We started this trip in Boulder, Colorado, and now, 5,000 miles later, we are back where it all began: Vermont. This is a homecoming for us, because my entire family is gathered for a summer visit (here are the various nieces and nephew, ages 1-17), and because we are finally reunited with the fabulous Lola, but also because of the Flying Pig Bookstore.
Here’s a bit of history: Fifteen years ago, I wandered into a little bookstore that had recently opened in my hometown of Charlotte, Vermont (Just so you know, that bookstore expanded the retail shops in Charlotte to exactly one). As I was compulsively rearranging “The Dark is Rising” books on the shelves, Elizabeth Bluemle, one half of the Flying Pig Bookstore, wandered over, noticed what I was doing, and offered me a job on the spot as the first-ever Flying Pig employee. And the rest is history.
I eventually moved to New York City, but came back as often as possible to work a week here and there at the Flying Pig. And the bookstore eventually moved from that location to Shelburne, Vt, where it has more than 40,000 books and serves as an information center, meeting place, relaxation station, birthday-present stop, and overall community treasure. One day a few years ago I confessed to Elizabeth that I was thinking of writing a book – something like the books I loved as a kid, that would involve siblings, magic, animals, and hidden worlds. Elizabeth not only told me to go for it, but promised that she and Josie Leavitt, her partner at the shop, would read drafts, offer advice, and support me every step of the way. And they did.
When “Lost Children of The Far Islands” was released, The Flying Pig threw me a party.
All the way across the country on the Indie Bookstore Roadtrip, we met people who are devoted to books and writers. We ALSO met people who are devoted to their bookstores. Why?? You can buy any book that you want online. Why go to the trouble of seeking out an actual, bricks and mortar bookstore? Book sellers who read books, definitely. But after visiting bookstores from Boulder to Burlington, it’s clear to me that there is something else going on.
Maybe you go to the Flying Pig Bookstore because you are a comedy fan and every single time you see Josie, she cracks you up. Maybe you go because you need a new mystery and you just know that Darrilyn Peters (a long-time bookworm and Flying Pig employee) will have one for you. Maybe you have a child who is afraid of the dark, or school, or monsters, and you know Elizabeth, an ex-children’s librarian and current picture book author as well as bookseller, will have just the right book for that kid, oh and one for his sister who loves volcanoes too. Most times when I’m in the Flying Pig, there is at least one kid who is hanging around the front counter because they have a question, or a problem, and they want a book to help them, or maybe they just want to talk to Josie or Elizabeth, with whom they’ve grown up and who they trust. Years ago, when I was still working at the Flying Pig, a local little girl’s cat had to be put to sleep. At the Vet’s office, she asked her mom not to take her home, but to the Flying Pig Bookstore, so she could sit in the rocker in the children’s section for a while and think about her cat.
I think it comes down to friendship, which is another word for community. People come into the Flying Pig Bookstore to buy books because the Flying Pig is part of their community, and Josie and Elizabeth are part of their community. And that loyalty, in turn, fosters a bookstore that attracts people who are not from the community but are passing by and are drawn to the store full of books and pictures and flying pigs and kids and chatting adults. The Flying Pig Bookstore is that place to touch base, catch up, seek advise, share stories, and while you are at it, buy a great new book. Thank you, Josie, Elizabeth, and all the folks at the Flying Pig Bookstore – I for one, am extremely grateful that you are here!