Indie Bookstores (The Lifeblood of Our Communities), Jumping Into Black Holes, and New Picture Books

Back in July, just before my daughters headed back to school, I decided to try something new. A position had opened up at our local independent book store for a part-time bookseller. What booklover hasn’t dreamed of working at an indie bookstore, at least for a day?

My expectations for being hired were low. I hadn’t held a “real” job since I’d stopped working as an engineer over ten years ago. I couldn’t think of a way to make my experience developing nitride epitaxy for electronic materials or my experience running an engineering process and large high-tech manufacturing department with dozens of direct reports seem relevant. My only retail experience was working as a bag girl at Winn-Dixie when I was sixteen. And there were several others filling out applications when I stopped by the store to fill in mine.


But what did I have to lose? I’m a writer. I’ve been querying, so I have plenty of experience with rejection and sending dreams and wishes out into swirly black holes.

By some miracle, I got the job. It’s been a steep learning curve for me and a huge adjustment for my family, but being a bookseller is tremendously rewarding. The smiles from kids, parents, friends, and relatives when you recommend the perfect book for a child are like rocket fuel for my soul.

Grandparents are THE BEST, because they remember what it was like to raise kids before iPads and video games, and they desperately want their grandkids to love reading. Send me all the grandparents!

Though I’ve always loved bookstores, the more fiercely independent and quirky the better, I’d never really thought about their importance in the community. With my behind-the-scenes glasses, I see how hard we work to support our local schools, bringing in amazing authors to inspire and grow empathetic, knowledgeable readers who will be tomorrow’s leaders and innovators. I see the devotion to our community, supporting local literacy projects and our commitment to scheduling a wide range of author events to appeal to every human interest. I see the joy we bring to the community in customers’ faces by providing true hospitality.

My coworkers inspire me! I’ve found a cohort who love books as much as I do, and together we can share that joy and our reading experiences with our community, sort of like here at The Winged Pen, but face-to-face. All our booksellers wants to inspire reading, and, unlike Amazon, it’s not just to make money.💵💵💵💵💵💵

Also, I’ve learned A LOT about the book publishing industry and discovered books outside of the scope of what I assumed was good based on my Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feed. In future Notes from a Bookseller posts, I plan to talk about favorite books that might not have hit your reading radar and tips for authors for developing a good relationship with your local bookstore(s). Stay tuned for that!

On that note, I’ll end by mentioning a few favorite new picture books. Picture books are wonderful because they can make you feel happy in mere minutes! Painfully only listing three here, my favorites from last year are Dan Santat’s After the Fall, Baabwaa and Wooliam by David Elliot, and Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater. I absolutely adore LOVE by Matt de la Peña and Loren Long, a new favorite in my life, and it’s gotten a lot of wonderfully-deserved press thanks to Matt de la Peña’s beautiful essay in Time and Kate DiCamillo’s equally heartwarming response.

But I also have a NEW forever favorite…

My Pillow Keeps Moving by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Homeless, clever, enterprising puppy +

lonely nearsighted man +

pillow shopping =

a new best friend

This wonderfully silly story with charming illustrations and hilarious visual cues is guaranteed to make you giggle with delight and want to read it again and again. Perfect for fans of Officer Buckle and Gloria, animal lovers (no spoilers here, but there’s a fantastic twist with a cat at the end), and fans of Christopher Weyant’s New Yorker cartoons (click, because they’re fantastic!).

Enjoy! See you at the bookstore!

MICHELLE LEONARD is a math and science nerd, a children/teens bookseller, and a SCBWI member who writes middle-grade and young adult fiction. Her young adult sci-fi short story IN A WHOLE NEW LIGHT , about a teen girl who uses technology to fight racism, is in the BRAVE NEW GIRLS ANTHOLOGY: STORIES OF GIRLS WHO SCIENCE AND SCHEME. Proceeds from the anthology go towards scholarships for the Society of Women Engineers! Connect with Michelle on Twitter.


6 thoughts on “Indie Bookstores (The Lifeblood of Our Communities), Jumping Into Black Holes, and New Picture Books

  1. Congrats on the new job! I adore local bookstores and the people who work there. The staff is knowledgeable and eager to help. They are excited about books too! And the books….ah, the books.

  2. Congrats on this new job, Michelle! It’s wonderful to know book-lovers like you are out there in the Indie bookstore world helping to promote our books. My second one comes out in July and you can be sure I’ll be in touch (smile).

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