Before I came on board at The Bookshelf, I had never worked retail. I grew up in Tallahassee, where even in high school, state government jobs were a little more easily available to me than jobs at the mall. I shopped at Barnes and Noble and -- less often -- at Books a Million; independent bookstores were things my family visited on vacation, not things available to me right around the corner.
Now, of course, I know independent bookstores abound; you just have to know where to look.
This afternoon, I'm leaving for Savannah for my first-ever Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance conference (aka SIBA). I've never been able to attend the conference before, mostly due to One Book and other bookstore-related events that kept me busy and in Thomasville. This year, too, there's plenty I feel like I should be doing: One Book kicks off this weekend, there are new wares for sale in the shop, and Chris is doing story time... A huge part of me feels like I should be here, running my business.
But another part knows: This is important. It's time to be with other booksellers and bookstore owners, discovering more about this industry and this business I don't know enough about. I've owned the bookstore for three years, and I still feel like an infant, grasping for breath, trying to figure out which way is up. It's time to gather some more information, to be encouraged by other business owners, and to uncover more details about my new chosen profession.
It helps, too, that I was asked to speak on a SIBA panel. I had One Book looming, and I wasn't sure SIBA was really a possibility for me this year. Being asked to participate on a panel made me shift my priorities, and I'm thrilled to announce I'll be sitting alongside Janet from Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia; and Jamie Fiocco of Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Our panel about women in entrepreneurship is being moderated by Grace Bonney of DesignSponge fame, and I'll admit: I'm peeing my pants a little.
This is a big deal, I think, for The Bookshelf and for Thomasville. It means our little store is making waves; Avid and Flyleaf? Those stores are well-respected and recognizable, and it sounds cliche, but it's an honor to be included alongside them.
So I'm headed to Savannah tomorrow. I'm hoping it's just what my tired brain needs to enter into a hopefully busy fall and holiday season. I want to come back energized and ready to make The Bookshelf better than ever. (And I hope I get my picture taken with Grace Bonney, too.)