Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Man Who Invented Christmas

At this time of year we think of Charles Dickens because of the well-known tale A Christmas Carol. So it is not surprising that Maud Newton chose yesterday to discuss her visit to the Charles Dickens Museum at 48 Doughty Street where Dickens lived from April 1837 to December 1839, while completing The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby.

The Doughty Street residence is the only surviving home of Dickens so, as Newton says:

So, apart from the all-kitsch-all-the-time Dickens World, it is now the flagship tourist destination for fans of A Christmas Carol, or even Great Expectations or Bleak House.

But I don't think she is overly impressed:

Although the memorabilia housed there is extensive — it could be, as the museum site contends, “the world’s most important collection of material relating to the great Victorian novelist and social commentator” — the place itself feels incidental.
She does recommend the museum's virtual tour. What better activity could there be for a Christmas afternoon?

If you are a fan of The Christmas Carol, NPR has an excerpt from the book The Man Who Invented Christmas, by Les Standiford.

The Man Who Invented Christmas
By Les Standiford
Hardcover, 256 pages
Crown Publishing
List price: $19.95

For all the strengths that are evident to the modern eye in A Christmas Carol, and despite his own confidence in the power of his tale, Dickens had at least two good reasons to be apprehensive as publication day for his story approached. One had to do with the nature of the holiday itself, and the other with the dire financial straits he found himself in.

As for the first, Christmas in 1843 was not at all the premier occasion that it is today, when Christmas stories and their Grinches and elves and Santas abound, when "Christmas stores" purvey Yule decorations the four seasons round, and a marketing effort that begins sometime in mid-October is said to determine the fate of an entire year for retailers.

There were no Christmas cards in 1843 England, no Christmas trees at royal residences or White Houses, no Christmas turkeys, no department-store Santa or his million clones, no outpouring of "Yuletide greetings," no weeklong cessation of business affairs through the New Year, no orgy of gift-giving, no ubiquitous public display of nativity scenes (or court fights regarding them), no holiday lighting extravaganzas, and no plethora of midnight services celebrating the birth of a savior. In fact, despite all of Dickens's enthusiasms, the holiday was a relatively minor affair that ranked far below Easter, causing little more stir than Memorial Day or St. George's Day does today. In the eyes of the relatively enlightened Anglican Church, moreover, the entire enterprise of celebrating Christmas smacked vaguely of paganism, and were there Puritans still around, acknowledging the holiday might have landed one in the stocks.

I am glad I live now and not in the good olde days.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Christmas from Mutts (via Rob Nixon)

Merry Christmas to All!

Rob Nixon posted this on the SPI Forum and I couldn't resist sharing it here.

Take some time to read a Christmas story aloud as a family activity. If you already have a Christmas reading tradition in your family I would love to hear about it. If not, why not give it a try this holiday season.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Shop the Island on South Padre Island

I am excited about having the opportunity to participate in the first Shop the Island being held on South Padre Island, TX. The Saturday event will showcase our local businesses and artists as they collaborate to give residents and visitors a unique chance to find that one of a kind Christmas gift for someone special.

Paragraphs is especially honored to have the internationally recognized master sand sculptor, Lucinda Wierenga, sharing our parking lot on Saturday where she will be doing some small sculptures and have copies of her book "Sandcastles Made Easy" available along with sand sculpting tools and gift certificates for lessons. Combine some or all of these to make a perfect gift for that hard to buy for beach lover on your list.

Also spending the day with us is Wade Dunkin, of WD Dunkin Photography. He is an outstanding artist and his photos of South Padre Island, the Gulf of Mexico and the Laguna Madre area are absolutely beautiful. He features sunsets, landscapes, and some awesome surfing shots. You can view his online gallery here.

Paragraphs, Lucinda and Wade are all members of

Please, stop by, say hello and spend some time with us tomorrow. I look forward to meeting my new neighbors and I think you will find something of interest to make it worth your while. Paragraphs will have a small selection of titles and for that book lover on your list consider a gift certificate which can be redeemed when we formally open early next year. But most of all I just want to have the opportunity to take part in what I think is a great activity.

See you tomorrow. And remember when you shop locally you benefit your community in many ways. So do something good, support your friends and neighbors, and have fun.

1. You keep dollars in our economy

For every $100 you spend at one of our local businesses, $68 will stay in the community. What happens when you spend that same $100 at a national chain? Only $43 stays in the community.

2. You embrace what makes us unique

You wouldn’t want your house to look like everyone else’s in the U.S. So why would you want your community to look that way?

3. You nurture community

We know you, and you know us. Studies have shown that local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of chains.

4. You create more choice

We pick the books and gifts we sell based on what we know you like and want. Local businesses carry a wider array of unique products because we buy for our own individual market.

5. You invest in entrepreneurship

Creativity and entrepreneurship are what the American economy is founded upon. Nurturing local business ensures a strong community.

6.You make us a destination

The more interesting and unique we are as a community, the more we will attract new neighbors, visitors and guests. This benefits everyone!

Bestseller Mysteries

The following were the bestselling titles at member stores of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association during November:


1. The Private Patient by P.D. James (Knopf)
2. The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
3. Six Geese A-Slaying by Donna Andrews (St. Martin's)
4. The Given Day by Dennis Lehane (Morrow)
5. The Bodies Left Behind by Jeffery Deaver (Simon & Schuster)
5. Extreme Measures by Vince Flynn (Atria)
7. The Fire by Katherine Neville (Ballantine)
7. Arctic Drift by Clive Cussler (Putnam)
9. The Price of Butcher's Meat by Reginald Hill (Harper)
10. Santa Clawed by Rita Mae Brown (Bantam)


1. Murder with All the Trimmings by Elaine Viets (Obsidian)
2. Bright Hair About the Bone by Barbara Cleverly (Delta)
3. Kissing Christmas Goodbye by M.C. Beaton (St. Martin's)
4. Christmas Is Murder by C.S. Challinor (Midnight Ink)
5. Fatal Fixer-Upper by Jennie Bentley (Berkley)
5. The Serpent and the Scorpion by Clare Langley-Hawthorne (Penguin)
5. Indigo Christmas by Jeanne Dams (Perseverance Press)
8. Down River by John Hart (St. Martin's)
8. The House Without a Key by Earl Derr Biggers (Academy Chicago Press)
10. Ringing in Murder by Kate Kingsbury (Berkley)
10. Chat by Archer Mayor (Grand Central)
10. Murder Packs a Suitcase by Cynthia Baxter (Bantam)
10. Shrouds of Holy by Kate Kingsbury (Berkley)

[Many thanks to the IMBA!]

You can shop for any of these titles from a local independent bookseller and a portion of the proceeds will benefit Paragraphs by clicking on the Shop Indie link in the sidebar. Remember, books make great Christmas gifts and if ordered by the 15th should reach your Christmas tree in time to make someone's day.

Monday, December 8, 2008

First Half of Move -- Accomplished!!

It seems like ages ago when we were in New York packing those treasures which I felt I would not want to live without. I remember thinking how fun it was going to be to dig into these boxes and find things I haven't seen or used in years and set up housekeeping like a couple of newlyweds, using all those wedding presents which we hadn't had the opportunity to enjoy before. (Photos from June 23 blog post)

And, then there were those stacks of books I had been collecting for years....

That was then, and now six months later, while still excited the magnitude of what I am undertaking is sinking in. The same question I have asked myself at least a million times was on my mind this morning when I saw this moving van drive up Padre Boulevard...

What in the world am I doing?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

New Pictures of Paragraphs

The other day I promised some updated photos of Paragraphs but it seemed I just couldn't get camera or phone together at the time when I was at the site or driving by. I finally remembered this morning, so

Ta Da, drum roll, please.....

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Looking Back!

I started this blog a year ago on December 15 although it doesn't seem like that long ago.

In the first post I listed my reason for blogging as follows:
I want to share my experiences as I go through the process of building and opening an independent bookstore on South Padre Island. It will be a way of keeping family and friends informed about what I am up to and may be interesting to others who have the dream of opening a small business.

I also want to introduce myself to the SPI community and get a virtual dialogue started which can be continued in person once Paragraphs on Padre Boulevard opens next fall.
I'm not sure I completely accomplished all that I had hoped, but I have met some good people and have had a modest amount of interaction with my readers. I hope those faithful readers will stay with me as we enter the final phase of getting this bookstore open and operating.

Thank you to everyone who has been so kind over the past year and offered me so much wonderful advice and encouragement.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Bookseller Stories - National Feral Cat Day

In my never ending research for the opening of Paragraphs, I love reading stories from other booksellers and I will occasionally share some of these experiences with my readers.

I have been catching up on my twitter and blog reading this evening and found this post that I thought was relevant to the Island. My understanding is that at times South Padre Island has had a problem with feral cats although I believe the situation is much better now.

From The Booklady's Blog

(Phone rings)

Me: “Good morning, this is Rebecca.”

Caller: “Hi, my name is Blah Blahblah, and I’m a publicist for Gobbledygook Books” (clearly, I’m changing names to protect the innocent…or ignorant…or, nevermind). “I work with an author from your area who has written a book about cats, and she’s interested in doing a signing in your store.”

So far, this seems pretty normal. I get calls and drop-in visits like this all the time.

Me: “Okay, can you tell me more about the book? Is it a children’s book or a book about pets? How would you describe it?”

She proceeds to describe the book, which is apparently written for adults, but classified as Christian/Inspiration, and is written entirely from the perspective of the cats. Okay. For adults. Really?

Me: “Well, I generally do one or two signings per month, and I’m all booked up in September and December. What timeline were you thinking about?”

Caller: “She can really come anytime, but she would really like to do it on October 16th to coincide with National Feral Cat Day. We were you thinking you could tie that into your marketing and get the audience really excited about it.”

Internal Monologue (National Feral Cat Day? WTF? How am I supposed to market that? “Have you hugged your feral cat today?” “Come celebrate feral cats–bring yours and join the party!” “Buy a book, get a free rabies vaccine!”)

I rein in my snarkiness, request a review copy of the book and a publicity package (a word to the wise: never schedule a book signing without having actually seen and read the book. Bad things happen.), and tell her I’ll get back to her. Then I immediately hit Google to look for publicity ideas.

RGV Social Media Club

I am definitely a newbie to the whole social media arena but I can see the potential for reaching a much wider audience without spending a fortune in advertising dollars. Not only is the potential to reach more people attractive, but the idea of building a community instead of merely selling something intrigues me. As the owner of a bookstore one of my goals is to welcome discussion and interaction among my customers and supporters and I think being more involved and fluent in the use of social media can only help broaden the diversity of those who find Paragraphs a place where ideas are welcome.

So I was pleased to see that Shaine Mata is planning to start a Social Media Club for the Rio Grande Valley.

From Shaine's blog:

I thought I’d join the conversation for kicks, only to find out that it was not led by Connie, but by Kristie Wells, co-founder of Social Media Club. I spoke with her exclusively for a few minutes. Everything since then has started falling into place, from conference calls to messages expressing interest from other folks in the region.

Here we are 24 hours later and there is a Facebook group and SMC RGV wiki page. I am really excited about the support that has come from Social Media Club and local chapters. I don’t want to give you the impression that it’s an automated process. One crucial part is missing. Social Media Club RGV will not get off the ground without a team. You don’t have to be an expert; you just have to be interested in social media.

Here are some of the leadership/volunteer positions we need:

  • Programming Director
  • Partnership Director
  • Promotions Director
  • Production Director
  • Membership Director

You can find more details by visiting the SMC RGV Wiki. It is quite possible for one person to fill dual roles. Even with all the outside support, we can be sure that this will be a labor of love. I won’t lie to you. It will require some work. I hope you are interested in being a part of something groundbreaking for the Rio Grande Valley. Join me in launching Social Media Club RGV.

Any of you South Padre Island or Port Isabel computer gurus willing to give Shaine a hand?

It would then give us the knowledge and credibility to work with our local businesses to improve our visibility online. The attendance at the recent RGV tweet-up, which was held at The Padre Island Brewing Company, shows that there is a fairly strong interest in the area and it would be great for SPI/PI to be a part of this growing community. I plan to stay as informed of their activities as possible and learn more about how Paragraphs can become part of the social media world.

Shop the Island

Thanks to Lucinda and Nancy, two of South Padre Island's ambassadors of good will, I have signed up to participate in Shop the Island, which sounds like a fun event giving retailers, craftsmen and artisans a chance to share the sidewalks, spill onto the streets and provide the local residents and visitors with a festive day of shopping.

Word is a mover will be delivering boxes of household items, books, some tables, beds and my rolltop desk, from New York, at 9:00 a.m. Monday morning. The building inspector was kind enough to allow me to have this stored in the new building, as long as I do not block their access to electrical outlets or anything else they need to observe before issuing an occupancy permit.

I am not sure when they will be actually finished and ready to hand over the keys, but I should be able to have enough access that the parking lot at Paragraphs can be a welcoming spot for anyone cruising Padre Boulevard next Saturday. Used books for sale out of the box will be the primary offering of the day but I will spend the week working to spice up what visitors will find at 5505 Padre Boulevard!

Rumor is there may even be a sandcastle in a box! If Sandyfeet chooses the parking lot at Paragraphs to exhibit her sandcarving expertise, can the Saturn Street Strummers be far behind?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Need Christmas Gift Ideas?

Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness love books and believe they make the best gifts. I happen to agree! At times when we are looking to make our dollars go farther we like to find those gifts which communicate the feelings behind the gesture. This is where books excel. They are a thoughtful expression of your feelings and you can find something that meets the interests of everyone on your list.

As a part of their blog Books on the Nightstand Ann and Michael have written a series of blog posts highlighting those books that they think would make good gifts and also some ideas for how to include a book and make an everyday present that much more special. In addition to the series of posts they have a free e-book PDF file which can easily be read on-line complete with a checklist which can easily be printed and used to shop at your local store or on-line.

There is something for everyone on your list--the mystery lover, history buff, or serious foodie. Also included are ideas for those who love photography or are movie and film fans. Ann and Michael have also identified those items which can be purchased for under $20.

The idea that books are the perfect gift has taken on new life this holiday season. This video is an example of those celebrities who have taken time this year to celebrate the joy that giving or receiving a book can spread.

You can support Paragraphs by shopping online at a local independent bookstore using the link on the sidebar.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Back To The Island

I finally got everything in order for the move and to leave Denver for South Padre Island. We left Wednesday and arrived on the Island Sunday afternoon. I must admit my heart was in my throat while driving down Padre Blvd. and wondering what Paragraphs would look like. The main surprise is that there is more work to be done than I anticipated. Other than that I was pleasantly surprised with the end result. I will get some pictures and post them here tomorrow.

One side of the building, which is located on the property line and therefore couldn't have any windows or other variation, is going to need some type of decoration or ornamentation. Right now it is just a big green wall--and not terribly exciting. It will be a nice backdrop for some kind of mural highlighting the joys of reading.

I am thrilled with the space for Paragraphs. I was surprised with the size of the space and the amount of light and feeling of openness. The elevated ceilings and a second level of windows makes the area seem much larger than it is. There is plenty of room for comfy chairs and some tables where people will be free to sit and read, chat, or use their laptops via the store's WiFi.

I took my husband, Griff, to the airport this morning and then the rest of us finished getting settled in to a room at the La Quinta, which has been our SPI winter home for several years. A few familiar faces have already arrived from places north where winter has arrived.

While we don't have our normal large beachside room with wet bar and jacuzzi tub, I don't mind the sacrifice and hope to be relocated into our new home soon. I am revising my to-do list and tomorrow will be a busy day!

It is a glorious day as I sit here with the open door and listen to the surf. This is the view from my window. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Santa Gets Caught Reading

A book is the ideal gift for someone who has everything and someone who has nothing. Books are affordable; one size always fits all, and they provide hours of entertaining escape. There is a book for every special person in your life. An adventure, a romance, a mystery, a laugh. Wish it, and it will come true in the pages of a book. Share the love of books with your friends, students, and loved ones this holiday season.

Shop Online at an Indie Bookstore

No Snow? Get Toasty!

To people on or familiar with South Padre Island, Lucinda Wierenga, aka SandyFeet is a source of local pride. She is an internationally known and award-winning sand sculptor.

With the holidays on the way, I couldn't resist sharing part of her personal contribution to getting those on our sandbar in a festive mood.

From her blog:
Weather permitting, Toasty will appear on the beach at Wanna Wanna Beach Bar and Grill starting on Wed., Nov. 26 and staying until -- he melts. Or something.

Hello Again

Those that follow me on Twitter know that my laptop decided it needed a break and just quit working more than a week ago. Without this old faithful friend I have been unable to update my blog but I'm back online now. Fortunately, the nice guys at Action Computer, didn't find anything seriously wrong and after a few tweaks to my video driver, a thorough cleaning (yes, the dust and dirt was getting a little thick), and a nominal $35 charge I'm up and running.

There are some advantages to forced computer and internet withdrawl. First, it allows one more time to read. I was able to get through several books on my to be read stack and with the tanking economy this escape was pure joy.

Since I couldn't do anything online, I spent the time focusing on preparing for the move to South Padre Island. Books and more books have found their way into boxes and have been hauled to the garage. Griff will arrive from New York on Friday and he plans to make sure the old "Raven" is prepared for the trip. On Monday, I have arranged to have a packing/moving service come and move any large pieces of furniture to the garage and pack any pictures lamps or other odd items.

When they have left, we can put my mother's house back together, so when she returns next spring it won't be to the tornado-struck mess of today.

The goal is to leave Denver early afternoon on Tuesday and head to the sandbar, and paradise. It will be a family trip - my mother, aunt, Griff, the bookends and me. We will find someplace to hang out on the Island for a few weeks while completing whatever final arrangements need to be made in order to move in. Griff heads back to New York on the December 1st and will arrange for the mover to pick up everything there (which was packed last summer) and then to make a stop in Denver and pick up the items stored in our garage. I should have "my stuff" delivered sometime before Christmas. Then I can work at unpacking, which will be quite an experience in itself!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

El Juego De La Loteria

Playing Loteria /
El Juego de la Loteria
By René Colato Laínez
Illustrated by Jill Arena
  • ISBN: 087358919X
  • ISBN-13: 9780873589192
  • Format: Paperback, 32pp
  • Publisher: Luna Rising
  • Pub. Date: January 2009
  • Edition Description: Bilingual
  • $6.95
Buy this book

This post is for Island Princess at ToDo Padre.

Some time ago, in a discussion on the SPI Forum, she was enthusiastically describing her plans to develop new activities to help entertain and welcome our Winter Texan friends. She was so excited as she talked about all the fun we would have playing Loteria, and having Loteria parties.

To my chagrin, I had to confess my lack of Spanish language skills as well as how little I know of the Mexican-American culture. I asked "What in the world, is Loteria?"

So when I saw the write-up for the new paperback version of Playing Loteria, along with several reviews of the title and downloadable lesson plans, activities, and instructions, I decided to share.

From La Bloga:
La Loteria, or Mexican bingo, is a wonderfully fun and colorful game that has been loved by people of all ages for over 200 years. In this charming story, a little boy visits his grandmother in Mexico. With the help of la loteria he learns new Spanish terms, and his Abuela learns various English words. Together they realize that loved ones truly do have special ways of understanding each other. The rules of the game are included so you can play and learn at home, too.

"An enjoyable and visually satisfying experience." – Críticas

"…very appealing and fun... a perfect present for kids." – Tradición Magazine
2008 New Mexico Book Award, Best Children’s Book;
2007-2008 Tejas Book Award Finalist;
2007 California Readers “California Collection”;
2006 Latino Book Award, Best Cover Illustrations;
2005 Best Children’s Books, Críticas Magazine;
2005 Southwest Books of the Year.

You can also learn more about Playing Loteria, download lesson plans, and find other fun activities--like creating your own game cards and boards-- at

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sunset on South Padre Island, TX

I found this when catching up on my reading of the blogs I follow. It reminded me of why I am so excited about moving to this wonderful little sandbar along the south Texas gulf coast.

Thanks to Todo Padre for sharing.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Texas Book Festival on Book TV

Last weekend was the SPI International Music Fest so I doubt if many Island residents headed to Austin for the 2008 Texas Book Festival. However, if your interests run to the non-fiction genre, then you are in luck.

Book TV, the weekend programming arm of CSPAN, broadcasts author events and highlights the latest in non-fiction books. This Sunday, November 9, they will be featuring several of the discussions which were taped last weekend, during the Texas Book Festival.

Here is the schedule:

12:00 PM
America - United We Stand?

Authors: Bill Bishop; Ronald Brownstein; Robert Cushing; Paul Stekler
American politics has become much more partisan, more zero-sum, more vicious, more willing to make mountains out of molehills, and less able to confront the problems we face. And yet, in poll after poll, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as either "very conservative" or "very liberal" hasn't budged in over a generation. America may be more diverse than ever, but the places where we live are becoming increasingly crowded with people who live, think, and vote as we do. We've built a country where we can all choose the neighborhood - and religion and news show - most compatible with our lifestyle and beliefs. How has America become so polarized? The writers in this panel address the problem from both political and cultural perspectives.

1:00 PM
Bubblin' Crude - The Life and Times of Oil
Authors: Robert Bryce; Alexandra Fuller; Lisa Margonelli; Will Wynn
How has America become so polarized? The writers in this panel address the problem from both political and cultural perspectives. Noted political documentary filmmaker Paul Stekler moderates.With the cost of oil skyrocketing to record-breaking prices (over $147 a barrel earlier this year), there has never been a better time than now to gain insight into the complexities of this all-important commodity and whether American energy independence will ever become a reality. Alexandra Fuller's The Legend of Colton Bryant immerses readers in the lives of Wyoming's oilmen and the danger, unpredictability, and hardships that they and their families must endure. Fuller gives a touching portrait of one man whose life is tragically cut short due to the negligence of the oil company he served. In Oil On the Brain: Petroleum's Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank, Lisa Margonelli provides a smart and funny account of the oil industry that deftly pieces together this mammoth economy that takes her from a Texas drilling rig, to the New York Mercantile Exchange's crude oil market, to an Iranian oil platform. Ultimately, Margonelli uncovers a series of stark warning signs for American drivers. Robert Bryce, in Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of "Energy Independence," questions the achievability of energy independence. With his meticulously researched book, Bryce provides a nonpartisan look at how American voters are mislead about their energy needs and the necessity of embracing the reality of energy interdependence.

2:10 PM
Memo to the President Elect
Authors: Ross Douthat; Bob Moser; David Patterson; Reihan Salam; John Stauffer

Whichever candidate wins the presidential election the Tuesday after the Festival weekend, he is going to inherit a raft of problems to solve – among them, the need to attempt to unify the country. The writers on this panel, some of the nation's most astute political observers, will offer their insights about the first steps our next president should be taking.

3:15 PM
The War Over American Ideals
Authors: Douglas Brinkley; Fred Burton; Jane Mayer; James Traub; Ted Widmer

America stands at a historic crossroads; the war on terror has not only affected how the rest of the world thinks of America, but how Americans think of themselves. We've gathered the writers of four of this year's most compelling books that address America's standing in the world and asked historian Douglas Brinkley to moderate the conversation. The writers include Fred Burton (Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent), who helped create and lead the counterterrorism division of the Diplomatic Security Service; New Yorker journalist Jane Mayer (The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals); former President Clinton speechwriter Ted Widmer (Ark of the Liberties: America and the World); and James Traub (The Freedom Agenda: Why America Must Spread Democracy [Just Not the Way George W. Bush Did]).

Indie Businesses Unite!

I have been posting on the SPI Forum about the advantages of independent businesses for the community. Actually, I think most everyone is tired of hearing about Indiebound, the Indiebound Community, or anything else that begins with "Indie".

In an effort to help the business climate of South Padre Island, the Town has initiated the formation of a "Coalition for Business Development". The coalition is being asked to identify ways (1) to increase consumer use of our existing businesses (2) to attract new businesses which will be used by consumers and (3) to attract more consumers by increasing the number of permanent residents and visitors. To meet these objectives several subcommittees have been formed, with each one being asked to provide recommendations that will help to meet the broader objectives of the coalition.

The subcommittees include:

(1) Establish a Merchants Association to focus on ways to improve sales for existing business.

(2) Establish New Programs will focus on new Special Events.

(3) Recruit Permanent and Part-Time Residents and Increase Tourism will focus on Specialty Groups to which our Island offers areas of interest.

(4) Recruit New Business will focus on developing an On-Line Website for the EDC that can be used by new business seeking information about the Island. In addition recommend better use of technology for data based marketing, and identify a liaison between new business and the Town.

My interest in these discussions is directed toward the Merchant's Association with a focus on some type of a Shop Local campaign, with an emphasis on our Independent Businesses.

The IndieBound program offers some great materials which can be used to promote, not just bookstores, but all indies within a community. This message, which appears on a flyer that can be customized for individual stores or for a merchants association, reminds the customer that when they shop local they have done something good for the community.

Here’s what you just did!

1. You kept dollars in our economy

For every $100 you spend at one of our local businesses, $68 will stay in the community. What happens when you spend that same $100 at a national chain? Only $43 stays in the community.

2. You embraced what makes us unique

You wouldn’t want your house to look like everyone else’s in the U.S. So why would you want your community to look that way?

3. You created local jobs

Local businesses are better at creating higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.

4. You helped the environment

Buying from a local business conserves energy and resources in the form of less fuel for transportation, less packaging, and products that you know are safe and well made, because we stand behind them.

5. You nurtured community

We know you, and you know us. Studies have shown that local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of chains.

6. You conserved your tax dollars

Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money available to beautify our community. Also, spending locally instead of online ensures that your sales taxes are reinvested where they belong—right here in your community!

7. You created more choice

We pick the books and gifts we sell based on what we know you like and want. Local businesses carry a wider array of unique products because we buy for our own individual market.

8. You took advantage of our expertise

You are our friends and neighbors, and we have a vested interest in knowing how to serve you. We’re passionate about what we do. Why not take advantage of it?

9. You invested in entrepreneurship

Creativity and entrepreneurship are what the American economy is founded upon. Nurturing local business ensures a strong community.

10.You made us a destination

The more interesting and unique we are as a community, the more we will attract new neighbors, visitors and guests. This benefits everyone!

So, remember the advantages to our communities when we Shop Local!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Good News for ALASA Academy

A recognition of the importance of education is something I share with my husband's family. His sisters have all been involved in the education field at one time or another and Griff's mother always loved the summer program which was held at the farm for many years, known as the ALASA Center.

Four years ago Alasa Farms became the host to a new program,(see previous post) which, under the capable direction on Sharon Maher, set out to prove that learning can be fun and rewarding. ALASA Academy, Alternative Learning Academy for Student Achievement, Inc., identifies its vision as follows:
We seek to provide a small, flexible, cooperative learning environment that educates the whole person and promotes physical and mental well being. We believe there are many ways to learn and that all learning starts with play. We believe that individuality, creativity and self-expression must be recognized and supported and that every individual has an equal right to be heard. We believe in supporting and encouraging personal excellence. We believe that trust and communications are more important than rules. We believe that to be successful as an adult, one must balance individual freedom with responsibility to the natural environment and to the community.
What started with a 2-week summer program has grown to include some weekend activities but Sharon has always had a much larger dream. She is currently working on the establishment of some after-school activities with the ultimate goal being the establishment of a full-day school, that would offer a unique learning environment for kids struggling in the traditional classroom. As described on the website:
The ALASA Academy Full Day School will follow the Sodus School District calendar and will begin with children from ages 8-9 through completion of high school credits and/or sufficient skill development to move on into society. Curriculum will focus on personal skill development, academic growth through hands-on integrated activities, satellite courses and customized skill development and evaluation. All work will be correlated to the New York State Education Standards. Students will work at their own pace with benchmarks to identify growth, and evaluation to confirm skill mastery—including passing appropriate New York State Regents exams and standardized tests. Community service will be a strong component of the curriculum, enabling students to work with adults in various Wayne County businesses/organizations, developing the skills of giving, teamwork, self-worth and pride. The number of students enrolled is expected to be small (based on the rural nature of Wayne County), but is expected to grow over time.
Sharon is completely committed to this project but she faced a major obstacle to moving forward in the implementation of a year-long program since many of the classes were held on the farmhouse porch, outside, or in one of the barns. For a couple of years she has been singularly focused on obtaining the necessary financing to purchase a small piece of property from the farm where a building could be constructed to house the school. So when I received her email earlier this month, I was thrilled for her, the kids of Wayne County, all the tireless volunteers, as well as Griff and Nancy--my mother-in-law.

Saturday’s raw winds and steady downpour weren’t about to dampen anyone’s spirits as dozens of people streamed on to the large, welcoming porch of the Mangan family’s home at Alasa Farms. Only a couple of days before, word had been received that Senator Nozzolio wanted to meet with organizers of ALASA Academy and members of the community who have participated in the Academy’s programs over the past four years.

Their summer workshops for children were expanded to three, one-week sessions this year and offer a completely new and fresh approach to a summer day-camp experience. Awareness of and concern for the environment, interpersonal skills, team building, importance of community service, and personal pride are only a sampling of the values that ALASA Academy reinforces while providing a real-world opportunity to make math, science, journaling, and other areas of academia a part of each child’s life that they can relate to day to day.

A primary goal has been to purchase 10 acres of property at Alasa Farms, where the Academy could erect its own building and enable them to conduct programs for children all year. Senator Nozzolio beamed as he lauded the efforts of ALASA Academy and their dedication to the children of Wayne County. “You are helping kids to engage in the right activities, to get a good start in life, to do the right thing,” Nozzolio said, and shared his thoughts on the importance of providing the children of Wayne County with such a unique learning opportunity. One of the facets of the Academy’s program that is of particular significance to Senator Nozzolio is that of their partnership with Cracker Box Palace Farm Animal Haven, which also resides at Alasa Farms. An integral part of the Academy’s curriculum is daily hands-on experience with the animals at the haven, many of which have been rescued from cruelty, abuse, and neglect.

A hush came over the crowd as Senator Nozzolio addressed Sharon Maher and the other Alasa Academy volunteers and thanked them for their dedication and commitment to the children of Wayne County, and a look of total disbelief came over everyone’s faces as he presented Sharon with a grant for $30,000 – the amount necessary to purchase the land and begin building their school.

I wish everyone at ALASA Academy the best. Now, Sharon, I only hope the path to fulfilling my dream is as successful as yours has been. Congratulations, this is a huge step toward achieving your goal.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Baker" and "Taylor"

One of the major decisions anyone opening a bookstore needs to make is which book distributor to use. I am sure there are some very logical criteria that many potential bookseller's use to make this selection, but I most definitely did not use any of them. No, I made my decision on a very emotional basis, may I say, actually, on more of a whim.

The first reason I considered using Baker and Taylor was the interest shown by Dianne Chrismer, from the Mountain and Plains States territory, in Paragraphs. Last February, when a story appeared in Shelf Awareness, I received an email from Dianne offering to explain what services B&T could offer and she seemed genuinely interested in my plans and was willing to help me with any of my questions or concerns. The fact that her office is located about 5 blocks from my Denver address certainly didn't hurt. But, this is still not what caused me to make the final decision.

Most of the evaluation of any vendor, begins with a review of their website. After I received Dianne's email, I went to the B&T website and learned that the company had adopted as mascots a couple of library cats. Now, what says bookseller more than the image of a couple of independent felines curled up in some sunny spot or secluded corner. From the B&T website, here is what sold me on using them as my primary book supplier:

Our Mascots
"Baker & Taylor"
There is a long tradition of cats living in libraries, probably going back to the ancient Egyptian library in Alexandria. In the 19th Century, the British government paid libraries to keep cats, because they kept rodents from eating the glue and binding off of books. Nowadays, cats still like libraries as nice warm places with plenty of nooks and crannies. And, libraries like to have cats around while librarians do their work.
Although both are gone now, 'Baker' and 'Taylor' were the pride of the Douglas County Public Library in Minden, Nevada. Baker joined the library staff in 1983, much to the delight of patrons and the despair of would-be rodents. Taylor's position was created two month later through a grant from Baker & Taylor, Inc. Together they carried on the long tradition of working library cats.
Baker and Taylor spent much of their time at the checkout counter where they restored disorder to overly quiet afternoons. The library saw a constant parade of people who dropped by from great distances just to see the cats.
Baker and Taylor claim a pedigree of the Scottish Fold persuasion, which is known for distinctive turned-down ears, gentleness, and abundant personality. Characteristics include a thick, short coat, broad cheeks, powerful build, massive round head, and well-rounded whisker pads.
In 1988, Baker and Taylor became the official mascots of Baker & Taylor, Inc. The pair have been immortalized on posters, tote bags, calendars, note cards, and other materials that we continue to distribute at trade shows and press events.

Until their passing in the mid 1990's, Baker and Taylor provided great joy and entertainment for staff and patrons alike, and continue to represent the strength and excitement of Baker & Taylor, Inc.
Now how could anyone use any other book distributor? It doesn't hurt to have such helpful people, like Dianne and David to work with, but to tell you the truth, it was the cats that sold me.

photos from and Wikipedia

Monday, October 20, 2008


Tonight as I watched the Denver Broncos get mauled by the Patriots, I decided to look for a new address book or notebook where I can keep track of my log-in and password information for the numerous social media, publisher, news, and book blog sites I now frequent, as well as maintain basic address information. I realize that we have computers and PDA's which are supposed to fill this need, but I recently lost all my data when my laptop hard drive and Treo died at the same time, and on that day I vowed to return to a paper system as a backup.

So after the 4th interception by the Patriots, I went to the Levenger site, which is always a fun place to window shop for the person who loves all types of accessories for reading and writing. I used to lovingly pour over these catalogs and make lengthy wish lists, although I must admit I rarely actually purchased anything.

Anyway, I found this interesting table of reader marks to help when making notes while reading.

Which brings up the everlasting question:

Do you like to make notes in your books as you read or are you someone who would never think of destroying the pristine page with some personal notations or reflections?

First Advertisement For Paragraphs

This is the first print ad which will appear for Paragraphs On Padre Boulevard. It will be used in the 2009 South Padre Island Visitors Guide.

Many thanks to John Carvalho, at Mixed Media Marketing Inc. in Fernandino Beach, FL for his help. John has done a lot of work for independent bookstores and I was referred to him when I first started to think about the possibility of opening a bookstore. He has been very patient with me over the year and a half that we have spent developing a logo and graphic theme to represent Paragraphs.

Never fear, my South Padre Island friends, once I open and am firmly transplanted onto our sandbar, I plan to do my best to "Shop Local".

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What Makes America Special

The New Republic blog, The Plank, quoted a part of Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama during his appearance on Meet the Press this morning. I found the general's words to be poignant and instructive for us in these days of partisan politics.

And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?


I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.

The photo is from "The New Yorker".

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sandcastle Days 2008

One of the South Padre Island events I have heard so much about and was really looking forward to attending this year is Sandcastle Days. Unfortunately, I will need to wait until 2009, since I am still firmly planted in Denver, but there are photos available on the todopadre blog's list of the top 100 things to do and see in the South Padre Island and Brownsville area.

This weekend Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island will host the 21st Annual SPI Sand Castle Days. From the events website:

Amateur and professional sand sculptors from all over the world descend on South Padre Island every year to create beautiful works of art using natural elements of the beach. The not-for-profit event showcases the artwork and an appreciation for the coastal environment, and donates to organizations helping to preserve it.

Masters of Sand will compete 3 days on the shores of the beautiful Gulf of Mexico for 'Peoples Choice' paying $2750 in cash prizes. This South Padre Island family festival has become one of the biggest and best international sand sculpture competitions in the United States!

Sand Sculpting is a performance art!
Have you seen Sandblasters on the Travel Channel? This extreme sculpting competition has made TV Stars out of many of our competitors!
Now's your chance to meet many of the sculptors who compete is this extreme sand sculpting competition!

Hundreds of amateur sand sculptors will make their mark in the sand as well! Kids will compete under the big top tent this year in a brand new format for competition! Families, adults and businesses will compete for cash awards and advanced amateurs will vie for Texas State Champ.

There will be FREE sand castle lessons,vendors, and a cool Sand Castle Kite Fly! The air will be filled with color down the beach this year as B&S Kites displays their biggest and best kites. Come learn to fly!

More photos of all the fun are available at the Sand Castle Days flickr stream of sandyfeet and for additional information about the event visit the South Padre Island Texas Sand Castle Days website.

photos from todopadre

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October is the Month for Pogo

Deck us all with Boston Charlie
Walla Walla, Wash., an’ Kalamazoo!
Nora’s freezin’ on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower, alleygaroo!

I am sure we all can remember our first pet. In my case, I grew up with a wonderful pound dog--mostly cocker spaniel, a touch of chow (the black tongue) and a little more of who knows what. I actually don't remember whether the dog or I came first, although I do know that the family's little black companion was ahead of me in the pecking order. This friendly little dog was named Pogo, and I have many wonderful memories of times spent with her. So I was surprised when I read in the Britannica Blog that the original Pogo is 60 years old.

Walt Kelly, the originator of Pogo, was born in Philadelphia, and when a young man worked as a crime reporter on the Bridgeport Post, in Bridgeport, CT. He filled notebooks with doodles and cartoon scribbles until he finally decided to head to California and take his art seriously as an animator with the new Walt Disney studios.
He continued to hone his skills at Disney throughout the 1930s and early 1940s while contributing to Fantasia, Snow White and my personal favorite Dumbo.

When Kelly returned to the US after WWII he chose to return to journalism, but using his talented pen as an illustrator instead of a reporter.

From Britannica Online:
Pogo became a kind of liberal reply to Al Capp’s reactionary strip L’il Abner, lampooning vice president Richard Nixon, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, and even Senator Joseph McCarthy (as the malign wildcat Simple J. Malarkey) himself. Kelly voiced his views through the mouths of aw-shucks cartoon characters who lived in a kind of alternate-universe version of the Confederacy: Pogo the naïve possum; the befuddled but sweet Albert Alligator; the grumpy tortoise Churchy Femme and the even grumpier porcupine called, of course, Porky Pine; the evangelist Deacon Mushrat, the pompous Howland Owl, the faithful Beauregard Hound Dog, the self-satisfied P. T. Bridgeport Bear, the ghastly vulture Sarcophagus Macabre, the coquettish skunk Mamzelle Hepzibah; the list went on to number dozens of characters, major and minor, over the next twenty-five years.

Politicians may not have liked Pogo much, but readers did. Kelly’s strip was quickly syndicated and published across the country, and soon nonsensical catchphrases from Pogo were on everyone’s lips: “Food is no substitute for the real thing.” “Each year is getting shorter.” “We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.” And, most famous of all, Pogo the possum’s mangling of Commodore Perry’s famous dispatch in commemoration of Earth Day 1971, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” So popular was Kelly’s strip that the first of his many book collections, called simply Pogo, leaped to the head of the 1951 bestseller list, alongside such books as Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny, James Jones’s From Here to Eternity, and Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki.

Syndicated in hundreds of newspapers, Pogo helped define American political culture for the next two decades. But by the early 1970s, in the era of Watergate and Vietnam, politics seemed less a laughing than a fighting matter in this country, and Kelly’s gently good-natured strip waned in popularity as more pointed comics like Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury came to the fore. Still, Pogoisms still figure in popular discourse 35 years after Kelly’s death, and Pogo lives otherwise, safely preserved on library shelves across the land, ready to do service again in a time of weird politics. And every October, right about this time, Waycross, Georgia, next door to the Okefenokee Swamp, holds a weekend-long Pogofest in Kelly’s honor.

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