How would you describe your job?
I'm basically a story travel agent. I help people take adventures, recommend destinations, and share my favorite places with them. I work in both the kids’ room and the horror section, so it's an interesting dichotomy.
Where are you originally from?
Flint, Michigan — home of the people who use their hand to point out where they live on the mitten.
What did you do before you came to Powell’s?
Dreamed about working at Powell's while unhappily doing whatever else paid the bills. It sounds dorky but it's true.
What is the best part of your job?
My coworkers. Some of the funniest, most interesting, and bighearted people work at Powell's on Hawthorne. Also, our Powell's regulars. Seeing the same faces every week — and having them come back to me for more book recommendations because they loved the last one I suggested — really makes my day.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
The books, of course! There's some crazy stuff in print. And since we buy used books, the world is our bizarre oyster.
Share your favorite customer quote.
A mom was reading her kid the new (and last) Elephant and Piggie book by Mo Willems called The Thank You Book
. In it, Piggie thanks every character that has ever appeared in the series and then finally turns to the reader and thanks the reader. When they got to the end, the little boy gasped and in the highest little-kid voice possible said, "Piggie is thanking me?! HE'S THANKING ME???!!!" and then buried his face into his mom's shoulder. My heart broke from the cuteness.
Share a memorable experience you've had on the job.
I was shelving in the horror section when this dad and his son (approximately 5 years old) came over and started looking at Lovecraft
books. The son took a book off the shelf and tried to pronounce "Cthulhu." After his dad helped him out, the boy said, "Dad, what's a Cthulhu?” (still adorably mispronouncing it). Dad spent the next five minutes lovingly explaining Cthulhu to his wide-eyed child, and it was absolutely the best thing ever.
What makes for a good book in your eyes?
The perfect combination of excellent prose and a thrilling story. I love an exciting story, but I need to be verbally wooed at the same time.
What was the last book you loved?
by Tim Johnston. I cancelled plans to read it. I cried when I finished it and clutched it to my chest. I'm tearing up now just thinking about it.
Recommend a book or author you think everyone should read.
. Here's a woman who in the '40s and '50s was doing the housewife thing but also writing these incredibly insightful, beautiful, creepy stories that, at first, people dismissed. Ultimately, her work inspired generations of writers, both men and women, and took the horror genre down a path it might never have gone if not for her.
Why do you think bookstores remain so popular in the digital age?
Because browsing a bookstore is a journey in and of itself. You get lost down rabbit holes of discovery with every turn. Staff picks and genres you forget even existed constantly draw you in. The thrill of the possibility that you're about to find your next favorite book or author — it's intoxicating.
Walk us through your favorite route when browsing books at Powell’s.
I love to shop the Burnside location because I feel like a customer, not a worker. So I'll go on a day off and spend hours browsing the genre, lit, and kids’ sections. I look for face-outs and shelf-talkers and get lost down those rabbit holes of discovery.
Do you collect any particular types of books?
I collect obscure '70s and '80s mass market horror books that were made into movies, and novelizations of horror movies that were written because the movie was so popular.
What’s your biggest literary pet peeve?
Lazy writing. Boring prose. And the endless titles that piggyback on the success of a predecessor. Do you know how many titles were actually "the next Gone Girl
Tell us about your first memorable reading experience.
I discovered horror movies before I started reading scary books, so my first memorable reading experience was the first time I realized a book could scare me. I was still in grade school and that book was the ninth Baby-Sitter's Club book, The Ghost at Dawn's House
. I was glued to that book and it was my gateway to Christopher Pike
, which eventually led to Robert McCammon
— the best horror writer of all time. Sorry, Mr. King.
Do you have any odd reading habits or book rituals?
I love when the physical scars of my book tell a story. A coffee stain, a smudge of lipstick, cat bite marks... so, I'm not gentle with my books. Unless they're old and frail. Then they never leave the house.
What’s your favorite book of all time?
I don't know that I have ONE favorite book of all time, but I certainly have books that will always live in my heart. One such book is Rebecca
by Daphne du Maurier. Reading that book was like an out-of-body experience. The writing is so superb, the story so brilliantly exciting and atmospheric, it's a near-perfect novel. And the ending, literally, left me breathless.
When you’re not reading, what do you like to do in your free time?
I know I'm a Portlander so I'm supposed to say something like, “Hike!” But home is where my heart is, so that's usually where I am. I watch an absurd amount of horror movies, play with my newly adopted and stupidly cute kittens, write, and spend time with my husband and best friends.
What’s your favorite spot in Portland?
Portland places are like books — there's a million amazing ones to choose from, each with their own story. Ultimately my favorite spot is the one where I'm having a great time and laughing with great people.