When author Greg Zschomler first asked me to host an indie author book fair, I wasn’t sure what to make of the proposal. It sounded like a cool idea, at least as intriguing as his idea to write a faith-based thriller titled The Amish vs The Zombies, which I giddily display in my bookshop window. So I agreed. Greg recruited other indie authors, designed a poster, wrote a press release, and oversaw logistics. He led the charge. All I did was provide space, facilitate sales, and bought some coffee for the folks* who agreed to participate.
Those eager word-beavers were already gathered beside Jupiter’s Books when I arrived for the event on Saturday morning. I unlocked an adjacent building that I’d rented to soothe the city’s last-minute concerns about outdoor merchandising. Authors rushed in with tables and chairs and displays, ready to start. Several people erected canopies outside, careful to stay in an area that’s screened from the street. We were immersed in bookish camaraderie. The feeling grew as I opened my shop and began unpacking boxes of gently used tomes that had arrived the previous evening.
Indie authors exude do-it-yourself spunk. They’ve learned to sustain their creative work with internal drive and direct contact with readers. Their stories become realized in an intimate way that usually ducks the radar of mainstream commerce. Just the folks to revive a little arts colony.
That crafty vibe was bubbling each time I broke away from my shop to see what was happening next door. During the first stroll through I noted a young man passionately reading one of his poems to an elder poet who listened intently. A clutch of wordsmiths had placed a blanket with cushions in the corner, making a cozy spot for storytelling. The place brimmed with diverse enthusiasms — cyberpunk novels about warring toys, translations of Illuminati rituals, Bohemian fairy tales, how-to books on various useful proclivities. One woman had published a book of GLBT testimonies as a gift for her son.
All book sales were handled at Jupiter’s, so I wasn’t able to mingle as much as I wanted. Yet I did enjoy chatting on a sunny bench near my front door where I could keep an eye on the counter. There I spoke with insightful souls about the reading habits of women and men. We were serenaded by a bluesy troubadour who hunkered on the sidewalk and sang about Saint Lucy and the solar arcana. Sally Lackaff and I recalled the beginnings of the Upper Left Edge, when she drew illustrations for the paper in the rocking chair at Jupiter’s in the early 90s. I brought out an old edition from inside the shop, and she provided a little background on her graphics.
In the afternoon we were gifted with an impromptu performance of Sweet Virginia by Travis Champ and Dusty Santamaria. What could be better than singing along to my favorite Rolling Stones tune with these fine gritty poets? It happened here, in a vacated bike shop infused with artisan dreams. Travis and Dusty stayed till the end to share their hand-made chapbooks. They are much better lyricists than Mick and Keith.
In some alternate universe they are famous, too, as are many word-slingers. That might be an interesting universe to visit, a big booming place where we can cheer with the masses. But I’d rather live here, visiting with homespun kin beside this little bookstore. I’d rather be close to the magic when it strikes the ground, where we can touch the words.
* In alphabetical order: Jan Bono, Tricia Gates Brown, April Bullard, Andy R. Bunch, Travis Champ, Jessica Cox, Thomas Gondolfi, Maquel A. Jacob, Paula Judith Johnson, Julius Jortner, Rita Traut Kabeto, Holly Lorintcz, Matt Love, Montgomery Mahaffey, Chip MacGregor, Donald McEwing, Melissa Ousley, David Robinson, Dusty Santamaria, Jeva Singh-Anand, Traci Leigh Taylor, and Gregory E. Zschomler. Thank You!