If It’s Not Fun, Why Do It?
Elisabeth Grant-Gibson – Elisabeth Grant-Gibson is co-owner of Windows a bookshop in Monroe, Louisiana, and co-host of the radio show The Book Report. She is a member of the board of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.
Several years ago my partner and I made a long, luxurious trip to New England. It was the summer of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the first real summer of HP parties and mania, but we’d already planned this trip and who knew the US edition would release on July 5? So we left a friendly customer in charge of putting together a Saturday party (and in charge of praying that books would arrive) and headed off to cool weather. On Cape Cod we stopped at a Ben & Jerry’s store for a cone and, as it turned out, some inspiration. One of the items for sale was a little refrigerator magnet with the lovely Ben and Jerry pictured on the front with their motto, “It it’s not fun, why do it?” It was a motto we wanted to embrace.
Kathy Patrick, owner of Beauty and the Book in Jefferson, Texas, is a bookseller who has definitely embraced the same sentiment. When life threw her a few curves, she opened up what appears to be the nation’s only beauty salon and bookstore in one. You can read her full story in her new book, The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life, so I won’t retell it here. It is enough to say that Kathy Patrick knows how to have fun—and sell books at the same time.
After creating her unique store, Patrick started a local book group called The Pulpwood Queens of East Texas. Their motto was “where tiaras are mandatory and reading good books is the rule.” They attend meetings dressed in leopard prints and hot pink, topped with tiaras and big hair. Her first meeting had 6 attendees. Her second had over 100. The Pulpwood Queens read voraciously and do a great deal of work in the field of literacy. Patrick’s desire to improve literacy stemmed from the fact that her county in Texas has a 39% adult literacy rate. Over time, one book club became over 400 clubs all across the US and in 8 foreign countries. Each month, all the clubs read her pick for the month, and Patrick has developed the kind of clout that can get her the author right there in Jefferson. She usually tours that author to several of the book clubs in the general vicinity. She also arranges for phone-in author visits to as many of her book clubs as possible. You can already tell that she’s one smart cookie when it comes to selling serious numbers of books, right? Well, just wait, because there’s more. Much more.
A couple of weeks ago, I made the pilgrimage to Jefferson, Texas, for the annual Girlfriend Weekend that Kathy Patrick and her Pulpwood Queens host. It was my first time. I packed my tiara and hopped in the car for the two and a half hour drive over the Texas border. I had no clue what I was getting into!
Girlfriend Weekend included about 40 authors, all of them there to participate in panels and workshops and, of course, to sign their books. Barron’s Bookstore from Longview, Texas, served as the bookstore for the event. The panels were interesting, the attendees curious, the events lively. The authors included a variety of people, from supermodel Paulina Porzkova (A Model Summer) to Cassandra King (Queen of Broken Hearts) to Will Clarke (The Worthy). Kim Sunee was there to talk about her new memoir, Trail of Crumbs, and Michael Lee West (Mermaids in the Basement) served on a panel. I chaired a panel with Darnell Arnoult (Sufficient Grace), Lynn York (The Sweet Life), and Virginia Boyd (One Fell Swoop), who wowed the crowd and their books sold like crazy. But it wasn’t all authors. There were musical performances, a play, and the big Ball of Hair, a dance held the last evening. Debbie Rodriguez, author of The Kabul Beauty School, made Kathy Patrick open up Beauty and the Book so that she and other volunteers could give Big Hair Makeovers to the authors and presenters. There are actually pictures to prove it at www.willclarke.com.
This is a long story to tell in order to get to my point. Kathy Patrick has a lot of fun—and along the way she’s come up with some innovative methods of turning her little shop into a destination bookstore. Girlfriend Weekend isn’t her only special project. She also hosts Books Alive each November, a Christian book festival. What else is on her plate? Her blog, www.pulpwoodqueen.com, is the place to keep up with what’s new. Will I be going back to Girlfriend Weekend next January? Oh yes. And by the way, I’m driving over this week for her monthly book club meeting. You just can’t get too many doses of good book fun, and I’m always up for one more.
And by the way, remember that friendly customer who hosted our first Harry Potter party for us? Well, we’re not stupid. We hired her, of course, and she’s been our Special Events Coordinator for the past seven years. And my visit to Girlfriend Weekend gave me lots of ideas to keep her busy for the next seven.