On Saturday, Sherman Alexie rented a party bus, stuffed it full of 24 Seattle-area writers, and led the charge to three Seattle-area bookstores. It was an ambitious broadening of the Indies First program that Alexie originated in Seattle a few years ago, in which authors serve as "guest booksellers" at independent bookstores on Small Business Saturday. And the scaling up of the concept required a few sacrifices: some of Seattle's smaller bookstores couldn't physically contain a swarm of 25 authors at once, for instance, and the sheer amount of time it takes to get a group that large around town limited the number of bookstore visits that were possible. So the party bus tour was held to three stops: Seward Park's new Third Place Books, University Book Store, and Elliott Bay Book Company. (Many other Seattle bookstores, incuding Open Books, Seattle Mystery Bookshop, and Phinney Books celebrated Indies First with their own slate of author-booksellers.)
A few of the authors on the party bus had not yet visited Third Place Books' new Seward Park location, and they each came away impressed both by the beauty of the store and by the avid community of readers who've already made the store their home away from home. As the first stop of the day, there was a general nervousness among the authors about what was expected of them at Third Place, but everyone quickly came around: they just had to talk about their books and recommend other recent books that they especially loved. Even a bus packed full of avowed introverts could manage that.
University Book Store is home to some of the longest-serving booksellers in Seattle, and that experience showed: authors were greeted like old friends. The space that the store had set aside for the Indies First visit was next to the poetry section, which kicked off a number of great discussions about poets. Resident party bus poets Quenton Baker and Jane Wong threw around quite a few recommendations.
At Elliott Bay Book Company, the authors were greeted with applause. Alexie brought a voracious young reader to G. Willow Wilson and Richelle Mead for some recommendations. Soon enough, they were leading the girl to the sci-fi section to introduce her to the work of Mercedes Lackey. In the poetry section, Alexie led a discussion about literary reading horror stories with young writers. The writers filled out recommendation cards for Elliott Bay's shelves, and they were egged out of their end-of-day weariness by Elliott Bay's exuberant young staff.
By the time the party bus pulled in to the parking lot where the journey began, authors who had never before met were hugging and promising to keep in touch. Several expressed a whole new level of respect for booksellers — if they were this exhausted after three hours of recommending books, they reasoned, anyone who can do this all day must possess some kind of superhuman ability. Bookselling isn't easy.