Tuesday, 25 September 2012

"...We have a cushion hung on the wall for bottom-shelf browsing, a shop teddy called Aloysius reading in the children’s section, and we sell eggs from our own hens by the dozen."

Bookshop Spotlight #8!

I warn you, this blog post is going to tug on your heartstrings. There, you have been warned.

I'm introducing you all to Ellie, who runs Book End, a bookshop in Bakewell, with her mother. She's going to tell you the story of her bookshop. Ellie's bookshop is also in 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops':

Boy: Mummy, can I have this book?
Woman: Go and see if your dad will buy it for you.
Boy: Dad! Mum says if you don't buy me this book, then you can't sleep in her bed tonight!

Ha! Wonderful.

So, here we go. The story of a wonderful bookshop! Hurray!

"People said we were mad when we mentioned our idea of opening a second-hand bookshop in the middle of a recession. At that point, that's all it was, an idea... but the wonderful thing about ideas is how they can flourish at the right time, and in the right place. For me, my bookshop bloomed from one of the hardest times of my life. I started to develop agoraphobia when I was 20, and when I realised that things were so bad that I couldn't leave the house any more, I made the difficult decision to leave university and move home. A year down the line, when I could still barely get out the front door, my mum Lynne took time off work to help get me back on my feet - and she soon realised that she didn't want to go back to her old job. It was at that point, with my confidence steadily improving, and both of us starting to look at entering work again, that the word 'bookshop' first tumbled from our lips.

"I'm one of those 'once a reader, always a reader' people; I learned to read early and have never looked back. My mum and stepdad are also devoted readers, and my sister too - though she took a little longer to discover the joy of books than I did - and the dream of running a bookshop quickly manifested itself in my  young mind. Growing up, I loved Black Books and idolised Kathleen Kelly in Nora Ephron's rom-com You've Got Mail, because they had the job I wanted and their shops looked so lovely! A few more years down the line, I discovered Jeremy Mercer's Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs, about his year-long stay under the watchful eye of George Whitman at Paris's Shakespeare and Company bookshop, and the dream stirred again.

"It was in early 2009 that we started semi-seriously looking for properties and considering where we might like to open our still-not-quite-real bookshop. In the end we settled on the pretty little tourist town of Bakewell, the so-called Jewel of the Peak District, a fifteen-minute drive along the valley bottom from our house. While the rents for retail properties in the centre of town are quite steep, we found a little end shop, right by the famous 700 year-old bridge, for a much more reasonable figure that wouldn't blow our budget completely. It needed a lot of work doing to it inside, but actually it's lovely being in a slightly quieter, more picturesque spot, even if the footfall isn't quite so high. It's particularly nice in summer, when the door is open and we can hear the ducks and geese nearby. Come June it's not unusual to hear a cry of 'DUCKLINGS!' and see both of us sprint past and out the door because we've clocked some telltale squeaking coming from the river!

"The day we visited the shop with the agent and signed the lease was... surreal. No one imagines that dropping out of university and being rendered housebound could be the path to your dream job! Of course, we didn't have long to ponder this before the hard work started; within a day or two we'd launched into Project Renovation, roping in my grandparents and stepdad to help us overhaul the grubby ex-charity shop interior as best we could. Doing everything on a shoestring was tricky, to say the least, but it's amazing how much a lick of sunshine paint and a new laminate floor brightened the place up! We used the till/counter setup left behind by the Red Cross, and sourced all our bookcases and chairs from a company that specialises in office clearance and resale. Then we start amassing books any way we could, via mass sales on eBay for example, and cataloguing them ready for opening day!

"We opened on Bakewell Carnival Day, 4 July 2009, and we've never looked back. Everything's still pretty much done on a shoestring - our opening celebration involved jugs of orange juice, plates of cookies, and tiny fairy cakes with books iced onto the top! - but we've still managed to grow and evolve over the past three years into a buzzing, bright and busy little shop. We don't even pay ourselves minimum wage, but to be honest, as long as we're ticking over and paying both the shop bills AND our own comfortably, we don't really mind that much. Our gift range helps keep profits up even when book sales are down, and selling via our AbeBooks storefront is a lifesaver come wintertime. And hey, I guess what we lack in funds, we make up for in enthusiasm... most of the time... :)

"There are two other big second-hand and antiquarian bookshops nearby, so rather than attempt to compete with their long-established vastness, we've tried to stay true to what we are at heart - a small family-run bookshop catering for the locals here as well as the hordes of tourists who descend in the summer wanting holiday reads for their hotel rooms and bookish gifts to take home. We now stock cards by four local artists, Vanity Fair prints, Bodleian Library merchandise, Penguin Classic mugs, Paperblank journals, beautiful handmade wooden pens, and all sorts of other bookish bits and pieces - we love hand picking the things we like and sharing them with our customers! In book terms, general fiction probably sells best for us, but children's books go down a treat with visiting families (and doting grandparents on coach trips!), classics always do well as the weather gets colder, and a lot of men make a beeline for our history shelves. We try to sell a bit of everything - fiction and non-fiction, second-hand and antiquarian - because being a tourist town we get such a huge variety of customers through our doors over the course of a year and everyone wants something different. We also run book searches, which can be one of the most rewarding parts of the job. When someone's been looking for a book for twenty years, being the person to finally track it down and place a copy in their hands is wonderful!

"Books aside, we're really just trying to create a nice atmosphere here for people to come and browse, and we're at liberty to do it all our own way. We have several lovely regulars who come each week for a chat, and our first ever customer, the lovely David, gets a good sit down, a cup of tea and a delve into our biscuit tin each time he visits. Basically, if we can do anything to encourage readers and make their visits more enjoyable, we'll do it! If you have a cough, we'll get you a glass of water. If your super-enthusiastic kids buy twelve books, we'll usually knock a little something off the price. I even have a couple of young regulars who are so refreshing in their love for books (mostly we just get insolent teens, sadly) that I'll occasionally pass one of my own books onto them for free when they visit. We stick little cards in books we've enjoyed and have a pinboard showcasing books we've been reading, reviews and national bestseller lists. We have a cushion hung on the wall for bottom-shelf browsing, a shop teddy called Aloysius reading in the children’s section, and we sell eggs from our own hens by the dozen. In fact, some days the Orchard Girls are more popular than the books!

"Three years down the line, we've just survived another chaotic summer season and are winding down for the quieter winter months. We've renewed our lease for another three years and are now spending a little time happily scouting out fun new gift ideas to replace some of our older lines. Meanwhile, Mum and I continue to work side by side with only the occasional argument, my sister still volunteers occasional days (her name badge reads HANNAH - Family Slave) and sits on the counter reading with a giant bag of pod peas, and my grandmother can occasionally be spotted drifting through the shop with a mug of tea in one hand and a Mills and Boon novel in the other; we've made firm friends with the owl man who displays by the bridge, the folks from the coffee shop opposite and the ladies in the boutique next door, and all the while customers come and go... Here's to a few more years ahead of us yet!" - Ellie

Bookshop address:  Book End, Bridge House, Bridge Street, Bakewell, Derbyshire DE45 1DS
Phone: (01629) 814994
Email: bookend@hotmail.co.uk 

Ellie's blog: http://musingsofabookshopgirl.blogspot.co.uk/


Thanks, Ellie! x


More bookshop spotlights:

#1 Ripping Yarns
#2 Constellation Books
#3 Storytellers, Inc.
#4 Belgravia Books
#5 Riverbend Books
#6 Blackwells, Oxford
#7 The Book Barge

[If you're a bookseller and you'd like to do a bookshop spotlight on the blog, drop me an email]

Monday, 24 September 2012

this is the capital of me

On 13 September, English PEN launched ‘Poems for Pussy Riot‘ in support of three members of the Russian punk band - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich – who are currently serving a two year prison sentence. A poem of mine, 'Vaginaland,' is part of this project, and you can read it over here. There are a lot of fantastic poems going up on the website between now and 1st October by people I admire greatly: Ali Smith, Deborah Levy, Sophie Mayer and many others. The poems are being translated into Russian, and will be sent to the girls in prison.

Friday, 21 September 2012

"And then you could keep a dragon in it, and he could look after all the books for you when you're not here..."

This week, at the bookshop, I have mostly been loving the wonderful things that children say.

A few quotes from 'More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshop's - out April 2013.


Girl (pointing to a cupboard under one of the bookshelves): Can you get to Narnia through there?
Me: Unfortunately, I don’t think you can. 
Girl: Oh. Our wardrobe at home doesn’t work for getting to Narnia, either. 
Me: No?
Girl: No. Dad says it’s because mum bought it at IKEA. 


Child: Mummy, who was Hitler?
Mother: Hitler?
Child: Yeah. Who was he?
Mother: Erm, he was a very bad man from a long time ago. 
Child: Oh. How bad?
Mother: He was like... he was like Voldemort. 
Child: Oh! That’s really, really bad. 
Mother: Yes. 
Child: (Pause) So... did Harry Potter kill Hitler, too?


(A young girl is looking at some pony books)
Me: Do you like horses?
Young girl:  Yes. When I grow up I’m going to have a pony. 
Me: That sounds like fun. 
Young girl: Yes. And it will be better than all the other ponies. 
Me: How come?
Young girl: Because mine will have a purple tail. And roller-skates. 


Young boy: You should put a basement in your bookshop. 
Me: You think so?
Young boy: Yeah. And then you could keep a dragon in it, and he could look after all the books for you when you're not here. 
Me: That's a pretty cool idea. Dragons breathe fire, though. Do you think he might accidentally burn the books?
Young boy: He might, but you could get one who'd passed a test in bookshop-guarding. Then you'd be ok. 
Me: ...You know, I think you're on to something there. 


More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

'Weird Things...' facebook page. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few are to be chewed and digested." - Francis Bacon

I stumbled across these vintage library posters today. Thought I'd share.

Next week I'm going to be talking about 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshopes' at the Wigtown Book Festival in Scotland. If you're in the area, you can buy tickets for that over here. x

Monday, 17 September 2012

'I found you on the underground...'

Bullett Magazine (based in New York), have just published their Fall 2012 issue, 'The Romance Issue.' It's got lots of wonderful things in it, including an interview with Naomi Wolf.

Among the pages, you can find some very short pieces by me - playing with fake personal ads, turning them into books. It was fun!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

and the winner is...

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway in the post below! The signed copy of 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores' (selected by a random number generator) was Kara!

'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores' is now out in the States and Canada, so you can hunt down copies in a bookstore near you (get me, saying bookstores instead of bookshops ;)). You can use indiebound to help track down your local bookstore, too, if you fancy.

If you'd like to hear me chat about the book, head over here to a podcast of me talking about it on BBC Radio 4 (I'm towards the end of the show).

Don't forget, I'm also collecting quotes for the sequel from booksellers and librarians across the world. There are some really great ones coming in - I'm going to have to stop checking my emails in public, as I often laugh away to myself, which generally makes people think I'm some sort of crazy person. But yes, keep them coming! x

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores - released today in America and Canada [here's the chance to win a copy!]

Well, hello, American and Canadian types! Today, 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores' can be found in your bookstores! Hurray! I am watching eagerly with binoculars from across the pond. Copies from my lovely American publishers [Overlook], arrived in the post today. They have that excellent new-book smell (the books, not the publishers. Though I'm sure they smell great, too).

This edition contains extra quotes from American and Canadian booksellers, such as:

Customer: If I had a bookstore, I’d make the mystery section really hard to find.

Quite an excellent idea, really! So, North American folk! You can now track down 'Weird Things...', RRP $15. Please do say something totally absurd to the bookseller you buy it from. It keeps us on our toes, you see.

And, because I'm feeling nice today, I'm going to do a giveaway! Everyone who replies to this post will have their name put into a hat, and the name pulled out of that hat will win a signed copy of 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores' (this is open to everyone, everywhere). I'll pick a winner tomorrow (Friday) night [midnight GMT].

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

“The time has come," the walrus said, "to talk of many things: of shoes and ships - and sealing wax - of cabbages and kings!”

Some booky goodness to start off the day! (I apologise for any dent this post may make in your bank account.)

Wonderful novel posters - the entire text of a book on one beautiful poster!

For example: Pride and Prejudice

The Literary Gift Company also have posters of The Great Gatsby, Alice, The Wizard of Oz, and Huck Finn. 

Lovely. And these beautiful 'novel bags.' Books AS bags. Books that can hold your books! Oh my goodness.

How beautiful are they? You can find more over here

Right. I'm going to stop lusting over bookish things on the internet and get back to work. 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstore's is released in USA/Canada tomorrow! Eek. x

Friday, 7 September 2012

this weekend [8th and 9th september]...

On Saturday, I'll be signing copies of 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' and 'The Hungry Ghost Festival' at Nomad Books in Fulham, south London, between 3-5pm.

And on Sunday at 4pm I'm giving a talk with Rhiannon Edwards and Mark Forsyth called 'From Blog to Book' at The Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival. We'll be talking about all things blog related, how we got published etc and all that jazz. Tickets for that are available over here if you fancy coming along.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

“...and I went into the garden and lay down and looked at the stars in the sky and made myself negligible.”

Tonight I went to see the NT Live screening of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I adore the book, and I thought that the stage adaptation was just wonderful. Luke Treadway, who plays Christopher, was especially brilliant.

They are doing some more screenings of the production in cinemas across the UK and around the world. You can see if it's showing near you on this site here. Do go, if you can, or get to the stage show itself (tickets for both are selling out fast).

“And then I thought that I had to be like Sherlock Holmes and I had to detach my mind at will to a remarkable degree so that I did not notice how much it was hurting inside my head.”

Monday, 3 September 2012

"An idea that's not dangerous is not worthy of being called an idea at all." - Oscar Wilde

 Good morning! Today is a day for pretty things.
...it seems like when you absolutely have to write poems, poems come. You stomp about and they rise up, brought to the surface like night-crawlers. Pressure is good. pressure is like bait.
        I don’t know if poems are always there, the bare bones of them at least, waiting for anyone to find. Sometimes it’s like dredging up old bones, or bodies preserved in peat. Sometimes, there’s the feeling where they’re swimming beside me and I swing out and catch them thread by thread. Sometimes I don’t catch them at all.
This is a lovely blog post by Joanna Guthrie, on writing poems to order, about landscapes, knowing that they'd be set to music. It's a beautiful read.

And these are beautiful literary posters by Evan Roberston. Quotes by writers, with black and white illustrations.

If you don't follow Bella's Bookshelves, then I recommend you do. That's how I stumbled across these posters. She's excellent at finding bookish gems.

Saturday, 1 September 2012


Customer (holding up a book): What’s this? The Secret Garden? Well, it’s not so secret now, is it, since they bloody well wrote a book about it!


I announced yesterday that I'm writing a sequel to Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, which will be published next year. *happy dance*

(FYI Obviously that ---> is not the new cover. Greg will be designing a new cover, and inside illustrations, and it will be snazzy. It won't be me just changing the initial cover a bit in MSPaint. You may now breathe a sigh of relief.)

SO. Like the first book, there will be a section in this book called 'Weird Things Customers Say in Other Bookshops.' & that's where you come in, lovely booksellers! Now is your chance to send in the weirdest, funniest and down right mind-boggling 'Weird Things...' quotes you have heard. Librarians, we'd love to hear from you, too!

Please send your quotes in the body of an email to me at jenvcampbell@gmail.com, subject heading 'Weird  Things submission.' You can send as many quotes as you like. Please set them out as a script. Deadline is the 15th November. We had a great response last time, and I'm really excited to see what you guys send over.* 

If you could help spread the word to other booksellers, by tweeting this blog post, or sharing it on Facebook walls etc, that would be fantastic. &, if you're reading this and you're not a bookseller or a librarian, then get yourself along to a bookshop and say something bizarre asap! x

*If you want to see the kind of quotes we like, then check out 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' [UK, Constable and Robinson], 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores' [US/Canada, Overlook Press] It's out now in the UK & Commonwealth, out in US/Canada 13th September 2012, Finnish and Swedish translations published this autumn and German translation out early next year. You can also see a selection of quotes over here.