Gayle's March 2015 Letter

Gayle's March 2015 Letter

Dear Bookstore Friends,

Gayle ShanksI have no idea what happened to February! It might be the shortest month of the year, but this year it seemed to flash by in a week. The quiet sitting time I kept planning to take just never materialized. I did, however, go to Asheville, North Carolina for the bookseller’s Winter Institute, a yearly educational gathering celebrating its tenth year of training booksellers to be better at their jobs. While there, I got to visit one of my favorite indie bookstores in the world—Malaprops. Back in town, I met with a few sales reps and ordered books for the upcoming season and shared things I’d learned in Asheville with my staff. And, on a very personal level, I went to Los Angeles for a visit and brought my six-year-old grandson, Hayden, back to Tempe. He is living with us now, sleeps in his dad’s old room, and attends our local elementary school. And somehow I managed to read a few good books, attend a couple of author events, and watch Downton Abbey and The Good Wife after putting Hayden to sleep. So, maybe it was a full month after all, except no Bookstories newsletter got written. Sorry about that.

March is also filling to the brim, but it’s not so frenzied. The beautiful spring weather is exciting, the yard blooming with hundreds of wildflowers, the citrus trees smelling like expensive perfume, and the everyday level of chaos settling into minor eruptions that are manageable if I remember to breathe. This is when community is so important in a woman’s life, and it’s curious the form it takes when you most need it. Raising children requires a village, not just a single parent or even a pair of loving grandparents struggling to do it all. Bookstores also need a village, thriving when they become a gathering place that holds more than the books they sell, incorporating themselves into the fabric of what we call a sense of place; and those connections are like the ripples in a pond when you throw in a rock, and watch the waves move slowly outward.  We need those connections, we need support, we need to feel like the world is benevolent, not a series of rocks strewn on our path waiting to trip us up.  

Dharma Talk This notion of Community is the topic of a Dharma Talk that I’ll be doing on March 18th—tonight!  Mary Beth Markus, the founder of Desert Song Yoga, has invited me to share the evening with her and Karen Mason—who owns The Duck and Decanter—with the idea of exploring what it takes to build community, what that means, and what we see changing and evolving in our businesses and personal lives. It’s interesting to me, in light of this upcoming talk, that the past few months have tested my mettle and required me to rely on others more than I might normally have been comfortable doing.  A dear friend at lunch one day said to me, “Gayle, you’re always the one jumping in to help, bringing food, making phone calls, arranging things that ease the pain of hard times. Can’t you let others do a little bit for you now?” She reminded me that this is what a community of friends does for one another, that accepting a nurturing hand is part of what cements us to one another.

Changing Hands Phoenix That cement can take many forms. As we were thinking of our new store in Phoenix and talking about our new neighborhood, we so wanted to bring the neighborhood of Tempe—not the physical location but the ‘feelings’ that one gets when you walk through the doors—to our new space.  We wanted people to come and feel the space, the beauty of the building, the old adobe bricks that have absorbed thousands of conversations over the years, the concrete floors that have stood the test of time and caused waitresses and now booksellers to wear comfortable shoes, and especially we wanted to build this new community in a place that is about words and ideas and beauty and connections.  First Draft BarThose hoped-for connections grew and came to include SARRC, whose autistic adults make much of our bar food at First Draft, a variety of other bakers whose confections test your resolve to avoid sugar, our partnership with Arizona Advocacy Network that brings in films and speakers, Desert Song Yoga, Phoenix school districts, authors local and national, our indie retail colleagues and all our partners who bring speakers and ideas and fundraisers and children and fun and laughter to this place we call Changing Hands.

So, what does your community mean to you? Come and talk about it with us tonight on March 18th at Desert Song, or visit our stores and share our space. You’re always welcome and we treasure what you bring to the village.