How to do the Indie Bookstore Challenge – Seattle, 2019
In early 2018, I discovered something online… something so immensely up my alley I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of it yet. It was called “Indie Bookstore Day” (which in itself was such a lovely idea) — but that wasn’t even all. On top of a day meant to visit and celebrate all of the wonderful independent bookstores in your region, Seattle had something that took it to another level. Something that took it to a very… Kristina-level.
Here in Seattle, there’s something called the “Indie Bookstore Challenge”, which is a quest to visit all of the independent bookstores (during their hours of operation!) in a single day. This sounds all well and good, until I remind you that there are 21 participating bookstores in this particular challenge. And some require a ferry to get too.
Indie Bookstore Day sits at the cross-section of all the things I love: it’s about books, it’s about patronizing stores that really do need our help, and most importantly: it’s about doing something that sounds slightly crazy, something that other people might say is “too hard”.
So back to 2018. If this was something I discovered a whole year ago, why is this blog post only coming out now? Well, the truth is, I discovered this amazing challenge last year… and then discovered that it fell less than a week before my wedding. So believe me… I considered it. But it just wasn’t in the cards.
I put a note in my calendar for 2019 and waited patiently the entire year. When Indie Bookstore Day finally rolled around again, I grabbed my most dedicated friends (or the ones I’m just the best at convincing to do things, you choose) and set out to make this dream come true in 2019.
It takes a village to successfully visit 21 bookstores in one day. Here’s how we made it happen, via roles:
Me, Kristina Horner: General cheerleader and social media documentarian. I orchestrated getting photos of us taken at every store, kept track of whose turn it was to buy something at any given store, logged what was purchased, and engaged with bookstores and other participants on Twitter and Instagram. Typically could be heard saying things like “Excuse me, can you take a photo for us?” and “Oh crap, I completely forgot about Twitter for like four bookstores.”
Katrina Hamilton: Navigator and schedule mistress. Katrina built the spreadsheet and itinerary that set us up for success and kept us to it throughout the day. Was often the one to say things like, “Hurry and pick something, we have 2 more minutes here,” and “Guys we did not schedule in this trip to Dick’s Drive in.”
Liz Leo: Travel agent and resident DJ. Liz booked our hotel in Bainbridge Island the night before so we could start the day on the right side of the ferry, and curated an epic girl-power playlist for the car. Liz’s signature quotes were things like “Wait this is the best song,” and “No wait, this is the best song.”
Jenn Godwin: Snack mom and moral booster. Jenn provided the necessity that was car snacks, and generally remembered to ask us all if we were doing okay, which is a very important role in a group very driven book-nerds. Jenn could most often be heard saying things like “Anyone need some licorice?” and “Wait who’s turn is it to sit in front?”
Abbey Jacobsen: Gettaway car driver. As the girl in our group with the best car (no contest, she has a Tesla), Abbey provided the mode of transportation for our adventure. She had the most important job, which was making sure that not only did we accomplish this amazing goal, but that we did it in style. Abbey’s catchphrases for the day was “go on ahead, I’ll find parking” and “did you know the Tesla could do this?”
There are a few ways to achieve Indie Bookstore Day glory, and if you search online, there are a number of wonderful blogs out there that walk you through each blogger’s personal execution of the day. I’ll let my pal Katrina explain to you the extreme methodology we exercised, because that’s much more her domain. The important thing to know for this blog post is that you need to have specific goals when attempting this challenge.
Here were ours:
Goal 1: Spend a reasonable amount of time in each bookstore.
Goal 2: Between the five of us, purchase something at every store.
Goal 3: Enjoy the day.
Here are some crucial things we learned:
1. Social Media Takes Time: The day goes by fast. I had all sort of grand plans to keep Twitter and Instagram updated throughout the day, and journal about the experience in real-time, and keep up a dialogue with other folks on social media that were doing the same thing. This fell apart pretty quickly. In the end I gave up on my epic documentation dreams and focused on one social media account (I posted a pic from each store on Instagram). This allowed me to feel secure in capturing the day, but also take a moment to enjoy myself, as well.
2. Pace yourself: It’s incredible how much energy it takes to be constantly moving all day. No one in our car considered this ahead of time, but there’s something incredibly overwhelming about never staying in one spot for more than a few minutes, and doing this for hours on end. On top of that, we started the day on such a high that we all got excited and started buying this immediately — some of the later bookstores were a bit more of a stretch to find something to purchase, since we’d all spent a lot of money already. It was overall a lot more exhausting than we expected.
3. Eating out of the trunk of a car sucks: It was wonderful to have car snacks when we needed them, but we realized we didn’t schedule in an actual sit-down lunch. I think we all would have benefitted from a bit of a break, even if it was short. If we do this again, we’ll definitely need to budget this into the day.
4. Even very good friends might get cranky: This one speaks for itself. The Indie Bookstore Challenge is an intense day. You’re often confined in close quarters while driving from place to place. Always assume best intent, and be a little extra kind to each other.
5. Book people are the best people: Despite living in a large city with many bookstores, the books community is small. We were often on a different route than most people, but we ran into the same people over and over again through the day, regardless. This is one of the best parts! Everyone was so happy and excited, and the bookstore employees in particular were a delight. This alone makes the day worth it.
6. You very rarely regret purchases you make at bookstores: I will caveat this one, of course, with the reminder that only you know your own personal finance situation, and should go into the day with some kind of budget… but we were often making snap decisions on what to buy, fueled wholly by adrenaline. And when I got home and looked at my little haul, I was still so pleased. Buying things at indie bookstores is the best.
If you’re curious, I thought I would make a list of every bookstore we visited personally and the things we purchased there (for reference, there are a couple bookstore chains that allow you to pick one and have it count for all of them). Being that we never spent more than 20 minutes in a single bookstore, this was the epitome of impulse shopping, but as stated above… it’s hard to regret a purchase you made at a place as delightful as a local indie bookstore, especially when you know that money goes directly toward keeping these places in business.
1. Eagle Harbor Book Co. — “Read Wild” tote bag (Jenn)
2. The Traveler — Insect repelling scarves (Kristina, Jenn), Travel Writer (Katrina), Collapsible water bottle (Liz), Travel guide to Nice (Abbey)
3. Liberty Bay Books — Font/Letter themed tote bag (Liz), The Grave Keepers — free ARC (Kristina)
4. Edmonds Bookshop — Ordinary Magic and a blind book (Liz)
5. The Neverending Bookshop — Tea Rex (Kristina), Harry Potter 2 & 3 Illustrated Editions (Abbey), The Antidote (Jenn), Voodoo Killings – won (Liz)
6. Open Books — A Poem Emporium and American Journal (Katrina)
7. Book Larder — Rhubarb Cookbook (Kristina), How to Be Gluten Free and Keep Your Friends (Abbey)
8. Magnolia’s Bookstore — Digital Minimalism and a blind book (Katrina)
9. Arundel — Dead Feminists (Jenn)
10. Fantagraphics — Grab Back Comics anthology (Jenn)
11. Page 2 Books — Eleanor Oliphant (Kristina), Architecture for Dogs (Abbey)
12. Island Books — No One Here is Lonely (Kristina), Koala plush (Abbey), Mysterious Mansion (Liz)
13. Brick & Mortar — The Vanishing Stair (Katrina)
14. Book Tree — Little Nothing (Jenn)
15. Secret Garden Books — Women Talking (Katrina)
16. Queen Anne Book Company — “Choose Kindness” mug (Jenn), I Love You Mommy (Liz)
17. University Bookstore — My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life (Kristina)
18. Third Place Books: Ravenna — I’m A Lot Cooler on the Internet mug (Kristina), Housegirl and a card (Jenn)
19. Madison Books — Oregon Trail Choose Your Own Adventure (Jenn), Future Cities (Liz)
20. Ada’s Technical Books — Very tiny Moleskin (Katrina)
21. Elliot Bay Book Co. — A journal (Liz)
Overall, Indie Bookstore Day was worth the wait. I’m not sure I mentioned this before, but winners get a 25% coupon for every single bookstore, and it’s good the whole year long — but that’s not why we did it (though that coupon is definitely nestled happily in my wallet now). We did it for fun, for the community, and for glory.
If you’re interested in checking this awesome event out yourself, be sure to read up on the official website, and check out my friend Katrina’s post for the logistical side of our day. Everyone’s Indie Bookstore Day is a little different, but there’s no wrong way to celebrate the book community and thank our local bookstores for being there for us. The general consensus in our car was that folks weren’t sure they wanted to do this every year, but I think I’ve got plenty of time to start convincing them to join me again next year.
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