will oversee development for Playground and serve as executive producer, along with Giamatti and Dan Carey.


Books & Authors

Awards: Walter Dean Myers Winners, AAP PROSE Finalists, International Dylan Thomas Longlist

The winners and honorees for the​ ​sixth annual Walter​ ​Dean​ ​Myers​ ​Awards​ ​and​ ​Honor​ ​Books for​ ​Outstanding ​Children's​ Literature​, sponsored by We Need Diverse Books, are:

Walter teen category winner:
Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam, illustrated by Omar T. Pasha

Walter teen category honors:
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee
Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

Walter young readers category winner:
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, with color by Iman Geddy

Walter young readers category honors:
King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri

The​ ​Walter​ ​Awards ​Ceremony​ and Symposium ​will​ ​be​ ​held​ ​virtually on March​ ​12,​ ​with award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson serving as emcee. The event, which begins at 1 p.m. EST, will be available for viewing on the Library's Facebook page and YouTube site.

The​ ​awards ceremony​ ​will​ ​be​ ​preceded​ ​by​ ​a​ symposium​ ​on​ ​diversity​ ​in​ ​children's​ ​literature,​ ​co-hosted by​ ​the​ ​Library​ ​of​ ​Congress.​ Titled​ ​"Listening, Learning, Creating Communities,"​ the symposium ​will be​ ​moderated​ ​by​ ​​Deborah D. Taylor, Coretta Scott King/Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement award-winning librarian and educator, and will include panelists Traci Chee, Robin Ha, Daniel Nayeri and Kacen Callender.

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Some 130 finalists have been named in 44 subject categories of the Association of American Publishers' 45th annual Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE) Awards, which honor scholarly works published in 2020. The finalists can be seen here.

In the next few weeks, AAP will announce subject category winners in each of the 44 categories. Those winners will go on to compete for one of five excellence awards in the categories of biological and life sciences; humanities; physical sciences and mathematics; reference works; and social sciences. Those five excellence award winners will compete for the R.R. Hawkins Award, the top prize of the annual PROSE competition.

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A 12-book longlist has been announced for the £20,000 (about $27,120) International Dylan Thomas Prize, sponsored by Swansea University and recognizing the "best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under." This year's list features nine novels, two poetry collections and one short story collection. A shortlist will be released March 25, with the winner revealed on May 13, the eve of International Dylan Thomas Day. The longlisted titles are:

Alligator and Other Stories by Dima Alzayat 
Antiemetic for Homesickness by Romalyn Ante 
If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha 
Kingdomtide by Rye Curtis 
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan 
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi 
Rendang by Will Harris 
The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes 
Who They Was by Gabriel Krauze 
Pew by Catherine Lacey 
Luster by Raven Leilani 
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell 


Reading with... Allie Reynolds

(Marcio Photography)

Born in Britain, Allie Reynolds is a former professional freestyle snowboarder who swapped her snowboard for a surfboard and moved to the Gold Coast in Australia, where she taught English as a foreign language for 15 years. She still lives in Australia with her family. Reynolds's short fiction has been published in magazines in the U.K., Australia, Sweden and South Africa. The locked-room thriller Shiver (just published by Putnam) is her debut novel.

On your nightstand now:

The Survivors by Jane Harper. Her books have such a strong sense of place and interesting natural settings. And The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren. I mostly read thrillers, but I love to mix it up with some romance.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Island of Adventure by Enid Blyton. I loved dangerous natural settings even back then.

Your top five authors:

Lee Child, Erica Ferencik, Clare Mackintosh, Ruth Ware and Karen Dionne.

Book you've faked reading:

I'm ashamed to say that I've never read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. It's supposed to be the ultimate psychological thriller and so many people rave about it, but I can't get past the initial dream sequence. The pace is too slow for me and I get impatient. I'll read it one day, but there are always so many exciting new releases coming out that I never quite get round to it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I rave about Helen Hoang's The Kiss Quotient to my girlfriends. It's fresh, funny--and so unexpectedly steamy! I loved it. And Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik: a thriller like no other, set in remote Bolivian jungle where the plants and wildlife are as deadly as the human inhabitants. It's incredibly tense and original.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Bluffs, a crime thriller debut by Australian author Kyle Perry. As I mentioned, I'm a sucker for dangerous natural settings and the photo on the cover shows steep rocky cliffs. It's set in Tasmania and it's spooky and atmospheric.

Book you hid from your parents:

I love reading the occasional steamy romance and some have quite raunchy covers which I hide from my mum--and my kids!

Book that changed your life:

Story by Robert McKee. It's one of the first books I read on writing and it taught me so many helpful principles about story and story structure.

Favorite line from a book:

"We go to the movies to enter a new, fascinating world, to inhabit vicariously another human being who at first seems so unlike us and yet at heart is like us." --Robert McKee, Story.

This quote sums up why I like many of my favourite novels: they transport me to a new and fascinating world. It also sums up what I try to achieve in my writing.

Five books you'll never part with:

I was a nomad in my 20s, living in several different countries. When I migrated from the U.K. to Australia, I only took one large backpack. Fittingly, the only novel I packed was iconic backpacker novel The Beach by Alex Garland. It's such a great story. I rarely read the same novel twice and often pass books on to friends after I've read them--I figure I can always buy myself another copy if I want to reread it and they don't return it. I also use my library a lot. The only books I really don't like being parted from are my books on the craft of writing, plus some of my children's books, precious for the memories of us reading them together.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. The cleverest plot imaginable!

Books you read under the covers with a flashlight:

Thin Air by Michelle Paver: a creepy ghost story set on a 1930s Himalayan climbing expedition.


Book Review

Review: Milk Blood Heat

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz (Grove, $25 hardcover, 208p., 9780802158154, February 2, 2021)

Dantiel W. Moniz's debut collection, Milk Blood Heat, is a hypnotizing revelation. In these 11 stories, love, grief, rebellion and hunger swirl about girls and women (re)possessing their bodies and spirits.

Set amid Florida's retention ponds and "all manner of kindred sticky things," under a sun like "a wax lemon melting, oozing light," characters on the brink of change consider the fugitive qualities of darkness and light, how they play both against and with one another, alternately freeing and restricting. Often invoking the ultimate contrarian, Lucifer, Moniz's light exposes not only a certain angle of truth, but also difficulty and noncompliance. Likewise, darkness is not just a devouring abyss or the cloaking of trauma, but a comfort, a portal, a possibility for regeneration.

The titular "Milk Blood Heat" is as playful, melancholy and heartbreaking as its two 13-year-old girls from vastly different worlds who become blood sisters. Ava, "newly thirteen, hollowed out and filled back up with venom and dust-cloud dreams," plays at being a monster, "unnatural and unfamiliar in her body." She's among a few teenagers in this collection, and Moniz blesses them all with tender and brutal complexity, adeptly avoiding the usual gratuitous stigmas about teenage girls.

In "Tongues," 17-year-old Zey bucks against the decree from church and family that "she can be looked on, but not look." She knows they "[conspire] to contain her light" by way of parables "passed through generations like a plague until they become mentality, these adopted laws from a blue-eyed, man-dreamt Heaven." More intricate than a simple indictment of misogyny, Zey's is no banal teenage rebellion.

"The Loss of Heaven" is the only story told from a man's perspective. At 58, Fred has swagger and is attached to the material trappings he's accumulated. But he can't stop Gloria, his contemptuous and cancer-ridden wife, from aging and "begging for that grave." Fred is a prideful and devilish figure, but Moniz drops his finery and cracks him open with her own spin on "sympathy for the devil."

In "An Almanac of Bones," Sylvie is being raised by her unconventional grandmother while her mother travels the world. As they prepare for an upcoming "moon festival," Sylvie--always "interested in discarded things"--finds solace in the structure of animal bones and the mysteries of the deep earth where she's "a glorious creature, spare and glowing."

Moniz's debut is a beautifully unsettling gospel of light and dark, declaring "you could be both things and still be loved." --Shannon Hanks-Mackey, editor and writer

Shelf Talker: Dantiel W. Moniz's alluring debut collection of 11 stories set in the eternal Florida heat is an incandescent and rebellious arrival.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: An Indie Bookseller at the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend Zoomathon Slumber Party

Unprecedented. This is a word that could be applied to most things that have happened since last spring, when the Covid-19 pandemic took up residence in our lives like a bad tenant and refused to move out.

And it's certainly a word that could be applied to this year's edition of the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend, the annual bookish extravaganza that has been held for the past two decades in Texas. It is organized and hosted by the incomparable Kathy L. Murphy, CEO/founder of the International Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Book Clubs, which numbers more than 800 chapters in 20 countries. She is also the author of The Pulpwood Queens Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life and former owner of Beauty & the Book bookstore in Jefferson, Tex.

With the pandemic eliminating any chance of a traditional Girlfriend Weekend, Murphy pivoted--that crucial word for our pandemic times--to a digital backup plan, which resulted in the International Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Book Club 2021 Girlfriend Weekend Zoomathon Slumber Party ("Wearing pajamas is encouraged for all authors, presenters, Keynotes and attendees with some special fun surprises…. See you there with TIARA ON, they are mandatory!"). With an incredibly ambitious schedule of events, the bookloving, tiara-wearing action was nonstop for four days.

Kathy L. Murphy, Robert Gray & Shari Stauch talking about the book biz.

I had the opportunity to check in on several of the sessions, which was great fun. But it's not my perspective I want to share here. On Sunday, I was invited to participate in a conversation with Murphy and Shari Stauch, owner of Main Street Reads, Summerville, S.C. We talked about challenges the book trade has faced this past year, with a particular emphasis on indie booksellers.

One result of this discussion was that I thought it might be nice to highlight Stauch's take on the 2021 Girlfriend Weekend Zoomathon Slumber Party. Main Street Reads has a direct connection to the Pulpwood Queens. In a recent blog post, she highlighted "our very special Pulpwood Queens Book Fair list" and "this month's Pulpwood Queens (January 28th) pick, Spellbound Under the Spanish Moss" by Connor Judson Garrett & Kevin N. Garrett.

Kathy L. Murphy and new Pulpwood Queens exec director Mandy Haynes.

Stauch also summed up the Zoomathon Slumber Party and Murphy's mission as well as anyone could: "Every January I spend an incredible four days ferreting out the newest coolest book club reads at the International Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Book Club conference. This year, well, it couldn't happen live of course…. But ya can't keep a good reader down and so since Thursday (and all day today) I've been tuning into back-to-back author events on Zoom (all titles featured in the book fair referenced above).

"Dozens of authors and readers gathered for a Saturday night conference pajama and literary character party. It's been exhilarating (and okay, sometimes exhausting), but also incredibly inspiring. These authors and readers are impacting not just the literary world, but the world at large in so many ways--donating books to charities, being featured on Ted talks, supporting literary initiatives like the Pat Conroy Literary Center [an auction at the Zoomathon Slumber Party raised more than $4,000 for the center] in our near neighbor town of Beaufort, and so much more.

"Words matter, and their words will echo on to accompany all of us on what we hope will be a kinder, gentler 2021. Hats off to Kathy L. Murphy, the original Pulpwood Queen, and her team, for a brilliantly produced event. We're honored to be the official bookseller (that's the book fair!) and we're pleased to present a portion of each sale to support their ongoing literary initiatives.

"If you haven't become an official Pulpwood Queen or Timber Guy yet, we encourage you to do so. You'll be part of an international reading community that flat out makes things happen!... Our local Pulpwood Queens meets the 4th Thursday of each month--this month on the 28th we'll welcome live members as well as on Zoom--and we'll have a few surprise guests, so come on out (or tune in) and join the fun for free!"

Earlier this week, Stauch told me: "The Pulpwood Queens is an annual crucial gathering of authors and readers, a chance to get to know your favorite authors and a chance for authors to learn what resonates with readers. I look forward to a time when the events can be 'live and in person' again but would also encourage the group to allow for a Zoom simulcast for those who can't travel to live events, allowing Kathy Murphy and the Pulpwood Queens to nurture that connection she's worked tirelessly to develop."

Mandy Haynes

After the Zoomathon Slumber Party, author/artist Mandy Haynes, the new executive director of the International Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Book Club Reading Nation, posted on Facebook: "Y'all I'm so excited to be able to give Kathy some help. She is THE hardest working woman I know. She gives so much of her time and energy--her soul--to support us…. How lucky are we to be part of Kathy's book loving world?... In the meantime let's keep supporting, celebrating, and lifting each other up! It's a new year full of new possibilities. Let's have some fun!"

Although 2021 got off to a rocky start and retains its myriad challenges, there are a few signs of hope, including the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend Zoomathon Slumber Party, that have begun to restore my faith in the possibilities for a new year.

--Robert Gray, editor

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