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.