We Tell Stories and We Sell Stories

 Books Lots of

If you haven’t guessed it yet, we love local independent bookstores!  I mean, we are crazy about them.  We schedule trips around them.  We dream about them.  We talk and laugh and think about them.  We take pictures of them (the girls and I took this photo above just a few weeks ago at a used bookstore, Michael’s, at Western and Ollie in Oklahoma City).  We write about them.  And…we love the kinds of people who work in bookstores.

We just returned from three days of spending time with several of them at a national children’s book conference in San Antonio, Texas.  While we were there, we listened to a group of creative and accomplished authors that included Brad Meltzer (author of I Am Abraham Lincoln), Austin Kleon (author of Show Your Work), Chipp Kidd (author of Go:  A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design), and Tim Federle (author of Better Nate Than Never), who truly inspired us to love books more than ever and bring children along in loving books more than ever.

We saw the sights and walked in the rain along the city’s landmark RiverWalk.  We ate under the rock music videos of the Hard Rock Cafe and traded stories with taxicab drivers from places like Turkey and West Africa.  We laughed and lived and walked and talked and dreamed and worried and wondered and slept…peacefully.

It’s a handful of fellow booksellers, however, that we met and traded stories with that we’ll remember the most. They were wonderful and kindhearted people like Angie at The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina, Emily at Inklings in Yakima, Washington, Tegan at Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle, Washington, and Kirsten at Let’s Play Books! in Emmaus, Pennsylvania.  Each one reached out to us; and each one encouraged and inspired and applauded our shared dreams for the future.

During his talk with us about the importance of social media in a world of books in the 21st century, Austin Kleon said, “We tell stories and we sell stories.”  It’s as simple and wonderful as that isn’t it – we tell stories and we sell stories.  Has there ever been a phrase more aptly spoken:  in a bookstore, among new friends, around our kitchen table at home?

Everyone – everyone – needs a story.


“There’s a Secret in There”


My wife and I spent last week at a bookseller’s convention in Seattle, Washington. It was more fun than I could have ever imagined. Here we were in an absolutely beautiful city that is nestled right in the middle of breathtaking forests, snow-capped mountain ranges, fog-shrouded Puget Sound, abundant coffee shops, the shadow of a mythic space needle, and… dozens of addictive bookstores and their wonderful owners.
Thursday morning we made our way to one of the city’s most treasured and historic gems – the Pike Place Market. As we ventured into this bright and noisy labyrinth of shops and fresh fish and restaurants, we found ourselves standing in front of a beautiful window framed in children’s books.

Inside, the owner was standing at the register and we soon struck up a lively conversation about his life as the owner of this wonderful little bookstore.  He told us so many interesting things, but the most significant came when he said this, “Let me show you the best way to sell a book.”
With that, he pointed to a shelf of crimson leather-bound Moleskin brand journals. In a rich Greek accent he said, “Now pick that up and hold it in your hands for a minute to see if you can find its secret. You see, every book has at least one secret of its own and your job as the owner of the store is to know that secret and then help someone else find it, too.”
He pointed to the journal again, “There’s a secret in there.”
And guess what? There was a little hidden pocket tucked into the back seam of this beautiful little book.
We talked some more and he pointed out a few more secrets (great quotes or illustrations or authors) in books around the store.  As we were making our purchases and saying goodbye, I looked around this rather humble little store so I could always remember it.
The best way I will ever be able to describe it to anyone is just like this: “There’s a secret in there.”