Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bookstores are wonderful places

I love visiting bookstores in every country where I live. A bookstore (Eymundsson's) in Iceland was convenient for me--it was downtown, just a short walk from my home. There was a coffee shop upstairs. Here in China there are many bookstores. Of interest--most books in the US are printed in the region where I live. The bookstores tend to be either small or tinier than one could imagine.

A tiny book store which is about 4 feet wide and 6 feet deep.

I've seen smaller stores here in Guangzhou.
I'm also amazed when I see a bike loaded up with books and magazines. I've even seen bikes used as movable newstands.

I visited a large bookstore when I was in Beijing. Of course I wandered over to the children’s section, which is comparatively small compared to children's sections in US stores, and spent a long time looking at all the titles. There are several children’s books from the US that are translated into Chinese. I didn’t find the Chinese young adult section, even though I’ve seen one in a much smaller bookstore. I exercised little constraint and bought 9 picture books.

These are dual language books (Chinese and English) and are traditional tales. The cost was reasonable, about $3 for each 46 to 64 page long paperback picture book. (About 6 by 9 inches.) I was excited to find Chang’e Flying to the Moon. There are several versions of the story: The book I bought is closest to version 1, with some notable differences.

I always like to buy a few picture books in each country. These books tend to be folktales. Since a picture book I’m working on is an adaptation of an American tale (a story I’ve always wished was available in a picture book) I’ve been paying more attention to how writers adapt stories, how they stay true to the story while making it accessible to young children. I adapted this story and two other picture books for my workshop at Vermont College Residency later this month.

This next semester I am taking the picture book concentration. The picture book program is by application (and is also open to non-students for a semester certificate).
Because I will focus on picture books, I will let my latest novel sit and keep my first novel (which is also calling me) company. I finished my first draft of River last semester and over my semester break I cut chapters, divided chapters, moved chapters and did other necessary structural revisions. I'd love to work on it, but letting it rest will allow me to see it with fresh eyes.

I love picture books which is why I wanted to want to explore and learn about the craft of this wonderful genre of children’s books. Because I was accepted to the picture program I already know who my advisor is.

I get to work with Uma Krishnaswami!!!!

She blogs here and Cynthia Leitich Smith (who also teaches at Vermont) has an interview with her here. I am very excited to work with Uma.

I fly to Vermont next week.
I've already made arrangements to buy several books from The Flying Pig Bookstore when they visit campus.
Did I ever mention I love bookstores.


CafeNowhere said...

I'd never thought about how different bookstores might be around the world. And I've definitely been spoiled by American bookstores, where the children's section is often the piece de resistance. Thanks for providing some interesting visuals, like the bike bookstore!

Lisa B.

Sarah Blake Johnson said...

Bookstores are different worldwide, but I think there are more similarities than differences--which tend to be size and language.

I love visiting American bookstores. Stockman's bookstore in Helsinki, Finland is the best bookstore I've found overseas so far.