Tag Archives: indie bookstores

Bookstore blues

Classic meets contemporary on this bookshelf

I headed to one of the country’s bigger bookstores a while back too see what they might have for kids on a particularly timely topic. It’s easy to research such things online but true book believers like to see, touch and smell the goods.

I brought laptop, camera and cell phone along — every piece of electronics gear I own. Which is pretty much everything but the one they really want me to have. I know this because the kiosk for their bookreader gizmo greets me each time I enter their store.

I headed to the children’s section, where I found craft kits, plush toys and lots of books with commercial tie-ins. But nothing I was really looking for. Not even a real live person who could assist me in my search. And they wonder why we’re all addicted to Amazon.

More books that make us feel all warm and fuzzy

In another section of the store, I overheard a man telling a bookseller that his child had read 300 books in the past year. I wanted to jump for joy, but the woman had a different reaction. “Imagine if they had an e-reader,” she said. So imagine I did.

I imagined a weekend without father-daughter trips to the library, without cradling a book after falling asleep mid-chapter. I imagined my daughter’s bedroom without shelves stacked with Shakespeare plays, without books signed by favorite authors like Jodi Picoult.

Normally I hit my favorite indie bookshop, but some days I feel too grungy to pop in to places where folks might see me in my tired old tee and saggy shorts. I’m gonna have to get over that. It beats the heck out of battling the big bookstore blues.

— Lynn

Note: The “1st Annual Rally for Literacy” takes place Sat, Oct 1 from 9-11am. Five Tucson literacy organizations are merging into a single one dedicated to promoting a culture of literacy and creative expression. Their new name and logo will be revealed at this rally. More info at www.bookmans.com.

Coming up: Arts and culture — festival style


What’s your sign?

My son Christopher is the better photographer by far, but he was kind enough to suggest I take one of his cameras along when I went to visit Lizabeth between acting camp sessions at the Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City last month.

I discovered while reviewing my photos that I apparently have a thing for signs–signs describing statues, signs adorning storefronts and more. So here’s a brief tour of Cedar City and Utah Shakespearean Festival highlights ala signage…

Bench near statue of festival founder Fred C. Adams
An early version of the GPS, perhaps?
Signage for King Lear statue near the Randall L. Jones Theatre
Welcome sign featuring 2010 festival dates

Show banners line walls near the festival box office

Utah's first "dry" Irish pub--with the yummiest chocolate cake in town

Home of the festival Cabaret, local artwork and a mean espresso

Home of some serious vinyl and cozy spot for live local music

One of many funky shops we enjoyed during a rainstorm

Donation can at Braun bookstore--which features an eclectic collection of titles

One of several festival flags lining a walkway at SUU

Sign noting the festival's daily offerings

Poster for one of many art exhibits in the area

List of shows you can enjoy at the festival this year

A sneak peek of festival shows coming next season

Fabulous place to find gifts for teachers, children, friends and self

My new favorite vacation destination

Essential sign for those of us with poor mapping skills

True, a slideshow of mother/daughter time in Utah might have been more interesting–but what teen really wants to see her face plastered all over her mother’s blog?

Instead I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the many fun options for enjoying art, music, Shakespeare and more in charming Cedar City.

Technically, my sign is Scorpio (no great surprise to those who know me well)–but I prefer to think of myself as a “Shakes.”


Arming teens with paper and pen

There are plenty of reasons to hit Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.

Most recently I went with my 19-year-old daughter Jennifer to hear a state legislator and an ASU professor discussing Arizona’s immigration policy with attendees both for and against SB 1070. 

A month or so before I was there with Lizabeth, my soon-to-be 17 year old, to hear Valley actor, director and author Tom Leveen talk about his first “YA” (young adult) novel—titled Party.

Both events were packed, so I’m not surprised that Leveen will be making more appearances at the Indie bookstore

I’m told that Leveen shared a copy of his book with actor James Marsters (known to many as “Spike” in both “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and its spinoff “Angel”) Saturday at Phoenix Comicon, and that the two enjoyed a lingering conversation–which confirms my suspicion that Leveen is both author and marketer extraordinaire.

Leveen is one of several writers and authors presenting writing workshops at Changing Hands Bookstore this summer. The events are geared towards tweens, teens or adults—or sometimes a combination. Most last just an hour or two and cost between $20 and $50 dollars (for a single session or a series). Registration and pre-payment are required. 

First up during June is a teen writing workshop titled “Making Us Believe: Dragons, Spies, & Secret Histories.” Author Mark London will “take readers behind the scenes of his own Danger Boy time travel series, showing young writers (ages 9-14) how he mixes history and storytelling.” June 1 and 2, 2-4pm. 

For four consecutive Mondays, starting June 7, Phoenix New Times copy editor and freelancer Tricia Parker will lead girls in grades 7-12 in a teen writing workshop titled “Fems with Pens.” Participants will “write fiction and nonfiction based on a variety of exercises,” discussing and editing fellow participants’ work “in a creative, supportive environment.” June 7,14, 21 & 28, 5-6:15pm. 

Monday, June 7, will also see the return of Leveen (from 6:30-8pm) for a teen and adult writing workshop called “Using Theatre to Sharpen Dialogue,” during which participants ages 16 and up will discover “how taking an actor/director perspective with fiction can make dialogue come to life.” 

Leveen presents a teen and adult workshop titled “Armed Conflict: Getting to the Backbone of Your Fiction by Taking No Prisoners” from 6:30-8pm on Monday, June 28—and another titled “Publishing Basics” from 6:30-8pm on Monday, July 1. Both are for ages 16+.

Younger writers (ages 8-13) can enjoy a three-part tween writing workshop called “Motion Pictures to Picture Books” with Molly Idle from 4-5:30pm on June 14, 16 and 18. Idle will teach participants about “visual storytelling techniques used in film making” and how they can be used to “create unique and engaging illustrated stories.” 

Another three-part tween writing workshop, titled “Hero Quest,” will take place from 6:30-8pm on June 17, 24 and July 1. J.S. Lewis, co-author of the Grey Griffins series, will teach kids “how to create dynamic characters and striking plot lines using the model of the hero’s journey from Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth.”  

Participants ages 10-17 can join Taken by Storm and Sing Me to Sleep author Angela Morrison for a tween & teen writing workshop titled “Write What You Know” on July 27, 28 and 29 from 3-5pm. Morrison will “challenge participants to draw from reality to make characters and scenes live and breath” while working on “poetry, short stories, novel chapters, or any other genre they are interested in.” 

While you’re there, get a copy of the bookstore’s monthly listing of other family-friendly activities, and allow extra time to browse through books (plus impressively diverse magazine offerings) and find unique gift selections for your favorite teachers, friends and family members. (James ordered a birthday gift for Lizabeth from Changing Hands but I’d best not reveal it here until after the big day.)

Visit Changing Hands Bookstore online for workshop details, or call 480-730-0205 to register. In the war of words, no one wants to be unarmed. And you just might find that a few simple trips to Changing Hands can change a whole lot of things in your world.


Note: Writing workshops tailored to moms (of all ages) who write are offered by Amy Silverman (Phoenix New Times) and Deborah Sussman Susser (Jewish News of Greater Phoenix). Their next 10-week “Mothers Who Write” workshop begins Sept. 2 (registration opens July 1). For details visit www.motherswhowrite.com.

Coming up: Opportunities to honor our military folks and families year-round, Lessons learned at theater potlucks

Update: Click here to learn about Christopher Hitchens’ discovery as a youth that “words could function as weapons.” His new book, “Hitch-22,” is one of thousands of titles available through Changing Hands Bookstore.

Tom Leveen’s “Party”: Mission Accomplished

Lizabeth was eager to tell me about her day when I picked her up after school yesterday.

She’d taken Tom Leveen’s new young adult novel—titled “Party”—to school with her so she could finish reading it as soon as possible. Apparently Leveen’s first published book has that “can’t put it down” quality so many authors hope for.

Lizabeth, a high school junior, was one of just a few teens in the audience Tuesday night as Leveen packed the house for a reading at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.

Leveen opened his talk with a confession: “I’m ditching my creative writing class to do this.” Pity his classmates weren’t there to share tales of his journey and join in the celebration.

Leveen shared that a novel he wrote long before “Party”—originally titled “Gothic Rainbow”—may soon become published book number two, but with a new title. Leveen fans longing for more can look forward to reading “Zero” when it debuts. Unless, admits Leveen, the title is once again changed.

After a reading from the opening chapter of “Party”—which features the gripping experiences of the first of 11 characters who attend a single party one night in Santa Barbara, California—Leveen answered audience questions about everything from character development to the nuts and bolts of getting published.

“Why write for juniors?” asked one of Leveen’s listeners. “Because,” he replied, “that’s where the change happens.”

Referencing both his own life experiences and the many challenges facing today’s young adults, Leveen reflected on “the importance of books and people stepping in at critical junctures.”

“A lot of people,” shares Leveen, “just need a little bit of help or just need someone to look at them.” He recounts wondering what it might be like to be homeless on the streets of Phoenix—imagining disheartening days without a single person making eye contact or offering even a quick hello.

Leveen shared several of the book’s themes—including faith (and the lack of it), relationships and racism. You’d be amazed by what teens encounter in the mix of family, friends, school and social media these days.

Leveen hopes that his revelation of these 11 teens—with all their triumphs and travails—will magnify the necessity of a single act in the lives of young and old alike…

“Say words,” affirms Leveen.

The characters in his books, who use other means to deal with their passion and their pain, don’t fare all that well. Leveen hopes for a different outcome among young readers. (And, yes, the language gets intense—but that’s real life rather than a literary device.)

Lizabeth shared with me yesterday that she felt Leveen’s work was “powerful”—noting that the first and final pages are especially profound. “He definitely succeeded,” she told me, “in his mission to teach and to touch.”

She described feeling transformed by Leveen’s work—noting that even her posture changed as she moved between classes. Rather than walking with her head down hoping to avoid the many complexities of high school encounters, Lizabeth stood tall—making eye contact with fellow students scurrying to and fro.

The impact of the book really hit her, I suspect, when she found herself offering a cheerful hello to a girl she’s long considered a bit of a bully. To Lizabeth’s surprise, the greeting—and smile—were reciprocated.

So Tom, from a mom: “Great job using your words.”


Coming up: Reviews of five shows I’ll be seeing between now and Sunday–starting with ASU Theatre and Film’s “The Death and Life of Sherlock Holmes”

Today’s Tidbit: Changing Hands Bookstore presents a poetry workshop with ASU English professor Cynthia Hogue at 7pm. (Tickets: $25. Info: 480-730-0205)

Still using our words

I remember a time when my children—now teens and young adults—were in preschool. Among their many take-away lessons of time spent with skilled and caring early educators was a simple mantra: “Use your words.”

I was reminded of those days yesterday as our celebration of Jennifer’s 19th birthday drew to a close.

We began our all-girls birthday tour after Lizabeth (now 16) got out of school, stopping first at MacAlpine’s Soda Fountain in Phoenix for ice cream and a bit of window shopping through their vintage clothing, jewelry and such. It’s a family-owned business (see “quality control” photo at left) that does ice cream “old-school and very cool.” They even whip up Egg Creams™ and Phosphates™ in 34 flavors!

Though a movie seemed the obvious choice for an early evening outing, we opted instead for a book signing with Tom Leveen at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.

Jennifer is keen on supporting “indie” businesses like Changing Hands—which describes itself as an “independent community bookstore.”

Lizabeth was eager to support Leveen since she’d recently performed in “Talk Radio” at Chyro Arts Venue in Scottsdale, where Leveen serves as artistic director.

Chyro Arts Venue will close next month after the last performance of its final production, “Orange Flower Water,” which runs April 29-May 15. It’s directed by Michael Peck, and contains mature themes not appropriate for those under 18.

Chyro is renowned for selecting edgier works and presenting them with gusto, and notes that patrons with a taste for alternative theater still have terrific options in the Valley—including Stray Cat Theatre and Nearly Naked Theatre.

I was saddened to learn of their decision to close, but delighted to discover that Leveen and his wife Joy (an Arcadia High School graduate, like Jennifer) are already steeped in other adventures.

They were beaming at last night’s book signing, so I suspect they are enjoying a time in life that Tom Leveen laughingly likens to riding a roller coaster.

I kicked around Hoodlums Music and Movies for a spell after dropping the girls off two doors down at Changing Hands.

Seems I missed my opportunity to get the exclusive release 10-inch vinyl of Springsteen performing at Giants Stadium because they sold out during Hoodlum’s “Record Day” event over the weekend.

But I did get to enjoy an exhibit of painted “album covers” along one wall–a work by Glenn Moust of Denmark and a work featuring small irridescent red glass tiles by Deborah Wahl of Tempe were my favorites.

Then I shot my wad on a button for Jennifer reading “I Still Read Books & I Vote!”–only to learn later as we sat cross-legged in a little corner of Changing Hands comparing book finds that Jennifer had gotten me a bumper sticker with the exact same slogan. 

I’m not sure what’s more intriguing–discovering the many ways our children are different than we are, or uncovering the startling number of ways we seem so very similar.

Once I headed over to Changing Hands, I saw what looked like at least 50 people—including Lizabeth—listening to Leveen talk about his recently published book titled “Party.” It’s a “teen lit” work of fiction that follows the lives of eleven different characters as they attend a single party in Santa Barbara, California.

Leveen talked about his inspirations for the book, his lovely experiences with rejection letters (there were dozens), his hopes for those who read his work and his plans for a second novel for young audiences. He also shared tips for fellow writers and reflected on how theater prepared him for the craft of writing.

In the meantime, Jennifer and I strolled through the store in search of books, gift items and more. We even checked out the children’s area, where I was thrilled to discover some toy makers I hadn’t known about when my kids were younger–including Rubbabu and Jellycat.

I fell in love with the “Goodnight Moon” gift sets—one with a softbound book and little bunny in blue and white striped pajamas, and another with a chunky book coupled with tiny bunny slippers. I managed to leave the “Where the Wild Things Are” characters on their shelves, but I’m beginning to regret that now.

We leave so many things behind as our children grow with such incredible glory. But according to Leveen, artist of both stage and page, one thing remains ever true–and serves as the take-away message from his book…

It’s the importance of using our words.


Note: Lizabeth bought a copy of Leveen’s “Party” so one or both of us will offer a more formal review once we’ve had a chance to read it. Despite the note Leveen wrote for Lizabeth when he signed her copy of his book—which reads “Have fun staying up all night!”—we made Lizabeth go to bed before she’d finished more than the first chapter.

Coming up: More of Leveen’s reflections on the stage and the page, “Hoodstock” event benefiting a local school, Childsplay unveils their 2010-2011 season

Today’s tidbits: Chandler-Gilbert Community College presents a free Community Band Concert tonight at 7pm at the CGCC Performing Arts Center (info: 480-732-7343). The Musical Instrument Museum presents “Nation Beat” (a fusion of music from the southern U.S. and northeast Brazil) tonight at 7:30pm at the MIM Music Theater (tickets $25-$30, info: 480-478-6001).