This afternoon I got a call from my local bookstore that my copy of Under the Henfluence had come in. Under the Henfluence is by Tove Danovich, a buddy from a science writing group. The bookstore is River Bend, where I’ll be doing my local book launch in a few weeks. I’d just finished posting an instagram giveaway that I’m doing with another author, Kate Clancy, whose book, Period, comes out the same day as mine. And suddenly I’m overwhelmed with love and gratitude.
When I moved to Connecticut—when many of my friends had already moved out of New York—I moved to a place where I hardly knew anyone, and didn’t know any writers. Finding River Bend was like finding an oasis. Last summer my friend Isaac was doing a book event just half an hour from my home; I said I’d be going, and he asked if I’d do the event with him. Of course?!?! Turns out the event was hosted by a bookstore, River Bend, literally across the river from my town. Turns out, they were opening a store on my side of the river that fall.
It also turns out that the people I got to know there were all former theatre people, like me? Oasis.
I’m lucky, of course, that River Bend isn’t just a shop to me (though they are also that, I have the tote bags to prove it), but they’re partners in launching my book. They’re taking preorders for signed/personalized books, they’re promoting the book and the event. It’s a business win-win for all of us, but it’s also collaboration and community. A home base. NYC has more indie bookstores than you can count on one hand. I took them for granted, and none of them would’ve cared particularly much about me and my book, either. Bookstores and writers were all too plentiful, part of the landscape. But what matters so much more than a bookstore promoting my book is the phone ringing and Audrey saying, “It’s Audrey!” and me being so happy to get to say hi to her later when I pick up Tove’s book.
I’m the last person, though, who’d say real community has to happen in person. I never expected that one of the best parts of publishing a book would be collecting a little community of new writer friends, nonfiction authors who happen to have our first books coming out in the same season. I’ve never met Tove face-to-face. Have never met Kate or Katy or Hannah. But I feel like I’m clinging to them and celebrating them all the time. In Slacks and DMs and texts, with anxieties and gripes and celebrations. In the pages of their books, the joy of discovering a friend also happens to be brilliant. (Or sometimes—hi Hannah—discovering that an acquaintance is brilliant and you’re determined to make her your friend.)
These are their books:
Under the Henfluence: Inside the World of Backyard Chickens and the People Who Love Them by Tove Danovich An immersive blend of chicken-keeping memoir and animal welfare reporting by a journalist who accidentally became obsessed with her flock.
Period: The Real Story of Menstruation by Kate Clancy A bold and revolutionary perspective on the science and cultural history of menstruation.
The Ugly History of Beautiful Things: Essays on Desire and Consumption by Katy Kelleher Paris Review contributor Katy Kelleher explores our obsession with gorgeous things, unveiling the fraught histories of makeup, flowers, perfume, silk, and other beautiful objects.
You or Someone You Love: Reflections from an Abortion Doula by Hannah Matthews An eye-opening, transformative, and actionable journey through radical and compassionate community abortion care and support work.
(Those links to go Bookshop.org but if you’ve got your own oasis of a bookstore, go order it from them.)
I’m sure these writers have their own villages, their circles overlapping with mine but not the same. I love it, I never knew to expect it. What an excellent surprise.
This is lovely! So glad you found a community AND a bookstore all in one!