Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tuesday Nights

On Tuesday Night we welcomed Joanna Trollope to Abingdon, to talk about her latest book Friday Nights. The event was held at St Helen & St Katharine, in their magnificent Yolanda Patterson Hall. We had an audience of over 200 (which we were delighted with, particularly considering it was a chilly Tuesday evening in January). The event was run jointly with the school, and it was also the first event organised with the Mostly Booklovers. They turned out in force to support the event, helping to run all aspects from checking tickets to opening bottles of wine. We couldn't have run this event on this scale as successfully without their help - and this is certainly the way we would like to run big events in the future. The venue itself has a wonderful 'atrium' area when you first come in, and with the assistance of the Booklovers we'd set up drinks and the bookstall. Many people had come in groups, or met up with old friends - and the atmosphere pre-performance was extremely lively. Once we had managed to usher everyone into the Hall, Joanna came out onto the stage to talk about her writing in general, her latest book Friday Nights, and to answer questions from the audience. She was on sparkling form, putting her previous experience as a schoolteacher to very good use by addressing the packed auditorium without a microphone. After taking questions, we whisked her to a signing table at the side of the hall, where she was able to sign copies of her books, and chat to those queuing up to get a book signed. There was the obligatory end-of-evening photo with the author. Here (from left to right) are Booklovers Ian & Jean, Nicki, Joanna, myself, Donna (librarian of St Helen & St Katharine) and Annabel (another Mostly Booklover who has also blogged the event here). Thanks to everyone who came on Tuesday, and a special thank you must go to those Mostly Booklovers who have set the bar reasonably high on their first event. But of course, we must give a very big and warm thank you to Joanna and her agent Nicky for trekking out to Abingdon in January, and for contributing to a very special evening.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Picking up a few smashed plates

Blimey. We certainly didn't intend to take a six week sabbatical from blogging. Can't imagine what we were doing over the past month or so... I've come to the conclusion that the two groups of people that have the most intense time at Christmas are:
  • Parents with small children
  • People who run small retail establishments

So that's both boxes ticked for us then. Zowie, what a busy time. Running a bookshop in the run up to Christmas is something that is almost impossible to describe - and certainly something that is very difficult to prepare for unless you've been through it yourself. It's almost as if for nine months of the year you are preparing your staff and shop systems and procedures - and then in the final three months of the year these are tested to breaking point. Any flaws are horribly exposed. Like steadily accelerating a car that you've built yourself towards the finish line on December 24th, the danger is that above 90mph bits start flying off. We lost a couple of wing mirrors this year, but nothing too serious. Also, considering the amount of illness around this Winter, and the well-publicised supply chain disruptions caused by Woolworth's demise, we were extremely lucky in that we seemed to avoid both - I know others weren't so lucky. Anyway, whilst we did a good job of keeping most plates spinning, the blogging one well and truly fell off its pole. So for 2009, here's a shiny new plate and I've given it a really good spin. January is supposed to be a nice relaxing time for booksellers (or, alternatively, in common retail parlance: 'utterly dead'). This allows us to catch up on delightful things such as returns, accounts, general de-Christmassing and shop 'deep cleaning'. However, that's not exactly what has happened this January for us. First up, events. We have one of our biggest events to date this Tuesday (Jan 20) - an evening with Joanna Trollope. This event is important for lots of reasons - aside from having such a stellar literary name here in Abingdon. We are holding the event at St Helen & St Katharine in Abingdon, and have worked very closely with them in terms of planning and ticket sales. We hope it will become a model of how we run some of our events in the future. The event is also the first in a series of events for the "Mostly Booklovers" – a new initiative launched at the end of last year for book enthusiasts in and around Abingdon. The idea of the group is that they work with us to develop a regular line-up of book-related talks, with members helping us to select authors and host events, get discounted (or free) event tickets. Our aim - as always - is to put the bookshop at the heart of a thriving book community, who help us choose the authors that come to Abingdon. Nicki and I are pretty excited at the potential for this year, and we've already got some varied events lined up over the coming months. (Thanks to Radio Abingdon for the plug on their blog - unsolicited, but very much appreciated!) We've made sure our events have been uploaded to a new web initiative called the Abingdon Diary, which aims to pull together as many of events as possible going on in Abingdon. It's a great idea, and part of something called Choose Abingdon - more details of which will be released shortly I've been told...