Don’t you love discovering a phrase that has embedded puns and multiple meanings? Gayle Shanks and Bob Sommer must’ve had fun when they chose this phrase as the name of their now-famous bookstore. The store itself has never changed hands, and remains in the marvelously creative and capable hands of the original owners. I had the pleasure of meeting these great folks last year at the Women Writing the West conference when they sat at my table for dinner.
My signing at their store last week was one of the highlights of my recent Phoenix-area book tour. A joint event with one of my favorite authors Donis Casey, our evening was built around my ongoing theme, “Head and Heart.” Is it with head or with heart that we write our books? That our characters solve their issues? That the synchronicities of life adjust and align? We each had lots to say on the subject, and had a marvelous time enrolling our audience in some insights and some good old-fashioned laughter of the out-loud variety.
An added bonus was that we donated a percentage of sales to the local PEO chapter, an excellent charity that provides education scholarships for young women http://bit.ly/rXcps. The women of PEO baked and brought their delicious wares to fill a table with goodies.
Changing Hands was one of the perfect stops along my tour first, because I adore bookstores. (I’ve always thought they must have sidewalks that slope downward to their front doors, because I have yet to be able to walk by one without entering.) Second, because although I love all bookstores including Barnes & Noble stores, I have a special place in my heart for independent bookstores. (To find one near you, visit www.IndieBound.org.) In fact, in a short video taped that night, Donis and I held forth on the topic of indie stores.
Why? Because they’re filled with real booksellers who know and love books. They know their customers and their particular interests. You can enter most major indie bookstores and walk up to a bookseller with a question as general as “fiction” and as specific as “psychological implications of hiking the back country of Tibet” and the bookseller will either know what book will match your interest, or will know who will have an answer to your question. It’s like meeting people with Google-like encyclopedic knowledge who actually know how to target your interest intuitively. You might say it’s a matter of both head and heart.
I have one more personal story to share with you about this special store. I’m a frequent flyer, and my travels used to take me through the Phoenix airport so often that I befriended several staff members of the America West-now-US Air-club. One in particular became a touchstone, someone I always enjoyed listening to as she described her many years of travel and adventures with her husband. Betty Hunter was an elegant woman still working in her retirement years, probably because she enjoyed people so much. She always enjoyed my books, encouraged my writing efforts, and recommended that someday I stay in Arizona long enough to do a book signing at a very special store: you guessed it, Changing Hands. It was ten years ago that the future event went on my wish-list.
So when I flew into Phoenix this time, I stopped by the club to let Betty know I’d finally been able to follow up on her recommendation, and to invite her to the signing. There was a flash of regret in the face of the attractive woman behind the desk when I asked after Betty. She had the unhappy task of letting me Betty had passed on just a month earlier. The woman and I shared a moment of silence, then we both smiled. We couldn’t help it. That’s the kind of person Betty was. She never kept tight fisted about the good she felt in her heart. She made sure to share it, made sure it was always changing hands.
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