A year ago, I had my heart broken.
It’s easy to say, in retrospect, that there were signs the relationship was going to fail from the beginning. We spent too much time together from the very beginning, basing our foundation in dreams. When the fallout came, it was long and painful for more than just me-I wasn’t the only one hurt by the dissolution, and by far wasn’t nearly the one who suffered most. If anything, I got out easy, left with a handful of great memories to look back on fondly.
I am, of course, talking about when Wordsmiths Books closed in March 09.
The bookstore, which had made its home in downtown Decatur, GA (for which I’d served as Marketing, PR and events director since its inception, and had, with my friend/boss Zach, seen the project from birth to death)-had been a daily/hourly/to-the-minute part of my life, and the lives of others, for years. This isn’t about those others. It, like everything I write, is about me, and how I flew my book-weary (“weary”’s an easy word, here, “exhausted” is better, “totally damn over it” is infinitely more accurate) heart from Atlanta to New York closed off to the book industry entirely…and found true love.
Let’s be frank: when Wordsmiths closed, it sucked. IT. SUCKED. And it left a lot of people in tailspins. For me, I’d then seen the glitzy, glamorous side of publishing, but I’d also spent, at that point, way too much time nose-first in the filth of the book world and I was over it-over what I viewed as the big publishing houses’ failure to understand retail, and for most indie bookstores to understand that they need to…well, to try harder.
I was burnt out on galleys and grids and Barbara Walters’ stupid string cheese needs & her massive lack of book sales-all of it left me wanting to run as far away from publishing, from bookstores, from caring about an industry made around stupid ideas about monetizing dead trees and stupider ideas to monetize electronic dead tress, as possible. This would prove to be difficult, partially because my life plans post-Wordsmiths involved moving to New York and partially because the majority of contacts I’d amassed in the years I’d had my head up publishing’s colon were all, well, in the book biz.
But I was damned if I was going to give my heart to books ever again.
Then I came across a little bookstore called Word in a little area of Brooklyn called Greenpoint that reminded me of Decatur, GA done properly, and everything changed.
Like the great poet Kelly Clarkson once said, here’s the thing: we started out friends. The store’s manager Stephanie, basically the world’s most famous bookseller thanks to Twitter-also a friend of mine, also because of Twitter, bless you Twitter-forwarded me a position that had opened doing events at Word right when I was moving. Timing didn’t really work out, but in the process I became intrigued by the bookstore that I didn’t really know. My first free day in New York, I Hopstop’d my way to Greenpoint. This was way more difficult than it might seem. Queens, where I was living (and still live now), to Brooklyn is a three-train trek, one that I’ve become quite accustomed to now but then? Less than a week into New York, three trains was NOT something I was prepared to navigate. Also, as anyone who knows me can attest, my sense of direction is…nonexistent.
New York requires a lot of its residents in terms of directional navigation.
Dear Gentle Readers, I got lost on the G train.
As such, hours after I’d left, I arrived in Greenpoint-shaken, sure, but relatively unmolested (HEY Y’ALL THE SUBWAY’S NOT THAT SCARY!).
I came with my heart closed to Word Brooklyn, the bookstore with the name shockingly only two syllables away from that of the bookstore I’d recently seen shuttered. A small corner bookstore in a hip neighborhood not gunning for hipster cache (see: only one Bret Easton Ellis book stocked, which should be a total deal-breaker for me, no Joanna Newsom on the stereo in-store), basically just being itself: trade paperback fiction-focused with a small selection of new-release hardcovers, thoughtfully-stocked sections, a small and smart staff…
Yeah, love was inevitable, wasn’t it?
And it happened, it did-the store’s thoughtful, purposeful existence, the incredible events that have found me, amongst other things, gushing to Kate Christensen about how hot her sex writing gets me, the staff that takes a constant interest in not just hot books, or just important books, but in books. If the Word staff are to be believed, books are the stuff of dreams-a sentiment that a year ago would’ve had me spit on the ground and say “bah, humbug”, but right now? Right now, yeah, I can buy into that, thanks to the friends I’ve made at Word.
A good independent bookstore should do more than sit quietly-it should foster community. Word does just that-beyond book-related events, they have a basketball team, a group Sunday run, cooking events, this awesome date night that involved classic cocktails. Also, they helped me find the perfect Valentines card.
Oh…oh, yeah, about that… I found love, too, on their bookstore matchmaking board, but you can read about that elsewhere.
I may give off the general perception of being callous if not apathetic, but it’s been through the Word Brooklyn community that I’ve come back to seeing the publishing world with new, fresh eyes-eyes that don’t see how much money’s wasted on Stephanie Meyer but rather what falling face-first into a great book, like Emily Mandel’s Last Night In Montreal, can do to alter life permanently. Like the Grinch when whatever it was that made his heart grow ended up happening…yeah. You can read this however you want.
Word Brooklyn celebrates its third anniversary this month, the same month that will mark a year since my last bookstore community, Wordsmiths Books, shut its doors for the last time. In that time, I’ve made and lost friends, fallen in and out of love, and read books both great and horrible. I thought I’d given up on being giddy about publishing…and that, too, has changed. And, ok, maybe Word’s not responsible for all of that (as I am, ya know, given to over-romanticizing), but it’s amazing the little part of your heart, and your life that can be filled by the perfect bookstore.
Hey, Word? Thanks for being just that. I love you, you complete me, etc etc. And happy birthday.
Also what’s up I’m your mayor on 4Square.