Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Books Across America Eastbound

After spending a few weeks over the holidays with our grown children and our little granddaughter out west, it was time to turn around and finish our road trip and my project, Books Across America.  We were headed home to Ohio but along the way, I wanted to visit some more independent bookstores with the same simple thought in mind, to say thank you…

It's not fun to say goodbye to those we love, so to get inspired about the drive, we chose a different route heading north from California through Nevada, across the tip of Arizona past the northern rim of the Grand Canyon, crossing southern Utah into Colorado, through the Rockies and Denver to Nebraska, then Iowa and into Illinois before finally hitting Indiana then crossing the border into Ohio as we made our way northeast to where Pennsylvania, New York and Lake Erie border the state, to where we live in Cleveland.

Traveling this route across the US in January can be tricky, but we chose this route to avoid the flooding along the Mississippi River further south.  I was so glad we'd traveled the southern route on our journey west, and I'd already visited bookstores along the lower mid-section of the country (see previous posts for must-visit bookstores).  Now we had all new cities in front of us with dozens of bookstores I wanted to visit.  Mr. Lane kept me on track and insisted on doing ALL the driving so I could work on my new novel (he does not allow writer's block) and snap photos between stops.  We had great weather the entire trip and experienced some of the most beautiful scenes across our great country.  If you've never road-tripped for long distances before, you really are missing out on all the wonders of the different regions.  Get out there and see the country…you won't be disappointed.

I've compiled several lists of independent bookstores I visited along the way, and most of the time, I was able to meet with the owner or manager and present them with a signed copy of my newest release, The Lies We Keep.  Sometimes it took some convincing that it was just a gift for them, for their store or for their personal collection to show my gratitude for what they do, for promoting literature, and a place for readers to browse and talk about books, for authors to share their works and even more so, for the charitable work they do in their communities.  Oftentimes, I found stores were contributing to literacy programs, providing story hours for young children, offering meeting rooms for book clubs and writing workshops after hours, and even donating a percentage of proceeds to schools and needy families.

"I just want to say thank you for what you're doing, what you are providing for your community and for supporting authors and people who love to read," I said each time.

More often than not, they'd tell me it was a first, that authors never just stop by to meet them and say thank you.  That the more likely scenario is a series of phone calls to try to schedule an author for an event and then find that the author can't fit them in on tour.  Yet, these booksellers support local authors, offer events throughout the year for their customers and even sponsor conferences for authors and readers.  Of course all authors appreciate them, but I got the feeling these small Main Street America bookstores were not used to being recognized as special, and important to our communities.

There's just something wonderful about entering an often historic building, the door sticking a bit and the bell jingling as you step inside, a friendly bookseller saying hello from behind the counter, stacks of books lining the walls, sometimes so tall a ladder is needed to retrieve a favorite title.  Nooks containing overstuffed bookcases filled with all the stories that transport us to other places and times, new worlds where we can learn and experience through characters from all walks of life.

Stephen King said, "Books are a uniquely portable magic."

So true.  And to me, these cozy bookstores tucked along rural roads and highways, set within strip malls and town centers all around the country are providing a bit of magic for all of us.

Here are a few I visited along the way…

Grand Valley Books, Grand Junction, Colorado:  This lovely bookstore is located at 350 Main Street and has a fantastic selection of used and new titles.  I arrived at this store on a very cold evening right before closing time.  I somehow didn't have them on my list of stores to visit, but after we checked into our hotel for the night, we took a drive in search of a good steak dinner and behold, I spotted Grand Valley Books tucked along Main Street in downtown Grand Junction.  Mr. Lane was happy to drop me off while he drove around for a few minutes to see if their was a good restaurant for dinner.  When he came back, I was standing outside on the sidewalk with a bag full of books.  I couldn't resist grabbing a few titles for the road, two on western history and one new release of contemporary fiction I'd been wanting to read for some time.  I noticed they were closing up shop and knew Mr. Lane was waiting on me, so I didn't mention that I was an author, since I tend to go on and on once I get going and didn't want to hold anybody up, so instead, I decided to keep it short and sweet.  "This is a lovely store, we're just driving through and I'm so glad I spotted this shop, what a wonderful place."  A very nice woman at the register said, "Thank you," and smiled -- and for a moment I wanted to be her, live in this town, own this shop and live everyday surrounded by books about the Old West and Native American Topics, with literary fiction and other genres all mixed together within the cozy confines and bookshelves of this sweet small town bookstore.  The mountains off in the distance surrounding this place were so beautiful as I stepped outside where I could see my breath and just as Mr. Lane pulled up, the snow began to fall and I knew the world of literature was alive and well on the Western Slope in Grand Junction, Colorado.  Too bad that when I read more about this store a few days later, they described themselves as folks who "Cater to odd requests, brilliant conversationalists and esoteric interests."  I guess I could have struck up a longer conversation after all.  If you're heading to Colorado on a ski trip, do stop in at this charming book store.  You'll definitely discover a good read for the trip.

Indigo Bridge Books, Lincoln, Nebraska:  I visited this independent bookstore inside The Creamery Building in downtown Lincoln on a quiet Sunday afternoon and found the store filled with people enjoying a cup of coffee, flipping through books or reading intently with others chatting quietly and enjoying a pastry at tables lining the sun drenched front windows.  I'd read about this store and how it had opened based on an idea that came out of a discussion about having a bookstore that could serve as a community resource, a place to support literacy, located downtown to bring together Lincoln's diverse population, especially welcoming those who don't speak English, offering multilingual events.  Children from the neighboring areas were invited to help with the decor, painting chairs bright colors and creating artwork for the large branchy tree created by artist, Toby Hollingsworth Thomas, standing proud and large in the center of the store.  
With the mission to build a stronger community the store has continued on in this tradition, offering events every week from writing workshops, a variety of reading groups like Graphic Novel Book Club, multilingual story times, and local author readings, as well as  bestselling authors on tour.  A delightful space with a wonderful coffee bar offering up a menu of specialty coffee and tea drinks and some lovely treats and sandwiches.  This is not just a bookstore but a place to gather, discuss books, study, write or just steal a quiet moment in the middle of a busy day.  There's a feeling of community the minute you walk in the door and a friendly, helpful staff at your service.  Check it out.  Also…Lincoln is a wonderful town and high on the list for livability, ranked as one of the best towns in America to start a business.  (My favorite besides Indigo Bridge Books was the cozy library in the lobby at the Marriott Hotel, this town loves books!)          

Cafe Indigo at Indigo Bridge Books 

Beaverdale Books, Des Moines, Iowa:  I met with the delightful owner of this charming bookstore, Alice Meyer who talked to me about her store with warm pride about waiting for two years for the perfect corner location on Beaver Avenue in a lovely north Des Moines neighborhood.  The store carries all new titles in a wide variety of genres for devoted book lovers.  With the perfect location  and plenty of parking, the store was filled with natural light from the wraparound windows.  There were cozy corners to sit and read for a while and tidy rows of bookshelves with room for events and author readings.  Alice was so kind and seemed truly devoted and enthusiastic about being a bookseller, telling me about independent bookstore owners being a tight-knit group and devoted to books and the neighborhood customer.  Other cheerful booksellers were at work behind the counter helping customers find the titles they were searching for and seemed to love their jobs.  Once a week, booksellers read from their favorite children's books at Storybook Time on Thursday mornings at 11:00 with time for singing and other surprises.  The store hosts several book clubs, offering discounts on books the groups are reading, groups like Book Browsers Book Club, Environmental Book Club, Mind-Body-Spirit Book Club, Mystery Book Club and Second Saturday Book Club.  The store also offers a discount to teachers for books for their classrooms and for home-schoolers as well.  The booksellers are happy to order books for customers if there is not a copy in the store.  The store supports local writers by hosting regional authors for readings and signings, and the Beaverdale Writers' Group meets at the store  offering the aspiring writers information about the publishing process and marketing a book once it's published.  Beaverdale Books will host The Season of Story in February 2016, sponsored by the Stories Are History Committee dedicated to promoting storytelling events throughout the state of Iowa.  Beaverdale Books is an active community oriented bookstore dedicated to serving Des Moines book lovers.  Stop by this wonderful gem of a bookstore next time you are in Des Moines.  

My Life On The Lane is busy with lists of bookstores to visit and miles and miles of highway to discover along the way.

Stay tuned for upcoming favorites from my recent trip, my lists of Coastal Bookstores, Big City Small Bookstores, Island Bookstores and Tiny Town Bookstores.  Also, a post about the newest trend in lending libraries -- Little Free Library.


"My bookstore obsession grew to the point where I'd search for the new shops during family trips, as if that were the reason for our travel."  ~Lewis Buzbee, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, A History

"A bookstore is one of the many pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking." ~Jerry Seinfeld

"those of us who read because we love it more than anything, who feel about bookstores the way some people feel about jewelers." ~Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life

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