Lessons from A Bookstore

I just started working at a bookstore, a few times a week. My first day was more than I’d imagined. As a kid, I dreamed of being surrounded by books, as that felt like home to me. Now decades later, I stepped inside the store, and was home in a sense. Turning in every direction to see stacks and rows, of somewhat chaotic and neat aisles, gave me sheer excitement. Oh, the adventures I would have here, in the center of many brilliant and creative minds. The smell of books, well . . . it’s quite amazing! If you haven’t sniffed a book lately, you should. Bliss.

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Carefully placing these masterpieces on the shelf, seeing writer friend’s books on display, and sharing my favorites titles and authors with customers . . . a dream. I had thought about these things, and how it would be to work at a bookstore for months before I started my job. I didn’t think about my absolute favorite thing though, as I wouldn’t have understood it, or the magnitude of it, that I do now. It’s filled me with a whole new sense of appreciation for my craft and myself as I create, but for readers as well.

My manager had told me stories about “regulars” who came in once a week, on a Monday, at the same time everyday. I anticipated seeing this.

The following Monday, I got to work, ready to greet this lovely couple into our store. They were an elderly couple. Visiting the bookstore, came after paying bills, a trip to the post office, and grocery shopping. Once their errands were done, they would have a few hours to come in and take time, buying a book for each other. This couple, put thought into their purchase and stayed for two hours, walking every aisle, laughing, giggling, and reading the first page of multiple books. It was an experience, to buy a treasure for one another. Not something to rush through because they knew this new book would become a close friend. They held hands, and walked to the register. Leaving with new books and a promise to come back the following week.

Everyday book lovers come in with a smile, and leave with an even bigger one. I got a giant hug from a woman who desperately wanted to find, Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, for her book club read. She’d been three places and it was sold out. We happened to have not only that one, but the whole series. She squealed and thanked me repeatedly. A older gentleman called to ask me for every single copy I could find in hardcover of The Hardy Boys, starting at sixty-six on up. When I told him I had sixty-seven in the store, and could get him the rest, he laughed with such heart and excitement. His inner child held found memories of this collection. A lady in her mid-twenties, came in to discuss with me her passion for philosophy and the power of the mind. We had a very in-depth heart to heart conversation about religion, the world, and our views on mind-set. She left with ten books that day, all by different authors. A mother of three sat in the picture book section for an hour, reading page after page, with a smile, a tear, or a laugh out loud moment. She couldn’t pick just one, and with that bought twenty books. So many lovely people, have talked to me about their favorite characters. Even mentioning to me, that they think about what that character would do, when faced with a tough decision. This is what it’s all about.

Writing.

It makes a difference.

Readers love the books they hold in their hands. Valued treasures. Friends. Most of the time, they become longtime friends.

No one is every asking me for the same title. EVER.

Western American History.

Gritty Horror Fiction.

Humorous picture book with a pig.

Vegan cookbooks

Mystery in space for a 8-10 boy.

How to build confidence books for young girls.

Some customers know exactly what they want and need. They know their section and dart straight over to it. Others, want to experience the store. Many times I’ve heard, “I didn’t plan enough time today. I’m going to come back when I have more time to enjoy myself.” It’s not just a purchase when you’re buying a book, it’s an adventure. A time to escape, and enjoy the moment of finding a new gem. I have a whole new list of books to read that cherished customers have recommended, and I gave them recommendations on books I adore and cherish. They also have left with the characters I’ve fallen in love with over the years.

Sometimes, as we’re writing, we forget what we’re doing it for. What’s the point? When we feel exhausted, overworked, unappreciated, and it becomes too heavy . . . remember this. Readers are waiting for your stories. They ask for different genres. They love all types of characters. Readers want characters they can relate to, that reach them to the very core. A world that takes them somewhere else. Emotion that brings feelings out, that they didn’t even know was there. This is what we do.

It is important.

It does make a difference.

You make a difference.

If you forgot this, go to a bookstore and take time going up and down the aisles. Smell the books and touch the pages. Pick some off the shelf and hold them in your hands. Think about why you write. Think about the messages and thoughts that stir in you, that want to be heard. Sit on the floor, and be the reader. Allow yourself to feel, to escape, and to enjoy the journey with the character inside the book you’re holding.

Promise to come back and visit again. And, go home. Sit at your computer, and write, but . . . write for you.

_____________________________

Lauri Schoenfeld’s first love is her little clan of three silly kidlets and her wonderful hubby, Andy. Writing is a close second. She began writing poems at the age of nine, and her love for literature and music developed into composing thirty songs.  In 2014 her short story, Christmas Treasure, was featured in an anthology called, Angels from their Realms of Story.  Her favorite genre to write is anything dark, psychological, and suspenseful, but she enjoys expanding her horizons and dipping her feet in other genres as well.  Lauri teaches summer writing classes for kids and mentors teens throughout the year. She’s a Child Abuse and Scoliosis Survivor. Lauri runs a group for teen girls with Scoliosis called, The S Squad. Their motto is Strength, Support and Self Confidence.  She’s been known to dance around the house with a spoon as her microphone and sneak toppings from the ice cream bar. Lauri’s taken online classes at the Institute of Children’s Literature and was the President of the League of Utah Writers, Oquirrh Chapter for two years.  She’s a member of Crime Writers and International Thriller Writers.

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