Books

new england literary news | nina macclaughlin

Indie bookstores in smaller towns hatch plan to lure authors for readings

Lynne Barrett appeared at Odyssey Bookstore in South Hadley to do an author reading. Independent bookstores are joining together to attract more authors through their doors.
Lynne Barrett appeared at Odyssey Bookstore in South Hadley to do an author reading. Independent bookstores are joining together to attract more authors through their doors.

Author, author

Many readers feared the growth of online booksellers like Amazon.com, with their convenience and selection, would mean the end of the independent bookstore. And for a time things looked grim, with news of closings mushrooming across the nation.

But in recent years the indies have seen a resurgence in the number of stores as well as in sales, according to the American Booksellers Association.

One of the major reasons is that the independents have focused on building communities around readers and books by offering lots of suggestions to help customers find just the right title and organizing lots of events with authors.

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“It’s about the community you find,” says New England Independent Bookseller Association executive director Steve Fischer. “When there’s a group of people who come out to hear an author on a snowy night in smalltown New Hampshire, you know that’s going to be a great event.”

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But right now as publishers’ budgets have shrunk and book tours are often funded from the author’s own pocket, regional booksellers are brainstorming ways to help bring authors to smaller towns.

At a recent NEIBA conference in Cambridge, Jeff Peters of the new East End Books in Provincetown proposed forming a coalition of stores that would pool resources to help authors with transportation costs, chipping in for gas money, and arranging housing — particularly for books of regional appeal.

Booksellers were enthused, and several Cape indies — Titcomb’s, Eight Cousins, and Bunch of Grapes — got on board to try with a plan to host Cape Cod native Patrick Dacey, whose novel “The Outer Cape’’ is set for release in June, on a mini tour. “Every author is a local author somewhere,” said Fischer, “and connecting authors with readers at their local bookstores is the best first step.”

Running for writing

The legend runs something like this: Around 490 BC, a Greek soldier named Philippides dashed on foot from Marathon to Athens — 26.2 miles — to bring the message that the Greeks had defeated the Persians. He shared the good news, collapsed, and croaked. The folks at 826 Boston, the nonprofit that works to help underserved kids “find their voices, tell their stories, and gain communication skills,” understand the punishing nature of this distance. On April 13, four days before thousands of people lace up their sneaks for the Boston Marathon, 826 is holding a Half Half Half Half Half Marathon, a distance of roughly 0.826 miles, which, with luck, won’t end with any following Philippides’s fate, to raise money for their free writing programs. The $25 registration fee signs you up for the run (or sprint, stroll, amble, or skip), as well as a free drink after the evening’s athletic events come to an end. This Marathon takes place at 6:30 pm on Boston Common.

Poet laureate of Brookline

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Zvi Sesling has recently been named poet laureate of Brookline. He’s the founder of the Muddy River Review, and his work has been published in a number of journals. “I try to take something I observe and connect it to something else,” he told poet Doug Holder in an interview. “I think everything in the world is connected in one way or the other.” In his poem “Ship,” he writes of a freight ship deposited on the plains of Central Asia and how “hornets build their mud/ nests where barnacles should be” and how grass “moves like waves and the ship is home again.”

Coming out

“Somebody with a Little Hammer’’ by Mary Gaitskill (Pantheon)

“Sunshine State’’ by Sarah Gerard (Harper Perennial)

“The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny’’ by Michael Wallis (Liveright)

Pick of the week

Josh Christie at Print: A Book Store, in Portland, Maine, recommends “Rat Queens’’ by Kurtis Wiebe and Roc Upchurch (Image Comics): “Wiebe and Upchurch have created a quartet of hard-drinking, ass-kicking mercenaries making their way through a Dungeons & Dragons-inspired fantasy kingdom. The comic flips expectations by making these four — an elven mage, dwarven fighter, human cleric and Smidgen thief — women, turning the male-dominated genre on its head. With a perfect mix of humor, violence, and wit, the first volume of ‘Rat Queens’ gives us an adventuring party it would be a blast to party with.”

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.