Monthly Archives: February 2013


Last year one of the bookstores in my hometown, a lovely place called Bookends, closed its doors. The store had been operating since before I moved here 22 years ago, and I used to frequent it on visits even then. Bookends was a community-run business. The owners knew and loved books. They always had a kind word, as well as spot-on recommendation for a gift book or new series for my daughter. They supported local writers by carrying their books and hosting events on the downtown plaza. They were “people just like me and you,” as folksinger John McCutcheon sings in Closing the Bookstore Down.


City Hall, Downtown Sonoma

Although the store has been gone many months, I haven’t really grown used to Bookends leaving town.

Our surviving bookstore, Readers Books, carries on. It, too, is a lovely place, run by people just like me and you. They support local writers. They carry our books, as well as the books of best-selling authors like Susan Orlean and Cheryl Strayed and John McPhee and Michael Chabon. And they know and support writers I’ve never heard of but love discovering there.

I’m glad Readers Books is still here–in fact, it’s miraculous given the competition of e-commerce–while I miss the bookend-y feel of having more than one independent bookstore to browse right in our town. In a place like Sonoma, with sophisticated readers of various stripe, two or more bookstores did not seem like too much.

Jennifer, owner of Bookends with her husband Jeff, told me it was the e-book that put them out of business. They’d weathered the pressure of competing with online sales–which they could barely hold their own against–but with the coming of the e-book, which so vastly undercuts print-book prices, they were finished.

Therefore I’m grateful that this Thursday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m., Readers Books is hosting a book party for my novel, Junction, Utah, which is so far only out in e-book format. Owners Andy and Lilla Weinberger and I are experimenting with a community-supported launch. Party-goers will be asked to give a small donation to support both the bookstore and the Sonoma Ecology Center, an environmental nonprofit, also a venerable community institution. For entertainment, I’ll read from the novel and Sonoma’s new band Bosonoma will play.

We’ll celebrate independent bookstores, community organizations, small towns, and locally sourced writing! We won’t forget Bookends as we celebrate.

Selling e-books. With the indies.


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One of the reasons I wrote Junction, Utah, was the danger posed to wilderness areas and rural community life by rampantly fast oil and gas development. The rush to find domestic oil without considering impacts to water and wildlife can destroy the fabric of small-town life and the balance of people with the natural landscape. Fracking is part of the threat to sustainability, but it’s not the only one.

My excellent colleague and friend Kathryn Wilder passed me this good news today: that the people of the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado have been able to slow the process of resource exploration long enough to evaluate impacts. Until we’re off our carbon diet, taking time to assess may be the best alternative.

This community is a real-life Junction, Utah!


The beauty of our arid lands–fragile, inspiring, rich in resources.

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