Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What Your Indie Will Do For You

This is just a little story about a little indie that has been a valued part of our small village life for over 50 years. And maybe you'll see why we're still here, in spite of all the odds against small-time booksellers.

A customer strolled in yesterday looking for a book to read while her car was going to be repaired. And I sympathized. The only thing worse than waiting for car repairs is waiting for car repairs without a book. It's unimaginable. It's torture.

She had a couple of books in mind, and one of the was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. "Ooh, I said, that is a good one." But of course we were out. I checked the computer, and I learned that it would be in the next UPS shipment due to arrive any minute. (We love our adorable UPS man Gary, who cheerfully stacks our boxes in groups according to Purchase Order number, making it so easy to unpack and sort.) I asked the customer: "What time is your car appointment? If you can stay and browse for a little while, the UPS man will probably be here soon."

That's when my colleague Jenny, who is a contagiously cheerful gal, looked out the window and said: "Oh my goodness, there goes Gary now!" She jumped up and chased Gary down the sidewalk, where his dolly was parked in front of another shop. Jenny checked the packing slip on each box that was addressed to The Bookstore, and found the one we wanted. She opened the door of the other shop, and hollered to Gary: "I just stole one of our boxes!" and ran back to the store like she had just captured the flag.

Our customer was thrilled. We opened the box with the excitement of a couple of four year-olds at Christmas. We all had a good laugh. And our customer said: "I'm going to tell everyone about this. This is the best customer service I have ever seen! They don't do this at [fill-in-the-blank-big-box-bookstore]!"

Damn right.

Because that's why we're here. We love getting books in the hands of readers, and we'll even chase down the UPS man to do it. And maybe that's why we've been here for over 50 years.

Just a little something to think about as you start your Independence Day celebrations. Declare your independence and resolve to shop more Indie.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bookfest Wrap-Up

First of all, a huge heartfelt thank you to all of the wonderful folks who made it to The 1st Annual Downtown Glen Ellyn Bookfest: A Village Celebrates Books. It takes an unbelievable amount of faith to plan an inaugural event like this, and what can The Bookstore say, but thank you - we did it! And whoever arranged for that beautiful blue sky day in the middle of a stormy week: we owe you.

It took a village to put it together - literally. We had an incredible partnership with The Downtown Alliance, Bundles of Books and the Glen Ellyn Public Library. Rosemary from Bundles of Books first suggested the idea of bringing local authors to downtown retailers through the Downtown Alliance, but The Bookstore and the Library took it even further by planning an entire day's worth of literary events. We hope you got to participate in some of these truly unique events!

My own Bookfest Day began at Bells & Whistles Snackery, where The Bookstore and Bundles of Books hosted a social networking breakfast for writers and readers. Sue and I represented The Bookstore, and met a lot of the participating area authors. We introduced them to our book blogging friend and collaborator, Jen Karsbaek from, and business cards flew from hand to hand.

Our own in-house event, "Bagels at The Bookstore" started at 10am with the wonderful Pamela Ferdinand, Chicago area co-author of Three Wishes, and continued with Dick Nogaj, the founder of Habitat for Humanity DuPage, and the author of Don't Retire, Get Inspired. The Bookstore buzzed all day with Bookfest excitement.

In the meantime, my colleague Jenny was handling all of the author events over at the library, including a children's event with Glen Ellyn children's book author Bob Raczka and Wheaton author and historian Glenette Tilley Turner. Jenny also handled the Featured Author Event at The Glen Oak Restaurant with 68 Rooms children's author, Marianne Malone. Jenny says it was an awesome event, and assured me "it was everything you hoped it would be!" Families have already marked their calendars for our Family Author Luncheon next year!

While Jenny and Marianne had the kids enthralled, I was hosting an appearance for our Adult Author Luncheon at Bistro Monet. What a wonderful pairing: Stephanie Cowell is the author of a new book, Claude and Camille: A Monet Novel, which is about young Claude Monet and his first wife Camille. Bistro Monet planned a delicious three-course luncheon to match. Stephanie charmed every last guest with her stories about young Claude, whom she compared to the irresistible Johnny Depp. (Which has already got me thinking about movie rights and casting!) We all made a wonderful connection with Stephanie, who honored us with unbelievable praise on her blog, calling it "one of the loveliest book events of my writerly life."

Sue and I were thrilled to have our friend Barbara Rinella, a Chicago area book review celebrity, join us at Bistro Monet. Barbara has a huge following as a performer and book dramatist; her act is part stand-up comedy, part celebrity impersonation and part literary review. Over the years, Chicago area readers have enjoyed her dramatizations of such books as The Commoner, The Life of Pi, Loving Frank, John Adams, Shanghai Girls, The Other Boleyn Girl and many more. I'm not going to make any major announcements on Barbara's behalf, but I'm just saying she could do a real bang-up job personifying Camille Monet. I think she got some great material from our lunch with Stephanie Cowell. Barbara Rinella fans, stay tuned!

After lunch, there was a terrific panel discussion at the library between Melanie Benjamin, Glen Ellyn author of Alice I Have Been and Kelly O'Connor McNees, Chicago area author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott. I wasn't able to be there (bummer -that's the only downside of being an event organizer - you can't make every event!) but everyone who did told me they did a great job and had a wonderful discussion. What a great team. By the way, did you hear? Kelly's book was selected for Oprah's 2010 Summer Reading List? Woo hoo!

The library also had a series of afternoon events for kids and teens, including storytelling workshops and a Teen Poetry Slam.

In the meantime, much of The Bookstore staff was over at Glenbard West High School, preparing for Elizabeth Berg's appearance and book signing. What a perfect setting for her new book, The Last Time I Saw You, which is about a 40th high school reunion. Elizabeth was warm and funny, as was Charlene Baumbich, one of our favorite local authors who introduced her. One of my favorite parts of every book reading is the Q and A, and Elizabeth Berg is masterful at it. Someone asked her how her early nursing career affected her writing, and her response is still fresh in my mind: she said that nursing taught her "unconditional acceptance" of the patient -- and thinks that ability to empathize with others has made her a better writer. Think about it: Elizabeth's unconditional acceptance of her own characters must be what gives them such honesty and truth. Interesting.
Anyway, for our final Bookfest event of the day (whew!) we got to go enjoy a program called "Get Lit" at Tap House Grill, hosted by area authors Charlene Baumbich and J.A. Konrath. What a great way to unwind from an exciting day! We got to hear all about Charlene's new book that will be released on September 21st: Divine Appointments, the second book in her Snowglobe Series. Fans, stay tuned for more information about her upcoming reading and book signing!

For those of you who came and enjoyed this inaugural event, you'll be happy to know that we're already thinking about next year. We're taking the feedback we've received from authors and participants, and hope to make it even better. For those who missed it, you don't want to miss it again! Pencil in Saturday, June 18, 2011, the week right after Printers Row Litfest. We'll keep you posted through our e-newsletter, Facebook and Twitter.

But first, I'm going to enjoy some good summer reading. Just for the fun of it -- no fancy events involved -- just my book, my front porch and me.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Great Read for Teens on a Mission: The Heart is Not a Size

As Glen Ellyn teens prepare for their summer volunteer projects, including the big Team Readathon this weekend, we thought we'd share a reading recommendation. A good book doesn't just distract and entertain, a really good book can also inspire. So whether your teen volunteer work takes you near or far, we think you'll be both entertained and inspired by this book, The Heart is Not a Size by Beth Kephart.

Beth Kephart has written a guest post for The Bookstore's blog. Enjoy her insight, advice and perspective as a person who has been on church missions herself:

"There's something about getting up and out of the house and into the world of others that can change the shape of a life, and even the shape of a heart. I've always been happiest when plunged into a classroom of aspiring writers or polishing the pews in my church, or photographing young dancers in their first real performance on a stage, or helping a neighbor plant a garden.

I was enormously happy, too, when I joined my husband, son, and several others from my church on a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico, in the summer of 2005. We were there to help build a community bathroom in a squatter's village. We were also there to get to know the children and families who live without running water and in terrible poverty. I don't think I slept more than a half hour that entire week. I hardly ate, and the dust and heat were overwhelming. But my heart was so full of the people I met and the stories that they told that I felt just slightly empty when I returned home. I wanted the chance to do more.

There's an alivedness that erupts from those experiences, a goodness that settles in, a greater perspective about the world, and a deeper knowledge about yourself. And there's need everywhere - a chance to do good without ever stepping onto a plane or even leaving your own neighborhood. You can bring a meal or two to those homebound by age or illness. You can help teach someone new to this country how to read, or you can organize a fundraiser on behalf of a family in need, or you can make arrangements to have your choir sing at a retirement home. Whatever you do, it will make a difference - to those you serve, and to yourself.

I encourage you to check out these web sites, for inspiration:"

-Beth Kephart

Stop in TheBookstore for your copy of The Heart is Not a Size. It would make a great Readathon book this weekend!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Readathon Update: Bells and Whistles 50 Hour Reading Station

Readathon Update:

We are thrilled to report an exciting offer from Bells & Whistles in support of our 50 Hour Readathon the weekend of June 18-20!

In case you haven't heard about the Readathon yet, The Bookstore decided to celebrate its 50th Anniversary by hosting a 50 Hour Readathon to benefit the Glen Ellyn Children's Resource Center.

We have brochures at The Bookstore explaining the rules, along with Reading Logs and Pledge Forms. Sounds complicated, but it all boils down to this: (1) gather a bunch of readers, (2) read whatever you want over one weekend (June 18-20), and (3) collect some money from folks who want to support our efforts for the GECRR. The goal is for your team to reach a total of 50 hours ALL TOGETHER over the entire weekend. So it's totally doable, especially if your team is big.

You must report your results to The Bookstore by July 1st (basically two questions: how many hours? and how much money?) Every single dime of the money you collect goes to the GECRR. The Bookstore will have a Birthday Party for all of the participants at the end of the summer where we announce the awards. Free cake too!

Readathon organizers are encouraging participating teams of readers to read together on the day of the GE Bookfest (June 19th), and we've been working to select a handful of Readathon Reading Stations for the day of the GE Bookfest. One of the Rain or Shine stations will be The Bookstore window. A sign-up sheet for one-hour time slots is available at the desk.

But now we have an announcement about an even more awesome Reading Station! Bells & Whistle Snackery has stepped up to the plate and volunteered to help in a big way. And I mean a really BIG. WAY. They have offered to host a "50 Hour Reading Station" at Bells & Whistles. That's right. It actually lasts 50 hours! Bring your sleeping bags! Can't make the entire 50 hours? No biggie - any hours spent reading that weekend count, whether or not you make it to 50. You can also find a "pinch reader."

Here's the scoop: It starts at 6am on Saturday, June 19th with breakfast. They're offering 50% off all meals, free coffee and ice cream over the entire 50 Hour period, and then a free breakfast on Monday morning at the end of the Readathon! They're getting the word out to area teens and are offering to verify time spent at the Readathon for any service hours students might need for school or church. Obviously, teens will need a parent's permission to participate.

The Bookstore was so pumped up by Bells & Whistles offer that we have donated over two dozen free books to the Bells & Whistles Reading Station. We picked titles that we thought would appeal to older kids and teens, and they are free for any participants to read during the Readathon. (You can even take them home when you're done.)

To sign up for the Bells & Whistles Reading Station, e-mail them at They will have Reading Logs and Pledge Forms at the Snackery, so you don't have to do anything but show up with your sleeping bag and a lot of spirit!

Many many thanks to Bells & Whistles for their participation in the Readathon. Partnerships like this is what our village is all about. And it's all for a good cause: the kids in our village who need a little more help to succeed. So lets do it.

For more information, call The Bookstore at (630) 469-2891.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I Just Finished Another Great Book: Secret Daughter by Shilpi Gowda

Shilpi Gowda, the author of Secret Daughter, will be coming to The Bookstore this Friday, June 11th for Happy Hour from 5:30 to 7 pm. Please join us for some summer wine (I'm thinking Pinot Grigio myself) and interesting conversation with this talented author.

Because we're a small store and we only have about one author visit a month, I make it a point to read every visiting author's book before their event. I'm sure other event coordinators would laugh at the idea (especially those with five or more events per week!) but I just can't imagine doing it any other way. I love to make a connection with the author based on their ideas, their talent, or their storytelling, and then share that inside knowledge with our customers. At a smaller store, it's possible to get personal.

So just the other day, I moved Secret Daughter to the top of my reading pile. I just finished it a couple of hours ago, and as I was wiping the tears from my eyes, I knew I had to blog about it, no matter how much work I'm trying to juggle right now. It was wonderful.

This book is about two mothers and the daughter they share. One is the biological mother from a small village in India who gives birth to a baby girl in a culture that "does not love all her children equally." She takes her 3-day old infant to an orphanage in Mumbai in a desperate act that saves her daughter from an even worse fate. The other mother is an American doctor, who along with her Indian-born husband, adopts the baby after falling in love with her unusual hazel eyes in a photograph. The biological mother named her "Usha" which means dawn; the adoptive parents name her "Asha" which means hope. They both want what is best for her.

The story itself is wonderful, but the background to the story is fascinating as well. So strong is the prejudice against baby girls that even small villages in India have access to ultrasound clinics for early-stage gender identification and sex-selective abortions. (Just writing that sentence made me feel sick to my stomach, and I'm pro-choice.) The problem is intertwined with the lack of women's rights, population problems and dowry rules. Although Gowda points out that this practice has been outlawed for over a decade, it is still rampant. In the story, the biological mother becomes pregnant again after Usha's birth, and her husband insists that they visit one of these clinics together. It's an emotional scene to say the least.

Despite this insight into a horrible fact of Indian life, the book still manages to celebrate the many other positive things about Indian culture. When Asha grows up, she is awarded a journalistic fellowship to study Mumbai's slums, and she goes to live with her adoptive father's extended family. She discovers Indian warmth, food and family tradition, and learns to appreciate the side of herself and her father that she was never really given the chance to know.

In the meantime, Asha's parents struggle with their multicultural marriage and their daughter's search for her own identity. These passages have great truth and honesty in a post-Obama "post-racial America" where misunderstanding of (and sometimes even discomfort with) other cultures still prevails. The tension is multiplied when the discomfort is right inside your own family. Bi-racial and adopted children fight for the right to know, accept and celebrate all of their identities. In fact, I'd compare Secret Daughter to another one of my favorites this year, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow. Durrow's young protagonist is half African-American with bright blue eyes; Gowda's is an Indian-born American with light-brown skin and gold-flecked eyes.

Trust me, this is a great book. I heartily recommend it to all of our book clubs, and I hope you have the chance to stop in on June 11th for a Friday Happy Hour with the author. I can't wait to meet her myself.