I have a confession to make: I am a cheapskate. I shop in thrift stores. Our family car has 210,000 miles. When something breaks I fix it (or learn to live without it) rather than running out and buying a new one. If there is something I need, it goes on a list and I try to wait a least a month before buying it, and usually, in that time I either discover I don’t really need it or find a cheaper alternative. Part of this is the result of living on a limited income for a long time. Part is just trying to live simply. Having lived in a 500 square foot house (without plumbing, phone and electricity for a long time) I have learned that in all honesty, we don’t need nearly as much as we think we do.
But we do need books, right? Which brings me to my second confession: until quite recently, I almost never bought books. I went to the library. I borrowed books from friends. It was rare that I could justify the expense of buying a brand new book and when I did break down, I usually, at some point, ended up feeling a little guilty. Like that money could have been put to better use and I should have just waited and checked it out of the library.
But then I had a revelation. Here I am, about to have a novel published. And in order for this to be a successful experience, I need people to actually go out and buy my book. Lots of people. And what right do I have to ask that people plunk down their hard earned fourteen bucks for my book when I’m checking everything out of the library?
Yes, I am dead broke (remember the leaky roof and new retaining wall? Know what it costs for heating oil and how much of the stuff we have to use here in Vermont? And then there’s that car with the 210,000 miles – it’s leaking oil and brake fluid and probably has too much rust to pass inspection next year…) but that’s no excuse. I now see that as writers, we have to support the system that supports us. If we’re not going to buy books, who is?
I have two favorite bookstores, both in Montpelier, the capitol of Vermont (smallest capitol city in the nation, and the only state capitol without a McDonald’s… how’s that for trivia?) Bear Pond Books has been around for thirty plus years and has two floors, and an amazing staff. Then there’s Rivendell Books, smaller and equally wonderful with a mix of new and used books. Also, Rivendell is home to Veruca the turtle (actually a Russian Tortoise, I believe) which pretty much makes it my daughter’s favorite place on earth: “Go to turtle store now, Mommy?”
Since my wonderful revelation, I have been going and buying books and I have not felt an ounce of remorse.
So here’s my challenge to everyone out there this week: go to your favorite independent bookstore and spend some money. Buy that book you’ve been hearing about. The one your friend just recommended.
And if you’re ever in Vermont, be sure to stop by both Bear Pond and Rivendell. And don’t forget to say hi to Veruca.