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Booksellers' Blotter

Trust & Cooperation

table w hand sanitizer

We love having you back in the store! Talking about what you are reading, selecting cards or a puzzle, and quietly browsing the shelves -- that is what the bookstore is about.

But we can only continue this gradual reopening with your cooperation. Before we can welcome you into our space, we ask that you fill out a brief questionnaire online when you make your appointment.

You must confirm that you are following Vermont's travel regulations. This means that you have not just returned from California, or Florida, or even eastern Massachusetts! (Currently only one county in MA qualifies for travel to VT without a quarantine period.)

A house guest from out of state could also be a reason to postpone your visit to the bookstore. 

Phone, email, and web orders for pick up from the porch are still the way to go if you are not sure about contacts you may have had. It’s easy and fast - and you can shop in your PJs.

We need to trust that you are being as careful with us as we are with you. We appreciate an abundance of caution. - Liza

Sad & Heartened...

It was hard to take down the banners on Saturday afternoon, not knowing when we will put them up again to indicate that we are open to visitors…

While I am heartened by the flood of orders by phone, email, and via this website, I miss your company and conversations already!

I plan to send newsletters with reading suggestions. Maybe we can get a facebook thread of recommendations going?

The situation chanes so rapidly, I am planning just a day or two at a time. And yet, I will be ordering new titles and organizing events for when this crisis is behind us. I need to keep looking ahead to not become overwhelmed with the present.

Stay safe, be well - Liza

Instant Replay

a mayor readingSometimes you can’t make it to an author event. Or you were here and want to review something that was said or perhaps share an idea that was presented with a friend. Did you know that CATV films and airs many of our gatherings?

I just posted four more videos here on our website! Here are links to the most recent half dozen and more can be found in the lower right hand corner of the main page.

2/22/20 Jeff Sharlet - This Brilliant Darkness: A Book of Strangers

12/11/19 Anne Fadiman - Clifton Fadiman's Wally the Wordworm

11/13/19 Sydney Lea - Here: Poems

10/30/19 Kristin Kimball - Good Husbandry: A Memoir

10/23/19 Helmuth Caspar von Moltke - Last Letters

10/16/19 Archer Mayor - Bomber's Moon

I have a bit part in the production; I introduce the guest speaker. Even so, it is unnerving to see myself on film, and I do wish I could request a do-over for some of my speaking stumbles…

Great thanks to CATV and their volunteer videographer, David Donley, for making these films available to all. - Liza

Morning Notes

Every morning as I sip my tea, I scan the Norwich listserv as well as Pomfret’s (where I live). My copy of the Valley News arrives later in the day. 

I have added Rob Gurwitt’s Daybreak to my collection of daily information: “No spin, just news that connects you.” I appreciate the tidbits that Rob offers much more than the scattershot and often snarky and negative Facebook postings. 

depaola drawingAnd each day a Tomie dePaola drawing pops into my inbox. Sometimes the image is humorous; often it marks an author or artist’s birthday. National and religious holidays are noted. Today it was a vintage post from February 4, 2016 - “Thank a Postal Carrier Day.” 

For the first nine days of each month there is a separate email with a simple message of peace. The novena includes the gentle instruction “Think and say the word, or think and say 'Peace.'" The drawing is simple, a leaf or frond for each of the nine days and the word “peace” in a different language.

depaola - paxIn this tumultuous world, I look forward to these missives from Rob and Tomie. What are the recurring bright spots in your reading life? - Liza

January Update

The fun parts...

Phew! I just delivered the reports for filing our taxes to the accountant. Now I can focus on the fun part of running a bookstore: books, authors, and events!

We are busy scheduling exciting author visits to the store and are bringing books to readings and lectures throughout the community.

And we are pleased to partner again with the Blood Donor Program at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Though “Give a Child Another Chapter” officially ends this week, you can still participate if you make an appointment to donate blood in early February and mention the program.

staff 2020So far, the new books for 2020 range widely -- fun and heartwarming to political and controversial. Always a variety to choose from… Stop by and see what's on display.

The calendar is still in flux - even for February - so stay tuned! - Liza

(I had to post the picture from a wonderful potluck feast we celebrated with our significant others at Penny's warm and welcoming home. We have a great team!)

Mid-December Update

dan & angelsMountains of cartons filled with books arrive daily, keeping our shelves full. Wally the Wordworm in back in stock. Jigsaw puzzles have been replenished after a busy Thanksgiving. Wrapping paper and ribbon supply is holding up though holiday cards and calendars are getting low.

There is still a little time to order books! We will place orders from our warehouse partners through Monday, December 23. These are supposed to be next-day delivery, so fingers crossed that things go according to plan, but no promises...

It has been an interesting couple of weeks. Our phones were down for several days and are still not completely reliable. FedEx and UPS are struggling to keep up with deliveries so some special order books have arrived later than expected. Our website went dark at one point, but was quickly restored. Even Mother Nature has thrown a few snowballs!

To balance these challenges, we were visited by Angels and an Elf to spread word of the 19 Days in Norwich that is raising funds to support the Haven. The Book Angels have delivered hundreds of books to local children and young adults thanks to the generosity of this community. Staff has been fortified with homemade soup and cookies. Other treats - muffins, fruit, chocolate - have been delivered by friends of the store.

This holiday season has been full of good cheer, great conversations about books, and lots of laughter in the store - along with speedy gift wrapping at the front desk!

We will be open from 9am until 3pm on Christmas Eve and are closed Christmas Day as well as Boxing Day to give our hardworking booksellers a much needed rest. The bookstore will be open 9am to 6pm Friday, December 27 and Saturday, December 28 and we look forward to meeting your visiting family and friends.

Wishing you and yours an enjoyable holiday season. - Liza

PS Breaking news: Sabra Field is printing a calendar for 2020! They will be available the last week of December. Best to get your order in right away.

Thanksgiving Weekend

holiday dispalyRunning a bookstore can be challenging in our ever-changing retail landscape. What books will be reviewed? Which author’s novel will be a breakout bestseller? Did the publisher print enough copies? Will our staff picks interest you? Do we have the perfect game/toy/book in the series for your niece/uncle/grandson? Can we get that special order book in time? All those questions are on the “big exam” aka the “holiday season” that officially begins Thanksgiving weekend! 

Plaid Friday is a local twist on Black Friday. Instead of solely looking down at the bottom line, independent stores like ours look out at our community and the wonderfully various interests and connections among us. We love it when we get to meet that brother we helped you choose a novel for his birthday or that granddaughter we have been mailing books to for years.

Small Business Saturday was declared to remind you that small businesses are the heart of our region. We support schools and local nonprofits. We offer authors an opportunity to connect with readers and vice versa.

Slow-reading Sunday is our own creation to address our personal need to take a break during this busy season and nurture ourselves by curling up with a good book.

Cider Monday is the brainchild of a fellow bookseller in NH to respond to the Cyber Monday craze. Stop by, see what is new, and have a glass of cider and a treat. Of course, if you prefer to shop online, you can still support local indie stores like ours - Cyber Monday or anytime - at 

We are thankful for your support throughout the year. As always, we have worked and studied the publishing landscape so that we will have the right books for you for the holidays and beyond. Come put us to the test! - Liza

P.S. Stop by to pick up a copy of the "How to Give a Book" Holiday Catalog if you missed it in the Valley News on November 23rd.

Cursed Titles

A current attention-grabbing trend in titles is to add expletives - often written as in the comics with *#$% symbols. While this might have been a good idea once or twice, it is now overdone.

I’m not against a well-timed curse - when I hammer my thumb or a bus cuts me off on the highway - but if every other word is an obscenity, they lose their punch and are annoying.

books w curse wordsAnd not just one category of books has jumped on this bandwagon. I can site examples of memoirs, parenting titles, current events, psychology, art, humor - Go the F**k to Sleep, Sh*t My Dad Says, Recipes and Sh*t, Assholes: A Theory - you get the idea.

As a buyer for the store, the abrasive book jackets affect my selections. I might pass on a book that would otherwise be of interest if I felt more comfortable displaying it. How do we place a stack of books in the front of the store that scream an obscenity without being offensive?

I was taught that constant swearing indicated a lazy mind. Can’t an industry that prides itself on wordcraft be a bit more creative and a little less obscene? - Liza

Psychic Reading?

crystal ballWe would love to have a crystal ball to foresee what size audience will be interested in an author event, but alas, we must rely on past experience and educated guesses…

Carefully tracking reservations for Helmuth Caspar von Moltke’s talk, we were confident we would have room for everyone at the bookstore. On Friday, five days before the event, we still had a third of the seats to fill. Then the Valley News ran a wonderful piece by Nichola Smith on the book and we ended Saturday with enough people interested to fill the store twice and then some!

So the scramble began! It is not as simple as deciding to change locations. Is there a venue available? Can we afford the rental fee? Is the author willing to speak to a larger gathering? Can we get more books? Is there staff to facilitate off-site? And if we can move the reading, how do we let everyone know?

This week we were happily able to make all the parts come together. - Liza

P.S. A word of thanks is due to the Valley News for featuring regional writers, books, and events. This week proved once again how important a local daily print paper is!

The Subtle (or not so subtle) Art of the Subtitle

Subtitles have gotten longer and perhaps more creative of late. Often they are used to expand on a title, as in “Last Letters” posted above. The title alone could be on a novel, but add “The Prison Correspondence between Helmuth James and Freya von Moltke, 1944-45”  and we know precisely what the book is about. Or they clarify a catchy title such as the listings above for Farming While Black and Walking to Listen.

solitude & companyIn her June Washington Post article, Rachel Kramer Bussell notes several intriguing examples of this trend including Solitude & Company: The Life of Gabriel García Márquez Told with Help from His Friends, Family, Fans, Arguers, Fellow Pranksters, Drunks, and a Few Respectable Souls by Silvana Paternostro.

If sometimes subtitles seem like a “key word” list so search engines will pick them up, Bussell had this confirmed by Todd Stocke at Sourcebooks. One of their new titles  Sex, Teens, and Everything in Between sports the subtitle The New and Necessary Conversations Today’s Teenagers Need to Have about Consent, Sexual Harassment, Healthy Relationships, Love, and More.

Lithub also ran a piece by Mary Laura Philpott about subtitles. She claims they are like a middle name - useful for identification but not always used. She reminds us that Eat, Pray, Love is subtitled One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia. And Mary Shelley’s masterpiece is actually Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus, perhaps to offer a clue about the novel’s themes.

The function of giving a book a title and subtitle is to provide a handle by which readers can discover - and remember - the writing. Mostly I enjoy the descriptive phrases added on the book jacket to pique interest or add information but I fear the trend toward essay length subtitles does not give us readers much credit.

The opposite of too long a title is one that consists of a common word or phrase that too easily slips the mind and doesn’t really say anything about the content. But that musing is for another day… - Liza


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