Saturday, March 24, 2007

Keeping Secrets

Last Wednesday night we welcomed Andrew Rosenheim to mostly books. As well as giving a very entertaining speech, he read from his novels Stillriver and (his latest) Keeping Secrets.

Andrew gave a great talk - and spoke about everything from his experience in publishing (non-fiction - so no help to his current fiction writing career), to how he can't help eavesdropping on his own family for writing inspiration (hope mentioning that doesn't get you into trouble Andrew!).

As befits someone who was formerly head of Electronic Publishing at OUP, we did our best with the technology here - here's a snippet of Andrew reading from Keeping Secrets courtesy of YouTube:

(If you notice the flashing lights outside, the local Electricity company decided to start digging up the road about 5 minutes before we started - which lasted until about 15 minutes after the event ended. Everyone was terrifically British about it and totally ignored it, however).

Thanks to Andrew for another very stimulating author event - I have already had to invite him back in to sign some more books...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Sustainability and shelving...and sunshine!

Nothing can fully prepare you for the shock of day-to-day retailing. It is the most intense, interrupt-drive, unpredictable, no-two-days-the-same bag of craziness. And of course we love it. There is a downside, unfortunately, and that often we are often completely knackered! And with Nicki now (officially) off on maternity, the blog has suffered for the last couple of weeks– apologies for that.

Here’s a bit of an update on what’s been going on in the shop – we haven’t done a tour around for a while, so here goes.

This past week our Wednesday bookgroup met – here’s a picture (left) of the aftermath of our intense discussion on When I Grow Up by Bernice Rubens. We’d selected this as our ‘memoir’ for this half of the year, and I was a bit worried that there wouldn’t be the same kind of themes to discuss that you find in a fiction book – but I needn’t have worried. We had an excellent discussion (I think it helped that Bernice was an author) and it has inspired some of the group to read her novels, which is very heartening. After her death in 2004, I feel that there is a danger that some of her novels will languish and go out of print (the dreaded OOP on the system).

We also launched our new sustainability section last week – here’s a shot of it in the alcove. There is a real groundswell of activity in Abingdon at the moment, with a recently launched carbon-cutters group, and various environmental groups meeting in the Guildhall last Saturday as part of a carbon saver's action day. From previous activities (and posts) I have a passion for sustainability, and our sustainability section is something I’ve wanted to do (properly) since opening the shop.

Coincidentally on Thursday I went to the launch of Chris Goodall’s book How to Live a Low-Carbon Life at Blackwells (cue sounds of angels singing in background, much genuflecting, etc.) in Oxford. It was good to meet both him, and an author called Mark Lynas (anyone reading the Sunday Times magazine this weekend should have been scared witless by the conclusions of his latest book Six Degrees) and we hope to have an event with both of them soon.

(I was also hoping to go on a spying mission whilst in Blackwells, but unfortunately most of the bookshop was off-limits. I consoled myself by going into Borders for an hour of undercover activity. Cue schoolboy sniggering and feeling faintly guilty as I questioned one of their staff at length about where all the environmental books were. Hee hee).
On Thursday it got so warm out in the garden, I stripped down and cleaned all the tables, and announced that the courtyard garden was open. But we had no takers until a slightly chilly Saturday afternoon, with a few hardy souls venturing out to have tea and cake in the back.

Should get warmer this week…here's some piccies taken last week. Lovely...

We also done a bit more 'remodelling' (as the Americans say) in the shop – here’s some piccies.

Can you spot the big change?

We also have a desk in the back (hey hey) just like a proper shop, and everything…

To round off a busy week, we had the first of what we hope will be regular courses for authors and writers in the shop (on Sunday). We hadn't blogged about it ahead of time, as we were a bit nervous about how it would go, but we got very good feedback from the authors that attended, and this has gives us a lot of confidence to do more courses in the future. You can learn more here.

This Wednesday (March 14th) we have Andrew Rosenheim appearing in the shop at our next author event. He will be reading from his latest book “Keeping Secrets”, answering questions and signing copies of his book. I’m two-thirds of the way through Keeping Secrets, and enjoying it. He has been compared to both Kate Atkinson and Sebastian Faulks, which is very esteemed literary company to be in (and from my POV, two authors he can definitely stand comparison with), and we are looking forward to another cracking literary evening here in the shop.

After that, of course, I will be going for a big lie down…

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Crowded Bed

A fantastic evening at the shop on Wednesday night. Brenda Ridley, who joined Mostly Books in January, kindly agreed to write a report on the event. I just wanted to thank everyone who came along, squeezed in, and made it such a great event - Mark.


"The Crowded Bed - wow! What an introduction to my first evening event and an apt title for an event that saw the shop almost bursting at the seams! It was lovely to see so many supporters of ‘Mostly Books’ and have opportunity to chat in a relaxed ambiance, that was made even more welcoming with a glass of wine – or two.

Mary Cavanagh, a local author gave two readings from her first novel, holding our attention as she read an opening extract from her book introducing us to the main character. It soon transpired that Joe Fortune – a Jewish doctor – epitome of utmost respectability - was harbouring a deep, dark secret - namely a growing obsessive desire to do away with his obnoxious father-in law, whilst the second extract was an example of the humour that runs all the way through.

During a time of questions and answers Mary shared some of the stresses involved in getting your novel published. When asked about plot development Mary revealed that she had undertaken several re-writings, partially driven by the characters themselves. One of the phrases that stuck in my mind on this subject - and this is a very rough paraphrase - was ‘characters should be left, like animals, to wander home at night on their own rather than being herded into pens.’

Mary also directed us to ‘The Sixpenny Debt’, a collection of Oxford stories written by local authors, some of whom had come along to support Mary and were also readily available for signing. Mary also recommended Kate Atkinson’s ‘Behind the Scenes of the Museum’ that had been an earlier inspiration to her own writing and quickly encouraged the budding authors in our midst. There were also a number of Bookcrossers - who we've mentioned before, but whose website can be found here, for anyone as curious as I was about their clandestine and curious activities!

Mary concluded the formal part of the evening with a reading of her poem ‘Baby-boomers’, evocative of her earlier years and bringing back great memories of the mini skirt and the Beatles!"