How bookstores like One More Page help build community
Over at the Thrill Begins, the website I run on behalf of the International Thriller Writers, we were inspired by Carrie Callaghan’s recent run of Independent columns dedicated to the positive aspects of the writing community…and then we were inspired by Dan Mallory to shamelessly steal her idea.
The result is a weekly series called “The Advocates,” in which the regular contributors to the Thrill Begins write essays or conduct interviews with those who have helped them in their journey toward becoming professional authors, or who have provided a service to the crime-fiction community.
It’s a fun idea (thanks, Carrie and Dan!) and, if it has a flaw, it’s that there’s almost too many people to thank. From teachers to other writers to publications to organizations, the writing community (and the crime-fiction community, in particular) is full of selfless individuals who are more than happy to help those serious about their craft.
To that end, I was going to write a column dedicated to multiple recipients, but that doesn’t seem fair — no one likes to share glory. A better approach is to separate the columns and dedicate one of my Independent essays to One More Page Books, one of the best bookshops in the area.
If you haven’t been to OMP, it’s a small, cozy bookshop minutes outside of DC, nestled in Northern Virginia. The store’s not crowded with books but, by some miracle of organization, always seem to have any book you’re looking for (it’s been years, and I still haven’t figured out how they do that).
There’s wine and chocolates available for purchase, and a lively, entertaining staff — and, for those of who live and shop in the DC/MD/VA region, you understand what a rarity a cheerful retail staff is. I’ve gone to the store and seen the staff belting out karaoke, or dancing, or discussing the deeper ramifications of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (a conversation in which I absolutely, passionately took part, and which will probably be the topic of a future column).
Eileen McGervey, since founding One More Page in 2011, has done a wonderful job cultivating a loyal staff and devoted following, and the bookstore has remained relevant in a fiercely competitive atmosphere without losing its humor — the shop was once visited by President Obama, and now a cutout of the former commander-in-chief is a store fixture.
Like the best bookstores, it’s easy to lose track of time when you’re there. But there’s an intimacy to the store and its location in a quiet Arlington neighborhood. You visit and you want to be part of its story.
Rebecca Speas, the store’s events coordinator, maintains a robust schedule of author events, and I’ve been lucky to appear there in promotion of books or panels — “lucky” being the correct term. The first time I appeared there, my second novel was coming out through a small, relatively unknown publisher, and my first novel hadn’t exactly established me.
Asking them to host my book launch was presumptuous, coupled with a healthy dose of naivety. When they agreed, I was over-the-moon excited. I’d been at the store in support of other writers, but every published writer knows the thrill of finally standing in front of a crowd, rather than in it.
I’m indebted to them for taking a chance, half a decade ago, on a scruffy book; I’m just as lucky, this March, they’re going to host my launch of The Unrepentant (in which I’ll be joined by vocalist Ayana Reed). I hope you’ll come see me, but, if not, make a point of visiting the store in the future — tonight, in fact, one of crime fiction’s rising stars, David Swinson, will be promoting his new book, Trigger.
Writers and readers owe a debt to stores like One More Page for having the courage to step out into a brutal retail landscape in the service of recommending and providing books, all in the hopes that the local public will find a certain story to fall in love with. It’s a debt we should forever, gladly, pay.
E.A. Aymar’s latest novel, The Unrepentant, comes out next month.