Thursday, March 24, 2011


Sometimes when I finish a book, all I can do is sit and let the story settle into me. This happened last night after finishing Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr. Wingshooters is set in Wisconsin in the 1970s. It’s an adult novel, but told through the eyes of a child, Michelle (“Mike”). In the narration, Mike is grown and recalling her childhood. Mike was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and white father, much to her paternal grandparents disappointment. When Mike is 8 years old, her family moves to the United States and disintegrates. Mike is left in the care of her paternal grandparents while her parents roam separately. Despite his racist nature, Mike’s grandfather, Charlie, and Mike grow very close. When a black couple moves to their all-white (with the exception of Mike) community, Charlie and his friends work to dissuade them from remaining in the community, blind to the parallels between the black couple and Mike. For those of you who crave authentic voice when you read, you’re going to love this book (think Mudbound or The Help for excellent voice books). Additionally, the author does not back down from a theme that is avoided by most writers: just because a person physically survives does not mean s/he ever heals. This is one of those books that is so complete – the story itself, the plot, is great and the pacing of it is perfect. Plus, the writing is fantastic – it contains sentences that I re-read just for the pleasure of good writing. (One of my favorites compares stepping into a woods where the autumn leaves have just fallen to a woman stepping out of a colorful dress). Best of all, the author knew how to end this book. How many times have we read a book and enjoyed the first 9/10 of it and then cringed as the author fumbled through the ending? This is not one of those. I have other books I need to read, but for the moment, I’m letting this one simmer in my soul.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Come on in and loiter

Recently, a customer came into Beagle and said, “I’m just going to browse today, is that okay?” We told her, “Sure.” Then she said, “Is it okay if I loiter?”
“Yeeeeeeeeeeees, that’s why we have chairs,” I told her.
Apparently, she had recently been in another bookstore, a chain store, and was appalled by the signage that no loitering was allowed and that customers were limited to 10 minutes per aisle.
To be honest, my first reaction is to chuckle or smirk. 10 minutes per aisle? Is someone with a stopwatch employed to enforce such a rule? My second reaction is one of sadness. Bookstores, no matter if indie or chain, should be (in my opinion) welcoming, inviting places. In particular, I want bookstores to be welcoming to children. That doesn’t mean they can run amok and not be respectful of inventory, but at Beagle, I’ve honestly had very little problems with this. Between kids playing at our kids table and petting the dog, there isn’t really time to be naughty.
I understand that you may not buy something every time you set foot in Beagle. But when you do need a book (or eggs or a calendar, etc), it is my hope you will buy it from Beagle (or Sister Wolf). In the meantime, browse, chat with the bookseller, pet the dog, and for heaven’s sake, loiter.

Friday, February 18, 2011


I've always written these blog entries myself, but today's is a re-posting of the American Booksellers Association's statement regarding Borders. It is not all that long and is a statement we feel is important for our customers to read. Please take the time to read it. (To go directly to the statement, go to: )

ABA Statement on Borders’ Bankruptcy Filing
Created 02/16/2011 - 2:59pm
In response to the news on Wednesday, February 16, that Borders Group Inc. had filed for Chapter 11 protection and will close about 30 percent of its stores nationwide in the coming weeks, the American Booksellers Association issued the following statement:

Though Borders is not a member of the American Booksellers Association, we are always saddened when any bookstore closes. The industry – whether independent bookstores, publishers, or readers – does not benefit from the diminishment of places to browse, discover, and buy books.

However, despite the doom and gloom expressed by some about the future of full-service bricks-and-mortar bookstores – and, while we don’t underestimate the challenges that lie ahead – ABA believes that the indie bookstore model is well positioned for the future.

ABA membership numbers have stabilized; the vast majority of ABA members are coming off the best holiday season they have had in years; and, we’ve partnered with Google to allow our members to offer e-books through their websites.

As book buyers and readers are facing a skyrocketing number of books vying for their attention – with more and more demands on their time – our members’ customers are telling us that, now more than ever, they appreciate the care independent stores take in choosing the titles to stock, and that the curated selection in our stores can’t be found elsewhere.

In addition, more and more consumers appreciate the fact that our members are locally owned and have long-standing and close ties to their communities. They understand that by shopping in an independent store they are making sure that far more of their spending dollars recirculate back into the community. Shopping locally supports the small businesses that are creating jobs, directly fuels local growth, and helps preserve the special things that make each American community unique.

Looking ahead, we know that indie stores will have to continue to work hard and stay nimble and innovative. No matter what may appear in the headlines today, and understanding that the circumstances leading to the current situation facing Borders is very different than those of independents, we believe that our members will continue to offer their customers a unique shopping experience they can’t find anywhere else.


Media questions should be addressed to ABA Membership and Marketing Officer Meg Smith [1].

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Lovely V-Day Gift

This past Valentine’s Day, I had one of the loveliest V-Day moments I’ve ever had. Tom and I gave Megan, our 9 year old daughter, a card that did not have any hearts on it. Nor did it have cute animals or sparkles. It was a bookmark card. The quote inside the card (and on the attached bookmark) was one from Barack Obama, who Megan has been very interested in this school year: We are all meant to shine. For those of you who know my daughter, you know this was the perfect card for her even though it lacked hearts, cute animals, or sparkles. It didn’t even contain the words “Happy Valentine’s Day”. When Megan opened the card, she read the quote, then read who supplied the quote and her face lit up, “Barack Obama!” But here’s the part I love – the part I hope I remember to my dying day, “Barack Obama wrote this for my Valentine’s Day card??” Oh, love! How incredible that she would even entertain that thought. It’s true that kids are, by nature, self-absorbed, but I’ve seen so many children with so little self esteem. Not this kid. Love starts with the self and by golly, I think she nailed it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How I Met You (sort of)

It’s no secret that I am a Facebook junkie. I do spend some time there promoting Beagle Books and keeping up with community events. But sometimes, I’m just plain goofing off. I was delighted last Friday to log on to Facebook and see the following post from my friend, Angela:
Angela Scaletta wants you to comment on this status about how you met me. But I want you to lie. That's right. Just make stuff up. After you comment, copy to your status so I can do the same. Bonus points for creativity!
Right away, my wheels started spinning – what’s the most outlandish thing I can come up with??? Throughout the day, I read (and laughed) my way through my friends tales of how we all met. We were being silly, goofing off for sure, but we were also engaging in one of my favorite things in life: storytelling.
Here’s some of the stories I told:
For Angela (who got me started on this): It still makes me tear up when I think about that day I was mountain climbing, slipped, and you broke my 1500 foot fall. What a gem you are. Anyone else would have stepped to the side and pretended not to notice me, but not you. I feel guilty however that you spent the rest of your honeymoon in the hospital. I owe you, really.
Another of Angela’s friends, Amy B, was typing at the same time I was, but she hit enter a moment after I did. Her story is better than mine and I’ve never been trumped so fast. Here’s Amy B’s: It was circus camp. I fell off the tightrope and landed on the lion, whose mouth you had just stuck your head into. When I say that nobody would ever know that your left ear is a prosthetic, it's not the guilt talking. I really mean it.
For a friend who has a daughter the same age as mine: I was canoeing on a river one day and heard this incredibly beautiful yodeling up around the bend. Of course, when I came around the bend (we all do at some point), there you were with your Nude Harmonica & Yodeling club, practicing for a performance at the Annual Talent Contest. I stopped to chat and well...we've been friends every since.
For an artist friend: We both tried out for the lead role in Madame Bovary. We sang so bad we were bounced out the back door into an alley. That wouldn't have been so bad except for the mentally-impaired gentleman who had gone off his meds got the urge to knife us. Even though you were wounded (both emotionally and physically), you fought him off, subdued him, then dragged him to the hospital and using his knife, pinned him to the wall of the ER lobby. It was so incredible, I couldn't resist forming a friendship with you :)
For a co-worker of my husband’s: Good grief, how many years has it been now since that comet hit the ice in front of me at the fishing derby, I fell in the hole it created, and you fished me out of the icy waters?? Everyone else kept their head down, eyes on their holes, with visions of new pick-up trucks on their minds, but not you. You just handed your pole to [your daughter] Sam and saved my life. Thanks ;)
For a former babysitter (all grown up now!): I was down in the Amazon rain forest, collecting bugs. I was knocked unconscious when something hit me in the head. Turns out it was your water bottle - you dropped it from the rope bridge you were crossing above me. We've been friends ever since! :)
For a friend in the medical field: We were both on that chain gang up in Baudette. I wanted to make a break for it and swim to Canada, but you pointed out that the last guy in our gang would probably drown because he couldn't swim. Thank goodness you saved me from murder! Now I'll only be in prison for 20 years, rather than life, whew!
I’ve saved the best for last. This tall tale was written by my friend Angela Scaletta: I was touring the west coast with my flea circus, you kept playing the same venues the next night with your flock of plate-spinning poodles. It took you years to figure out the source of the infestation that ended your act (hard to keep those plates spinning when you have to scratch all. the. time.) but by that time you already owed me over a quarter-million dollars from your Jello mold competition betting losses.
What stories do YOU have??

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Trifecta

The third Thursday of the month, Park Rapids downtown businesses host a variety of artists for Arts Downtown. Typically, Beagle Books participates in this, but in January, we took the month off. This meant that for the first time, I was able to attend Arts Downtown rather than act as a hostess. Since I rarely get the chance to see our friends Deane Johnson and Jennie Anderson perform with their quintet, I opted to sit in on the quintet’s set at Bella Caffe, along with my 9-year old, music-loving daughter. We had a marvelous time. The quintet performed in Bella’s solarium, which made the set an intimate experience. We sat so close to the musicians we could practically touch them (and we weren’t even the closest). When we climbed the steps to the solarium, Megan spotted one of Beagle’s regular customers, Mike, and his wife, Jacque. Without hesitation, Megan bounded over and asked if we could join them. We ate Bella’s beer cheese soup, chatted with people around us, and thoroughly enjoyed the music. The quintet included a bassoon player. Megan had never seen nor heard a bassoon, so it was fun to witness her new music experience. Other children were in attendance so the quintet played a number of “kid-friendly” pieces such as the theme from Pink Panther and The Teddy Bear Picnic. They also performed a Magic Flute piece (my favorite of the night) and an arrangement of Fiddler on the Roof songs (Megan LOVES Fiddler on the Roof). When the 45 minute set was over, Megan asked, “That’s it?” We bundled ourselves into our coats, hats, and mittens. We shuffled out to our car in -20 temps and headed home. Later, I thought about what had made it such a wonderful evening. Was it the music? The food? The relaxed and friendly atmosphere? It was all those things, but the really impactful thing for me was the sense of community. We were in a familiar, cozy setting with people we knew. We didn’t know every person in the room, but we did know most of them. Here we were, in a small town in northern Minnesota on a cold night in January. We chose to leave our warm homes, televisions, computers, and all the rest (well ok, probably most of us had our cell phones with us) to treat ourselves. How fortunate am I that I live in the country – and I do mean the country, more mornings than not I see deer cross my path as I drive up the driveway, yet I can spend an evening enjoying music and sharing that experience with other people. I could imagine people all over the world, in all sorts of communities, coming together to share music. As far as I know, every culture has enjoyed music as a community event. What else is universal to all communities, I wondered. The obvious came to mind first: food. We love to feast, to share together in a meal. Stories. How long have people shared stories? We are fortunate, to my way of thinking, to have written stories, but there is something special about stories shared verbally. We cherish those who possess storytelling skills. Music, food, stories. Hey, if that’s the trifecta, then I have the trifecta right in my own home. (Megan = music, Tom = food, Jen = stories). But to share those things with my community, that’s where the wonderful really fills my soul.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dog Train to the Rescue

No matter where a person chooses to live, there are pros and cons to that place. For our family, one of the drawbacks to living in the north woods is driving our elementary-aged daughter, Megan, to a bus stop where she will be picked up at a reasonable time and endure a fairly short bus ride. We could plant her at the end of our driveway (even that is a ¼ mile), but she would be the first stop of the bus route and have a much longer ride. Since it’s hard enough getting Meg up at a reasonable time, there’s no way we’re opting for anything earlier. So, every school day morning, I drive her to the bus stop. On the way, we listen to an audio book of her choice. Today, however, we were in a pinch. We’ve listened to the last of the discs she received for Christmas and the audio we requested at the library hasn’t come in yet. That leaves us two options: (well, ok, three if you count sitting in silence – but for those of you who know Megan, you know that isn’t really an option) talking or listening to the radio. Talking in the morning for Megan and I is a bad idea. Megan is not a morning person and I am a morning person*. What is a morning person*, you ask? A morning person* is someone who is willing to get up early in the morning but only if no one talks to her. That leaves the radio. Here again, there is trouble. Megan likes country music (like her dad), and I like everything but country. (For the record, Alison Krauss is folk). Nonetheless, we turn on the radio and hope for the best. When the scan function stops on a country station, I vigorously shake my head no and Megan sighs. She presses the button again. Talking. Presses the button again. Talking. Talking. Talking. Finally, she hits on some music and it’s Blues Traveler! A band I love, yay! But that won’t be good enough, so I do some quick thinking and I tell her, “Hey, this is a band that’s on your Dog Train CD.” For those of you who don’t know, Sandra Boynton, a fabulous children’s author who mostly writes board books aimed at pre-schoolers has released four CD/books. Each has a different theme. The lyrics are pure, silly Boynton accompanied by a book with Boynton illustrations. The songs are performed by well-known musicians (from the Bacon Brothers to B.B. King to even the beloved Alison Krauss). It’s a brilliant combination because the songs and illustrations are silly and fun enough to capture kids attention, but the songs don’t drive adults crazy. Upon learning the band singing out of the radio was one known to Megan, she settled back and enjoyed (she probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t sang along, but one can’t have everything in life). I couldn’t help sending a silent THANK YOU to Sandra Boynton – maybe I have a shot at influencing Megan’s music interests after all (doubtful, she’s been a daddy’s girl since the moment she entered the world). If nothing else, I can tuck a Blues Traveler CD in the car (or what the heck, the Sandra Boynton CDs) for the next time we’re in a pinch. Whew!