A Love Letter to The Women’s Bookshop, from Deborah Shepard

Go into your local bookshop & write a love letter, and be in to win $500 in Book Tokens! 

Deborah_Dhepard_photo_by_John_McDermott

photo by John McDermott

My favourite bookshop is the Women’s Bookshop in Ponsonby Road. It opened, first, in Dominion Road in 1989 the year I moved, reluctantly, from Christchurch to Auckland, following the dictates of my husband’s career.

Only one year earlier I had been immersed in a new paper in Feminist Studies at Canterbury University, one that had turned my world on its head, providing a theory and an explanation for the vague feelings of alienation and dissatisfaction that had been surfacing since becoming a mother, or, ‘just a mother,’ that’s how you were viewed then, and not a human being with a brain and yearnings to write. The move to Auckland changed my academic pathway, although the seeds of my future had been planted in that one revolutionary paper. Through a course in film studies with Professor Roger Horrocks I embarked on PhD research and it was Carole Beu’s bookshop that provided the resources I needed to do that work and write my feminist revisionist history of New Zealand film, Reframing Women: a history of New Zealand film (Harper Collins 2000).

The day I found the new bookshop in Dominion Road I felt immediately at home and excited. The atmosphere was so welcoming. You could make a cup of herbal tea, settle into a sofa in the corner and take a leisurely browse through the revolutionary texts. Carole offered an amazing collection of fiery texts. These were the heady years of the feminist movement, where there was an explosion of writing by women that provided the theoretical underpinnings for a better understanding of the gendered nature of the society in which we live. This was where you could find the Virago ‘Modern Classics’ a series that reclaimed the earlier texts of hundreds of women writers. It’s where you could source the work of feminist historians who were critiquing the masculinist bias in the historical records whilst recuperating the contribution of brilliant women writers, artists, musicians, philosophers and scientists who had formerly been ‘hidden from history.’ It’s where you could find the texts by feminist economists, planners and geographers who were re-envisioning society and how it might be better structured to create fairer, more cooperative and supportive communities for us to live in.

Carole stocked the seminal texts by: Betty Friedan, Marilyn French, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, Kate Millett, Dale Spender, Mary Daly, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Linda Nochlin, Phyllis Chesler, Erica Jong and the follow up books by Gloria Steinem Revolution from within, Germaine Greer The Whole Woman, Naomi Wolf The Beauty Myth and later The Backlash by Susan Faludi. She also, critically for us, supported the work of New Zealand women novelists and non-fiction writers and kept the fires burning through the 1990s and 2000s when feminism was under attack and almost went underground, until recently when we got Caitlin Moran and Clementine Ford, the younger spiky feminists who are taking us forward again.

These days when I visit the bookshop in Ponsonby Road, I value it even more. It is like a heart beating for women, in the centre of the city. I love that it is staffed by women, some of them published authors in their own right, and by Carole herself, a feminist legend, who over three decades has championed and supported women’s literature through the Listener Women’s Book festivals in the 1990s, through her radio and television book reviews, the Auckland Writers’ Festivals, the book launches at her store and her own annual Litera-Teas. While the work of male writers is included at the Women’s Bookshop it must be one of a very few public spaces that offers a kind of intellectual retreat where women can read to be empowered and inspired to be braver, bolder, wilder and more staunch. Experiences like these can’t be had through Amazon. The Women’s Bookshop is a precious institution, a taonga in our nation’s bookselling network, long may it thrive.

Deborah Shepard, 2017
Deborah Shepard is an Auckland biographer, life writing mentor and teacher of memoir with a PhD in Film Studies.

The Women’s Bookshop, Ponsonby
Stopping Passers-By! An artist will be stopping passers-by on the pavement, by painting colourful illustrations on the outside of our shop window from 11.30am to 1.30pm.
Spot Prizes! We have heaps of give-away books – enough to give a Spot Prize every 10 minutes from 10am to 5pn!! No matter what time customers come in, they will have a chance to WIN! They can select their own prize from the scintillating stack.
PLUS: Visit two of the best bookshops in Ponsonby – and win! 
On NZ Bookshop Day, buy any book at both The Women’s Bookshop AND the Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop down the road, get a stamp from both shops, and WIN a children’s picture book – choose from the delicious pile.

Helen Wadsworth going for a global perspective in Denver, CO

Helen Wadsworth from The Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop in Ponsonby is one of two booksellers from New Zealand on a plane to Denver, Colorado for the 11th Winter Institute conference, where she will network with booksellers from all over the USA and the world. The Winter Institute is run by our American cousins, the American Booksellers Assocation, and Booksellers NZ is very grateful to have our scholarships sponsored by Canadian eReader company, Kobo. 

pp_helen_wadsworthWe asked Helen (above) a few questions including why she became a bookseller, what she is most looking forward to about the experience, and what she’ll be reading on the way there.

What made you want a career in bookselling?
Books are special – they enrich our lives so much and I love being surrounded by them. I also love the interaction with so many diverse people that book selling provides. And, unlike some jobs, most of the interactions are positive and happy.

Tell us the three main things you hope to get out of your attendance at the Winter Institute?
I’m hoping to be inspired and to come back with lots of ideas for our shop, particularly in terms of events and marketing.

As I’m the book buyer at our shop I’m also really interested in getting some tips from people who have been in the industry for awhile about how they go about choosing and managing their stock. As a relative newcomer to the book business, I’m still learning a lot about the book trade, and I’m looking forward to hearing about how things work in the States and hoping to get a more global perspective on bookselling.

What sessions during the conference are you looking forward to the most, and why?
Well, that’s a tough one because there are so many. One that has caught my eye is the breakfast keynote on the first morning. The speaker is Martin Lindstrom who is the author of Buyology and Small Data: the Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends – all about the psychology of buying. something I know very little about so it should be fascinating.

Another one is about event management for small stores and there’s also Bookselling 101: Introduction to Buying, both of which should be very relevant to my roles at The Dorothy Butler Bookshop.
Vromans
What do you know about the bookstore you will be working with while over there? What will be your focus as a take-away?
I only know what I’ve been able to find out form their website but it looks amazing and big! It’s the oldest and largest independent bookstore in southern California and the guy who started it (Mr Vroman) sounds like really interesting man. He was a photographer and philanthropist as well as a book shop owner. I used to be a photographer, so I hope I get to see some of his photos. He supported all sorts of groups in the local community including Japanese American prisoners in the 2nd world war. He had no children and when he died he gave the shop to one of his employees – the great-grandfather of the current owner.

They have 3 sites in Pasadena, LA and put on over 400 events a year. Obviously I’m interested in how they run their children’s department – I’m keen to see how their systems work as well their marketing and how they communicate with their customers and community.

What are you planning to read in the plane on the way there?
I’ve just downloaded Jandy Nelson’s I’ll give you the Sun onto the Kobo and I’m hoping it will keep me occupied for most of the journey.

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Kiran Dass, from Unity Books on High St in Auckland, is the other recipient of the Booksellers Kobo Scholarship to the Winter Institute. Read her Q & A – and check out our article about the scholarship.