This girl needs her rest...

I am almost caught up on sleep.  But of course I have said that every day this week and then find myself back in bed and asleep long before 9pm each night.  I may be exhausted but I sure had a great time getting here. 

If you don’t know why I am so tired I am so sorry you obviously missed The Sixth Annual Walker Percy Weekend.  It was our biggest year yet for this wonderful event.  And it was bigger in EVERY way.  We had more guests attending all events , bigger authors and speakers, more books, more people in each session, and of course,  more bourbon, more wine,  and more fun. 

I cannot say enough about the amazing all volunteer committee that organizes this fund raiser for The Julius Freyhan Foundation each year.  This small group of people give their time year round planning this event and then work themselves silly the weekend of the event to make sure everything runs smoothly all in an effort to raise the funds to restore the abandoned Freyhan school building and turn it into a community center.  What a lucky town we are to have these giving folks in our community.   I am truly honored, and ridiculously lucky to be able to work with these folks to put this event on each year.

I cannot decide which part of the weekend was my favorite but the lectures were fabulous.  Hearing Walter Isaacson talking about Walker Percy’s search for meaning was particularly impactful.  Jessica Hooten Wilson once again garnered kudo’s for her lunch bookclub.  Rod Dreher had two fabulous  “in conversation” sessions : first with Anne Snyder on Friday and then with JD Vance mid-day on Saturday and then what can I say about David Brooks?  He had people absolutely rapt in his Saturday afternoon lecture.  And let’s just say that Tom Key has introduced an exciting new aspect to the festival with inclusion of our first theatrical presentation.  I think it is pretty safe to say that judging from the comments and emails I have received this crowd would love to see more in this vein in the future. 

And then there were the parties.  All I can say is “WOW”.  My favorite addition this year was the tent next to The Freyhan Building during the bourbon stroll where the bar Hayride Scandal led people through high end bourbon tastings , there was great music, a snoball stand, and the chance for folks to actually see the building and share our vision for what this area can be in the future.  I cannot wait until this beautiful area and building are in use every day.  What a great glimpse into what it will become.

So, another Walker Percy Weekend is in the books (pun fully intended), and of course we are already starting plans for 2020 but in the meantime we need to rest.  For those of you who have followed this blog for a while you know that soon after this event I like to disappear for a bit and travel to far flung regions to visit other bookstores but that will have to wait a bit this year because we have one more exciting event before we can set out. 

This one is big for all of you sports fans out there.  Ron Swoboda of the 1969 Miracle Mets will be traveling to our little town of St Francisville on Friday June 14, 2019 to share his new book “Here’s The Catch” with us just in time for Father’s Day a few days later.  Come meet Ron , pick up a book, and celebrate the 50th anniversary of that historic baseball season.

OK, did I mention I am still really tired from last weekend?  Well it is past my freakishly early current bedtime so it is time to wrap this up and say Good Night Friends.  Take care, we will chat more once I get just a bit more rest.  

Long Time, No Blog

Long time, no blog.  Sorry about that.  To say we have been busy at The Conundrum is an understatement.  The first four months of the year have been an absolute whirlwind, and May is going to be even busier.  So what have we been up to?  Well,  right after the first of the year we bought the building in which the bookstore is housed.  You might think that would make things easier but really it just opened up a whole can of worms.  I mean if you own the building you CAN expand, or put up a fence for your dog, or put in that bookstore garden you have been wanting – right?  Well, sure, if you know what you want.  But suddenly, when you actually have the ability to do such things, the pressure is too huge to actually move and do ANYTHING.  So even though for years I said “If only” and dreamed of the day we owned the building we now own it and I feel even further away than ever from actually making any changes.  C’est la vie. Tomorrow is another day, and all that jazz. 

But really, we haven’t had the time to make any changes anyway.  While the in-store business is doing better than ever, we have also massively expanded our out-of-the shop book sales.  This year, we were honored to be asked to provide the book sales for so many awesome events.  It is hard to even imagine but already in the first four months of the year we have had pop-up bookshops at The Writers and Readers Symposium, The Natchez Literary and Cinema Festival,  Vintage Market Days in Amite, The Louisiana State Garden Clubs’ Annual Convention, and The Market in The Mill in New Roads.   That’s a lot of books to crate up and move (thanks Rob)!

What does May hold that can be busier than that you “may” wonder?   Well, we will start off with a book signing on May 3 celebrating the launch of the new book “A Blind Man and His Monkey” by R.D.Roldan.  That’s right! Grace Church’s Fr. Roldan has written his first novel. Come help us celebrate! 

The very next day, Saturday May 4, 2019 we will be back in Parker Park for the third annual West Feliciana Children’s Book Festival.  Six children’s authors will share their books with us through Storytime and craft projects.  The cheerleaders will be back to paint those adorable little faces.  The sidewalk chalk art contest will return to color our town for a day with bookish art ; and many other community partners will be there to foster and celebrate a love for books in our smallest book fans.

Move forward a few days and we have another new book to celebrate.  This one is the fabulous literary guide to “Louisiana Poets” by Catharine Savage Brosman who you may remember from her appearances at The Writers and Readers Symposium, and St Francisville’s own Olivia McNeely Pass.   This book provides a guide for readers to discover, savor, and celebrate poets who have been inspired in and by the Pelican State.  The book launch party and signing will be held at the bookshop on the evening of May 16, 2019. 

On Saturday May 25 we will host our first “Signings on Saturdays”, a new event where once a month we will invite authors to spend time in the shop on Saturday afternoons to introduce new authors, or authors new to this area, to our readers.  Featured at the May 25 event will be local author Rosie Politz and visiting Florida author Roger Johns.

Then, the wait is over.  May 31 and June 1st we will blow it out at the Sixth Annual Walker Percy Weekend.  In case you haven’t heard, David Brooks, JD Vance, Walter Isaacson, Rod Dreher, Anne Snyder and Tom Key will all be presenting this year!  I hope you got your tickets to the lectures early because we sold out more than 6 weeks before the event!  But if you just want to come rub shoulders with the literati and/ or enjoy a fabulous party or three, some bourbon drinks, or a whole bunch of crawfish – YOU ARE IN LUCK!  Social event tickets are still available online at www.walkerpercyweekend.org

 Believe it or not we have one more big book launch celebration in the works for early June sports fans out there will love (no details yet but will announce once dates are set) . 

And then…..Sleep.Then I will need sleep – lots of it, and maybe I will start thinking about that fence for my dog, or maybe a garden, or a fence, or better office and storage space so I can re-purpose that room as more bookshop space, or all of the above. Ah well, to

Stains on the rug, stains on our hearts.

It is funny what sparks memories and makes us think about and appreciate the little things. 

This week my dog threw up.  That part is not surprising, it had rained all day, every day.  He hates rain and gets very nervous.  One day in the middle of a particularly strong storm he stood up from the rug in the bookstore entryway where he had been sleeping and threw up.  Like I said, that part I expected (well maybe not on the rug), what I did not expect was what I found when I cleaned it up.  After getting up the majority with a cardboard makeshift shovel I scrubbed up the spot with a cleaning brush and plain water. When the spot started to dry I wondered if perhaps there had been bleach on the brush, or maybe I did not get it all,  because that spot was a much different color than the rest of the rug.  After letting it bug me for a day I used a different brush and again just plain water and scrubbed a small corner of the rug.  Again, much different color.  And then I remembered, when we first opened the store the entryway rug was bright yellow, not the beige we have all gotten used to. I had forgotten that!  I was amazed, but also horrified at how it looked now.  What to do, what to do?  Someone, who will remain nameless, suggested three years is long enough for a bargain rug from Tuesday Morning and perhaps it was time to buy a new one.  But you know me, I can’t give up without a fight.

So today I brought a scrub brush from home,  got here bright and early, pulled the rug out to the parking lot , donned rubber boots and began scrubbing.  The funny thing is I found myself smiling the entire time I was doing  the job I have dreaded for the past two days.  Why, you ask? I’ll tell you why.  First there was all this white foam. White Foam? Why?  I was just using plain water – was it possibly my scrub brush again? No, I smiled.  You see over a year ago a lady came in one day with an adorable “Purse puppy” (you know one of those tiny little overly poofed dogs so small they can fit in your purse).  Well we chatted for a good long time about books and eventually she put the pup down , on a leash of course, by her feet while she was at the check out where the dog immediately peed on the rug.  That day I had gone to Fred’s and gotten some puppy spot cleaner and a can of that foam-in rug cleaner and just before leaving that day cleaned the spot then soaked the entire rug – this may be when the rug turned beige in the first place. Well, do you know what happens when you wet a previously foam cleaned rug? Lots of foam, that’s what happens. But I loved the memory because it was a day of book chat in my favorite place – and I like dogs. 

As I continued to scrub I saw more things.  Two red wine stains that were apparently not visible through the 87 layers of grit, a chocolate colored small foot print.  An absolutely unidentifiable stain near the top corner, etc.  And it started an avalanche of memories. 

It is hard to believe it has been three years since we first opened our doors.  Sometimes it feels like I am still just starting out and sometimes it feels like I have been doing this forever but either way I know one thing and that is that I could not be happier (even as my eyes fill with tears of gratitude while I write this).

Rob and I always dreamed in an “over a glass of wine while on vacation” sort of way about opening a bookstore but I never REALLY thought it was REAL.  That is until that day he leapt while I slept and signed a lease.  Three years.  Three years of getting to talk books every day.  Three years of getting to meet hundreds of authors – including my younger self’s crush Andrew McCarthy – yes THAT Andrew McCarthy (who would not tell me I was cuter than Ally Sheedy no matter how much I asked!).  Three years of hosting books signing, and books club meetings.  Three years of going to, and coordinating, literary festivals.  Three years of becoming more a part of the community by hosting local chamber events and club meetings at the shop.  Three years of writing this blog where I get to ramble on about life in a bookshop.  Three years of getting the privilege to be part of your lives. 

As we enter year four I know only one thing and that is that if the first three years are any measure the next will be a wonderful adventure.  This year we hope to make some changes.  More events, both at the store and at outside venues.  Maybe even an expansion - but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.  So, as I wait for a rug to dry that as Rob suggested may indeed be beyond salvaging (oops, I named him!) I am so thankful for every day and every one of you who have been a part of our first three years and I cannot wait to see what stains our rugs and our hearts in the future. 

Nailed It!

It’s a long, rambling story but stick with me it ends with Free Books! Since opening a book store one of the most surprising and most wonderful perks has been the number of advanced copies of books publishers send to me to get me to read them and hopefully order them to share with you.  But because they are advanced copies you cannot then sell them so they pile up, we trip over them, we give a few away, we thought about skeet shooting with them…but they are books, we can’t do that! So I have been trying to come up with a creative idea of how to share them with you, our loyal customers. 

In planning for Christmas in the Country I thought wouldn’t it be great to let customers choose from these books as a Bonus Book Gift with every $25 purchase?  Great Idea!  But how to display them for you to choose?  Sure, I could have just thrown them in a box and called it a day but where is the fun and life threatening adventure in that?  So instead I thought “They should be displayed on a book shelf shaped like a Christmas Tree!  And I will design and build it myself.” I mean, how hard can that be, right?

So first there was the conceptual sketches.  Rob and I (both obviously engineering geniuses) collaborated on these.  Then I wrote up a supply list and Rob went over to Pat’s Hardware to pick up the supplies – had to get out the pickup for that.  Then it was time to lay out the design and pull out the power tools.   At first I thought a regular cordless saw was the best choice, but it did not have the heft necessary to get through the incredibly thick plywood Rob choose, so then I went with a corded jigsaw –  that was much harder to cut a straight line but really why does a Christmas Tree need to be symmetrical or straight – that is so boring!

Then came time to cut up the 4x4 fence post – sorry, my power tools were not up to the task so back to Pat’s where the guys were great about helping me out to get level straight cuts (thanks guys!). A layer of green paint and then it was time to put this beast together.  Tried screws, that was going a bit badly so nails.  In hindsight nails may not have been the best choice.  As I sat in my garage building the sections one nail hit a knot and instead of going into the board the nail flew towards me and actually hit me square in the eye – thankfully I am extremely lucky , blessed and apparently have excellent blink reflexes and I closed my eye in time so other than a red lid I am fine.  Kids, don’t try this at home, or if you do wear the darn safety goggles.  Well, now to put the layers together, but no matter how I tried scattering the columns I could not figure out how to attach the top section. That was, until Kelly Ward wandered into the shop (did I mention I actually nailed the “layers” of the tree in-situ at the shop because I was afraid it would be too heavy to lift once together?)  Well Kelly borrowed some tools from Charlie across the street and WE HAVE A TREE!  (Thanks Kelly, thanks Charlie!)

So off to the storage unit I went to pick up boxes (and boxes) of books, then Mel arranged them on the tree .  Next we decorated it and photographed this beauty and in the immortal words of everyone who has ever seen an idea of Pintrest and then tried it themselves “I NAILED IT”. 

So after that rambling beast of a story the result is this: Come to The Conundrum this weekend and for every $25 you spend you get to choose a book from the Fabulous Bonus Book Tree.  There are some great titles on there, you are sure to find something you like, Mel and I sure had fun going through them with a constant refrain of “Ooh, I loved that one”. 

Here are the rules:  Choose 1 books for every $25 spent between Friday Dec 7 and Sunday Dec 9, while supplies last. All books are marked with a red dot on the top because with many of the books being advanced copies they cannot be sold or traded back under our Used Book program.  We Look forward to seeing you this weekend during Christmas in the Country, join us for fun, food, drinks, festivities and books!

Events ! Events ! Events !  (AKA “Taking the Show on the Road” )

Ahh, Fall.  The leaves are falling (somewhere), the air is cooler (not here), and people are wearing sweaters (in other parts of the country).  Ok, so the only thing that really changes for us when Fall arrives is that our schedule becomes packed with events.  Some of the events are onsite at The Conundrum, some are away from the store at local events, and some are REALLY away like in other towns at their literary events (who knows, those towns may even have cool weather!)

Here’s a rundown of where we will be and who will be joining us.  We hope you will consider joining us at one – or all – of these events as well!

Saturday October 20, 2018 we are proud to collaborate with The Southern Garden Symposium to bring a wide selection of gardening books to their lectures at Hemingbough.  The speakers promise to be as fabulous as ever.  You know you want will to be able to get signed copies of their books for yourself and as gifts for your garden loving friends .  This event sells out quite regularly so be sure you have reserved your ticket to attend and we will see you there !

Wednesday October 31, 2018 Halloween morning storytime reading It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  We will have treats (no tricks) and crafting.  Join us for the fun!

Friday and Saturday, November 2 & 3, 2018 we will travel to St Landry Parish to have a pop-up bookstore at this year’s Festival of the Word.  The event features authors Jack Bedell , Ladee Hubbard and Cornelius Eady. 

Thursday November 8, 2018 from 6pm – 8pm ,  Ben Forkner (also the compiler and editor of Louisiana Stories) is launching a new book absolutely perfect for our town.  It is called Audubon on Louisiana and is a collection of John James Audubon’s writings pertaining to his time in Louisiana.  He will be travelling  from his home in France and will join us a for a signing and discussion on both books.  A book you will want to give as gifts for years to come, you won’t want to miss this one! Light refreshments will be served.

Friday November 9 , 2018 from 6:30 until 8:30 we will host the BOOK LAUNCH Celebration for Em Shotwell’s newest novel at The Conundrum.   I know those of you who have read BlackBird Summer and Forget Me Not have been anxiously awaiting this book .  Be sure and mark this date on your calendar and  pre-order your signed copy now!  Refreshments will be served.

Saturday November 10, 2018 The Conundrum will have a pop-up bookstore in a booth at The Louisiana Book Festival!  Since before opening the store this event has been a favorite day in the Fall for me and now we get to join the fun!  We will be bringing authors, signed books, information on our year round events and letting the entire state know all about the fabulous literary happenings we have in St Francisville.

Sunday November 11, 2018 .  Our good friend Jason Berry is releasing his new book and will join us to sign and chat. The new Book is City of a Million Dreams and celebrates the 300th anniversary of the city of New Orleans. Books are available for pre-order at our website.+9 We hope to see you for the event. 

Friday November 16- Sunday November 18, 2018 we will once again be across the river in New Roads for their Christmas Marketplace The Market at the Mill.  Always a great way to kick off your Christmas shopping.  We hope to see you there !

Friday December 7 – Sunday December 9, 2018 .  Come help us celebrate our 3rd anniversary during Christmas in the Country.   There will be book signings, story time, special events and lots more.  Stay tuned for more information as the date gets closer.

There is even more being added to the calendar every day!  Be sure and watch your email for more upcoming events.   Now, I better rest up to be ready for all of these events!

 

When it is too hot to move...

When it is too hot to move it is time to just sit still and read.  If you have been outside in south Louisiana lately then you know that I have been spending a lot of time sitting still and reading and I have found some great new books I thought I would share with you today.

First, and foremost if you have not read Love and Ruin yet start this one today.  And yes, I meant to type Love and Ruin, not Love in the Ruins.   While Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy is one of my all-time favorite books, Love and Ruin by Paula McLain is climbing the ranks.   For those of you who love historical fiction, and those who enjoy a good World War II book (and I know I swore I would never read another of those after last year when every book on the best sellers list seemed to be set in World War II, read this one anyway).  For those of you who are fans of Ernest Hemmingway, and those of you who just like a good read with beautiful character development, this is the book for you.  Written by the author of The Paris Wife, which gave us a glimpse behind the scenes into the early years of Ernest Hemmingway’s writing career here comes Love and Ruin to give us more to feast upon.  Some might call it a Moveable Feast  - pun fully intended – with the many shifts in continent and country that this book serves up.  Get a copy today and get swept away.

Next up, what is ostensibly a Young Adult (“Y.A.” in the lingo) novel but I believe people of any age will enjoy.  The book is titled “The Bird and the Blade” and is written by Megan Bannen.  It tells the story of a slave girl, a prince, a displaced Khan, a beautiful and cruel Princess, three riddles and one dangerous secret.  If that storyline sounds vaguely familiar that is because it is based on the opera Turandot by Giacomo Puccini.  Even if you are not really an opera fan you will enjoy this book.  With its intrigue, action, and descriptions of distant lands and times this book will keep you engaged.  And for those of you familiar with the opera you probably know that Puccini actually died before finishing it and the ending you may have seen performed was actually written by someone else.  In my opinion the ending in the opera leaves a lot to be desired.  When I met the author Megan Bannen she told me she had “fixed the ending”.  While I am still not completely satisfied with the ending it is a bit more satisfying if still not all tied up with a bow.

The last new book I will share today is my favorite new book for children.  It is called My Stinky Dog by Christine Roussey.  This book tells the story of a little boy and his dog and best friend, Alfred.  Alfred is a great dog except for one little problem, he smells really bad.  The little boy tries everything he can think of to correct the problem but when he finally does get Alfred spiffed up he discovers Alfred just isn’t the same.  In this book’s few short pages it teaches us that it is our little flaws that make us all so perfect.

I hope you enjoy these new reads, and there are lots more new books to choose from on the shelves.  Speaking of which, it is hot outside – I’ve got reading to do!  

 

The Special Vacation Issue

Summer is here and we have vacation on the brain!  At the Conundrum we are ready to help you travel.  Either by finding the perfect book to carry along on your vacation, or the perfect book to read so that you feel like you are vacationing even if you are staying at home.  We have

you covered. 

There are so many great books that can help you get vacation ready.  You might wish to start with a copy of “1000 Places to See Before you Die” to help you plan out your trip (or your daydream).  I just love this book.  With its concise descriptions of the world’s greatest sights and places it gives you just enough information without weighting you down with a dense guide book you never actually read. Each section provides the “What”, the “Where”, “Best Times” and “Cost” along with tips to save you time and money in each locale and a brief history and description of what makes this place worthy of the being in the top 1000 places you just must simply see before you die.   After years of using this book I now own 2 copies, one that I keep whole as my starting point and reference book and the other from which I tear the pages covering wherever it is that I am visiting.  I carry those few, thin pages in my bag rather than a heavy guide book (save the weight for the novels you are bringing to read on the plane!). 

Once your trip is planned now how are you getting there?  Will you be driving?  If so you might need some fun conversation starter card games to keep everyone playing nicely together.  Check out our Chat Packs.  These fun cards ask questions like what is the “weirdest thing you have ever…”, or “what is the greatest…” you get the picture.   These cards also work great as entertainment at the lake house or camp at night and on rainy days to keep away a nasty case of the “I’m Bored’s”.    

If you are driving a bit of distance you may want to use the time in the car to listen to a great audio book.  Whether it is a choice like “A Gentleman in Moscow” or “Lincoln in the Bardo” for an amazing and engaging story, or “Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone“ for whole family enjoyment you will love how quickly time flies by when your imagination is engaged via an audio book from Libro.fm.  What?  You don’t know about Libro.fm yet and still use that OTHER audio book company?  Check out the section in today’s newsletter telling you about this fantastic new option supporting our independent bookstore.

Now you have arrived at your destination.  Have you packed enough books?  And what did you choose to read on vacation?  Are you a theme reader?  I did not know that I was but while planning a trip to Italy I kept picking up books like Jess Walters “A Beautiful Ruin”, John Grisham’s “Playing for Pizza” and several books by “Under the Tuscan Sun” author Frances Mayes.  I even packed a hardcover copy of a new Young Adult book because it is based on Pucchini’s opera Turandot which I was planning to see while traveling the area.  So yeah, I guess I am a theme reader and did not know it.  

So with all this great stuff waiting for you at The Conundrum the only question left to ask is : Where are you travelling this summer?  Wherever you are going whether in body, in spirit or both we hope you will come by The Conundrum to find a few books, games or puzzles to add to your trip.  And don’t forget to pack your Conundrum T-shirt and then send us a photo of you wearing it in some interesting locale.  We will post all of the photos to our Facebook and Instagram account and whoever gets the most “likes” by August 15th will win a $25 gift card to The Conundrum! So get those cameras clicking and send us some fun shots as we spread the word about our love of reading around the world!  Have a nice trip and remember: Life is a journey so be sure and pack enough books. 

 

Less than a week until...

The annual Walker Percy Weekend will be held this weekend on June 1 & 2nd.   This has become my favorite annual event in St Francisville because it is the perfect combination of literature and southern hospitality in a beautiful setting.

Now in it’s fifth year The Walker Percy Weekend brings together fans of southern literature from around the country, and even outside of it, to celebrate the writings of novelist and essayist Walker Percy while enjoying all that southern hospitality has to offer.  Starting with a Friday night gala, the weekend continues with discussions and lectures from noted scholars and writers on the works of Walker Percy during the day on Saturday.  Each year we add another southern writer into the mix. This year, we have chosen to include Shelby Foote whose friendship with Walker Percy influenced both writers.  We will have the honor of having both Mary Pratt Percy Lobdell (Walker Percy’s daughter), and Huger Foote (Shelby’s Foote’s son) join us to take part in the events.   Saturday afternoon continues with a stroll among the front porches of St Francisville’s historic district where, in commemoration of Walker Percy’s Bourbon essay , patrons will enjoy a selection of different cocktails.  This event is followed by a Crawfish boil held in the center of town.

By the end of Saturday night attendees will have rekindled friendships made at this event in previous years, have made new friends, have taken part in stimulating literary discussions, and will be making plans to be with us again the next year. The one thing that is certain is that is that once you attend The Walker Percy Weekend you will want to come back to see us again. 

As of this writing there are very few tickets available to the events at www.walkerpercyweekend.org . If you can join us, don’t  wait any longer, it looks like this year will once again be a sellout!