I’ve always loved bookshops, ever since I was a book-obsessed child of nine or so. Once my mum had to do holiday cover for her friend’s bookshop – this was my idea of absolute heaven. I worked my way through the children’s shelves, sitting in a chair in the corner. Recently though, launching my new novel Dragon Daughter, I had a glimpse of just how hard booksellers work; how their expertise and energy can support an author; and how their love of a particular book can transform that book’s journey to its readers.
Earlier this month, I joined Durham Waterstones children’s book group, invited by bookseller extraordinaire Fiona Sharp, who is a one-woman whirlwind of energy and enthusiasm for books. I met the children and chatted to them about Dragon Daughter, then spent the next few hours presenting a pile of my books to all the bookshop browsers – determined not to leave till they’d all been sold and signed. It was a challenge for me: I think it would have been easier to sell someone else’s book, as I’m not very good at blowing my own trumpet, and indeed I did recommend many other books along the way! It was lovely to talk to customers, to listen to the books that children loved and try to guess which title they might enjoy next – I really hope they like Dragon Daughter! I heard later that one child loved the book so much she reviewed it here – absolutely made my day.
The next day I was welcomed by Billiejo Ogden at Seven Stories: the National Centre for Children’s Books. I ran a free workshop for children in the wonderful Seven Stories Bookshop – one of the finest children’s bookshops in the UK, with a brilliant selection of titles. They’ve chosen Dragon Daughter as Book of the Month, and made a gorgeous display to support it. The workshop went well and the children imagined some wonderful magical creatures and did a great job of colouring in dragon masks – I think the storytellers and illustrators of the future are right there.
Then this week I launched Dragon Daughter with an open event at Bookworms Children’s Bookshop in Halifax’s stunning Piece Hall. This shop is only just celebrating its first birthday, but it has already well and truly made its mark, supporting and championing local authors, hosting a regular spoken word night, establishing a monthly YA book group, hosting panels and launches and helping to found the Halifax Festival of Words, in partnership with other local venues.
As part of the festival, the dynamic team of booksellers – Katie, Louise and Sarah – devised a treasure hunt of clues to find dragon eggs all around the Piece Hall (it’s a massive stone plaza with shops on several tiers and a lovely open square – two people mistook it for Venice in my Instagram pictures!). When the dragon-egg-hunters returned triumphant, they were given bookmarks and dragon masks to colour in.
We launched Dragon Daughter in a packed bookshop, with a short reading, and some gorgeous dragon buns and biscuits made by my beloved friends who I’ve known since we went to school together in Halifax, more years ago than I want to tell you! When I was signing books, it was the first time ever that children have asked for a photo with me, so I felt like a superstar author for that half hour! I love meeting readers and this was the highlight for me, across all the events, to speak to children who are discovering stories and loving their journey into books. I must also thank my amazing local bookshop, The Bookcase, who have supported me with books at my family-and-friends launch and a wonderful window display.
So the purpose of this blog post is to celebrate booksellers. I’ve come to a new, deeper appreciation of how very hard you work at lots of different tasks. I’m not sure quite how you find time in the busiest of weeks to dream up wonderful events like these to enchant readers and delight authors, but I’m very grateful that you do.
Looking ahead, I’m going to visit more bookshops in the next few months: Kenilworth Books, Imagined Things, Huddersfield Children’s Bookshop, Waterstones in Leeds and Bradford. I can’t wait to meet more readers there. Meanwhile, Booksellers of Britain, I salute you!
For a full list of forthcoming events: lizflanagan.co.uk/events