Sunday, June 07, 2015

Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar

[This article was written August 29, 2014. Registration for CABS 2015 is still open. Several scholarships are still available with deadlines around June 12.]

Catalogue descriptions, print illustrations, marketing, customers, manuscripts, book fairs, a room resonating with enthusiastic booksellers, librarians and collectors — CABS 2014 was Book Geek Heaven.

I'd plunged into the book world in 2011, opening a bricks-and-mortar shop smack in Recession industrial suburbia. Call me crazy, but the timing was right, with a break between jobs, low rent, and an accumulation of books that needed an outlet.

Bookselling blogs and listservs mentioned the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS). I applied for a scholarship in 2012, but didn't get it. In late 2013 the physical shop, which was finally breaking even but still not paying its owner, closed. I culled inventory, moved books into my house and focused on the online business. 

I was determined to go to CABS in 2014. I'd learned a lot on my own, but didn't know details like types of bindings and illustrations. I wanted to move Tannery Books to the next level — the next level being professional and profitable, or doing work I love and actually getting paid for it. Once again, the timing was right. Thankfully, I won the IOBA scholarship

Denver-to-Colorado Springs logistics were challenging, but I'd saved enough bookshop money to cover hotel and rental car (the car shared with classmates) so I could attend the Rocky Mountain Book and Paper Fair, my first book fair. The next day we visited four Denver booksellers during their open house brunch, before driving to Colorado Springs.

As expected, the next five days of class were like drinking from a firehose — but I was thirsty. Nine instructors did their best to cover everything: bibliography, research sites, where to buy and sell books, photography, websites and databases.... You name it. We scribbled copious notes.

I'd worried that some classes would be dry and dozy. I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining and personable the instructors were. Several of them told their stories: how they developed as booksellers (or librarians). I particularly related to those who found bookish prosperity later in life, after other careers. 

I got to know a few of my classmates, finally meeting some online acquaintances in person, like Rachel Jagareski. Some had open shops; one had just started her online business; a bookscout; a collector. We visited Clausen Books one night, where I bought a couple of North and South Carolina genealogy books, then savoured German food at one of the local restaurants.

They kept warning us about altitude sickness, but I encountered a different challenge. A two-hour time difference didn't seem like much, but waking up at 3 a.m. Eastern to catch an early flight set off a week-long battle with jet lag. I woke by 4 or 5 a.m. every morning and felt ready to crash by 8 p.m.

No one wanted to miss Thursday afternoon's auction, even to slip out for a bathroom break. Generous bidding led to a record-breaking haul for the seminar, estimated to provide three scholarships for next year! Auction excitement carried over to Friday morning, when a stale muffin used as the auctioneer's hammer contributed even more. 

Homework: Half-Bound Goat over Marbled Paper Boards
Can you learn everything there is to know about bookselling in a week? Of course not. Even if our instructors could cover all they wanted to — and they shared generously — my mind wouldn't hold it all. (Looking at my notes, I completely forgot we had a reception Sunday night. It must've been after 8 p.m.) I still can't tell different types of leather apart, but I know where to look to learn more. We each took home a binder full of handouts, websites, recommended reference books, and contact information for all of our classmates. 

On the final afternoon of CABS 2014, Dan Gregory made us laugh with a fictional letter home: (paraphrased) “Dear Folks, CABS was great! When I get home I'm going to do this, and this, and this andthisandthisand...” Dan reminded us to prioritize. Overwhelmed with ideas, I came home, wrote a list and stuck it in my weekly planner. 

The first week, I touched base with classmates on Facebook, added a list of related books (a mini-catalog) to a book order, and ordered two reference books

Book chatter during a break between classes
I perused next year's book fairs at as a homework assignment from Lorne Bair. I hope to see some of you at Rare Book Week in New York next April. 

The third week, I quoted a genealogy book to a librarian, a past online customer. He accepted the offer. 

I've started writing down what I do each week toward making Tannery Books better. Having just attended CABS, I don't have a success story to share right away, but I consider this a launch point. If I work on something from my list every week, my future as a bookseller can only improve. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday — Memorial Day 2015

I've seen photos of the tombstone, but I always wanted to visit my great-great-grandfather's grave in person.

Something about my research this past weekend, combined with everybody talking about the meaning of Memorial Day, gave me a wild hair to drive out to Moore County and pay my respects.

By myself, 50 miles each way. Not even a library or courthouse open to make the trip "worthwhile." Oh, and I had family plans in the afternoon. Just find the cemetery and come right back.

All their lives, my grandfather and uncle got excited whenever they heard the name Maness. In Moore County, though, you can't throw a rock without hitting a Maness. Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church cemetery looked like a field of Manesses.

I finally found Thomas Swain Maness' grave (thanks to the person who posted a photo on Find-A-Grave with a view of the larger stones near it).

I'd brought a special flag: the Confederate version of the POW/MIA flag. During the long drive I thought about Thomas, who lied about his age to get into the army at 12 or 13 years old. After three years of hellish battles, he lied, deserted, did everything he could to get out.

Instead of letting him take the Oath of Allegiance, the Union kept him in prison camps at Point Lookout, Md. and Elmira, N.Y. for the next year. He eventually returned, married at about 17, and led a very full — and somewhat disturbed — life.

I wanted to bring an American flag, too, but this was a last-minute jaunt and I didn't have one. Thankfully, some kind-hearted soul had placed flags at all of the veteran graves in the cemetery. Thomas was both.

Sadly, they missed his brother Shadrach, even though his stone reads "KIA." He really did sacrifice everything and, in his case, for a friend. Shadrach went into the army as a substitute for Quimby Wallace (who had a wife and children), and never came home.

At least Shadrach's grave is next to a kinsman, Reuben Maness. Reuben was a chaplain in the army. He was also killed.

Maybe I'll bring an extra flag or two next year.

_ _ _

After all these years ... Thomas, meet your great-great-granddaughter. 

As the little flag says: "You shall not be forgotten."

_ _ _

Friday, May 01, 2015

Get Back Into Writing — 8 Tips

So far, 2015 has not been the year of writing for me. I started January gung-ho about a nonfiction book, but sometimes "life gets in the way." To sum it up in a tweet:
2015 so far: visited friends, moved bookshop, family visit, snow, family death, scrapbooked, sold a house, family wedding, mission trip... 
Is it any wonder my writing's been waylaid?!

'Thought I'd share some strategies that help me get back into writing. What gets you motivated? Feel free to add tips in the comments.

1. Free Write. Too paralyzed by perfectionism to start that next query? Daunted by that draft that hasn't been touched for two months? Grease those mental gears by writing about anything else. Set a timer and write about writing, or a memory, or a photo in the nearest magazine.

2. Journal. Capture events, details and feelings from today or the past week.

3. Change the Scene. Take your notebook or laptop to the library, city park, coffee shop or bookstore.

4. Carve Out Space. Create a writing nook or small office in your house. No room? Then pick a different chair from the one where you watch TV or do other routine activities. Keep your writing things — notebook, pen, research books — in that location. The trick is to signal your subconscious; when you sit in that spot, it's time to write.

5. Unplug. Yes, we type faster than we write (Scrivener is my favorite writing software). If you need to get out of a rut, however, or if you spent all day on the computer at your day job, it's time to pull out the paper. Brainstorm ideas for articles. Skim through Writer's Market books or your favorite magazine for submission ideas. When my genealogy-based book projects have been neglected, I draw an extended family tree and tape it to the wall to get a feel for timeline and subplots. Some writers use mindmaps (flow charts of ideas) while others sort characters or scenes on index cards.

6. Protect Your Best Mental Time. I never thought of myself as a morning person. I'd find myself standing in the shower or sitting at the table, staring into space. I finally realized that, while I'm not physically a morning person, my mind and imagination are in hyperdrive. Now I say no to morning meetings and appointments that aren't the best use of my most creative time.

7. Motivate with Deadlines and Rewards. Other people's deadlines work great, especially submission dates from a paying editor. Sticking to your own deadline, however, is hard, especially for a long-term project like a book. First, break big tasks into small pieces, like editing 10 pages or drafting a query letter. Don't use an essential as a reward — like eating a meal or playing with the kids. Pick a small luxury, and stick to it — like watching TV or treating yourself to a latte.

8. Connect with Community. With so many demands on your time, it's easy to put off writing. But having writer buddies to meet you at that coffee shop, or a weekly critique group, is a huge motivator (with a deadline!). I wrote this blog post at the encouragement of Wordsmith Studio — an incredibly supportive online writing community. We're celebrating our third anniversary!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Early Bird gets fast-food

The schedule changed a little this year for Beth David Synagogue's annual book sale. Instead of a preview sale on Saturday night with wine and snacks, the preview sale started early Friday morning. Which meant die-hard dealers running the car heat and then standing in line in record-breaking (for North Carolina) 5-degree F weather.

My toes were so cold, I hobbled along like an ancient person for the next hour.

I'm not usually the first person in line, and this was *officially* no exception. However, since I'd dropped off a family member at the airport at a ridiculous hour, I arrived at the dark, deserted building two hours early.

Did I mention it was 5 degrees?

I didn't even put the car in park in the ice-covered parking lot. After driving up Friendly Avenue and starting back down, again, I found a McDonald's, went inside and ordered coffee and a hash brown. Just a little something to while the time in a heated area.

Back to Beth David. As a bookseller for the past four years, I still have plenty to learn. My lesson for-the-day was that, on cold, dark mornings, dealers place boxes and handtrucks in line at the door. If I'd known that, I would've thrown an old box on the sidewalk when I first arrived. Not that it really mattered. Most of the die-hards were mega-sellers with scanners, which means they go to different tables than I do as we pour through the door.

I put my warm body in line for the last 20 minutes, stamping my feet and conversing with dealers from as far away as Atlanta.

Either I didn't find much, or I'm growing more discerning. I drove home with a handful of books, including a first edition of Aldous Huxley's nonfiction follow-up to Brave New World, Brave New World Revisited.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Books of 2014

Graphic courtesy of Goodreads

'Seems I read constantly in 2014. Strangely, I've neither read nor written much so far in 2015. I'm sure I'll get over it soon.

Books for writing research

Covered with Glory: 26th N.C. Infantry
Camden: Historical Archaeology in the S.C. Backcountry
The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution (lovely 18th-century gossip and social history)
Bush River Monthly Meeting minutes 1772-1783 (unpublished manuscript)
Friends in Mexico
Costa Rica: a country without an army

Books for fun

Kathy Reichs' Bare Bones and Grave Secrets
George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series (I devoured all five books last summer!)
A Conspiracy of Paper (meh)
Love in the Time of Cholera (quirky romance steeped in historical setting)
Double Vision (middle-grade; read it before giving it to my nephew)
The Murder of the Century (well researched nonfiction)
The Last Camellia
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (not finished)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (my first James Bond book)
Skipping Christmas

Business and Life books

The Happiness of Pursuit
Hidden Treasures
279 Days to Overnight Success
The Daniel Plan
(I highly recommend this)
APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (finished from 2013 reading)

Thursday, February 05, 2015

It's a start!

Tannery Books has a physical presence, again.

I had a bricks-and-mortar bookshop for two and a half years in my small North Carolina town. In summer 2013 the storefront closed and Tannery Books became online only.

Now I have a booth at the Bush Hill Trading Post (Bush Hill was the colonial-era name for Archdale, N.C.).

Bush Hill Trading Post is a large building with a store in the middle that sells nostalgic items like RC Colas and Moon Pies, and candy by the pound. Around that is an antique mall.

I'm excited to put books in front of a whole new set of browsers. They'll be separate inventory from the online store at

I'm also excited that I don't have to be there. Sellers pay a small commission that covers employees. The shop is open Monday through Saturday, something I couldn't do with my former shop and part-time library job.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


I knew this would be a crazy year (2014 Calendar), and it hasn't let up. Fun and craziness are in full gear for November, which is National Novel Writing Month, known by participants as NaNoWriMo.

November 1 write-in at Geeksboro
I did pretty well the first week, fueled by our local group of writers. We met up for write-ins at Geeksboro, a unique coffee shop and movie theatre with a gaming, communal-TV-watching clientele.