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The Awards Go To… January 30, 2013

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January is not just award season for movie stars and singers, it’s also award season for authors and illustrators! This week, the American Library Association held its ceremony honoring children’s books. Top honors were awarded to:

Winner of the John Newbery Medal (for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature): The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate

Newbery Honor Books:

Splendors and Glooms, by Laura Amy Schlitz

Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin (This book was also awarded the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, for most distinguished informational book for children, as well as the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults!)

Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage

Winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal (for the most distinguished American picture book for children): This is Not My Hat, written and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Caldecott Honor Books:

Creepy Carrots! illustrated by Peter Brown, written by Aaron Reynolds

Extra Yarn illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett (The first time since 1947 that an author or illustrator has been awarded both the Caldecott Medal and a Caldecott Honor in the same year!)

Green written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

One Cool Friend illustrated by David Small, written by Toni Buzzeo

Sleep Like a Tiger illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Mary Logue

Michael L. Printz Award Winner (for excellence in literature written for young adults): In Darkness, by Nick Lake

And our sincere congratulations to Vermont author Katherine Paterson, winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award! This award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.

Find the entire awards list here.


The League of Vermont Writers 2012 Literary Competition April 9, 2012

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Calling all writers: The League of Vermont Writers (LVW) has announced its 2012 Literary Competition!

This year’s theme is “My New England.”

Categories are Fiction, Personal Essay, and Poetry.

Entry fee is $15 per submission.

Deadline for submission is May 15, 2012.

The Final Judges are David Budbill, Ron Powers, and Howard Frank Mosher.

Grand Prize is $1,000 (one prize awarded for each category) and an opportunity to read the winning selection at the LVW’s Summer Conference, as well as publication in the Leagues 2012 Journal!

For more information about the contest and guidelines, visit the LVW website.

Banned Books Virtual Read-Out! September 15, 2011

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Join Claire, Sandy, and hundreds of other readers across the country in a Banned Books Week Virtual Read Out. This year, Banned Books Week is September 24 – October 1, but you can celebrate early by recording yourself reading an excerpt from your favorite banned book and adding it to the Banned Books Week YouTube channel. If you need help with your video, feel free to stop by the store! We will have a camera available next week and the week after for recording banned book readings.

Here are our videos to give you a little motivation, because if we can do it, so can you!

Claire, reading from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time:

Sandy, reading from Sylvester and the Magic Pebble:

The American Library Association list of Frequently Challenged Books.

A peek into 2012 August 12, 2011

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As much as we’re enjoying the here and now, our minds are often on the coming months as we read advance copies of books to be published and peruse catalogs for Fall 2011 and Winter/Spring 2012.

We’d like to share a bit of our excitement for one event taking place next year–the release of our dear friend Howard Frank Mosher’s new book, The Great Northern Express, on March 6, 2012! Howard has been talking about this book for a couple of years, a memoir of his travels around the country while on book tour. He stopped by Galaxy this week for an informal photo shoot and was joined by a special friend. On his way to Hardwick, he spied a small turtle in the road and decided to bring him along. (Those of you who have read Walking to Gatlinburg will understand the significance of this particular critter.) Howard is very hopeful that his picture, along with the turtle, on the steps of The Galaxy Bookshop, will grace the jacket of The Great Northern Express.

In keeping with tradition, The Galaxy Bookshop will host the premier event for The Great Northern Express–Howard’s first stop on his book tour about a book tour–on March 6, 2012, at 7 p.m. Mark your calendars!

How Many Cups of Tea, Exactly? May 6, 2011

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I read Three Cups of Tea along with countless others- it was even required reading for troops deploying to Afghanistan at one time. I was as captivated and inspired as most; I greatly admired Greg Mortenson for doing the scary, difficult work that I would never undertake myself. In short, he was the change that I wanted to see in the world.

Then came the allegations. A special investigation into Mortenson and his nonprofit, Central Asia Institute (CAI) by 60 Minutes “revealed” that parts of the book may be “fabricated” and author Jon Krakauer, once on the board of CAI says that Mortenson uses his charity like his own “personal ATM,” citing his lack of documentation, receipts, and the one tax statement that the CAI has made public, which shows that they spent a great deal on helping Mortenson promote his books than on building actual schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mortenson went from “hero” to “fraud” in the blink of an eye.

I couldn’t bring myself to jump on the proverbial bandwagon and add Greg Mortenson to the “bad author” list alongside the likes of  James Frey. Condensing, expanding, perhaps even a little exaggeration, hey, chalk it up to creative license. One of Mortenson’s alleged lies is that he wrote that he visited a village in Pakistan called Korphe (the town which purportedly inspired him to start his nonprofit) in 1993 after getting lost while attempting to climb the world’s second highest peak, K2. It turns out that he probably visited the village in 1994 after another attempt at climbing the mountain.

There are more examples like the one above, but I find I am neither shocked nor offended by them.  And here is why: people generally won’t donate to a cause unless they are asked, whether this is via ads on television, people on street corners, emails, catalogs, etc. Charities exist because we cannot be counted on to take care of each other without some prodding and pushing. After directing our attention to a cause they then employ tactics to make average citizens look into their hearts (and then their wallets) using combinations of bribery (“free gift with every donation!”) and guilt-inducing bullying (“if you don’t donate you are effectively killing the children on this screen”) to fund the work they do. These tactics, while not the most efficient or tasteful, work on some level.

If Mortenson had written a book that simply bemoaned the plight of girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it never would have become the phenomenon that it is today. Mortenson was wise to weave those elements in with his own Indiana Jones-like tale because as a nation we prefer our heartbreak cut with a dose of heroism.  If Mortenson lied about the need that existed (“oh wait, there are plenty of schools for girls throughout Afghanistan!”) I would have felt angry and cheated indeed. He didn’t lie about the need. The need is there.

I don’t want to be an apologist for those who commit crimes or defraud investors, but I am not ready to hang Greg Mortensen or his organization out to dry. It sounds like Mortenson’s nonprofit suffers from moderate mismanagement (which, from my experience, is the nature of the beast when it comes to nonprofits) and would benefit greatly from some restructuring and additional oversight. Mortenson could definitely profit from taking a business class or two. But with so many criminals on Wall Street walking away scot-free (many with millions of dollars in bonuses) after swindling the American public out of their life savings, telling me that Greg Mortenson is the villain to watch out for just falls flat.

Read Three Cups of Tea. Take it not as gospel but as more of a suggestion. It is a compelling read, regardless. And most importantly, don’t let programs like 60 Minutes divert your attention away from the real  frauds in this country. He may not be perfect, but there is no doubt in my mind that Greg Mortenson is at least attempting to do good work, if not completely succeeding.

Yes, we have eBooks! January 14, 2011

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Google eBooksAs you may have heard by now, Google eBooks™ and the American Booksellers Association (ABA) have partnered to allow independent bookstores, The Galaxy Bookshop included, to offer our customers digital books.

If you have an e-reader device and have missed shopping for books at your local bookstore, we invite you to come back and browse! If you are interested in exploring the world of digital reading, we would be happy to help you.

With Google eBooks, we are pleased to offer you access to millions of titles that you can read whenever and wherever you wish. Google eBooks can be accessed in any Web browser, through Google reading apps for multi-function devices (Apple devices, Android, etc.), and most dedicated e-book devices (Sony, Nook, and other readers that run Adobe Content Server 4’s ePub DRM) with the exception of the Kindle.*

Because the Google eBook library is stored in the cloud (Google’s computer servers), it is easy to switch from one device to another as you continue to read a book while moving from place to place throughout the day. Each time you log in to your account to begin reading, you will be able to pick up in exactly the same place you left off the last time.

*Why not the Kindle? Kindle is a proprietary device made by Amazon. The only e-books that can be read on a Kindle are Kindle format books, and only Amazon sells Kindle books. If you are thinking about buying an e-reader, we ask you to consider the ability to continue supporting independent booksellers when you are looking at the variety of devices available. Once you purchase a Kindle, you will be bound to Amazon for all of your e-book purchases.

As your local, independent bookstore, we would love to help you find the reading selections you’ll enjoy most in any format — including e-books! For more information about Google eBooks, take a look at these FAQs.

Books, books everywhere, and not a minute to read–the NEIBA trade show (part 2) October 14, 2010

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(Sorry for the delay on this post. I was held up by the fact that I kept forgetting to upload the remainder of my photos from my camera. ~S)

So, there were lots of great learning opportunities at NEIBA, but there was also plenty of social time, which is often just as important. You might think that all of these bookstores would be in competition with one another, but we often think of one another as collaborators. Trade shows and conferences allow us to put our heads together to share ideas–what’s worked, what hasn’t–and work out solutions to problems that face all of us, whether it’s staffing, inventory management, or understanding new technologies. For example, one idea that I brought back from this show was to host a reception for some of the local authors we haven’t been able to schedule for readings during the summer. (That will be happening November 16–stay tuned for details!)


Our friend Hiata, from Bridgeside Books in Waterbury, shows off some of her swag.


Of course, one of the big draws of any trade show are the freebies, right? There are two types of booksellers at these shows: the ones who admit up front that they’re going to pick up too many books, and the ones who claim they’re going to show some restraint, then take home a lot more books than they were planning, even knowing that there are stacks of ARCs already waiting back at the store. (I’m in the latter category.)

It starts at the lunches, dinners, and breakfasts, where the featured author’s books are given away to attendees. It continues at the author reception, which this year featured 16 New England authors, including our own Rowan Jacobsen. Long lines formed as booksellers awaited a chance to talk to some of their favorite authors and get autographed books. The reception took place on the trade show floor, so booksellers were able to take a peek at publisher displays before the official opening of the show.

After the reception, Linda headed off for a bicycling adventure, and I made plans for dinner with Claire and Jane from Bear Pond Books, Barb from White Birch Books, and Hiata from Bridgeside Books. We had an absolutely delicious meal at Red Stripe, then walked next door to Books on the Square, where the staff was hosting a reception for all of the NEIBA booksellers. For most booksellers, a visit to another bookstore is irresistible, even on vacation. It’s a treat to see familiar books in a new setting, discover new books, and geekily “ooh and ahh” over things like signage and display racks.

The next day was Trade Show day, which meant dropping off orders with various sales reps, more socializing, and the inevitable gathering of many pounds of books–I can tell you that trade shows are a real work out. I would guess I walked out of there with at least fifteen pounds of books hanging from each shoulder, and that’s a relatively modest amount.


One bookseller organizes her book collection before going to pick up more.



The NEIBA show is pretty manageable and, in my opinion, more enjoyable than BEA (Book Expo America, the national show), which can be a sensory overload. Still, even at the smaller show, there is a lot to take in. Publishers know this and try to lure tired booksellers in with everything from lollipops to homemade cookies. Of course, they also have plenty of bookish bait, as well. Racks and stacks of books of all kinds are on every side. One of my favorite tables was Random House, where they had a “staff picks” section, just like you might find at the bookstore. Each book had a handwritten recommendation from one of the reps or publicists to let you know why you would love it. It’s a nice personal touch that helped showcase their books. I received plenty of great recommendations from reps at other publishers, too. I’m currently enjoying Cecil Castellucci’s new YA novel, Rose Sees Red, which Nikki at Scholastic raved about (Cecil was at the show to sign bookplates–it would have been books, but the shipment was waylaid–and I got to meet her and tell her how much I’ve loved her books); and I’m looking forward to reading Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (an IndieBound pick this month), and Scarlett Thomas’s Our Tragic Universe among many other intriguing titles stacked next to my night stand.

Finally, it was time to head back to Vermont with Hiata, who had generously offered to drive to and from Providence. The valets at our hotel were fairly kind in not giving us a hard time over the 15 bags (mostly books) they helped us load into the car.

For some other perspectives on NEIBA, check out Publisher’s Weekly, Shelf Talker, Shelf Awareness, and Boston Bibliophile.

Where Were Linda and Sandy? A look at the NEIBA trade show (Part 1) October 5, 2010

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Last week, Linda and I traveled to Providence, RI, to attend the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA) trade show. I’ve been to a few of these shows, while Linda has seen about 20 or so during her life as a bookseller. This is the regional trade show–as opposed to Book Expo America (BEA), which is the national trade show that takes place in late May–tailored to bookstores across New England. Though there are certainly larger urban bookstores among us, many of us share similar experiences as small stores in rural areas. At the trade show, we get together to discuss challenges and successes; exchange ideas for merchandising, marketing, and events; and most of all, to talk about books.

Like many conferences, NEIBA is a place where you find yourself among your People, the ones who get excited about the same things that you do, who really get you, and give you permission to embrace your inner nerd. Our favorite authors and illustrators get to feel like rock stars as we gush over their work and ask for autographs. (My favorite souvenir of the weekend: City Dog, Country Frog, personally signed by Jon Muth!)

The three day event started out with the New England Booksellers Awards Luncheon, to honor the winners of said awards. These authors and their books were chosen democratically, with NEIBA members sending in nominations, then voting on the top choices in each category.

Gail Caldwell, whose memoir Let’s Take the Long Way Home has received national attention, was awarded the prize for non-fiction. She spoke movingly about the opportunity that writing this book gave her to spend two years with the friend she’d lost.

The children’s award winner was the aforementioned City Dog, Country Frog, written by Mo Willems and illustrated by Jon Muth. Since Willems wasn’t able to attend, Muth accepted for both of them, as well as for Willems’ dog Nelson, who had prepared a very funny acceptance speech for the occasion.

Finally, Lily King accepted the award for fiction, given to her novel Father of the Rain. She spoke of her passion for writing–spurred at an early age by a Judy Blume book her mother bought for her–and gave encouragement to any aspiring writer, saying that she wrote her novel at an average of two pages a day, and that is something that anyone can accomplish. She also shared some funny stories from her days as a bookseller, which were greatly appreciated by this crowd. (Example: “Do you have War and Peace by Tolstoy?” “No, I’m sorry, we’re out.” “Oh. Do you have it by anyone else?”)

Our trade organizations, NEIBA and the American Bookseller’s Association (ABA) both work year round to put together great educational sessions for trade shows and other events. This year, I attended panel discussions on Large Scale Events (though I may never organize an event that draws over 500 people, there were still great tips on communicating with publicists and putting together event proposals), We Love Our Reps! (more tips on effective communication, this time with your sales reps, and on how to use the online catalogs that more publishers are beginning to use), More Than a Bookstore (how to branch out your business, whether through digital media or by adding new products and services), and a presentation on Google Editions (the e-book format that we hope will be available to our customers through galaxybookshop.com before Christmas!) As always, I got more information out of some sessions than others, but the discussions generated during and after each were valuable.

To Be Continued…

Next post: More awards, more authors, more booksellers, and the Actual Trade Show.

Served with a twist of lemon July 16, 2010

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After a couple of long, hot weeks, my brain feels something like butterscotch pudding, so even though I’ve read a number of wonderful books I’d like to review, I don’t see that happening today. Instead, here are some tidbits from the wonderful world of books.

NPR invites you to vote for the most thrilling books of all time. The Top 100 list will be announced August 2.

Also from Shelf Awareness, my friend Michele Filgate received high praise from Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Harding, who called her “one of the patron saints of  the book world.” I would wholeheartedly agree with him, and am renewing my vow to visit RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, where (St.) Michele organizes a fantastic roster of events year-round.

One way some publishers are competing with growing e-book sales is to create books that can’t possibly be replicated in a digital format. These “luxury editions” might come with, say, a piece of moon rock or a bit of the blood of your favorite cricket start. (Um, ew?!) Most of us may never have the kind of money that would allow us to own a $15,000 biography of Muhammad Ali (comes with four autographed photos and a Jeff Koons sculpture), but it’s a fun bit of “book porn” to ogle.

Booksellers reminisce about their first “summer book” memories.

And while you’re reading that nice, fat novel–whether you’re on the beach or in a lawn chair–wouldn’t a tall, cool glass of lemonade be nice to have at hand? I found a great, simple, recipe at Our Best Bites that I’ve been making a lot this summer. Of course, I can’t ever follow recipes to the letter, so I use about half of the sugar, and instead of simmering it in water to dissolve, I pour a cup or so of warm-to-hot tap water in my container, stir in the sugar till dissolved, then add the rest of the ingredients; prepare a glass with ice, and enjoy!

Read-a-Thon Wrap-up October 23, 2009

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Girls reading - pmFor our first Read-a-Thon, in 2008, we had prepared by talking with other booksellers who had hosted Read-a-Thons in the past. We had no particular expectations going in. We were bowled over to have 38 participants, mainly ages 12-17, raising around $830 for Hardwick Head Start.

This year, we’d been through the whole process and had a good idea of what we were getting into. We recruited extra volunteers to chaperone and set some new ground rules to make sure everyone was on the same page as far as what was expected and what was off limits during the 24 hours we’d be spending together in the bookstore.

Smiling facesYet again, our expectations were blown away–we had 53 participants (including chaperones, many of whom found time to do some reading of their own) and, as of five days later, have raised $1040.98 for Hardwick Head Start and Early Head Start! According to several phone calls, emails, and drop-in visits, we are expecting to reach over $1,100 when all is said and done.

reading in the aislesAnd what did the Read-a-Thonners do to honor the pledges they raised? Reading, of course, played a big part. Just from the participants who chose to keep logs of the books they read, we had a count of 14,063 pages read. In visual terms, that’s the equivalent of a stack of 18 copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–in hardcover! Our winner for most pages read logged over 4,000 pages in her 24 hours here!

Of course, these voracious readers also had an appetite for food, and this is another way in which our community showed generous support for the Head Start programs. Hall’s Market donated several bags of fruit; Patchwork Farm & Bakery gave us a discount on delicious pizzas for Friday night’s dinner; Connie’s Kitchen delivered some fresh baked muffins and cinnamon bread for breakfast on Saturday; and Grand Union gave us a gift certificate that we used towards lunches and snacks.Story time

We also wanted to give people a chance to take breaks from their books from time to time, and activities such as storytelling and Literary Jeopardy were popular diversions. Susan O’Connell–the children’s librarian at Library AnnexJeudevine Library–created a special “library annex” here at the store for anyone who ran out of reading material, and at midnight led a Raid on the Library that let people stretch their legs and stock up on additional books.

A 5 a.m. scavenger hunt through the bookstore found very few takers (two, to be exact), since nearly everyone else was fast asleep.

more sleepers

sleeping soundly

In the morning, however, they were awake and ready to hit the books again.

Reading in the kids' room

mystery reader