Michele Filgate is the Events Coordinator at RiverRun Books in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She recently made New Hampshire Magazine‘s “It List” for 2010. Michele is a writer and a book critic, and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She’s written for The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Bookslut, The Quarterly Conversation, The Brooklyn Rail, CBSNews.com, The Women’s Media Center, and other publications. She is a former broadcast associate for the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, where she found stories and helped produce Steve Hartman’s Assignment America, a weekly feature segment.
What books recently rocked my world:
Other People We Married by my friend Emma Straub (forthcoming from FiveChapters Books in February 2011)
To The End of the Land by David Grossman
The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak (forthcoming from Bellevue Literary Press in May 2011)
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
Best damn event we’ve hosted:
There have been SO MANY that it’s hard to point out just one! On a personal note, the event I’m proudest of is the first time we hosted Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Harding. This was in early 2009, before most people knew who he was. I was so darn passionate about Tinkers that we ended up having a turnout of around 50 people at an event for a debut author. To me, this was proof of how critical indie bookstores can be. Booksellers introduce readers to good books.
Most entertaining authors we’ve hosted:
* When we co-hosted Stephen King at The Music Hall for Writers on a New England Stage, he played air guitar on stage. AWESOME.
* The award for funniest authors goes to Jess Walter and Sean Ferrell. They read together at our store recently, and they were HYSTERICAL!
* We hosted Kate Christensen and Arthur Phillips at a local martini bar when they were on tour for Trouble and The Song Is You. Both authors had written about music in their books, and we had local musicians play music in between the author readings.
* Chuck Palahniuk really knows how to work an audience. We had a jam-packed event with him at our local unitarian church, and he had customers blowing up inflatable Oscars. Also, we hosted Chuck in a CHURCH. Need I say more?
* We recently hosted world famous wrestler Mick Foley at the library. He opened his talk by reading from Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, and pretending like he didn’t realize that it wasn’t his own book. He’s a funny guy.
Strangest question a customer has ever asked:
When I worked at a college bookstore, a girl once asked me for The Apples of Happiness. I stared at her for a few lonnnnng seconds before asking, “Do you mean The Grapes of Wrath?”
Why our store kicks ass:
There are only five of us on staff, including the owner/manager. All of us are dedicated bookworms. We live for reading and recommending books to customers. We’re small but potent. We host close to 200 author events a year. This year alone, we’ve hosted everyone from Jonathan Franzen to Bill Bryson to Margaret Atwood to Justin Cronin. In December, we’re hosting a sold-out book signing in our store with Stephen King!
What makes our neighborhood and customers awesome: Portsmouth, NH is a great location for an independent bookstore. There are so many readers in the area, and our well-read customers understand that it’s important to support your local brick and mortar stores. We’re lucky to have so many community partners and venues. The historical Music Hall right down the street is home to our biggest offsite series, called Writers on a New England Stage. New Hampshire Public Radio and Yankee magazine also are part of the Writers on a New England Stage series.
I promise you won’t find this at any other store:
We have a fake mouse hanging out in a hole at the front counter. It’s funny when people think it’s real!
Why I do what I do:
I’m a bookseller because every single day I wake up and say to myself: “I can’t believe I get paid to do what I love.” My job doesn’t feel like work. I know so many people who are stuck in 9-5 jobs that make them miserable. I left an ambitious career at the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric because I knew I was in the wrong job. I’ve never been the kind of person who could take a job just to pay the bills. A job to me = something that enriches your life, inspires you, and makes you want to be a better person. Working with books is something I was born to do.
If I weren’t selling books, I’d be:
Either working in publishing or working for The New Yorker (my other dream job!).
Books that changed my life:
The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (I read this book when I was 10, and it was the first adult book I read)
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Top three authors, living or dead, I’d invite to my dinner party:
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
My last meal request:
Chicken tikka masala, coconut soup with pistachios, and garlic naan.