What better way to celebrate that love than supporting that hallowed bazaar of the tome, the independent bookstore? On Saturday, Nov. 29, the Indies First campaign, backed by the American Booksellers Association, comes to a local book monger near you.
Sherman Alexie conceived the project last year. Author of, among other great books, Reservation Blues and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Alexie realized how rewarding it would be to give authors the chance to connect with their readers on a deeper level than at book signings, to be able to share their love of literature and must-reads. Icing on the cake: Coordinate it with Small Business Saturday, a yearly event sponsored by American Express that gives rebates for purchases made with their card at small merchants. Here in Burque, Page One Books (5850 Eubank NE, #B-41) and Bookworks (4022 Rio Grande NW), along with our neighbors in Santa Fe at Collected Works (202 Galisteo St.) and op.cit. Bookstore (500 Montezuma Ave.), join the nationwide celebration of down-home book slinging by inviting authors of every genre, from history to children’s, to ply their trade.
While Indies First offers a chance for local and national writers to meet and greet their fans at the grassroots level, for the bookstore owners … this event is about more than commerce.
Signaling a new vibrancy and energy in the world of independent bookstores, this year two rock star-status celebrities helm the campaign as spokespeople. Neil Gaiman has written a wide spectrum for all ages, from short fiction to audio theater. Amanda Palmer brings a different angle with her punk sensibility honed with the avant-garde duo The Dresden Dolls. In an open letter on the Indies First website, calling on authors to join the cause, they write, “There’s nothing like the human, organic serendipity of an independent bookshop, where people who read and love books share their love with others.” Amen to that.
Craig Chrissinger, book buyer and member of the event staff at Page One Books, adds that the authors themselves benefit as much as the customers. “For Indies First, [the authors] are walking around and having casual chats. They can recommend books that have influenced them or that they’ve just enjoyed reading—plus their own books, of course. It should make for lively conversations and fun interactions.”
Over at Bookworks, resident author and teacher Lisa Lenard-Cook will be on the floor from 1 to 2pm and says she’s looking forward to this year’s activities. She fondly recalls her interactions with customers during last year’s Indies First day at Bookworks. In one case a woman she spoke with fretted that she didn’t write every day so she must not be a writer. “I assured her I didn’t write every day,” says Lenard-Cook, “and that she was indeed a writer. I didn’t mean to make her cry, but I did, and I know she’s writing again—she’s emailed to let me know.”
While Indies First offers a chance for local and national writers to meet and greet their fans at the grassroots level, for the bookstore owners—like the owner of Collected Works in Santa Fe, Mary Wolf—this event is about more than commerce. “Holidays are times when we come together as families and communities, and doing your holiday shopping locally is an important part of that. When you get out and shop at New Mexico’s independently owned businesses, you see people you know, feel the holiday energy and help support your local economy—you can’t do that online.” If you find yourself up in Santa Fe on Nov. 29, Wolf promises refreshments and snacks, sale specials, as well as a bevy of local and national authors reading and slinging their books.
So as the holidays close in on us, remember that home is where the heart is. Avoid big box behemoths and rejoice in your love of books with an independent spirit. Whether you’re in New York City, Paris or Albuquerque, shops like these fight the good fight and remind us that books are more than a bunch of pages. Celebrate Indies First day—tuck into your local bookshop and pick up a read or a gift for your loved ones. Without indie bookstores, the world would truly be a blank slate.