Less than six months ago, I sat on my porch and came up with an idea for a book tour — I thought I’d get on a train in New Orleans, take Amtrak all the way to New York, and stop in bookstores along the way for book signings and talks about localism. On March 6, I started that tour at a farmers market in New Orleans, and Monday night I finished it at Bluestockings, a community bookstore in New York City.
It feels surreal to write that it’s over. It’s also not true to write that it’s over, because I’ve since added dates in the next few weeks — I’ll actually end the tour where it began, in New Orleans at Octavia Bookstore on May 9 for their celebration of Independent Bookstore Day. But, although I have tour dates left, it’s true that the bulk of the tour is complete, and tomorrow afternoon I’ll head to Penn Station in New York and get on a train bound for Birmingham, Alabama.
The signing at Bluestockings was the perfect end to the northbound leg of the tour in so many ways: We had a great turnout and an incredibly engaged audience. The bookstore itself is run by the community on donations of both money (from customers) and time (from their staff, made up entirely of volunteers). And several people I’ve known throughout the years came out to the Lower East Side to cheer me on, including a few Alabama ex-pats and a former Church Street staff member, all of whom have made new homes in New York. Their support meant so much to me, especially at this tour stop that felt final in so many ways.
I’ll be getting back to my own bed and shower soon after over a month on the road, and that feels great. But I’m so thankful for the experience I’ve had and the people I’ve met. We had a really good Q&A session at Bluestockings after my talk, and it reminded me of why I started this tour in the first place, how much we all have in common when it comes to buying local, and how important discussions like these are to strengthening our communities. Bluestockings also reminded me how integral independent bookstores can be to fostering that discussion, both by hosting events like these and by gathering so many ideas and philosophies together in the pages of their books, and how important is to keep buying from them, keep supporting them, and to keep them around to help shape the future of our communities.
Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream, creator of 30 Days of Local Praise and co-founder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.