I’m lucky to be surrounded by talented writers here in North Carolina and to count so many of them as my friends. I’d like you to meet one of them, Anne Clinard Barnhill. Anne writes historical fiction and her latest novel is At the Mercy of the Queen, the story of Anne Boleyn’s cousin, Madge. I invited Anne to tell us a little about her recent book tour. Reading her post made me want to push away from the computer and spend the afternoon at my local indie bookstore (Quail Ridge Books–the first on her list below.) Have fun reading Anne’s words and then I hope you’ll tell us about your favorite bookstore.
I love bookstores. Always have, always will. There is nothing more exciting than wandering in, gazing at the colorful books arrayed in the front window and on the tables, looking at posters or photographs of my favorite writers adorning the walls. When my children were young, they became adept at luring me into a bookstore because they knew I could not refuse to buy them a book. Toys, I could turn down; candy, a definite NO. But a book–I’ve always been a sucker for a book.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the privilege of visiting several bookstores across North Carolina. I love the different personalities I’ve discovered in each one–I even love the sameness of the big chains like Barnes and Nobles. But I confess, it is the indie bookstores that really captivate me.
Take Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh, NC. There’s a sunny intelligence permeating the store, a dedication to the written word evident in the signed photographs of the many writers who have given readings here over the years. I can almost feel my I.Q. go up a notch just being there.
Then there’s The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC. The atmosphere is intimate and cozy, the staff friendly and willing to go out of their way to help. In the charming downtown, restaurants are just a short walk away. This store seems to embody southern charm at its best.
Being a mountain girl at heart, I was thrilled to discover City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC. This one feels like you’re coming home–well, the store is in an old house with a ton of rooms, and the ambiance is warm and welcoming. The staff made me feel like I was someone special and I noticed that was the way they treated everyone. The surrounding mountains hover and, when I was there, I felt like I was nestled in, safe and secure, for the winter.
I wouldn’t want to short-change the beach, where I did a reading at Pomegranate Books in Wilmington. This store also had a previous life as a house and the white railings leading up to the front porch look very ‘beachy’, which means ‘relaxing’ to me. Here, they have an especially nice selection of regional writers.
As I crisscrossed the Old North State, I was impressed with the number of bookstores I found and the people who run them. We shares a love of stories, poems, a literary love that binds us. As I travelled back toward the heart of the state, I found myself wondering what life would be like if there were no bookstores. Who knows what the future will bring as ebooks continue to grow in popularity?
In downtown Salisbury, I found the Literary Bookpost, a large store that keeps going back forever. The wooden floors and shelves are filled with signed books from writers across the state and beyond. Deal, one of the owners, is so friendly and laid-back, with his long, grey ponytail and his smile, I almost thought he might pick up a banjo and start playing. His store seems like one big family as he called out the names of every customer who walked in the door, patting them on the back and discussing which books they wanted next.
Moving north, I surprised the folks at Only at Barnhill’s (no relation) in Winston-Salem–I’d gotten mixed up about dates and just showed up, much to their shock and my own embarrassment. Immediately, they made me feel right at home and I ended up doing a reading for some folks who showed up. They also sell wine and hand-made crafts. I love the idea of wine and books combined!
When I ventured out of North Carolina into South Carolina, I discovered FictionAddiction in Greenville. This small store offers a Book Your Lunch with Your Favorite Author event, where I was the guest speaker. I love the idea of bringing writers and readers together with food! Again, another wonderful store with knowledgeable staff and a big selection of Southern writers.
Alas, there are many others I’ve had the chance to explore, but space is limited. I hope to have the chance to see them all. It’s heartening to know that the independent bookstore is alive and well in North (and South) Carolina. I, for one, hope it stays that way.