Confessions of a Former Bookseller

In my early twenties I worked full-time in a bookstore whilst studying part-time. Even though I worked EVERY weekend (oh the joys of retail), it was a great year and a bit in my life. For a book addict like me, working in a bookstore was my dream come true. But like every retail job it had its array of lovely, weird and downright funny moments. I had the best customers and the worst customers but the books made it all worthwhile.

Take a walk with me down memory lane as I recount the good, bad and annoying parts of being a bookseller:

The Detective Work: A customer walks in asking about a book but they can’t remember the title or the author. All they can remember is that the cover was red and it started with the word ‘the.’ A game of ‘guess that book’ ensues. There was no better feeling than asking probing questions and finally guessing the title. I lived for those small triumphs!

The Needle in a Haystack: The computer shows there is one copy instore of the book a customer wants. I look in the appropriate section but the book is nowhere to be found. Someone has misplaced it! Try finding a missing book in a store filled with thousands of books while a customer waits impatiently. The best scenario was finding it against all odds. The worst was finding it five minutes after the customer left the store.

Spending Half my Salary on Books: The owners of the bookstore used to pay me weekly in cash. Yes, a small envelope stuffed with cash! Now that I think about it, this was a genius move because all the sudden I would have a handful of money and a whole bookstore at my disposal. I would end up handing a chunk of my salary back to the owners on payday.

Being at Peak Fitness: I spent 95% of the working day on my feet. There was one chair behind the counter that during the week the owners took turns sitting on, so I was always standing. I also spent the day lifting boxes of books, unpacking stock and carrying huge piles of books up and down the back stairs of the shop from our storeroom below. I would have to carry sales items on tables outside the store and get them in at the end of the day. I was the size of a twig during these days but paid for this strenuous work later in life with a very dodgy back.

New Release Week: For a few days each month all the new release books from publishers would arrive in a huge delivery of boxes, full of brand new books. In the later months of the year as Christmas approached, these new release days would bring a steady flow of deliveries. These days were the busiest of the month as we unpacked, processed and labelled all the new books and then tried to find space for them on the shelves. I loved seeing all the new books and got excited when I saw new releases from favourite authors or discovered something new and interesting. I always felt sad a few months later when some of the books that arrived with such promise to the shop, ended up being returned to the publisher due to poor sales and to make room for other new books.

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Breaking Up with a Book

Dear Unfinished Book,

Unfinised book

I will never forget being introduced to you for the first time by our mutual friend. They said you had a lot of great qualities and that I should give you a go. I know that looks aren’t everything but your outer appearance really appealed to me and you were large in size as well which I like in a book. On the surface we seemed like the perfect match.

So we met and I took you home. I was in a relationship with another book at the time but ended it amicably to make room for you in my life. Our first proper chance to get to know each other happened on the train on the way to work. You opened up to me but I found it difficult to relate to you… it was then that I started experiencing doubts. After a few more dates it has become clear that we aren’t compatible. We gave it a go, but unfortunately our short relationship is not working out.

It’s not you, it’s me. I really wanted us to connect, but we are too different. You are very intelligent and full of complex ideas, whereas I am much simpler. You are very serious and I like a bit of light to go with the darkness.

I’m sorry we didn’t work out. I hope we can part as friends. Maybe one day soon I can introduce you to someone else who will appreciate all you have to offer.

Good-bye for now. I hope you find the reader you deserve.

Best Wishes,

Jane

What books have you started and could not finish? 

 

13 Writing Tips from Stephen King

The stories of prolific author Stephen King are popping up everywhere at the moment as many of his books are being adapted into movies and TV series. This year alone there’s been the new IT movie, The Dark Tower movie, Gerard’s Game and 1922 on Netflix, the Mr Mercedes TV series and Castle Rock is coming soon.

On Writing by Stephen King cover
On Writing by Stephen King ISBN: 9781439156810, pp 291

My husband loves reading Stephen King and is currently working his way through The Dark Tower series and we’re enjoying all the TV and movie adaptions as they come out. While I’ve read quite a few Stephen King books over the years, my husband is definitely the biggest fan in our household. My favourite Stephen King book is not one of his fiction books, it’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I read it many years ago and, searching for inspiration, have just read it again. Its advice remains useful, relevant and practical. Plus, it’s inspiring to read about Stephen King’s personal writing journey. His books may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he certainly knows how to craft a story for his audience and knows who he is as a writer.

Here’s my favourite tips from On Writing by Stephen King

1. On coming up with story ideas…
“There is no Idea Dump, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky…Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
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The Ruination of my Reading Habit

I’ve been a slack reader and blogger of late. That’s why if you’ve visited my blog recently you’ve been greeted by tumble weeds rolling across the screen. But I was still shocked to finally come back here and find that five months had gone by. How did that happen?

I would like to be able to blame life and the fact that I have started two new jobs in this time. But really it all comes down to two things: our brand new big TV and my new smart phone. Suddenly the time I would usually spend reading has been devoted to an addiction to great TV shows. Like watching the entire five seasons of Breaking Bad back to back and rewatching all three seasons of Game of Thrones with my partner so he too can be a GOT devotee. And don’t get me started on the other TV series we have started or our sudden desire to watch as much Saturday Night Live as we can get our hands on …

Then there is my smart phone. I held out for a long time buying a smart phone until I got to the stage where I was too embarrassed to get out my old mobile on the bus. I didn’t understand people’s obsession with their phones and apps. Then we moved house and were looking around for a good Wi-Fi deal. It was cheap to get a new phone bundled into the package. Little did I know that soon my commuting time would be spent on my phone reading funny memes or playing Candy Crush and generally wasting my precious reading time.

Reading used to be THE way I spent my free time. Now I need to put it back on my priority list again. Because not only does reading help me to relax, it also helps spark my own creativity – something that has been severely lacking recently.

 

Happy Endings

In my teenage years I loved reading books with happy endings. Maybe it was all that teenage angst bottled up inside, maybe it was the dream of finding love one day, or maybe I was just conditioned that way. Possibly it was because I used to raid my parents’ book collections. They are a lot more discerning these days but back then it was mum’s historical romance novels versus dad’s action packed Wilbur Smith books. As different as these genres were they all had happy endings.

But what is a happy ending? The girl getting the boy? The hero saving the world? Stop any story at a certain point and you are bound to get a happy ending. But what happens after the happy ending? Do the girl and boy go on to live a perfect life? Does the hero retire to a life of normality quite happily? Or does the couple split up once kids come along? And does the hero suffer post-traumatic stress disorder? Do I really want to read those stories?

I have since read a lot of books without happy endings. Books where the hero dies in the end. Or the girl leaves it too long to realise she loves the boy and he finds someone else. These books are usually of the literary type and leave you feeling sad, depressed, angry, irritable etc. Don’t get me wrong, they make great works of art and make me feel like I really read something worth reading. But I can only take so many of these books in a row.

Sometimes I like reading predictable books. I like knowing that after many misunderstandings and missed opportunities the girl will eventually end up with the boy. Or I like reading a book where after a serial killer kills a few people the detective finally tracks them down and they get their comeuppance. In books we can get the nice clean endings we so often don’t get in real life.

Some people ridicule the happy ending in books believing they are a lower form of storytelling. But I don’t. Happy endings will always have a place in my reading repertoire.

And this blogger lived happily ever after …

Do you like reading books with happy endings?