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Fostering Dialog and Better Understanding at Quail Ridge Books' Bridging the Divide Book Club!

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Monday, June 4, 2018
Updated: Monday, May 28, 2018

A First Year Retrospective of Bridging the Divide Book Club by Sarah Goddin, General Manager of Quail Ridge Books

 

In response to the current deep political divisions in our country and community, where people with one view find it hard to comprehend how others could hold a different view, Quail Ridge Books launched a monthly book club with the goal of fostering dialog and better understanding. The book club, called Bridging the Divide, has moderators and book selections representing issues and viewpoints across the political spectrum: left, right, and central. The aim of each discussion is to promote understanding ... “Ah, now I understand how they can think that!” ... rather than to convince anyone of a particular point of view.

We started in May 2017 and had large turnouts for our first 3 meetings: 50, 47, and 87 people respectively. Then things started to slow down and for the next 4 meetings we had 23, 6, 25, and 2 (a low point, for sure!). Since then we have rebounded and have had 25 to 34 at the last several meetings, which is a really good number for discussion.


My original idea was to have 2 moderators, one liberal and one conservative, and let them take it from there, choosing the books and running the meetings. That didn’t work out and I think it would actually be pretty hard, maybe not possible, to do it well without a lot of hands-on involvement from someone on the store staff.


To find moderators, Rene Martin, our events coordinator, and I put our heads together and came up with a short list of local folks who were both political and open-minded. Our mission statement says we have moderators across the political spectrum and we don’t identify anyone as liberal or conservative, though it's pretty obvious who is what. We have just one person moderate each discussion although the other moderator often attends, too. We’ve had several guest moderators as well, including a psychology professor from NC State University who led the discussion on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Between the World and Me.


One issue with having moderators from outside the store was that that some of them didn’t really know how book clubs work and, though I met with them in advance, described the discussion process, and provided tip sheets, they started out doing more of a lecture than leading a group discussion. It was good to be on hand and intervene to get the discussion started. After the first time repeat moderators got much better at opening it up to more give and take.  They have started bringing a short list of potential discussion questions that we hand out at the beginning of each meeting which is very helpful in keeping the discussion on track. We limit each meeting to an hour, starting at 7 and ending at 8.


While the discussions have all been very civil, we have frequently had an attendee who hasn’t quite grasped the concept and makes somewhat partisan and derogatory comments. The moderators have handled it well and done a good job of not letting anyone dominate the discussion. One good tip, especially with larger groups, is to say “Is there anyone we haven’t heard from yet who would like to comment?” I’ve also had complaints from attendees about moderators, saying they weren’t representing "their side” strongly enough, i.e. conservatives complained the conservative moderator wasn’t conservative enough and the liberals complained the liberal moderator wasn’t liberal enough. I considered that a sign we were doing something right! I do explain that isn’t the purpose of the discussion. I do a welcome and introduction at each event and explain our mission (we always have people who haven’t been to one before) and also give my contact info and invite people to talk to me afterwards or email or call me to give me feedback or suggest topics or books.


I’ve listed below the books we’ve discussed so far. It has been a challenge finding the right books and we haven’t posted selections more than a couple months in advance because I keep wanting to learn what works as we go along. One observation is that the more abstract and wonkier the book, the fewer people show up, even though we may sell a bunch of books. For instance, the book on environmental conservatism by Roger Scruton was pretty dense and philosophical and while we sold 21 copies, only 6 people showed up for the meeting. The previous book, How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate, was short and readable and we had 23 people and a great discussion. That was from a series called The Stanford Briefs and I wish they had more good issue-oriented books like that but their other topics are not as useful. I think one of the reasons we had decent crowds for Hillbilly Elegy and Between the World and Me was because so many people had already read those books and were eager to discuss them.


Another challenge has been to get a more diverse attendee group, including people of color and conservatives. When I asked our conservative moderator why we had so few conservatives, he suggested they assumed bookstores were liberal havens and didn’t trust them to be fair to conservatives. We’re still working on that and on getting more diversity in race and other representation. Both have improved considerably in the last few meetings with a good representation across gender, age, race, and political orientation.


My wish starting out was that we would have a core group of attendees from across the political spectrum who would get to know one another and be eager to explore and, ultimately, respect each other’s views. Initially, people seemed to attend based on whether or not the particular book, issue, or moderator was one they knew or were interested in. A year in we're getting a core group of regulars plus a few new faces at each, which is good for more trust and more honest discussions.


Our main expenses are staff time in organizing, communicating, promoting, and setting up and breaking down the event space. I give both moderators the discussion book free so they can prepare (unless they already own it) and I occasionally give them a $25 store gift card as a thank you. We’re still learning a lot from each selection and discussion and I’m very eager to hear and learn from any of you if you try your own versions.


Books chosen so far:

May: Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam

June: Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010 by Charles Murray

July: no meeting because of holiday

August: Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance

September: How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate by Andrew Hoffman

October: How to Think Seriously About the Planet: A Case for Environmental Conservatism by Roger Scruton

November: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates

December: Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America by Ari Berman

January: no meeting because of holiday and inventory

February: Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer

March: The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech by Kimberley Strassel

April: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

 May:  Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations  by Amy Chua

June: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

September: The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know  by Phillip Cook and Kristin Goss


Some books we’ve considered or possible future choices:

The Age of American Unreason in a Culture of Lies, newly updated edition by Susan Jacoby

Things That Matter by Charles Krauthammer

Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News by Bernard Goldberg

The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies by John Lott

Living with Guns: A Liberal's Case for the Second Amendment by Craig Whitney

Shame: How America's Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country by Shelby Steele

The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic by Ganesh Sitaraman

 



Tags:  authors  education  Quail Ridge Books 

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Practice Your Pitch at Book Expo with Maribeth Pelly!

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Monday, May 28, 2018
Updated: Saturday, May 26, 2018

 

 

 

Developing and maintaining an active, growing author event program is the key to success for most bookstores. One of the biggest challenges is getting your store on author tours, especially when you’re off the beaten trail, or in competition with a number of stores nearby. SIBA booksellers who attended our webinars with Maribeth Pelly-- How to Prepare a Press Kit for Your Store and How to Pitch Your Store to Publishers--are putting the final touches on their press kits and marketing efforts in advance of Book Expo, where they’ll attend publicist speed dating events, and meet publicists and reps at their booths and meeting rooms.


Want to practice your pitch before the meetings, or show your press kit to an expert? Maribeth Pelly will be at the ABA lounge on Wednesday (5/30) from 10-1145am, and 2-3pm to go over your pitches. We hope you’ll take advantage of this opportunity to check in, finesse your approach, and walk confidently into those meetings! You can email Maribeth in advance to schedule an appointment, or just show up during those times.


Maribeth Pelly is a marketing consultant who helps transform new and underperforming businesses. She’s also the event planner at her local independent bookstore, Booktowne.

Tags:  authors  b3! webinars  BEA  booksellers  bookselling  education 

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Make the Most of May: Join Us for Three Educational Opportunities to Be a Better Bookseller!

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Make the Most of May: Join Us for Three Educational Opportunities to Be a Better Bookseller!



Wednesday, May 16 at 2PM:  B3! Bookclub discusses Your Leadership Edge: Lead Anytime, Anywhere by Ed O’Malley and Amanda Cebula. Sarah Bagby, owner of Watermark Books in Wichita, KS, praises this book as one that “teaches—or refreshes—skills for anyone to be a leader…[and] presents a step-by-step process designed to break down barriers in order to create change...This small book is a big gem.” Some things to consider in advance of our book club discussion: What are your leadership challenges? Are they technical or adaptive (the book will explain what this means)? Are you in a position of authority at your store? Are you fully-whelmed at work, or do you find yourself under/overwhelmed? Please email Linda-Marie if you need a copy of the book or have any questions about the book club.


Wednesday, May 23 at 2PM: Bridging the Divide and The Open Discussion Project with Sarah Goddin and Chris Finan. Join Sarah Goddin of Quail Ridge Books as she discusses her store’s success with their “Bridging the Divide” book club. The club's goal is to foster dialog and better understanding between people with different political viewpoints and to provide a safe space for civil discourse on controversial or divisive topics. Chris Finan of The National Coalition Against Censorship will discuss The Open Discussion Project, which seeks to create a new kind of reading group that will bring people of opposing views into dialogue about the issues that divide us. Please email Linda-Marie to sign up or if you have any questions.


Thursday, May 24 at 2PM: How to Pitch Your Store to Publishers with Maribeth Pelly. This is our second webinar with Maribeth Pelly, event planner at Booktowne and independent marketing consultant. Booksellers will find out how to have productive conversations with publishers, what publishers want to know (and what they don’t), and how to build a successful author event program, no matter what your store size. We’ll also observe a SIBA bookseller pitch to a publicist at Penguin Random House, and discover some great tips for online and in-person pitching. Attendees of this webinar are invited to a meet & greet pep talk with Maribeth at Book Expo before Publicist Speed Dating begins. Please email Linda-Marie to sign up or if you have any questions.

Tags:  authors  b3! webinars  BEA  booksellers  bookselling  education  siba member hub 

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Let's Meet at Book Expo!

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Updated: Monday, May 7, 2018

SIBA's Zone of Influence: 850 indie booksellers x one million readers = unbeatable promotion of your authors and frontlist titles!

 

Wanda Jewell

Linda-Marie BarrettLet's meet and discuss how we can partner with you to bring new titles and promotions you're excited about to our audience. We're setting up appointments to meet industry folks who want to learn more about SIBA's 2018 Discovery Show in Tampa, FL, our annual Holiday Catalog, and our targeted promotions to member booksellers and a wide consumer audience. We'd love to meet with you!

Please email lindamarie@sibaweb.comto schedule a meeting with Wanda Jewell, Executive Director of SIBA and Linda-Marie Barrett, Assistant Executive Director. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Tags:  #siba18  authors  BEA  booksellers  content marketing  Linda-Marie Barrett  trade show  Wanda Jewell 

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Call for 2019 Conroy Legacy Award Nominations!

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Friday, March 30, 2018
Call for 2019 Conroy Legacy Award Nominations!

Dear SIBA booksellers,

Now is the time to nominate your choice for the 2019 Conroy Legacy Award. This award represents a “Lifetime Achievement”. The Conroy Legacy Award honors the example of beloved author Pat Conroy and recognizes writers who have achieved a lasting impact on their literary community. Recipients have the following attributes:

  • Support for independent bookstores, both in their own communities and in general.
  • Writing that focuses significantly on their own home place.
  • Support of other writers, especially new and emerging authors.

The Conroy Legacy Award is given to one writer in SIBA territory per year. A juried panel of SIBA member booksellers will choose among nominated writers to determine the year’s winner.

Although it is not necessary for a nominated writer to have a new book out in the award year, nominated writers must be living, and must have books in print. Nominations must come from SIBA member bookstores. The Legacy Award provides an opportunity for its member stores to recognize writers who have been important in their community.

Both a donation to the Pat Conroy Literary Center and a donation to a literary entity close to the heart of the writer will be made in the name of the Legacy Award recipient.

Nominations close on April 15th. Nominate your choice today!

Tags:  authors  booksellers  conroy legacy award  pat conroy southern book prize  SIBA  siba book awards  siba member hub  southern book prize 

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Calendar

6/12/2018 » 6/18/2018
cos - Ain't She a Peach

7/10/2018 » 7/16/2018
Circle of Sites: The Summer Wives

7/11/2018
B3! Book Club “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping” by Paco Underhill, updated and revised version.

7/20/2018
Bookseller Revival at The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC

7/25/2018
B3 Webinar: Creating and Managing a Successful Online Sales Campaign