I came to Powell's for the first time fresh off a string of readings where very, very few people came. It was not a surprising occurrence. I am not a famous writer. I did not know anyone on the West Coast. If five people showed up for the reading, I felt lucky.
But people came — lots of people. And after I read, they asked thoughtful, elaborate questions that turned the Q&A into a conversation. People took pictures of me. I did not want to leave the bookstore.
And I realized that, for Powell's, this is an everyday occurrence. It does the estimable job of providing a place for people who love books. It fosters a generous and wide-ranging reading community. It gives us the books we need and highlights the books we will soon need. The staff loves books and the customers love books, and as a writer, this is all you can ask for.
A day later, I read to — not counting the kind and generous bookstore staff — three people, one of whom was dead asleep. It did not make me sad. It simply reinforced what I'd already figured out, that Powell's is a special bookstore, in a special city. That every writer I know feels the same way must mean something.
If I write another book and get to go on another book tour, I'll eat every empty bookstore because I'll know that Powell's will fix me.
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Kevin Wilson is the author of the novel The Family Fang and the collection Tunneling to the Center of the Earth. He lives in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he teaches fiction at the University of the South and lives with his wife, the poet Leigh Anne Couch, and his son, Griff.
Books mentioned in this post