I grew up haunting independent bookstores. I saw them as hidden worlds, filled with magical treasures that could only be uncovered by the somewhat mystical Book Discoverers employed within. When an indie bookseller would hand me a title and say, “You just have to read this. You must,” I knew they were right, because they cared nothing for bandwagons and would only recommend the books they themselves loved intimately and found unforgettable. Conversations between indie booksellers and readers are something special to behold; a reading experience is passed along from one book lover to another, face-to-face. And let’s not forget the handwritten shelf-talkers indie booksellers use to turn readers on to a favorite book, for they are love letters through and through.
I remain a fierce supporter of indie bookstores, because within their walls, Book Discoverers uncover new treasures every day, while injecting humanity into the book buying experience. It feels good to stand inside a unique bookshop that’s been nurtured by a steadfast owner, just as it’s thrilling to stumble upon a cozy, indie bookstore when I’m traveling in an unfamiliar city. These businesses are magnificent and resilient, true treasures, built upon the labors of love, and they deserve our respect and support.
Now that you know how much I adore indie bookstores, imagine what a surreal experience it was to be invited to the Northern California Independent Booksellers Spring Gathering in San Francisco. Little old me, afforded a chance to mingle with some of the most important people in the world of books, invited to talk about MY CHEMICAL MOUNTAIN to the savviest buyers in existence. Suffice it to say…I was ridiculously nervous! True, I’ve been signing bookplate stickers here and there for some time now, but never before had I signed an actual flesh-and-blood book.
So there I stood with a stack of galleys and a shiny new pen. No cameras around to photograph the moment. No Zen Masters around to help me relax and stop fidgeting. My hand shook uncontrollably as I pressed pen to paper. I almost spelled my own name incorrectly. And it took me a few tries before I realized I was supposed to be signing the title page, not the info page. But I did not fall out the windows situated directly behind me, I did not faint, and with time, the jitters subsided. But what a privilege it was to work through those jitters in the company of booksellers who were kind and eloquent, friendly and vibrant, knowledgeable and interesting, passionate and compelling. What a pleasure it was to connect with people who love books as much as I do, if not more, to hear their stories, to learn what cities and bookshops they hailed from. I couldn’t have picked a better venue for my very first signing, nor could I have dreamed of better company.
To NCIBA and all the amazing booksellers I met yesterday, I want to say thank you—for your interest in MY CHEMICAL MOUNTAIN, for being there with me during my very first signing ever, for the great conversations, and for all that you’ve done and will do for the countless readers who’ve come to see you as their guiding stars. Much love and luck to each and every one of you.