Astoria Bookshop celebrates first ever Independent Bookstore Day
by Jennifer Khedaroo
May 06, 2015 | 8428 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Families watch their children compete in Pictionary with graphic artists 
Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman.
Families watch their children compete in Pictionary with graphic artists Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman.
Children of all ages took part in the festivities.
Children of all ages took part in the festivities.
On May 2, the nation celebrated the first ever Independent Bookstore Day. Astoria Bookshop, the only Queens indie store to participate, celebrated the day with much fanfare. Children and adults of all ages crowded the store to take part in activities revolving around literary themes.

In fact, owner Lexi Beach was shocked to see how much of the community gathered around in support of her store.

“There has been a marketing push to get the word out but I didn’t know what to expect today,” Beach said. “Even with all the social media buzz I wasn’t sure, but it has been mobbed since we opened this morning.”

The morning started out with a monthly Young Writer’s Workshop hosted by teaching artist Jen Wehrung. The program, which uses writing prompts to explore the creative writing process, is aimed at children from the ages of 9 to 14. Following the workshop was a game of Pictionary led by local graphic artists Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman. Four to five five kids joined Telgemeier and Roman. As their parents watched on proudly, each team competed on topics such as idioms like “its raining cats and dogs” and “scared stiff.”

The activity was a suggestion from Telgemeier, who had success playing the game in another bookstore last year. Beach asked for help from creative friends in the New York City area to help her arrange amusing events for visitors. Later in the evening, the bookshop held a literary version of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” program in conjunction with Trivia NYC for adults.

Tony Hightower, a friend of Beach and the executive director of Trivia NYC, brought along panelists such as comedian Christian Finnegan and writers Genevieve Valentine, Lee Billings and Blake Harris.

“It was a little bit of who do I know and who can I rope in to helping me,” Beach said. “I asked them if they had any ideas and they all came up with great ideas.”

The indie bookstores all over the city have been pretty supportive of one another. When the day wrapped, a bookstore in Brooklyn hosted a party for all of the participating bookshops.

Overall, Beach believes the day is a wonderful way to celebrate this particular type of business. Independent bookstores around the country are essential parts of their communities. Beach said each store is very different, reflecting each neighborhood, and “to have this one day nationwide that celebrates what we do and our collective love for books, it’s a great way to remind everyone of what we’re doing.”

And contrary to popular belief, selling books from an indie bookshop isn’t as difficult as we might have thought it has been. Beach insists that people still love the physical copies of books and enjoy the experience of being within a bookstore. Additionally, she never views companies like Amazon to be competition since they don’t necessarily do the same thing. For instance, just as Beach isn’t selling thousands of books at wholesale value, Amazon can’t host a group of graphic novelists running a game of Pictionary with kids.

“To be able to browse the bookshelves, get recommendations from the booksellers and to come to a kid’s story time, every once in a while you just need to buy a book in the bookstore.”
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