by Rosemary Lord
Per Ardua Ad Astra – Through Adversity to the Stars – has been the motto of the Royal Air Force since 1912 and subsequently adopted by the Royal Flying Corps other nations flying corps. It seems an appropriate motto for what the world is experiencing just now with this Corona virus.
It’s important that we find the best of ways to get us through such times as this. Sometimes, when we may feel ourselves spiraling down and all the forces seem against us, it’s easy to give up. But as writers, we are fortunate to have our own methods to halt that negative direction. We are used to being isolated, stuck indoors, as we write. When we get ‘writer’s block’ – we have learned to distract ourselves with beautiful music, watching an inspiring movie, or reading a book. Or even the simple act of cleaning out the fridge or de-cluttering a closet. It gives the chance to focus on something else for a while. Then we can look at our writing – or even at our life – from another angle. A different perspective. We come up with new ideas and a fresh outlook.
So with all that we – and most of the world – have been going through in recent months, people have become resourceful in ways to manage their lives and families and continue their productivity. Indeed, some fantastic ideas have been formed out of this adversity. And many people will have created amazing new lives for themselves; some less stressful or more efficient. Others will have had time to re-assess where they are going and what they really want to do with their lives. Most of all, we have seen a wonderful appreciation of other people; of help given and help received. Countless people have focused on how they can show their gratitude to all the ‘front line’ workers – and how they can help other people in need. Most of all, we have a new appreciation of what freedom really means.
As writers and readers, one of our easiest ways to help can be to support the small businesses that are straining to survive while closed to foot-traffic. Especially the small bookshops, that have been struggling desperately in the new world of online literature. These small bookshops welcome writers, help us launch our new books, promote our work with book-signings and author events. I found a few where we have a chance to give a little something back. (I have been buying a book or two, including my own books, online from them.) Let us know if you have ‘hidden gems’ in the bookstore world that we can also help.
The most famous small bookshop in Hollywood is LARRY EDMUNDS and it is fighting for survival. Founded in 1938 and moving to Hollywood Boulevard in the 1950s, Larry Edmunds specializes in books, scripts and posters covering all aspects of Hollywood and its history. Famous for events with Hollywood celebrities such as Debbie Reynolds, Ernest Borgnine, William Friedkin and Tippi Hedren. Quentin Tarantino shot Once Upon a Time in Hollywood there. Current Proprietor Jeffrey Mantor began as a stock-boy 29 years ago, and today works closely with American Cinemateque and the Turner Classic Film Festival. But because these are both shuttered, this once-thriving store is not sure it can last and, since the shut-down, they are relying on mail-order sales alone – which doesn’t cover basic running costs. And so Jeffrey has set up a GoFundMe page to save this piece of Hollywood History. https://larryedmunds.com
SKYLIGHT BOOKS on Vermont Avenue is a real, old-style neighborhood bookstore that opened in 1996 on the site of a landmark book shop, Chatterton’s, known in the 1970s for its poetry reading events. A hangout for local writers, artists, musicians and scholars, Skylight normally features several evening Author/Artist/Musician events during the week and on weekends in the day-time, so during the shut-down they have an occasional Zoom event, but most have been postponed. Online book purchases continue. www.skylightbooks.com
THE LAST BOOKSTORE’s current and third incarnation began in a downtown Los Angeles loft in 2005. The 22,000 square feet of more than 250,000 new and used books and vinyl records is in the Spring Arts Towers at 5th and Spring Street. On their website in bold print it says, “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR – WE WON’T BE HERE FOREVER.” How true for so many independent bookstore everywhere. The Last Bookstore is said to be “One of the 20 most beautiful bookstores in the World,” with comfy old sofas around every corner, vintage décor, an old sewing machine, old chandeliers, a resident cat or two – in an eclectic booklovers’ haven. You are welcome just to sit, read, hangout. And this is where, it is said, you can find books you cannot find anywhere else. Unfortunately closed during the shut-down, the store is relying on mail orders, like everyone else. But as soon as they are open for business again, try to catch one of their legendary author events. It’s worth the schlep downtown. www.lastbookstorela.com
In Pasadena, one of the landmarks is VROMAN’S BOOKSTORE – I think most of us have attended book launches there. The oldest, still-running ‘bibliopole,’ Vroman’s was established in 1894 and when Mr. Vroman died in 1916, he left the store to his employees. Vroman’s Author lectures and book-signings have proved to be very popular and prestigious. Today their 200 plus staff and management are working remotely – some furloughed as the shut-down lengthens. Online sales continue and curb-side pick-up will resume as soon as local ordinances allow. www.vromansbookstore.com
In West Hollywood, BOOK SOUP on Sunset Boulevard is the place for us book-lovers. I have a soft spot for them as Book Soup gave my Los Angeles Then and Now and Hollywood Then and Now a FULL window display of rows and rows of my books on the original launch. A favorite local hang-out for local famous personalities, Book Soup is known for celebrity author book-launches and signings. During the shut-down they are doing mail-order sales through Ingrams, online events for new releases and will open up once the stay-at-home orders are lifted. www.booksoup.com
Over in Hancock Park, CHEVALIER’S BOOKS in Larchmont Village has served the book-loving public since book maverick Joe Chevalier opened his doors in 1940. They normally have a very busy calendar of a variety of author events and book launches and cover a wide variety of subjects. They sell gift-cards with “A book is a present you can open again and again” written on the card. But while they remain closed at this time, they have an online Fiction Book Club and a $25 Friends of Chevalier club and tote bags. They suggest you “lay off Netflix for just a bit” and order books online; they offer free door-to-door deliver in local zip codes, otherwise regular shipping costs. Curbside pick-up should open on May 15th. www.chevaliersbooks.com
But a very specialized small bookstore on the west side in Culver City is THE RIPPED BODICE: A Romantic Bookstore. This is, as you would imagine, a romance only-only bookstore that is run by two sisters, Bea and Leah Koch. They normally have a variety of romance author events and created The Ripped Bodice Award for Excellence in Romantic Fiction. However, currently the store is closed to foot-traffic and all events stopped. The staff are staying home, so Leah is processing all mail orders and handling new orders of Care Packages of assorted romance fiction for yourself or friends. But they ask for your patience with delivery, so Leah doesn’t get overwhelmed. On their website the girls suggest: “Send some love, support a small business.” Let’s do that! www.therippedbodicela.com
So let us keep writing, keep reading – and ‘spread a little sunshine’ with our words and with our actions in supporting other individuals and small businesses and enterprises. Together we can get through this. Many public events have been cancelled – but, as someone recently reminded me – HOPE has not been cancelled.