Saturday, April 25, 2009

We Had Several Visitors this Week.

It's another week at the store and things are making progress. We still don't have a sign outside--this is a great source of anxiety for me and I hope to write about it when I make a decision. It's something I know I won't really be able to change for many years, and I don't want to live with something I don't like.

That said, we had our best day ever yesterday. Saturday followed up the worst of our three Fridays to date so things kind of balanced out. But I was starting to get crabby when folks asked me how things were going, and I'm hoping that I have a better reaction to the question this week.

We had some visitors this week. Our first event was on Monday. Joshua Beckman, poet and editor at Wave Books read with locals Drew Blanchard and Derrick Harriell. You can ead more about it on the Boswellians. We had a nice turnout of 27 people, which I hear is quite respectable for a poetry event. This is actually a picture of Sarah introducing the event. The authors are sitting front row right.

On Saturday, our second poetry event also had about 25 people. It was a visit from Roya Hakakian, author of the memoir Journey From the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iraq. If nothing else, sit down when you're next in a bookstore and read the part about when her Jewish Day School's principal is replaced by a Muslim, whose goal is to get the students to convert. Hakakian tries to recreate one of her daily lectures, and the results are quite amusing.

Because she was on a whirlwind tour of Milwaukee (I think the folks who brought her in at Alverno College and the Wisconsin Society for Jewish Learning had her do six events), we asked if she do something different and read a bit of her Farsi poetry. Following that, three locals also recited poems, one in English and two in the original tongue. Much as I enjoyed the rest of the evening, this was perhaps the highlight for me. Both readers (not readers really, they had memorized the work) were passionate and brought the work to life. I got a little teary at one point. (This might have been tears of fear with me wondering "What am I doing here?" but I think the rhetorical question was asked in a good way.)

As an owner, perhaps I am better in the past at saying, "Buy the book, buy the book" than I used to be, though I can't say I have been bad at it over the last few years. But we did sell 4 copies of Hakakian's poetry book in Farsi; that has got to be a first for any bookstore where I've worked. Zohreh, my contact, was wonderfully gracious and bought Mudbound at my recommendation (oh, and her friend she was with was also encouraging).

Our last visitor this week was ABA president Avin Domnitz, who was in town for family. It was great to see him and Rita, and I was glad to get his benediction. Paint good, lower fixtures, good. We discuss this a lot with customers. There's no question that the store doesn't only look brighter, it looks bigger.

Avin is a straightforward guy but he also has tact. I'm not sure how I would have reacted if he had a lot of negative things to say. Because it's a work in progress, I alternately bristle (on bad days) and chirp "I'm totally on the same page" (on good days) with customer suggestions that I agree with, depending on how positive I am that this change is actually going to happen.

For now, I have to remind myself (and my fellow booksellers) that we can only do one (ok, four) things at a time. We've got to prioritize and we can't always be perfectionists. We can always go back and change section placement, or book assignments, or procedures later. Oh, except for the outdoor signage. That I have to get right, which is why it isn't done, and this delay is not preventing me from still messing it up big time.


PaulaRed said...

Persian poetry event was wonderful, and I've started on the Donna Leon book I bought....thank you so much for your bookstore!

StacieMichelle said...

I picked up a copy of Journey From the Land of No and read it a few weeks before departing Milwaukee and before I knew you were even hosting her! It was a great read and with my love of Persian history, especially from the female perspective, it was a great loss to not be able to attend. Yes, being over 4,000 miles is a good excuse.