This is an article I wrote as a guest post on Joli's Actin' Up With Books. It's for a feature called "I LOVE MY INDIE" and because Inkwood is AWESOME, I volunteered. Here goes:
Inkwood Books is the quaint independent bookshop on the corner on Armenia. That's how most people in Tampa know it. We think of it as a friendly place, where we can talk about books to our heart's content with the staff and pick up some new ones.For most people, reading is a hobby or a way to relax. For me, it is a passion. At Inkwood Books, I am surrounded by people with that passion. In my childhood, my mom would always take me to Inkwood to pick up a Sunshine State book, or I'd beg to go across the street from our grocery store. Now that I'm a teenager, it means something more. One day seemed to change it all for me.Before I really started going to Inkwood regularly,I would associate Inkwood with tractors and my brother, and male models. My brother had won the "Get Caught Reading" poster contest the year before and we would joke around that he was a male model. He had been reading on a tractor. I had my AR gift cards to Borders, and I really hadn't bought my own books often.It was really not until I started writing reviews and getting more passionate about reading that I started regularly going to Inkwood. And it was one day that really set that in motion.On that day,Nerves in the middle of my stomach, I pushed through the door to the shop. I clutched a wrinkled flyer in my hand, and I nonchalantly passed to go to the young adult corner. I looked through some of the paperbacks for a bit while my brother fished M&Ms from a jar, and my sister looked through some of the signed novels from months ago.I heard the murmurs of my mother talking to Leslie while I surrounded myself with piles of books. I stared at the descriptions for ages, trying to decide which ones to get. I tried to act like I was just there to buy a books; in reality, I was incredibly nervous about what I was about to ask. Gathering my strength, I picked myself off the store and went to the counter, a book in hand. My mom's conversation drifted towards me, "...and she just started a blog. She's always been a reader..." and my heart nearly stopped.Extending my flyer towards Leslie, I cleared my throat and asked, "Um, would you consider hanging this in the store?" She smiled warmly and said yes, she would. She was so excited to meet a girl so passionate about reading. My mom looked at the shelves across from the counter and gasped. "Grace, look at these!"Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. There was Juliet Immortal. And there was Supernaturally! There were advanced readers copies on a patch of shelves!"I heard that a lot of people got this one at BEA," I mentioned, running my fingers over shiny spines and jealousy-inducing titles. "I really wanted this one. I've only just started, but I can't wait until I'm old enough and popular enough to start possibly receiving books for review.""Oh, we went to BEA," Leslie exclaimed. "It was amazing!""How was it? I heard that Maggie Stiefvater, Sarah Dessen, Ally Carter, Richelle Mead, Ally Condie..." I proceeded to list some of the authors I had been stalking. Although my absolute favorite was Alexandra Adornetto - my hero - I knew that she hadn't been there. Leslie nodded enthusiastically and told me about her experiences. I was entranced."I'm so jealous!" I told her, "I'm planning on going next year if I can somehow save up enough for it.""You could always go with us," she offered, "if we have an extra badge."I felt my eyes bug out a little. I sat down on the floor and started looking through the ARCs. I told Leslie about how I had won a few, and gotten some on Random Buzzers, and I couldn't wait to review them. I loved reviewing. Blogging was so much fun and I figured that it'd help me improve my writing (I want to be an author).I asked her about what books she got there. I gushed on about Forever and Tyra Banks being there and all the jazz that came with it. Leslie smiled, and left the room. I peeked around the corner and saw her talking with some of the other staff members (who I later found out were named Avery, Laura, Carla, Christian, and Amanda) I continued happily looking through books, sorting them into piles based on which ones I wanted the most. I longed for them, but I assumed that I wouldn't ever get any books like these. I knew not to expect ARCs; there were bloggers much better and more experienced than I who were getting them.I looked up as she walked into the room. In her hands, was a familiar looking red cover, with a silhouette of a forest. I knew it as the one I had spent hours on the computer stalking. "Do you want it? You can review for us. You can pick as many as you want. We're always looking for new reviewers."This was more than I had ever dreamed of. I looked at the cover, fondly tracing the raised design.We dissolved into another conversation, one that I'm pretty sure involved the Children's Author Breakfast and the merits of a certain book. I left the book carrying several ARCs, books that I bought, and the light happiness that came with knowing that my blog would get bigger, and that I could always talk to Inkwood.Later:I went back many times. Almost every week, I would BEG my mother if we could just swing by Inkwood for a few minutes, and sometimes she said yes. The problem with being thirteen was that I of course, couldn't drive and was therefore renegated to passenger. Every chance that I had, I went to Inkwood. I would chat with them, buy a few books (if my budget allowed it), drop off printed copies of reviews, and pick up some new galleys. I slowly learned the staff's names; had conversations about books and upcoming books; and I would ask them questions about the books I read.They really helped my blog get going. My blog had been exposed to some of their customers and I reviewed the books that I bought and got for review from there on my blog.I would go all the time. My brother sometimes came with me, and would fish M&Ms out of the jar while I chatted and browsed. I was saving up, but occasionally I would splurge and buy a couple books.I would usually send Inkwood the link to my blog, along with my review and say what I thought of the book. I would usually tell my friends to go to Inkwood to get a certain amazing book, and then I was content with reviewing and reading.After my review one day (in which I gushed about letting me review Forever although conclusions are always the hardest to write), I got this email:
Grace,Your enthusiasm is what makes bookselling the joy it has been for almost 20 years. We are thrilled to "rock your world". Don't wait so long between visits. Tell your brother I will fill up the M&M jar for him if he gives you a ride.Leslie
And then a few weeks later, I got the email of my life. Apparently Inkwood had talked about me to one of their favorite sales reps, because I was going to be meeting a Penguin sales rep in September (or October, I'm still not sure!). I'm so excited. I've never actually met a sales rep or anybody in the publishing business really.Inkwood exposed me to so many new opportunities. They're unique because they gave me hope in my blog, they believe in it, and the staff dorks out over books with me :) The reason they are still here and Borders is gone is because Inkwood is a community and it's absolutely amazing. They even had an article written about them: http://www.abcactionnews.com/dpp/money/business_news/mighty-borders-books-falls-while-tiny-inkwood-books-survivesOverall:Inkwood is the friendly bookstore. It's one of those places where everybody knows you, where you can talk for hours, and where you share the same passions. They're unique and cozy and I love spending time there.
I LOVE MY INDIE!
Photos to come later :)