Running an independent bookstore is a bit like getting up everyday and heading off to fight your own personal Goliath. Except unlike David I know that each time I will get my ass kicked. I know that every single day my faith in the power of literature will be tested. These things never change. Today, somebody might attempt to return a book with a Wal-Mart sticker on it. Tomorrow another will likely complain that Fifty Shades of Grey is seventy cents cheaper at Amazon. And the next day a teenager may ask me for a job while bragging about the library he’s collected thanks to his Prime account.
Each day I am reminded that people want cheap books-both fiscally and spiritually. There are days it feels like the writer no longer has value and the craft of writing has become diluted. But for me the value of literature has nothing to do with money and my job isn’t about trying to outfox Amazon. My job is about connecting people with stories.
I get to curate the vast inventory of a creaky old bookstore. I get to coordinate author visits and writing workshops, to provide books to children who must spend Christmas in foster care, to help librarians broaden their collections, and to facilitate the discussion at community book club. Last year, I coordinated the first ever One Community Reads program in town and last week I connected a high school girl with a published author to mentor her senior project. This is my job–to bring my neighbors closer to understanding themselves and others through literature. And while it’s true that I have sold 100 copies of Twilight to every 1 copy of To the Lighthouse, I still sometimes get to be the person who introduces another human being to the writer who rescues them.
And that little piece of magic is the reason I get up and do this job each day.
Tina Ontiveros, Manager of Klindt’s Booksellers and Stationers in The Dalles, OR, wrote this as her admission essay to the Master’s of Fine Arts Writing program at Goddard College. She was accepted and will be starting the two-year program in July. She will stay at the bookstore while she pursues her degree.