The Truth

I sat down at my computer this morning to write a really happy post about fall and how it's the best season to curl up with a cup of tea and a good book, but I just can't get the words out.  Because I'll be honest, this Star Sisters journey is a bit of a roller coaster and sometimes it gets to me.  School's been in session for a few weeks now and everyone seems to be hitting their strides and getting back into the swing of things.  My kids are busy with ballet and art and soccer and more art.  My mom friends are busy getting back to work or with tennis league try-outs and all the amazing volunteering work they do.  

And sometimes I feel like I'm still just here.  Sitting at my same desk, all alone, plugging away.  I LOVE my books.  I'm so proud of my books.  I still can't believe that I took this tiny inkling of an idea and turned it into a beautiful, professional chapter book series that just received an awesome review in Publisher's Weekly (a huge feat for an independently published book, probably one of my biggest accomplishments so far).  But man, sometimes I get so tired of doing it all alone.  I get tired of my head always spinning with ways that I can promote my books and get the word out.  I get tired of obsessing over details and sales numbers and website hits.  I get tired of feeling like I'm always chasing something that I can't quite reach.  I get tired of grasping at every little straw.  I get tired of sitting here by myself.

But here's the thing, I feel a little better already.  That's what writing does for me.  Just getting these thoughts out of my head feels good.  I read a lot of blogs, and the thing I respond to the most is honesty.  I love an inspiring home tour or round up of the latest fall fashion trends as much as the next girl, but I also love reading about what people in creative careers are really struggling with.  Because I've wanted to dive into this world for so long.  For years I would read about women starting their own creative businesses and know that this is what I was meant to do.  I just knew it.  Now that I'm here, I think it's only fair to be honest that it's hard.  It's challenging and lonely and it takes a ton of work.  At least for me, it comes with a heavy serving of self-doubt.  But I wouldn't have it any other way and I'm not going anywhere.  Lonely days and all.

You know that else keeps me going?  The little ladies in the picture in the above.  Yesterday they woke up to find the first printed copy of Star Sisters and The Best Seller waiting for their review.  It was a great moment.  The kind of moment that makes everything else worth it.  The book is coming out next week and I promise I'll tell you all about it.  It's an awesome story that will inspire everyone out there to dream big - something I try and do every day. 

The Sibling Thing

The groom on the left, youngest brother in the middle, and me.

The groom on the left, youngest brother in the middle, and me.

My middle brother got married this weekend and it got me thinking a lot about siblings, both my own two younger brothers and the three little ladies that I had the privilege of bringing into this world.  I am a few years older than most of my middle brother's friends and a lot of them are newly married, newly pregnant, or have a young baby.  I cannot tell you how many of these friends asked me questions about my girls - questions about how far apart in age they are (2.5 years), do they get along (they are the best of friends, except when they're the worst of enemies), what's it like having all girls (a lot of pink laundry), and, the biggie, what's it like having three kids (I might need a refill of Chardonnay before answering).  

But seriously, I could see in their eyes that they really wanted to know.  They wanted to know what their future as parents of multiple young children might be like.  I remember that feeling.  It's a kind of desperation to know that it's possible to finish something totally overwhelming that you've already started, that you won't drown in a mess of your own making.  And my answer was always, it's totally insane.  Because it is.  It's crazy and exhausting and endless.  But what I regret not saying at the time is that it's the best kind of crazy possible.  Don't overthink it, just go with it.  Because while I've always known in my heart that I wanted to have three children, just as others know they want one or two or five, I was terrified of actually doing it.  I didn't know if I could handle raising three children (and there have certainly been times where I have been absolutely unable to handle it).  

But all through the wedding weekend, the thing I was most grateful for, after the fact that my brother was marrying one of the most incredible women I've ever met, was the presence of my siblings.  I loved seeing my middle brother standing proud at the end of that long aisle and watching as he danced with my daughters.  I loved choking down tears as I toasted him at the rehearsal dinner and listening as my younger brother fought the same feelings in his own toast at the wedding.  I loved pulling both of them aside to whisper inappropriate family jokes in their ears.  I loved being on their team.  And I realized that one of my greatest hopes for my own children is that they will have the same kind of bond with each other.  That they will go through life knowing that the relationship they have with each other is different from any other relationship in the entire world.  That they will stand up and toast each other at major life events but, more importantly, be there to share in the small ones.  That they will always feel like they are part of a team.  

Which brings me to a new problem that has recently arisen in Star Sisters world - the lack of a third Star Sister.  You see, my two older girls are entirely convinced that Coco and Lucy are basically stand-ins for themselves.  (They have conveniently forgotten that Coco and Lucy are not actually sisters, that a big idea of the book is that two girls found each other when both were at their loneliest.  Oh well).  And they are getting very concerned that their youngest sister is going to be upset that she's not represented.  So as I started going on and on about how maybe we could add in a third Star Sister but it would be difficult because only two magical necklaces were carved from the stones found in the river, my middle daughter announces: "Or Coco and Lucy could just get a puppy, it's the same thing as another sister."  And off my two big girls went, happy as can be at the thought of their sister being represented by an animal.  Problem solved!  And to think I thought this parenting thing was difficult!

 

 

Spin Cycle

The real life sisters.  

The real life sisters.  

The other day in the camp pick-up line I did what has become my new norm when I have anything more than two minutes free: I started to scroll through my social media apps.  This is a particularly long pick-up line so I made it through both my Instagram accounts (I have a Star Sisters public account and a personal private account) and moved onto Facebook, where a posting by a friend stopped me in my tracks and possibly changed my life.  It was a link to this article, which is generally about being patient with your children but, on a deeper level, about being present for your children.  The article led me to the Hands Free Mama website, which had me crying in about ten seconds flat.  Stomach clenching, quiet tears that I cried from the front seat of my minivan with my youngest babe strapped into her car seat behind me.  

I don't even want to try to summarize Hands Free Mama because it's the kind of site that will mean different things to different people.  But what I took away from it is that I am missing things.  Little things that are actually big things.  I have the privilege of working from home, but because I constantly have my phone in my hand and I'm always multitasking, I'm also always distracted.  And this behavior is making my head spin and my patience level very, very low.  This is something I had been worrying about for a while, which is probably why I began crying the minute I started reading another mom's thoughts and struggles with the topic.    

I was not always like this.  Before Star Sisters, I posted on Facebook a total of four times in six years.  Honestly, the first time I posted about Star Sisters it took me a good ten minutes to figure out how to put my Star Sisters website on my Facebook status update.  (Who knew you just typed in the website address and Facebook automatically put in the hyperlink? Not I!).  And now I'm on social media all the time trying to promote my books.  For example, I recently learned that a MAJOR movie star has my first book.  She's an actress who I've worshipped since I was twelve years old and I literally shrieked when I found out that, just last week, someone gave her a copy of Star Sisters and the Royal Wedding.  And she liked it!  She was going to read it with her kids!  So now I follow this mega celebrity on Instagram and I try to comment on most of her posts.  What am I hoping for?  Anything, really.  A tweet, a hashtag, an endorsement, or any kind of photo of her holding the book would be game changing for me.  But really, that's probably never going to happen.  And this actress is only one example.  I also follow a lot of mom bloggers and I'm constantly commenting on their photos.  It's like I'm a desperate teenager doing all kinds of stupid things to get attention.

Ok, maybe I'm being a tad dramatic, but my point is that my behavior is making my head spin and I need to change my ways.  I LOVE my books.  I will do almost anything to make them a success.  I will wake up insanely early to write and stay up insanely late filling orders.  But I will not sacrifice my relationship with my children.  I will not miss moments with them because I'm telling some total stranger with 60,000 followers how amazing I think her recent vacation looked.  For me, I think that means being more disciplined.  It means taking ten minutes a day to scroll through Instagram after my kids go to sleep, not two minutes five times a day.  It means realizing that most famous mom bloggers are not going to write about my books and being okay with that because there are so many amazing moms out there who are spreading the word to their amazing friends.  It means taking a big old chill pill.

So that's where I'm at, trying to stop my head from spinning.  And can I tell you, when I put my phone down in that pick-up line and I looked out the window, I saw some incredible things.  I saw my oldest daughter doing cartwheels in the grass, her hair soaking wet from the swimming pool.  I saw my middle daughter give her friend the most adorable good-bye wave (she waves like a pageant contestant with a cupped hand and it's the cutest thing ever).  I saw a counselor wearing a t-shirt from my college, which brought back all kinds of memories.  And I heard my youngest daughter squeal with joy as she spotted a neigh-neigh (horse) and her big sisters all at the same time.  Of course, all of this only made me cry harder, but sometimes a good cry is a good thing, right?   

 

Brand Building - Island Style

The Vineyard Vines brothers, Shep and Ian.

The Vineyard Vines brothers, Shep and Ian.

This past week I was on Martha's Vineyard, a place well known in New England for its beautiful beaches, incredible farmland, and classic coastal towns.  But to the rest of the country, I think Martha's Vineyard is becoming known for being the birthplace of Vineyard Vines, a clothing company that has been expanding like crazy these past few years.  Much like Nantucket Nectars, Vineyard Vines was started by two guys, Shep and Ian (also brothers), who drew inspiration from an island they loved to start selling a product.  For the Nantucket Nectars guys, that product was homemade juice that they sold boat-to-boat in Nantucket Harbor.  For the Vineyard Vines brothers, it was preppy colorful ties.  If you do a little digging into how both these companies started, you get the sense that it all began with two guys who just wanted to live by the water and sell enough product to cover their mooring fees.  It seems that neither could have ever imagined how big their sales would get.  

But in both cases, sales got really, really big.  On July 3rd, I walked into the newly expanded Vineyard Vines store in Edgartown and saw Ian, one of the founding brothers, shaking hands and taking pictures with his devoted customers.  The staff was fully decked out in their preppy glory, a Hinkley-inspired boat couch gleamed in the front room, and sales were booming.  I later read that it was on July 3rd, 1998, exactly sixteen years earlier, that Ian and his brother sold their first batch of ties.  They sold those ties door-to-door on commission, which means they paid for the product upfront and gave them to stores for free, receiving a split only when the ties sold.  

And that made me really, really happy.  Because that's how I sell to bookstores.  I go in person and introduce myself and my books and then provide inventory to the stores.  I make many follow-up phones calls and many long drives to restock supplies when the books sell out (which they have been very fast!).  It's a lot of unglamorous legwork, but I'm learning that it's what I need to do to grow my young company.  Yes, company.  Star Sisters will always be first and foremost about writing, because that's what I love and what really fulfills me. But I also want it to be bigger than just a single book.  I want to produce an entire series that moms and kids love, that they think of whenever they need something new to read, or the perfect birthday present, or a fabulous necklace to celebrate a milestone event.  And that takes a lot of work.  But I think part of the reason that the Nantucket Nectars and Vineyard Vines guys have succeeded is because they genuinely loved their products.  They came up with something unique that didn't exist before and people responded.  I've certainly got the love, so I can't wait to see what happens.

And while we're talking fashion, Annie and I are starting to think about illustrations for Book 4, titled Star Sisters and the Best Seller.  It's such a fun part of the process because she is amazing at bringing my ideas to life.  It's not a summer book, but if it was I could totally see Coco in this chevron halter and Lucy in this collared anchor print:

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Soul Cycle

Post work-out pic with Todd from Soul Cycle.  

Post work-out pic with Todd from Soul Cycle.  

Star Sisters and the Great Skate comes out on Tuesday!  I love each of my books for different reasons, but this one has special meaning for me because it's about something that dominated a lot of my life - the sport of figure skating.  Loosely inspired by the Nancy Kerrigan/Tanya Harding incident all those years ago, Star Sisters and the Great Skate finds Coco and Lucy at the United States National Figure Skating Championships where they help a little girl learn a whole lot about sportsmanship and the importance of saying "I'm sorry".

But you can learn all that from the back cover.  What you may not know is that I was obsessed with figure skating growing up.  OBSESSED.  I spent every afternoon and some very early mornings on the ice.  I was never good enough to be a top national skater, but that didn't matter to me.  What I loved was the feeling of being on the ice.  The speed, the strength, the grace.  I loved throwing myself into the air and knowing, without a doubt, that several rotations later I would land backwards on a tiny steel blade.  I loved that I was out there on my own.  That when some mean girls were tormenting me in middle school or boys were ignoring me in high school, I could escape to the ice and, with some good music playing in the background, take control.

I hope that some of that passion comes through in this book.  I'm pretty sure it does because, as I was writing it, I thought a lot about how much I missed the sport.  College, careers, marriage, and, oh yeah, kids, tend to shift our focus from competitive sports to working out.  Over the years I've gone through yoga kicks (too quiet) and tennis kicks (too hard to schedule), until recently finding Soul Cycle.

And I love it!  It took me a few classes of pain to figure out why.  But once I got the hang of it and built up some endurance, I realized that the feeling I get from Soul Cycle is a lot like what I got from ice skating.  The room is dark, the music is awesome, and it's just me on my bike getting strong and zoning out the rest of the world.  The pic above is of one of my favorite teachers, Todd.  He's a former volunteer firefighter and yes, my husband is very tired of hearing me talk about him.  But he also gets in your head in a way that forces you to push yourself past what you think you can do.  It's that same feeling of speed and power and strength that I loved growing up.  Only I now get it on a bike minus, thankfully, the scrunchies and skirted leotards.

But guess who is rocking the skating outfits with major style?  Coco and Lucy!  Check them out below and please look out for this book next week.  Let's keep the Star Sisters love going with another great kindness spreading adventure!

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House Guests

Image via  Patrick Ahearn , one of the architects featured in the article.  

Image via Patrick Ahearn, one of the architects featured in the article.  

In the current issue of The Wellesley Weston Magazine I wrote an article about fabulous summer homes.  I had the privilege of visiting three talented architects at their offices where I drooled over the plans and photos of a few of their favorite summer homes.  It was a lot of fun.  We talked about what clients want in a summer home and every single architect said that one of the top things clients request is a separate sleeping space for guests.  I get it, everyone enjoys having house guests at cocktail hour but not so much before breakfast (which can actually be more like hours and hours before breakfast if your house guests have young children who are sleeping in a foreign room with no shades).

Which is why every house guest needs a fabulous gift to present upon arrival.  Now, I know it's tempting to go the home decor route and buy beach-themed serving platters or throw pillows.  But I'm going to propose something better - books!  Real, physical books that can stay in the house summer after summer and entertain visitors for years to come.  After all, into every summer a little rain must fall and what better way to pass the time than reading a good book.  

For the lady of the house, I recommend Jojo Moyes' new novel, One Plus One, which is being released on July 1st.  If it's even a smidge as good as Me Before You or The Girl You Left Behind then I'm pretty sure it will be a smash hit this summer and I CANNOT wait to read it.  

For the under two crowd, I'm absolutely loving the BabyLit board books.  With titles based on Jane Austen novels, Anna Karenina, Jane Eyre, and many more, they are a breath of fresh air in the baby book category.  The pictures are lovely, with plenty for little people to look at and the text is awesome.  It's just so refreshing to read about the Bennet sisters instead of animals and their noises.  (No offense Brown Bear, Brown Bear.  I'll love you forever, sometimes a mama just needs a little change).  In Pride & Prejudice there's even a love diagram about Mr. Collins, Lizzy, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, and Jane.  You can point out the eyes, ears, and noses on the pictures to your baby all while enjoying the most classic of love escapades.  And take a look at this guy:

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For the preschool crowd, I would do anything Mo Williams.  Anything.  If I had to chose just one of his books, it would have to be Knuffle Bunnywhich is one of my all time favorite books and I will keep my girl's copy forever and ever and ever.  If you need to read more about my deep love for this book, I blogged about it here.  If you think I go totally overboard with my emotional attachment to books, please don't click the link, you will not enjoy it.  

Now on to the older preschool/lower elementary school group and Star Sisters!  The perfect gift for any family with kids ages 4 and up.  After a long day at the beach, every mom will love to curl up in bed and read these books with her kids.  If you're looking for a book that's specifically about summer then go for Book 2, Star Sisters and The Big Show.  The books are meant to be read sequentially but they can also stand alone.  Or better yet, pretty soon you can buy all three books and a star necklace all wrapped up and ready to go!  I'm thinking the packaging will look something like this, give or take a few green stars.   

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(And speaking of star necklaces, thank you to everyone who wrote an amazon review.  The winners of the two Star necklaces have been emailed and I can't wait to see these special kids wearing their stars!)

Finally, while I know very little about teenagers or what's hot in the men's book market, I do think these bad boys would round out any book present quite nicely.  They're kind of gross but also kind of awesome, right?  Available on etsy here.

Back To School

I did my first school presentation!  And I survived!  While I spend a lot of my days writing, I'm also a pretty good talker.  I can chit chat with the best of them and in my former life I was an Assistant District Attorney, spending my days arguing in very crowded courtrooms full of very angry people.  But let me tell you, this classroom of kindergartners gave me a run for my money.  There is nothing quite like the feeling of nineteen fidgety little people slowly encroaching on you.  They start out all nice and quiet on the rug, but as the minutes pass by and they begin participating in the presentation, they slowly start to move closer and closer.  It's intense and I think kindergarden teachers deserve so much respect.  I'm pretty sure that I sweated my way through the entire presentation.  

I started by showing this pint size crew my notebook where I scribble story ideas and do a fair amount of doodling.  Then I passed around the word documents of my books so they could see what the text looks like before I add the illustrations (they were not impressed).  Finally, I explained the illustration process and showed them all the sketches that Annie and I went through before we settled on the perfect Coco and Lucy.  I got some very helpful suggestions for future books, like Star Sisters and the Giant Eye Ball, as well as many requests for a Star Sisters movie.  I like the way these kids think!  

If you live in the Boston area and are looking for a visiting author to visit your classroom, send me an email.  I would love to do some more of these.  And if you're a parent anywhere in the world and are facing the end of the school year with a small amount of fear, I have to tell you about this children's book series that my six-year old and I are loving.  It's called The Doll People and it follows the adventures of a family of dolls who come to life when their human owners leave them.  My daughter is captivated by the concept and the gorgeous illustrations and  I'm captivated by the writing.  It's beautifully descriptive with a great flow and I find myself studying the sentence structures as I read aloud.  There are three books in the series so I'm hoping it will put a good dent in our summer reading.

Of course, the first thing I did after we finished reading for the night was google the authors, Ann Martin and Laura Goodwin.  And all you ladies of a certain thirty-ish age will be thrilled to learn that Ann Martin is the author behind The Baby-sitters Club series.  Be still my heart!  I loved that series (as well as The Sweet Valley Twins) and remember devouring book after book after book.  Look at these covers and tell me they don't bring back childhood memories!  I'm signing off to write Ann Martin a long overdue fan letter.....

Social Side of Indie Publishing

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Holy moly spicy guacamole! as my darling fictional Coco would say.  Star Sisters and the Royal Wedding is really selling!  I can't believe it!  I mean, I can believe it because I love this book and think every parent out there will as well, but it's still kind of a shock because for such a long time this project was a private labor of love.  As I told one of my friends recently, writing these books was my dirty little secret.  I kept them very private.  And yes, I am fully aware that a dirty little secret should be much more scandalous.  

But the thing about writing is that it's a solitary process.  Let's be real, I'm not writing the next great American novel here.  I don't write twelve hours a day from a cabin in the woods and I've accepted that Star Sisters will probably never make the short list for a Pullitzer.  But I do log a ton of hours alone with my computer.  And when I made the decision to publish Star Sisters independently, I voluntarily signed on for an even more solitary experience.  Or so I thought.

For those of you who don't know, publishing independently, or indie publishing, is just a cooler way of saying self-publishing.  (Just how cool?  Read more about that here.)  It means that a book is produced not by a conventional publishing house like Simon & Schuster or Random House, but by a small publishing company or the author herself.  In my case, I'm a one woman show.  I published all my work under an LLC that I created, hired my own illustrator, and did all the layout, production, and printing through Createspace, which is Amazon's self-publishing arm.  I did all this because I believed in my project with all my heart and I wanted it to be executed according to my high standards.  I wanted quality writing and story lines with an edge, tons of illustrations, and a book that physically looked and felt awesome with a killer cover and great paper.  In the end, I got what I wanted.  But whereas most books are produced by a team of professionals who work with the writer and each other, I did it all alone.  And it was kind of lonely (and a tad bit terrifying).

But not anymore.  Ever since the books have come out I have been blown away by the number of new people that have come into my life.  There's Wayne at the Post Office who I see on a daily basis as I send out more and more books.  We compare parent/grandparent stories.  There's the incredible staff at numerous local bookstores who have been so supportive and have already invited me to participate in special events this summer.  I've gotten to know two awesome ladies, Sarah Winchester and Amy Hendren, who spent all day at my house on Wednesday photographing and styling it up for a feature that will run soon online.  Sneak peak of the fun here:

Through a party I hosted I met two talented local moms with a new catering business and another mom who does her own floral design.  I could have talked to those ladies all day and about the joys and challenges of running a small business.  And then there are friends I haven't seen in years who have been recommending my books to all their mom friends.  Wellesley Books has sold out twice in 10 days and I literally got a call from a bookstore I wasn't even in asking if I could drop some books off after someone came in asking for them!

I'm gearing up to head back to my desk - I have a great idea for book #4 that I'm just dying to write and produce - but this time it's going to be a lot less lonely.  And I am so very grateful for that.  So, so grateful.

Bling It

My husband's been in California all week for work which is 99% terrible and 1% good.  Terrible because he's the best guy in the world and we all miss him.  (Especially this morning when my 20 month old came down with the stomach bug right as I was trying to get everyone off to school, that was awesome!)  But good because, as someone who is responsible for the feeding, dressing, bathing, entertaining, and general sheparding through life of three little people, I love having the house to myself at night.  I can order sushi and plop on the couch for some serious Bravo TV time without anyone questioning how in the world I can stand to watch such crap.  I just can.  There's no rational explanation.

I've also had more time to read at night and I'm currently loving The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier.  It's my favorite kind of historical fiction, one that intersperses a historical story line with a contemporary one.  A great example of this literary style is The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Meyes.  If you haven't read that or Meyes' other recent novel Me Before You please stop whatever you are doing and buy them.  Her novels are amazing.  I promise.  

But I digress.  In The Lost Sisterhood there is a bronze bracelet that is of great significance and weaves the two stories together.  It got me thinking about the emotional importance of jewelry.  I'm not just talking about engagement rings or wedding bands (although if you want to read a great novel about the history behind diamond engagement rings pick up The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan).  I'm thinking about unique jewelry that tugs at us for other reasons.  For me, one piece of jewelry that I feel really emotional about is my Heather Moore necklace.  Moore makes engraved custom pieces that are beautifully subtle.  Her golds and silvers are worn and antique looking, as if handed down from an older generation.  My necklace has four charms, one for each of my daughters and one for my husband.  It hangs low and makes this great clanking sound when I walk.  But what I love most is that my girls will often come up to me and ask to see their name charm, almost like they are checking on it.  And when my perfect little angels are less than angelic and get in trouble, they will reach out to find their charm and play with it while we are discussing their latest antics.  My littlest one still loves to put the charms in her mouth when I am leaning over to change her diapers.  I just love it.  

Maybe this is why when I needed something of significance for my Star Sisters ladies, Coco and Lucy, I chose a pendant necklace.  Coco finds her necklace on the streets of Paris and Lucy finds her necklace in the bottom of a trunk of her grandmother's clothes.  When the necklace are brought together magic occurs.  You'll have to read Star Sisters and the Royal Wedding to learn all about the necklaces' mysterious origins!  But here's a sneak peak from Star Sisters and the Big Show of the ladies in their magic necklaces.  They wear them everywhere, even to the local swimming pool!  Aren't they cute in their bathing suits?  I love these girls!

On The Shelves

This whole Star Sisters process has been rather awesome - except for the sleepless nights caused by anxiety over every little detail that goes into making a book.  But hey, I'm a mama, I have a lot of experience functioning in a state of exhaustion.  One of the single best moments in this whole journey, however, happened on Friday morning when I saw my book on the shelves at my favorite local book store, Wellesley Books.  

I love book stores.  Not the kind with Starbucks inside, I find those way too overwhelming despite the fact that I do enjoy a good magazine display featuring every home decor magazine known to man.  I'm talking about independent book stores, the ones that have their own unique smell, well worn oriental rugs, and the owner's dog sleeping in the corner.  I LOVE those kind of places.  Yes, I sell my books on Amazon.  And I think the ability to get a case of diapers, a pack of fresh onesies, and a great children's chapter book shipped to my doorstep for no additional charge is one of the best things to happen to parents in the past gazillion years.  But the excitement that I felt seeing Star Sisters and the Royal Wedding available on my computer screen did not hold a candle to the insane joy and pride I felt seeing it on the shelves.  It just didn't.    

If you feel the same way about book stores, you have to read the The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.  It tells the story of the most endearingly grumpy bookseller you'll ever come across, AJ Fikry.  Fikry owns Island Books, a book store located on a fictious island that reminded me of Martha's Vineyard.  Fikry is set in his cranky and lonely ways when an abandoned baby left in his store turns Fikry's life upside down.  The book is good, but what makes it great are the letters that begin every chapter in which Fikry writes his personal thoughts about the books that have impacted his life (the one that starts the final chapter made me sob).  This book oozes a love of literature.  It's what I wish every English class had been about - the way books make you think about life.  My only complaint is that the child in the book is just way too perfect.  She's the most mature toddler you'll probably never meet.  But I guess that's the beauty of fiction - we can all dream that our children would be content to spend hours leafing through picture books while we browse the shelves!