Bookstore: Boswell Book Company
Title: We’re still working on one, but I do a lot with author events
Brief Bio.: A lifelong bibliophile who taught herself to read by age 5 and self-recorded an audiobook (Mickey & the Magic Bean Grinder) onto cassette at 7, Stacie has been shelving books by subject, title, height, color, and alphabetically by author, since she had her own small library’s (one bookcase) worth of books in her room at age 12. Also a writer who regularly fulfills her sixth-grade teacher’s admonition of “not applying herself,” Stacie makes sporadic attempts at proper writing, only to be distracted by her Siberian Husky (Vito), her cat (Gandalf), craft beers, live music, movies of all kinds (arthouse to trashy action), smart T.V. (Deadwood, Battlestar Galactica), dragon-boating, tree-climbing, and, of course, books. She started out in bookselling at the splendid Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops (R.I.P.) in 2005 and transitioned to Boswell in 2009.
What books recently rocked my world: Define “recently.” Within the last few months–The Other Walk: Essays by Sven Birkerts, Boleto by Alyson Hagy (May 2012, sorry), The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, Crimes in Southern Indiana by Frank Bill.
Best damn event(s) we’ve hosted: Since I did events at Schwartz, too, I’m only going to share the Boswell ones. Last year we hosted an event at the Wisconsin Conservatory of music for A. Manette Ansay’s book, Good Things I Wish You. It was a seamless working of musical performances into the reading and customers still talk about how wonderful it was. This year, we held the Algonquin Free Beer tour at a local bar and had a folk-rock band close it out. More recently, Ernest Cline showed up to his talk with his DeLorean and Ghostbusters proton packs, and a local theatre group did a dramatic reading as part of Dava Sobel’s appearance at a science museum.
Most entertaining author(s) we’ve hosted: I’m entertained at many of our author events (or perhaps I’m just easily entertained), but Sherman Alexie is one of the laugh-out-loud, funniest authors we’ve hosted and we’ve done it twice. He doesn’t read, he barely addresses whatever book he’s touring for – instead, he talks, tells stories, engages in lengthy Q&A and on top of it all is a firm, outspoken, consistent advocate for the printed page and the importance of indie bookstores. Just last month we had the extreme pleasure of hosting Sebastian Barry—the multiple-Man Booker-nominated Irish author, poet and playwright. He did an exuberant dramatic reading from portions of his novel, On Canaan’s Side, which included beautiful renditions of American folk songs which he sang in his lilting Irish accent. It was incredible.
Strangest question a customer has ever asked: “What happened on this day in 1852?” Oh, and there was the call I took from an older, hard-of-hearing woman who asked if we had any books on “Kegel” exercises. We’ve also been asked if we sell yoga mats.
Why our store kicks ass: Our t-shirts are designed by local artists, which is pretty kick-ass. We’re mind-readers when it comes to what you might be seeking. We aren’t afraid to be smart AND silly. And while it might seem a bit macabre, the truth is that if you’re one of our regular customers and you pass away, we will go to your funeral.
What makes our neighborhood and customers awesome: We’re located a few blocks from Lake Park, on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. The neighborhood itself is a mix of college students and young professionals, teachers and lawyers and doctors and business owners, and retirees – plus a wild turkey and a couple coyotes. Small, brick apartment buildings are nestled next to homes with urban gardens; on our street is a two-screen movie theater that shows indie and foreign films, several locally owned restaurants, a wine shop, a few new clothing boutiques and a family-owned grocery store. It’s a lot of people who are smart, witty, warm, and friendly and who want their community to reflect that sense. They get to know us and we notice when they’re gone – it’s like an extended family, when you consider all the hugs that get doled out.
I promise you won’t find this at any other store: Collections of Band-Aid tins, space rocks, Pez dispensers, model horses, pin cushions, and ceramic and porcelain Boston Terrier curios. Why? We have two glass display cabinets that feature rotating displays of personal, ephemera-on-a-theme from booksellers and customers. One time a customer used an inquiry about the Band-Aid tins as a ruse to ask me out on a date (FAIL).
Why I do what I do: I believe that books have the power to change lives and by helping connect people to them, I become a gateway to effecting great, positive change in the world. Like the guy who told me about his ex-girlfriend calling him to say she’s been in Maine for the last few years and that he’s the father of her child and wanted to know if there was a book that could help him – I recommended a road atlas, a parenting book and a relationship book. On Thanksgiving I was at the dog park chatting up a woman, when her husband turned and said “Don’t we see you in Boswell’s?” and I knew his name. Or, there was the kid who said to me, “You recommended a book to me a year ago and it was the best thing I’ve ever read. Thank you.” That. Hearing that is why I do what I do. That, and it’s not such a bad gig getting to wear a Llama costume, meet amazing authors, make a pirate ship from boxes & galleys, and drink with other book people (writers and booksellers alike).
If I weren’t selling books I’d be: Dumpster-diving behind the bookstore. Lurking in libraries. Oh, you mean for work? Maybe, driving around visiting authors as a media escort? Cleaning the bathroom in the Algonquin Books office? I have no idea. I’ve never really, truly known what to do with my life.
Books that changed my life: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, all of Shakespeare, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron, The Art of Living by Epictetus, The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
Top three authors, living or dead, I’d invite to my dinner party: Hoping that each author might also bring a friend: Margaret Atwood (Graeme Gibson), Tom Franklin (William Gay) and Ernest Hemingway (Stein? Joyce?). Is that cheating?
Top three songs on the soundtrack to my life: This was so difficult, I had to make a playlist to help. There were 23 songs on it!
Who I am – “Lady is a Tramp” by Ella Fitzgerald
Present theme song – “Hang on Little Tomato” by Pink Martini
After a few drinks – “Rain Dogs” by Tom Waits.
My last meal request: My mom’s cheesecake.
Tags: A Wrinkle in Time, A. Manette Ansay, Algonquin, Alyson Hagy, Battlestar Galactica, Boleto, Boswell Book Company, Cormac McCarthy, Crimes in Southern Indiana, Dava Sobel, Deadwood, Ella Fitzgerald, Epictetus, Ernest Cline, Ernest Hemingway, Frank Bill, Free Beer Tour, Good Things I Wish You, Graeme Gibson, Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop, James Joyce, Jeffery Eugenides, Madeline L'Engle, Margaret Atwood, Pema Chodron, Pink Martini, Sebastian Barry, Shakespeare, Sherman Alexie, Stacie Michelle Williams, Sven Birkets, The Art of Living, The Handmaid's Tale, The Marriage Plot, The Other Walk, The Road, Tom Franklin, Tom Waits, When Things Fall Apart, William Gray