Our latest Bookseller in Spotlight is the fabulous Anna Tweed, owner of The Book Bird in Geelong.
How did you get into bookselling?
It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. I had returned home to Dunedin, NZ, after a stint in sweaty Queensland. A good friend was working at the University Bookshop at the time so in I went to have a chat to her boss, and that was that. From there I started working for The Book Grocer in Melbourne when I returned to Australia, and after honing my skills in many stores about the city I decided to open my very own shop in Geelong – and here I am five years later!
What do you love most about being a bookseller?
So many things but I’ll choose two:
1. Being responsible for an environment that provides enchantment on so many levels and in so many different ways.
2. The relationships and connections I get to build with our regular customers, all through a shared love of books and reading.
What’s your pet peeve about book retail?
Oh goodness! You may regret asking me this question…..
Customers blocking the doorway when we’re trying to open up in the morning really gets my goat along with any kind of vagueness accompanied with an expectation that we speak fluent ‘vague’ and can therefore always decipher those kinds of enquiries. Mind you, most of the time we can and it’s pretty awesome. Thanks, Google.
What can publishers do better?
Review their waste management and implement a more environmentally friendly packaging solution. I’d also like the option to politely decline extras like posters, stickers and standees as these don’t really work for our shop. Again, it all comes down to waste management.
Has bookselling changed in recent years/during coronavirus?
We certainly experienced temporary changes during Covid last year which really took the fun out of bookselling and turned it into a game of survival. Doing the equivalent of pre-Christmas trade over a table in the front door meant that we could keep trading, but the physical toll it took on staff wasn’t small and we are still feeling that impact within the nest. The spin-off from that bookselling experience has forced me to review the balance of what’s possible versus what is manageable.
What kinds of books do you gravitate towards?
Literary fiction, middle grade and picture books are my true loves.
Is there a book that you think everyone should read?
The new picture book I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott & Sydney Smith. Everyone should read this as an exercise in empathy and walking in someone else’s shoes. It’s a story about a young boy with a stutter and his ‘bad speech days’. The illustrations are also absolutely exquisite and carry so much emotion. Strangely enough when I read it I had the feeling of being rendered speechless, both by the impact of the author’s story (it’s based on his own experience) and the beauty of the artwork.
What was the last interaction with a customer that made you laugh?
Whether it’s the customer who is trying to pay with their Medicare card, a complete miscommunication caused by the wearing of face masks, or a small person deadset on trying to reshuffle the entire kids section, most days are filled with laughs of some kind. It’s great.
What is a recent Australian title you loved?
The Price of Two Sparrows by Christy Collins, and which also happens to be an Affirm Press title! This book just wouldn’t leave my hands. I was so compelled by the conflict at the heart of the story and felt deeply for the characters. Of course it helped that the main character Heico is also an ornithologist. Hello, fellow bird friend! This is one I’m really looking forward to telling lots of our punters about and I will be keeping a beady eye for what Christy Collins does next.