Tomorrow, Independent Bookstore Day will mark its second year of celebrating independent bookstores nationwide, with literary parties around the country. In cities and towns throughout the country, participating independent bookstores will host unique literary parties, including readings, raffles, scavenger hunts, story times, music, food trucks, and literary trivia. Participating stores will also offer exclusive day-of merchandise created especially for Independent Bookstore Day by major publishers and authors.
To help kick off the celebrations, The Rumpus has an exclusive Q&A with Lauren Groff, 2016 Bookstore Day Author Ambassador and author of Fates and Furies, Arcadia, Delicate Edible Birds, and The Monsters of Templeton.
The Rumpus: You’re the National Bookstore Day Ambassador for 2016’s Bookstore Day, taking place on April 30th. How did this relationship come about?
Lauren Groff: The short answer is that I visited San Francisco in the spring, gearing up for my book tour this past fall, and met and really hit it off with Samantha Schoech, who is the program director. I love her—she’s funny and passionate and brilliant.
The longer answer is that I think of Independent Bookstores as safe-havens for huge introverts, which I am, beautiful places all over the country where you can browse for hours with minimal need to speak to strangers, save for the recommendation from a kindred spirit or so, while picking up armfuls of books you never knew existed.
Rumpus: How would you sum up Bookstore Day in ten words or less?
Groff: Bookstore Day is a nationwide celebration of the book community.
Rumpus: What bookstores have been important to you throughout your life?
Groff: Augur’s Books in Cooperstown, New York, where I grew up (now defunct) is where I spent all of the money I made parking cars on my parents’ lawn during Hall of Fame Weekend. Amherst Bookstore in Amherst, MA is where I discovered Jeanette Winterson in college; Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, California, is where I went every day after work when I was an office minion at Stanford.
Now I make a huge effort to try to hit up every nearby independent bookstore whenever I’m in a new place, and on book tours, you’re in lots of new places. I make a point of buying my boys books—they’re the only things I will buy them without restrictions—and now the boys just sigh and say “More books?” and wander off to build book forts in the living room. This is my vision of our future: all of us in the same house, in our separate book-forts, reading happily together-ish.
Rumpus: How would you describe the relationship between authors and bookstores?
Groff: Bookstores are beyond essential for authors. By this, I don’t even mean the readings and events, which are magnificent and how we get to interact with our public, nor do I mean that they’re the places where we go to pick up all the books that feed our insatiable hunger for words, but rather that bookstores are the endpoint, the place where you know that you’re going to find your people, where you’ll finally connect. The idea that a piece of you is going to sit one day in a bookstore, waiting, that your book is going to be hand-sold by a brilliant person who has read everything and knows everything—this idea is a shining beacon in all of that solitude and darkness and doubt that you undergo while writing.