This week’s guest blogger, Susan Wiggs, had a post about the most horrible signings she’s ever been on. And I found it interesting reading. I also thought about the comments. I haven’t always been so lucky to live in an area where authors come every week to sign their books. When I was younger, in the sixties and 70s I lived in a very rural area and don’t remember ever visiting a real “book store” that wasn’t run by the Mennonite Church. Which trust me had a very small fiction section. And that store was 40 miles away and we only went once a year to pick up grandmother’s materials. Our reading time was spent reading a chapter every day from the Bible and reading through the World Craft Encyclopedia. Our local library was located over the one engine firehouse. It was a small room with about 1,000 books in it. I did learn to love Zane Grey and Elswyth Thane. But it wasn’t somewhere we visited often. Then I went to college and oh, what a world there was! Books were sold in stores like the downtown Philadelphia Woolworth which I haunted every Saturday morning to buy a book. My money was very tight, so fiction reading was my guilty pleasure and let me tell you, it was a very delicious guilty pleasure!
After college it was off to Germany to live with my husband on a military base. The library was limited, to be kind, again I honed up on my Louis l’Amour and Zane Grey until one day someone dumped off a grocery sack of Harlequin Romances and Presents. My eyes were opened. I was desperate and read anything. I also made friends with the bookseller at the base, a little building next to the PX where I worked as assistant manager. As long as I finished a book over night and it was still in perfect condition, she’d let me take a book to read for every book I bought. She was the first fellow reader I ever knew. We talked every day about books and I read my way steadily through the Woodiwiss and Rogers and the Regencies that were beginning to dominate the shelves. Then the Germany days were over and it was back to the States to a new world for me. Not only did I land in the suburbs of Philadelphia but they had bookstores in every mall, at least TWO, and used book stores. I never knew about these places before. As a young mother, we didn’t have lots of money so the used bookstores became my friend. Every day after dropping the kiddo off at kindergarten and first grade, I’d go to the used book store and I started at the beginning of the category romances and buy through. I never knew about subscriptions, I just knew these books were mostly delightful, and got me through the day. After my son was in second grade, I also started at a job. In the mall, near a Waldenbooks. Ah, heaven. The 80s were a drifting decade for me. And when my collection of books really took off.