I try to be realistic about bookstore appearances in places where I don’t have friends and family to fill up the chairs and hope that someone shows up;­ maybe even a half-dozen people. A dozen would be fabulous. Thinking small gives me a chance to be delighted when I see genuine strangers out there. 

Then there’s the pleasure of finding myself in a wonderful bookstore like Malaprop’s in Asheville. I arrived about a half hour before my presentation was scheduled and it was barely enough time to wander through this wonderful store. (I ended up returning the next day.) The feel of the place is just great. Shelves of books at various angles. Lots of tables. Plenty of redundancy, so it was easy to find a book in more than one place. A friendly book-loving staff.  The espresso maker was turned off during my presentation (where there were a number of strangers!) and there was the chance afterwards to hang out and talk to people.

Quail Ridge in Raleigh had a very different feel but was also pleasant. Located in the same strip of stores as Whole Foods, it wasn’t as quirky as Malaprop’s, but the store, like Malaprop’s, was also was a welcome change from corporate-looking bookstores and a good place for booklovers to browse. As soon as I showed up, one of the staff asked me to sign my publicity photo so they could put it in the bathroom. “That’s where we put all the writers,” she said.  “It’s not as bad as it sounds.”

I’m in distinguished company on that wall.

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*****

Jane Bernstein, a professor of English and creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University, is the author of Rachel in the World: A Memoir, Loving Rachel: A Family’s Journey from Grief, Bereft—A Sister’s Story, and other books. For more, visit http://www.janebernstein.net/.

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