Posted by: Kristi Tuck Austin | March 2, 2011

Read Across America Day and reading across RVA

Today is Dr. Seuss’s birthday. It is also Read Across America day sponsored by the National Education Association. Don’t worry, this post won’t rhyme or contain adorable illustrations.

I have fond memories of this day, not only from my elementary school years but high school as well. Our principal, barely taller than your 5′ 4″ Kristi, would put on a striped hat, pull out a Dr. Seuss book, and read to a bunch of shifting and snickering teenagers. That act of literary love took guts. I wouldn’t want to be in front of a bunch of teenagers looking like that. Heck, I don’t want to be in front of them looking like my normal self. But he did it and I’m thankful. Just like I’m thankful for all these folks around Richmond doing something special today.

Richmond Public Library

Dr. Seuss birthday parties:

East End Library at 10:30

Broad Rock Library at 1:00

Main Library from 3:00 to 5:00

West End Library at 4:30

Henrico County Public Library

Dr. Seuss craft at Sandston Library from 3:00 to 4:00

Stories and activities at Glen Allen from 3:30 to 4:30

Dr. Seuss Night at Tuckahoe from 6:30 to 7:30

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss at Fairfield from 7:00 to 8:00

Cochrane Rockville Branch Library

Dr. Seuss birthday party with games and crafts starting at 3:00 followed by a movie of Dr. Seuss favorites

bbgb

bbgb celebrates Read Across America and serves as a drop-off point for books donated to the downtown Children’s Book Bank

Of course, you can celebrate at home by reading to a child.

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Posted by: Kristi Tuck Austin | March 1, 2011

Happy release day to Ellery Adams’s A Deadly Cliché

Today is a big day. Other than getting us out of the cavity and bankruptcy-causing month of February, it is the release of Ellery Adams’s A DEADLY CLICHÉ, which is a better reason to celebrate.

While walking her poodle, Olivia Limoges discovers a dead body buried in the sand. Could it be connected to the bizarre burglaries plaguing Oyster Bay, North Carolina? At every crime scene, the thieves set up odd tableaus: a stick of butter with a knife through it, dolls with silver spoons in their mouths, a deck of cards with a missing queen. Olivia realizes each setup represents a cliché. And who better to decode the cliché clues than her Bayside Book Writers group?

Readers met Olivia and the Bayside Book Writers in Ellery’s popular first novel in the series, A KILLER PLOT. I met Ellery, a pen name for Richmond author Jennifer Stanley, at the Book People 30th birthday celebration and heard her speak at the 2010 James River Writers Conference. She knows how to build a strong mystery. A DEADLY CLICHÉ and A KILLER PLOT are perfect for fans of cozy mysteries.

If you buy a copy or request one from your local library before March 7, don’t forget to head over to Ellery’s website for your chance to win a new 3G Kindle.

Congratulations to Ellery Adams, and happy reading to mystery aficionados.

 

Posted by: Kristi Tuck Austin | February 27, 2011

bbgb giveaway winner

Congratulations to Maureen, the winner of the bbgb notepad bookmarks.

Maureen, please email your contact information to rivercityfiction (at) gmail (dot) com.

A big thank-you goes to bbgb for the gift.

Posted by: Kristi Tuck Austin | February 25, 2011

The Emyl Jenkins Award

Know someone who makes Virginia a better place for writers?

A teacher?

A librarian?

A mentor?

A reader?

A book reviewer?

An organizer?

Nominate them for the Emyl Jenkins Award from James River Writers. Emyl, a Richmond author and advocate for writers of all stripes, served James River Writers, the Library of Virginia, and Virginia literary arts until her death in 2010. In her honor, James River Writers created an award for someone who shares Emyl’s love of connecting and encouraging storytellers.

It is simple to nominate someone. Explain in no more than 500 words how the nominee makes Virginia a better place for writers. (This post is about 200 words.) Include your name, e-mail, and phone number. List two others who can illuminate the nominee’s qualifications. Email it to info@jamesriverwriters or by regular mail to James River Writers, 320 Hull St., #136, Richmond, VA 23224 by March 31, 2011. It costs nothing.

Find out more about the Emyl Jenkins Award here.

Find out more about Emyl Jenkins here and here.

Richmond has countless people who encourage writers and make Virginia a better place for all readers. If you know someone, please don’t hesitate to share the love. Emyl was like that.


Monday I posted about meeting Jenesse Evertson and Jill Stefanovich, the owners of bbgb tales for kids. I couldn’t fit all their information and verve into one post, so I let it spill over to today. Part one looked at how Jill and Jenesse came to own the store, their backgrounds, booksellers Diane Black and Julianna Reid, the store’s name and mission, and a bbgb foundation to give a book for every one sold. Part two focuses on bbgb’s community involvement, how new books offer a look at childhood around the world, and where bbgb is going in the future. There is also a giveaway at the end.

bbgb

“Just because they are reading on their own doesn’t mean you should stop reading to them or with them.”

Reading together is the perfect description of how bbgb reaches out to the Richmond community. Shortly after transitioning to bbgb, the store participated in a book drive for the Greater Richmond Arc. Jill expressed her appreciation for the Arc, which has changed the lives of children she loves. “In support, we were a collection place, but we also gave a discount to people who bought the book for the Arc,” Jill said. The bookstore also donated books and money.

For Dr. Suess’s birthday on March 2, bbgb will participate in the National Education Association’s Read Across America and serve as a drop-off point for books donated to the downtown Children’s Book Bank.

The staff also wants to share knowledge with teachers and parents in the community. Last week, Jenesse shared her expertise at a local PTA meeting targeting third graders. “I was sharing the importance of reading books…with pictures or having children explore picture books from third grade up.” Many parents feel their early elementary children should read only long chapter books filled with words, but bbgb reminded parents that picture books have a place beside Harry Potter. Picture books keep children and parents flexible when reading and inform how children write.

“[There are] so many amazing picture books that are meant for that audience that are being overlooked,” Jill said. “Just because they are reading on their own doesn’t mean you should stop reading to them or with them.”

The bbgb staff hopes to build more connections with schools. “We hope to leverage the expertise in the shop more than we have in the past,” Jill said. This week, Jenesse and Diane will speak to teachers at Collegiate in preparation for Collegiate’s book fair. The booksellers will share books suited for the teachers’ audiences. bbgb continues Narnia’s long book fair tradition and hopes to include more presentations with upcoming fairs.

New international titles at bbgb

“[International books] bring in a whole perspective on childhood…”

International books are a new niche for bbgb. “This has been so much fun for us,” Jill said. “Fortunately, Jenesse spent two years in Holland and she’s been in England for two years, so the past four years have really allowed her to get exposed to some great international illustrators and authors and presses.

International children’s books bring something different to the shelves. “You really can see the illustrations, in some cases, are darker,” Jenesse said as she handed me a book with exquisite illustrations of children and caring robbers.

The books, and not just their content, become a learning experience for children. “They bring in a whole perspective on childhood,” Jenesse said. “When you read these books, you really start thinking about other kids reading these books, and they are really reflective of childhoods in those countries. For instance, in France their artwork is more highly stylized and so their kids get used to having that different sense with their eyes. [Children] also understand that this is what other kids are looking at. It is a picture into childhood in another country.”

“Some of the books are simple but made more complex by their illustrations,” Jenesse said. “We tend to be word heavy in the States and message heavy, so you get a different perspective.”

There are also many more picture books without words than in the States.  “They are a little bit harder for people to grasp onto because we are used to reading a book by reading the words, but the stories can be told so much more beautifully when you’re putting your own words to them. They become your own, and the child can tell the story without having to read,” Jill said.

“You find many of those internationally,” Jenesse said. “They are also the ones that get printed here [in the United States] because they don’t have to worry about the translation. We can pick up on that and give that window into another country through those kinds of books.”

“You will see collections that are targeted at adults.” 

Owner Jill reading

bbgb might be a store with tales for kids, but it is also a store for all generations.

The store carries many of the exceptional series available for young adults. Jenesse is now reading through several series to narrow down those of the highest quality. The store will also carry more translations of series, but do not worry; your favorites won’t be removed. “We are keeping with all the wonderful books that we already know,” Jennesse said.

In the future, there will be more focus on adult book buyers. “I have always, as an adult, bought children’s books for myself, well before I had children,” Jill said. “We’ve got some new customers who are buying for themselves. We know what they like, and we are able to pull out books that are almost more appreciated by adults. You will see collections targeted to adults. Not just adults that have kids, or adults that are designers and interested in the illustrations. There are so many that are soulful, that you just clutch to your chest because the message is so beautiful.”

bbgb is also exposing companies and corporate professionals to children’s books. The booksellers recently pulled 18 books for company executives to use for inspiration as they developed new business strategies refocusing around luxury. The bbgb had stacks of books depicting luxury, but they pulled 18 great choices the company said aided their discussion. Jill and Jenesse hope to cultivate more of these business connections in the future.

bbgb booksellers Diane Black, Jill Stefanovich, Jenesse Evertson, and Julianna Reid with some of their favorite books

“I think the independent booksellers–especially a children’s bookshop–we’ve got a very special niche and amazing audience that continues to grow.”

Plans for bbgb’s future keep Jenesse and Jill optimistic. The day we spoke the book industry was reeling from news of Border’s bankruptcy, but those woes didn’t daunt bbgb. “I think the independent booksellers–especially a children’s bookshop–we’ve got a very special niche and amazing audience that continues to grow,” Jill said. “We don’t compete against the big box stores, because they can’t offer what we offer, and we don’t offer what they offer. We fill two different gaps.”

Creativity and adapting to a changing city and industry will characterize bbgb’s coming months. “We are a bit off the beaten path here,” Jill said about their current location, but they’re working hard to bring in readers. Events, such as a renaming ceremony and reading by Herman Parish, author of the Amelia Bedelia series, brought people into the store. This Friday, February 25, is bbgb’s book-to-big-screen event. The store will show two short UK films based on the children’s books The Gruffalo and Lost and Found. Teens and tweets will get a sneak peek at the book touted as the next Harry Potter. “We have the galleys here for the kids to go through. We’ve got some things we’ll be showing that highlight the characters in the books,” Jill said. Local animator Saxton Moore will help readers create their own book-to-movie characters. Learn about this event and upcoming monthly events on bbgb’s Facebook page.

Books for the book-to-big-screen event Friday, February 25

Also in the works are new types of programming, including children’s writing camps and birthday parties.

The store’s current location is darling, but these workshops and events could use more space. This dilemma might cause bbgb to return to its roots. “We are exploring a move back into Carytown,” Jill said. Narnia began in Carytown and didn’t move to the current Kensington Avenue location until 2002.

bbgb is also making the move to the web with bbgbbooks.com, which will provide content for children and adults. Among my favorite features is a section of book reviews by children who shop in the store. “Kids will be able to click and read what other kids say,” Jenesse said. The reviewed books will be on a children’s recommendation shelf in the store.

Jill and Jenesse will also introduce a blog targeting adults, a space for staff to post views on timely topics, industry trends, and authors they love. As the only independent children’s bookshop in the city, Jill and Jenesse feel a responsibility to share as much as possible with the people of Richmond.

The website will also introduce an e-commerce option.

Diane, Jenesse, Jill, and Julianna create a community in their store. While we talked, several customers exchanged personal words and hugs with the booksellers.

Here are ways you can connect with the bbgb community:

Visit the store and say hello.

Take the time to ask for booksellers’ favorites.

Follow bbgb on Facebook and Twitter.

Look for their website coming soon.

Get your school, child’s school, or your work involved with bbgb through PTA visits, speaking engagements, or inspirational selections.

Ask Jill and Jenesse how you can participate in their community outreach.

Attend an event and look for upcoming workshops.

The giveaway

bbgb generously gave four bookmark notepads for one River City Fiction reader. These handy-dandy notepads are the size of bookmarks, so if you want to leave yourself a note without writing in the book, tear a sheet out, jot your note, and mark your spot. I think it is ingenious, and I’m jealous one of you gets four of these.

To enter, leave a comment saying why you love bbgb, what you love about children’s books, or a pingback to this profile by Friday at 8pm. I’ll post the winner on Friday night. Being new to the blogging thing, I’ve never done a contest before. I probably didn’t give enough time for comments, so I’m extending the time until 8pm on Saturday. If this is a horrendous breach of etiquette, please leave a comment telling me so. It will count toward the contest.

More photos

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Posted by: Kristi Tuck Austin | February 22, 2011

Bookstore bridges generations of bibliophiles: bbgb store profile, part I

bbgb booksellers Diane Black, Jill Stefanovich, Jenesse Evertson, Julianna Reid

In 1984, Kelly Kyle opened Narnia’s doors and brought stories to Richmond’s children. Now, the store’s new owners, Jenesse Evertson and Jill Stefanovich, are building on that legacy of bringing great children’s books to readers of all ages. Last week I sat down with Jenesse and Jill in the sunlight coming through bbgb’s front windows, and we discussed their first four months of ownership and the store’s future.

“We couldn’t imagine living in this city without Narnia…I’d have to move.”

“How would you summarize your first four months,” I asked, and Jill and Jenesse chuckled.

“The idea that we could own a children’s bookshop: that is heaven,” Jill said. “It is an amazing thing. I look forward to coming into the shop every day and I hate to leave every day. It is the hardest thing I’ve done since having children. It is a hard business.”

Neither ventured into book selling before taking the plunge with Narnia, but when owner Kelly Kyle was ready to retire, they couldn’t let the store go. “Kelly Kyle started Narnia with her friend Charlotte,” Jill said. “They built something that was so powerful and had so much meaning, and so to be able to take something that has been around for 26 years and now build on it and take it further is amazing. They built a beautiful legacy. A testament to that is the outreach of people who have come to us in our first couple months to thank us. [They] walk in the door and say, ‘Thank you so much for doing this.’ They couldn’t imagine Narnia closing. We couldn’t imagine living in this city without Narnia…I’d have to move.”

Together Jill and Jenesse took over the store, and like its founders, they are close friends. They finish each other’s sentences and each praises the other’s accomplishments while downplaying her own. A word sparks a shared thought and releases a spring of ideas. “Jill and I are really close friends, so you have to add a different dimension,” Jenesse said. “Now we are not just friends, we are business partners.”

“Children’s books aren’t just for children.”

The friends at bbgb, old and new, share a love of children’s books. “We love children’s books from the baby board books to the young adult books,” Jill said.

“We love them all,” Jenesse agreed.

“And our staff, Diane Black and Julianna Reid, love them all,” Jill said. “We just hope people who come in here feed off that and love it too. We are a shop for babies all the way through high schoolers and adults.”

Jill has a stack of middle grade and young adult fiction on her nightstand at home, and she is recommending two of the titles to her own book club. “They are amazing books for everyone,” she said.

Jenesse nodded. “Children’s books aren’t just for children.”

“bbgb can be whatever you want it to be.”

I’ll admit, it took me most of the last four months to stop calling the store Narnia. The name, borrowed from C.S. Lewis’s mythical stories, conjures a world of adventure and imagination that hid behind average doors and book covers. I thought no other name could rival it in my favor, but I was wrong. The store’s new name creates questions, awakens imaginations, and gives everyone a chance to make the store their own.

“Our name represents our mission,” Jill said. “We do get lots of questions about where that came from. For us, there are really three names and many more from many of our customers. The first is bring back great books. That is something that Narnia has always done and that we will continue, so whether it is great old books or making sure we have great new books–those that are interesting, classic, quality–those are the books we want our customers to be exposed to.

“The second is buy a book, give a book, and that comes from our establishment of a foundation that is going to help us give away a book for every one we sell.”

Readers’ imaginations also decide the name. “The third – we all have a different [one],” Jill said.

“It is the fun bit,” Jenesse said.  “bbgb can be whatever you want it to be. That is the bit that allowed people to establish a sense of community with us and feel like their place was in the shop. A lot of kids will say ‘boy book, girl book.’”

Jill laughed. “My kids say ‘bright blue guerilla butt.’ We had a little boy, and his is one of my favorites because it is so him: ‘bugger, bugger, gooey bugger.’”

I couldn’t resist the name game, which gave rise to this post’s title. Though less vivid­–and gross–than buggers, the name reflects bbgb’s ability to build a community of readers, all of different ages. This community nurtures a love of books that lasts from zero to adult.

“Buy a book, give a book.”

The bbgb foundation is still in development, but Jenesse and Jill are considering local organizations, like Read Aloud Virginia, that distribute age-appropriate books to children who do not have access to books at home. “Read Aloud Virginia is an example of an organization that gets books into the hands of kids who don’t have books of their own. So rather than us going to the family, we will leverage Read Aloud Virginia and donate as many books as we can for them to distribute,” Jill said. “Often times there is not one book in the child’s home, so we and [Read Aloud Virginia] want to make sure that if you have one book and it is your only book, it is a book worth having.”

“Books, books, and more books!”

“Books, books, and more books!” Those were Jill’s words when I asked about the background of bbgb’s staff. Both Diane and Julianna have long careers as booksellers. Diane worked at a bookshop in Fredericksburg before moving to Narnia 15 years ago. Julianna worked at Narnia 16 years. Jenesse and Jill expressed deep gratitude that the two experts stayed on to bring continuity and excellent customer service. “When you read anything about what sets the independent bookstores apart, it is the staff,” Jill said. “Diane and Julianna have read these books…Their memory is for what that child is reading and has read and what their grandmother bought for Christmas last year, so then [they recommend] what you need to buy this year. You can’t get that many other places. We are incredibly, incredibly lucky they wanted to stay with us and continue on.” People come in the shop and ask to speak with Julianna and Diane, booksellers they’ve known for years. Jenesse beamed. “That is what we want!”

Unlike Diane and Julianna, neither Jill nor Jenesse worked in a bookstore before bbgb, but they are parents and readers who made frequent trips into the store. “We both have a passion and a love for children’s books. We were both long-term customers here at the shop,” Jill said.

Jenesse has a master’s degree in children’s literature and a PhD in literacy. “For me,” she said, “it was a real opportunity to keep extending my teaching and bringing some collaborative things into the community through programming and writing.”

“Jenesse has the understanding of the books,” Jill said. “Everything she has done professionally has been around children’s literature and writing and reading. She has the knowledge of the books and the right books for the right person.” Jenesse also taught elementary school and college students. “She’s got the expertise,” Jill said.

Jenesse is also co-author of Pre-K-2 Writing Classroom: Growing Confident Writers, released last month by Scholastic. “It is based on research and is actually for teachers and for parents of young children who are interested in what their children are doing when they’re first writing and how to help them,” Jenesse said. “Mostly it is about the kids, because kids do amazing things when they write.” The book also focuses on drawing as writing, especially in the early years.

“Learn what young children can do as competent, confident writers when we create writing classrooms that support their developmental patterns and provide them with multiple opportunities to write for numerous purposes across the curriculum. The authors spotlight the children’s strengths in brief case studies to help you understand the significance of their efforts, and offer specific recommendations you can use to help your own students use writing as a meaning-making tool in various subject areas and settings”

-From Scholastic

Jenesse lives in London, where she scouts titles for the store, while Jill uses skills learned during her career in the corporate world to manage the home front. This balance is one of the many ways these entrepreneurs and friends complement each other and form a strong partnership. “I get to be the foreign correspondent,” Jenesse said, and Jill manages the other type of books–accounting and business.

Please come back Wednesday for part two, which looks at what’s new in bbgb, international titles, and upcoming events.

A big thank you to Diane, Jenesse, Jill, and Julianna.

Posted by: Kristi Tuck Austin | February 20, 2011

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind

Authors John Wiley, Jr. and Ellen F. Brown signing Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood

On Friday night people filled Page Bond Gallery. They clustered in groups for discussion and lined up to buy Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Not the fictional work, but the new history by locals Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley, Jr. “Wait,” you say, “you’re writing about nonfiction?” Yes, I am. Yes, the blog is still about fiction, but this time I’m smudging the rules, because this nonfiction traces the story of how a novel grew from idea into an international bestseller with its own pop culture empire. See, it is all about fiction.

“Timed to coincide with the seventy-fifth anniversary of Gone With the Wind‘s 1936 release, we present the first comprehensive history of how Mitchell’s novel became an international publishing blockbuster. This is not a biography of the author but rather the life story of her book, from its origins in Mitchell’s childhood to its status today as a controversial cultural phenomenon. We follow the novel on its journey from a small apartment in Atlanta to the Macmillan Company’s Fifth Avenue headquarters in New York, and then across the country and around the world. We tell how Mitchell’s book was developed, marketed, and groomed for success in a bygone era of typewriters and telegrams, as well as of the author’s love-hate relationship with her publisher and agents, each of whom held divergent views on how best to manage the book and its legacy. Along the way, Mitchell changed the course of international copyright law through her struggles to maintain control over the GWTW literary rights….And, because this is not a biography of the author, the story does not end at her death. The saga continues to the present day, exploring the tumultuous years since her passing during which Mitchell’s husband, then her brother, and finally a group of Atlanta lawyers protected and capitalized on one of the world’s most valuable literary properties.”

-From the introduction to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood.

Ellen and John tell a new version of events and give a fuller picture of the phenomenon than anyone before. During their research, they uncovered information previously unavailable to GWTW researchers, including private correspondence between Mitchell and Lois Cole, the editor who discovered the manuscript. “We do not claim to have rewritten the history of Gone With the Wind,” they write, “but we have refocused the lens.”

I am reading the book now, and this post will be short because I can’t wait to curl up with the book and a glass of wine.

At Friday’s event, Ellen spoke first, tearing as she thanked her family, her co-author, local booksellers, James River Writers, and her mentor Emyl Jenkins, a Richmond author to whom the book is dedicated: “In memory of Emyl Jenkins Sexton, who had Scarlett’s zest for life and Margaret Mitchell’s love for the written word.” In the project’s first days, Ellen called Emyl to ask if she was crazy for considering writing a book about GWTW. Ellen smiled through tears as she said Emyl yelled into the phone that Ellen must write the book.

The crowd waiting to purchase copies

Ellen also earned laughs with her stories of wardrobe malfunctions and long hours with co-author John. The day of the signing, her dress “split in half,” and it took an editor at Harper Collins to convince her not to sew it back together. (By the way, Ellen looked stunning in the back-up dress.) She shared about the long days of working on the book with John, days when he was at her house when her children left for school and when they came home. On one occasion when Ellen and John picked up her son from school, her son leaned toward her and said in a stage whisper, “Is he staying the night?”

Ellen, who is always giving back to Richmond’s writing community, graciously thanked James River Writers and announced a portion of the night’s sales would go to the local writing organization.

Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Bookstore, arranged the book sales and donation. In her welcoming remarks, she told the crowd they were fortunate to find copies of the book, which is selling out everywhere it is stocked. If you want your own copy–and I think you should want one–head over to Fountain, which might have some autographed copies remaining. I’ll have to race you there, since I forgot to pick up copies for my parents, in-laws, and friends.

Read more about Ellen and John’s book from Richmond’s own Book Lady, who had an honest-to-God blurb on the back of this handsome book. Also check out the review in Deep South Magazine and John Wiley, Jr. on Virginia This Morning.

Scarlett greets readers as they enter Page Bond Gallery

John Wiley, Jr. and Ellen F. Brown

Posted by: Kristi Tuck Austin | February 17, 2011

Drop-in at Velocity Comics

On a rainy Saturday earlier this month, I joined Caroline from Fantastic Fangirls: Comics and Culture at Velocity Comics on Broad Street. I knew almost nothing about comics and graphic novels, and Caroline became my guru in all things. Between her and Velocity staffer Tim, I fell in love with the store. Tim was unwaveringly patient, even graciously letting me video the store for the blog. (Don’t ask what’s going on with the camera. I just beg your forgiveness.)

I, a comic store virgin, felt intimidated and embarrassed to admit my ignorance. These people are serious about comics. They care about comics; it is in their motto. I was thankful for Caroline. We walked in and I thought, “That’s a lot of comics and graphic novels. Will I look like an idiot if I just stand here staring?” Tim greeted us. Second thought: “He’s welcoming. Really welcoming. Will it last when he learns I can’t name the Fantastic Four?”

It lasted. Caroline gave an overview of the store and book formats, and then she introduced me to Tim for the grand tour. He even filled me in on the subscription boxes where Velocity collects customers’ desired issues. There are a couple hundred subscriptions, but Tim knew Caroline’s box number and its contents off the top of his head, one reason Caroline praises their customer service.

I wasn’t ready for a subscription box yet. But I was ready to browse. I looked around with no pressure from Tim to hurry and make a purchase. He was helpful but didn’t hover. Furniture and car salespeople should line up to take lessons from this man.

These children’s comics looked like they could have been from my childhood, and I almost picked one up out of nostalgia.

The Muppets were not to be outdone.

We found graphic novels adapted from books…

…and, my personal favorite, adaptations of classic literature.

Yes, dear friends, that is Jon Arbuckle as Jon Faustus. Was there ever a better role for Garfield?

I purchased Welcome to the Jungle, the graphic novel in Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files.

And I purchased a suggestion from Caroline and Tim – the first collected edition of Unwritten.

Unwritten stars Tommy Taylor, son of famed novelist Wilson Taylor, whose boy-wizard franchise reminds one of Harry Potter. Wilson modeled the story’s spell slinger after his son, even giving the character his son’s name. Wilson wrote 13 best-selling novels before disappearing and leaving the real Tommy to make his livelihood speaking at conventions. But at this convention, Tommy’s accused of forging his identity; Wilson Taylor never had a son. With mobs of disgruntled fans behind him, Tommy runs to his father’s manor for answers but finds unexpected allies and deadly enemies.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Caroline and Tim for the recommendation. I devoured the first issue (it’s a collection of five) before forcing myself to slow and appreciate the art. The plot is surprisingly gripping and I liked bitter, misguided Tommy, especially his attitude toward the character who shares his name. Yeah, he has some daddy issues. Yeah, I don’t like the cropped tee stretched over the heroine’s ample bosom, but I like Tommy’s obsession with literary geography and the appearances by Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde.

And I love that I feel comfortable enough heading into Velocity Comics to pick up the next issue in the series. It is okay if I ask for help and recommendations. They enjoy it.

Posted by: Kristi Tuck Austin | February 11, 2011

How did I miss this? Bookish stuff it’s good to know.

“Virginia is in the midst of a literary revival.”

This line from Virginia Pye’s article “We All Benefit in a Community Where Writing Thrives” sums up the impact of the 20+ authors, individuals, and organizations she mentions. She explains why that revival matters for the community and nods to the grassroots creativity making Richmond a better place to live.

River City Reads picked Finding Thalhimers

According to Chop Suey Books on Facebook, FINDING THALHIMERS by Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt is the current River City Reads selection.

“Finding Thalhimers traces the author’s obsessive quest to find the true story of her father’s family and their beloved department store. Riveting and poignant, this multigenerational narrative weaves together history, biography, and memoir into an unforgettable portrait of an ambitious American retail family.”

I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews for Finding Thalhimers. Two readers gushed that the human-interest parts touched them, even if they hadn’t shopped the department store.

Chop Suey’s owner, Ward Tefft, is touring the nation in an RV looking for books. 

One man. One woman. Seven months in one RV as they cross America in search of friends and books. And readers in Richmond can benefit and follow along without having to hook up a sewage-tank drainpipe. Read their travel log, RVAmerica, and stop by Chop Suey Books to see what the travelers send back.

Support a Richmond author, win a Kindle.

Richmond author Ellery Adams is giving away a new 3G Kindle to readers. The contest ends March 7, and entering is simple. Read full details here.

The Kindle give-away celebrates the March 1 release of her new mystery, A DEADLY CLICHÉ. The novel follows Olivia Limoges, the heroine of A KILLER PLOT, and her Bayside Book Writers group as they investigate the connection between a corpse Olivia found buried in the sand and a string of bizarre burglaries.

Posted by: Kristi Tuck Austin | February 4, 2011

Write around Richmond: Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

“Why are there no more fiction stories about Richmond?” an author asked at the last Writing Show. In answer, here is Write Around Richmond, a series that looks at fictional portrayals of our fair–and infamous–city. I hope you’ll find new titles to enjoy and new views of Richmond.

DREADNOUGHT by Cherie Priest

Steampunk

Tor Books, 2010

Mercy Lynch, nurse at Confederate Robertson Hospital, doesn’t stay long in Richmond before heading west to find her deadbeat dad, just long enough to give us glimpses of war carnage:

The rows ran eight cots by fifteen in this ward, which served as admittance, triage, and recovery room alike. It should’ve held only two-thirds that number, and the present crowding served to narrow the aisles to the point that they were nearly impassable, but no one was turned away. Captain Sally said that if they had to stitch them standing up and lash them to the closet walls, they’d take every Confederate boy who’d been carried off the field.

She heard [the casualties] arrive, all of them drawn by the cramped, dark little ambulances that were barely better than boxes. Retained men and doctors’ assistants unpacked them like sandwiches, sliding their cots into the daylight, where the men who were strong enough to do so blinked against the sun. Out the small window in her bunk, she could see them leaving the ambulances in impossible numbers; she thought dully that they must’ve been stacked in there like cordwood, for each carriage to hold so many of them.

Later, the city bustles with traffic, little boys hawking newspapers, and preachers outside their churches, the steeples white as bone. Beyond the banks, dry good stores, and the foundry, Nurse Mercy spots the bobbing dirigibles docked at Richmond’s airport.

Before long a sign came into view, announcing, RICHMOND REGIONAL AIRSHIP YARD. Beneath it, two smaller signs pointed two different directions. PASSENGER TRANSPORT was urged to veer left, while MERCHANTS AND CARGO were directed to the right.

She dutifully followed the signs, head up and shoulders square, as if she knew exactly where she was going and what she needed. Another sign pointed to ROWS A&B while one next to it held another area, indicating ROWS C&D. But finally she spotted something more immediately useful—a banner that read, PASSENGER TICKETS AND ITINERARY. This banner was strung over a wood-front shack that was shaped like a lean-to, with no glass in the windows and no barrier in front except a cage like those used by bank tellers.

 

Picture taken by grasshoppergirl on 2008-06-09 13:13:32.

It’s far from Richmond International Airport, but I picture dirigibles climbing into a clear sky above Tredegar Iron Works. Dreadnought is the first steampunk novel I’ve read, and I must admit I love picturing RVA all steamy and punky.

You can stop by Fountain Bookstore to pick up signed copies of Dreadnought and her earlier novel Boneshaker.

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