Monday, September 19, 2011

Interview with Rebel Bookseller Andy Laties!

Greetings everyone! I am about to leave for Chicago and Michigan for more Memory Palace events—all at indie bookstores and colleges. And since indie bookstores are on my mind these days, as is bookselling in general, I invited my old friend Andy Laties to visit us today and give his take on the chaotic and ever-changing world of publishing and bookselling. First, a little about Andy and his latest book, Rebel Bookseller: Why Indie Businesses Represent Everything You Want to Fight For, From Free Speech to Buying Local to Building Communites:

Andy Laties co-founded Children's Bookstore, Children’s Bookfair Company, Children’s Museum Store, and, and created the film Art of Selling Children’s Books. He shared the 1987 Lucile Micheels Pannell Award for bringing children and books together. He co-founded and still manages the museum shop at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, which Parents Choice called “the very best bookstore for picture books in the entire world.”

Andy Latie
s' Rebel Bookseller champions the importance of the role that independent bookstores play in our society. Andy has opened four bookstores over the past couple decades and his enthusiasm for the future of indie bookstores has not been dampened by the changing economic landscape, the death of Borders, or the rise of e-books. He argues passionately that indie bookstores will always hold an important place in local communities, offering diverse and personal selections and playing a part in encouraging community involvement.

Andy, you are a bookseller, writer, activist, musician, and performance artist and although I could pick any one of those things to talk about with you, today we are going to focus on the hats you wear as bookseller and author. You have a great new book out—actually, a revised and updated version of book that first came out in 2005 called Rebel Bookseller: Why Indie Businesses Represent Everything You Want to Fight For—From Free Speech to Buying Local To Building Communities. In a nutshell, can you tell our readers what is at the heart of this book and why it is such an important story to tell right now, given the state of the publishing world?

Did you know that founder Jeff Bezos revealed several years ago that 75% of books he sells represent only 1% of all the titles listed on his website? That is, he sells lots of copies of the top 100,000 titles in his (currently) 10 million-title database—but the vast majority of titles listed on Amazon barely sell at all.
The growth in readers’ use of Amazon to select books to read results in most readers choosing the same books to read as other readers. Eclecticism in reading is tamped down by Amazon’s book-recommendation systems.
At the heart of Rebel Bookseller is a ferocious opposition to this kind of monopolistic constriction of book distribution.
We who read and write today are all actors in a dramatic battle between the forces of free speech and the power of censorship. Both sides have powerful trends in their favor. It may seem paradoxical—since Amazon is an internet-based company—but our free-speech side has the internet on our side. The internet is the world’s first fully functioning anarchy; it’s a uniquely decentralized self-developing system that has transformed the opportunity of individuals to control their lives. The opposing side in the big battle—Amazon’s side--has globalization of capital, which favors concentration of power in the hands of a few.
Capital is struggling mightily to harness our internet, but the internet, by its nature, daily slips the bonds that capital attempts to throw on it.
This battle plays out in the Middle Eastern revolution, in the Murdoch newspaper cellphone hacking scandal, in the constant introduction of corporate-controlled e-readers and tablets, and—happily, from the standpoint of those of us in favor of freedom of speech—in the ongoing collapse of chain bookstores and in the accelerating rate of launch of community financed independent bookstores.
It is this latter aspect of the tale that I explore in Rebel Bookseller. We readers and writers and librarians and booksellers and publishing people are at the grassroots. We have a role to play in the great events of our time. I take as my personal task, ending the concentration of reading that Jeff Bezos and his power-mad peers have helped bring about. I want to encourage a wider variety of readers to encounter a wider variety of writers.

I like what you say above, about how we readers, writers, etc. are at the grassroots and have a role to play in all of these events. I totally agree. And in reading your book, I felt very empowered about that role and doing more to encourage people to support their community businesses. And aside from the political stance of your book, I also loved your writing—how you interwove an engaging, funny and honest personal narrative about coming of age as an artist and bookseller with impassioned advice about publishing, bookselling, community organizing and small business entrepeneurship. It's sort of a memoir slash how-to book slash manifesto. I couldn't put it down. From a writer's point of view, what made you decide to tell your own personal story, rather than just write a straight forward book about bookselling?

Its true that I am an author—after all, I did write a book—but I do not consider myself a real writer. This is because I have a very healthy regard for real writers, having presented hundreds of writers in my bookstores at readings, panel discussions, festivals and story-hours (you meet lots of them in my book). So, when I realized that I had no option in my life but to write a book—because events had brought me to a crisis—I decided I needed a good model to rely on. I chose Saul Alinsky’s Reveille For Radicals. That book had shown me that the principles of activism are easiest to grasp if they are illustrated with personal anecdotes.
Gandhi developed the idea of living life as a series of “experiments with truth”—I think that if one has tried to live in this way, one can report out on one’s life, using a narrative formula, and this process will provide readers with a useful opportunity to draw their own conclusions.

Well Andy, I hope you feel compelled to write another book in the future because I certainly enjoyed reading this one! As you know, I have been on book tour for my own book, The Memory Palace, since it came out in January. One of the things I've been doing is trying to encourage people to buy the book from their local indie bookseller rather than purchase it on Amazon or big chain stores. Although you touched on this a little in my first question, can you please explain a bit more in depth for my readers why buying most of their books from Amazon ultimately hurts authors, not to mention the ripple effect it has on their local communities? We'll get into chain stores in a minute; for now, let's talk about Amazon.

As I mentioned above, does not exist in order to assist readers or writers find one another; rather Amazon wants to sell more of its bestsellers. So, writers need more indie bookstores to exist, to promote and display the full variety of books written. Unfortunately Amazon’s success at capturing readers’ attention equals obstruction to success for indie bookstores. So, writers are hurt by Amazon’s success at capturing market share from indie bookstores.
It is important to remember that does not really exist. No corporation does. Corporations are not people, and they are not things. Corporations are a cover story to obscure and facilitate the self-interested, temporary concentration and flow of capital. The mission of a corporation is, technically speaking, to amass as much capital for its founders and shareholders as possible: to “maximize shareholder value”.
When you click the “buy” button on an Amazon webpage, on your computer screen, you set in motion a slew of interlocking systems. I would argue that it is your moral responsibility as a person alive in this moment and this era to take note of, and accept responsibility for, the impact of such daily decisions. So, what have you done? Who will act, and what will happen, when you click the Amazon “buy” button? You have chosen to deploy a system of externalizing costs. You are shifting costs from yourself onto someone else.
Just as you may ignore your neighbor’s child’s asthma, which may be ultimately related to the smoke coming from your aging car’s tailpipe, or you may ignore the sealife-killing algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico, which may be fostered by the phosphorus in your laundry detergent, or you may ignore the misery of the child laborers harvesting cacao beans in the Ivory Coast when you buy a Hershey’s chocolate bar, so you may be ignoring the externalizing mechanisms whereby “saves you money”.
How do you hurt people, including yourself, by taking the bait and clicking the Amazon “buy” button? If this were a classroom, I could elicit from this readership thirty answers, maybe more. But, here’s a helpful link to provide some of the specific answers. This passage is from their website:
Why shop Indie?
When you shop at an independently owned business, your entire community benefits:
The Economy
Spend $100 at a local and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.
Local businesses create higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
More of your taxes are reinvested in your community--where they belong.
The Environment
Buying local means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint.
Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money to beautify your community.
The Community
Local retailers are your friends and neighbors—support them and they’ll support you.
Local businesses donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains.
More independents means more choice, more diversity, and a truly unique community.

All great points---and from a totally selfish author point of view (!), we authors get more royalties when readers buy our books from indie bookstores. That said, consumers get big discounts on Amazon, etc. So what do you say to those people who are hard up for cash and would rather buy their books at Walmart or Amazon than an independent bookstore?

Hard up for cash? As I said above, it’s the same as buying organic veggies or fair trade coffee, or staying away from McDonalds because of the salt in the burgers and the destruction of rainforests by beef cattle. Yes, it costs you more in the short run, but the long run benefits of avoiding the lie of “low, low prices” from Walmart and Amazon far outweigh the short-run “savings”.
I think that if you already buy organic food with intentionality, then you can understand why Amazon is as much of a problem to society as conventional agriculture is, and you should be capable of convincing yourself to spend a little more to buy books through indie, small-business channels (and we indie stores sell online too!)

Well, I also encourage people who cannot afford to buy a book at an indie bookstore to please support their local libraries. So on to the elephant in the room—Barnes & Noble. We know that Borders fell and many great people lost their jobs. I'm going to be the devil's advocate for a second: before and after my book came out, I have gotten such amazing support from B & N, not to mention very moving fan letters from people who work there. These are real people with real jobs. You are very critical of B & N and other chain stores in Rebel Bookseller. Can you talk a little bit about your take on them right now, for those who haven't read your book? And if you could tell the powers-that-be at B & N how to be more indie-friendly and author friendly, what would you say? Can Barnes & Noble coexist peacefully with the little shop around the corner in these bizarre and very hard times?

I’m not surprised that you, an excellent writer, are encountering workers at B&N who are supportive of your book. However in my opinion those workers should be working at indie bookstores.
Barnes & Noble destroyed the book industry’s growth and expansion in the 1990s and into the 2000s. In fact, B&N is the company that has closed more bookstores than any company in history! In the 70s, B&N bought the Marlboro bookstore chain and closed it down. B&N bought the two-dozen bookstore Doubleday chain in the 90s, and closed it down. B&N bought the 775 B. Dalton bookstores in the 80s and by the 2000s had closed every B. Dalton store down. B&N bought Bookstop’s dozen stores in the 90s and closed them all down. B&N did this in order to control the entire book industry, constricting channels of book distribution so as to force specific titles and specific categories onto readers, and to raise their own corporate profitability by controlling publishers access to the market. It’s classic robber-baron monopoly behavior.

Sure Barnes & Noble has great employees…because there is nowhere else to get a job as a bookseller. But those workers would be able to more fully exercise their skills in a decentralized bookselling environment. So, they will benefit from the coming destruction of Barnes & Noble, just as thousands of recently laid-off Borders employees will be working in the indie bookstores of the future and doing a much more full-scale, engaged kind of bookselling then.
Right now, booksellers with chain bookstore experience should get together with community activists and real estate developers and open new indie bookstores. It can be done. If they can’t do it right now, they should plan to do it in the future. Those workers know very well that big corporations are not committed to them. B&N is a publicly held, for-profit operation, and its fiduciary responsibility is to maximize shareholder value, NOT to ensure that its workers are treated well or that its customers have access to the widest variety of the very best books.
As to whether the management people at B&N can be instructed in how to be more indie- or author-friendly, the answer is no, B&N will never “co-exist” with much-smaller bookstores. They exist to serve their owners, not authors, readers or other bookstore operators.
My task, as I’ve said before, is to help destroy B&N. This will create a world in which thousands more indie bookstores can emerge to serve writers and readers in the way they deserve to be served.

Wow, strong words Andy. I completely understand your feelings about all this since I am a pretty anti-corporate gal. But I also have gotten, as I said, such support from B & N and I have to acknowledge that (or my editors would kill me!). That said, I have refused to read at any chain stores—I am only reading at indies. I would love to hear back in my comment section from any B & N booksellers/workers/managers (or other employees/managers, etc at other chain stores) willing to respond to what you say above.

So onward and upward—what advice do you have for authors who would like to support their local bookstores (and other indie bookstores across the country) and how can they cultivate relationships with these places?

Authors should create online presences that document their own activities in indie bookstores. That is: authors should lend their brand value to help grow their readers’ appreciation of the specific indie bookstores valued by each author.

Great advice....I am trying to do that myself. And Andy, if you were to look into a crystal ball, how do you see the future of the book business in the next 10 to 20 years? For example, where do you think e-books are heading? Will there be more brick and mortar stores or will they no longer exist?

Ten years from now there will be many more indie bookstores, perhaps three times the current number. E-books will represent more than half of what will be a much larger total book market. Remember, book sales were suppressed for fifteen years by the big chainstores’ impact on book prices. Chainstore growth forced book prices up. E-books are permitting a rebound: reading is on a huge upswing because book prices are being forced down.
Amazon’s semi-monopoly on e-books will be broken. Readers will access e-books in many different ways, from many different sources.
E-books and print-on-demand books will be reciprocal sides of the same marketplace, and the POD side will permit brick-and-mortar storefronts to remain central to many readers’ book-selection processes. Authors will promote their self-published e-books in new indie bookstores, and customers will purchase e-books and print-on-demand books through channels controlled locally by the specific indie bookstores providing those author promotion opportunities.

Very interesting...I like your optimism about the future in this time of economic despair! So what's up for you next? Are you working on any new book or are you mostly selling them, along with all the other ten thousand creative things you do?

The indie bookstore movement is part of a larger attempt by many activists to end concentration of media in the hands of a small number of huge corporations. Our side stands for freedom of speech. My efforts will continue to be focused on achieving our objective of decentralizing the media.
Professionally, I will continue to pursue whatever bookselling projects excite me. For instance currently I’m helping launch a one month bookstore and art exhibit called, severally, Bookworks, BOOK=OBJECT, and 451F, in Holyoke, Massachusetts. We’re soliciting original art, and books for sale on consignment.
Also, I’m working with my partner Rebecca Migdal on an incendiary and (we hope) hilarious book trailer to promote Rebel Bookseller. This film is called Amazilla vs. Barnes Kong, and should be finished by November. Watch for it on Youtube!

Thanks so much for your time and your inspiring words about the future of the book. I wish you the very best on the remainder of your book tour for Rebel Bookseller.

You can find Andy Laties' book Rebel Bookseller wherever books are sold but hey, why not go to an indie bookstore and order it there before you compulsively search for it on Amazon! Great idea, right? Go to Indie Bound to find an independent bookstore near you!: Mirabee

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Millay Colony Extends their Deadline to October 1st!

Hey everyone...I just wanted you to know that the beautiful and vibrant Millay Colony in Austerlitz, NY just extended their deadline (for all disciplines) to October 1, 2011 for the 2012 season. All the details are here: And by the way—this residency program is extremely accessibility-friendly for artists with disabilities.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mirabee Reading in Chicago & Michigan Plus New Opportunties for All!

Hi Everyone,

I will be leaving for my Midwest part of my book tour on Tuesday so I wanted to post a couple new things coming up and also to tell you where I will be reading next week in case some of you live in Chicago or Michigan. I'll be reading THIS Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 7 pm at the Book Stall in Winnetka, IL, then on Thursday, Sept. 22 at 7 pm I'll be reading at the Book Cellar in Chicago. I'll also be signing books in the day on Thursday at Women & Children First in Chicago at 11:30 am. After my events in Chicago, I will head to Holland, MI and do a public reading with poet Chris Dombrowski on Tuesday, September 27th at Hope College. You can find out all my event details on my website here (and I'll be adding more dates and details before I leave):
And stay tuned for my upcoming interview with author, musician, performance artist and rebel bookseller, Andy Laties....

(ALL) AIR/HMC, Budapest - International Artist Residencies 2012
Deadline: ongoing
E-mail address: [email protected]
Discipline: visual artists, writers, performers
Offered program: residency, seminar, artist talk, exhibition.
Eligibility: International emerging artists

Elsewhere Studios Residency Program in Paonia, CO, provides space and time for artists to create in a unique and supportive environment. Time spans are individually based – 1 to 6 months. Visual artists, writers, musicians, and performance artists are welcome. Situated in ‘down town’ Paonia, the spaces are versatile, providing residents with opportunities to connect and interact with other artists in the community, to create or participate in art exhibitions, and to teach classes or workshops . . .or just time to focus on work. Residency fees are $500 to $600 per month, which includes utilities and WiFi.
Paonia is a small town nestled in a beautiful landscape of mountains and mesas covered with orchards, small ranches, and farms. It is about 1.5 hours from Grand Junction on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. Paonia is a community of unique and creative individuals with a strong interest in sustainability. It supports a growing art scene. October 1st deadline for one to six months residencies from November 2011 through July 2012.
Please see website for detailed information on rooms, fees, and application process. If you have questions, email [email protected]org or call 970.527.3249

San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI)—

Richard Diebenkorn Teaching Fellowship

Call for Applications

Fellowship dates: August 27–December 7, 2012

Application Deadline: November 11, 2011
Electronic submission only: 800 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, CA 94133
[email protected] / 415.749.4594


Applications are sought from early to mid-career artists who have an established body of work in the media of painting and drawing. Applicants must reside within the United States and outside of the Bay Area. In alternate years, the Richard Diebenkorn Teaching Fellowship is awarded to Bay Area residents. The review committee will consider the applicant's experience and its appropriateness to the SFAI curriculum, as well as quality of work and written statements.

Fellowship Award:

The Richard Diebenkorn Teaching Fellow will receive 25,000 USD in compensation to teach two courses in the Fall 2012 semester, give a public lecture in the Visiting Artists and Scholars Lecture Series, and engage with the SFAI community through individual student critiques, academic programs, and activities.

The Fellow will also receive a residency at Headlands Center for the Arts. The residency includes housing, an 800-square-foot studio, five chef-prepared meals each week, and access to shared vehicles. Artists in Residence are encouraged to engage with other residents and participate in the dynamic creative community of the Center.

For more info, go to:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to say that my thoughts are with all of you who lost someone on 9/11 ten years ago. I was not in New York that day but knew several people who were and a couple people who survived the World Trade Center tragedy.

One of my favorite blogs, BibliOdyssey, did a tribute to New York today with several antique pictures of a bird’s eye view of the city. Here's the link to a lovely and uplifting homage of that beloved town:

I'm off to Cleveland, then Chicago and Michigan and will be traveling for book events until the end of the month. I will post when I can....


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Artist Residencies (Some with Stipends) for U.S. AND European Artists

Happy Labor Day are a handful of new residencies to apply for this fall...cheers,

p.s. sorry about the weird formatting....Blogger is having a headache today.

(ARTISTS) Residency & Stipend at the Bemis Center—

Few programs exist either on the national or international level where the sole mission is to support the creativity of artists. From the beginning, the art-making process has been the highest priority at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha Nebraska, where both the atmosphere and environment offer ideal situations for creative growth and experimentation. Artists from around the world come to the Bemis Center to work in this supportive community and confront new challenges. The Bemis Center provides Artists-in-Residence with the gift of time, space and support.

TIME 3 months of uninterrupted, self-directed work time.
SPACE The Bemis Center is housed in two urban warehouses totaling 110,000 square feet in Omaha, NE. Each artist is provided with a generously sized live/work studio with a private bathroom and 24 hour access to facilities including a wood shop, installation spaces, dark room and a large sculpture fabrication facility.
SUPPORT each resident receives a $750 monthly stipend.
Applications are due September 30th for three month residencies scheduled between July and December, 2012. The application fee is $40. There no fee to attend. For more information and to apply please visit our website.

(ARTISTS & WRITERS) Can Serrat Stipends for Visual Artists, Spain—Can Serrat ResidenciesDeadline: October 31st, 2011

Each year, Can Serrat offers a limited number of Support Stipends to visual artists and writers. The stipends cover 40% of the total cost (food, lodging and workspace) of stays lasting from 30-90 days(the stipend cannot be combined with discounts mentioned in the pricelist).

Visual Artists Support Stipend
Each recipient may choose a 30-90 day time slot within a year from the original notification (assuming space is available at that time).

Deadline for Applications

Applications are accepted at the same time as the full-stipend calls. We accept materials from Visual Artists during April 1-30, and from October 1-31st. Applicants for the full stipend are automatically considered for a partial stipend. Applications are accepted solely by email.

For more info:
Can Serrat International Art Center
Masia Can Serrat, 08294 El Bruc Spain

tel: (34) 937 710 037
[email protected]

(ALL) Spark Box Studio Residency Program is now accepting applications for their Winter 2012 Residency Program—Their Artist Residency Program provides live/work space to accommodate both emerging and professional printmakers, photographers, painters, illustrators and writers. Artists-in-residence have access to our professional studio and resources.

The Residency Program affords artists the space and time to support the advancement of their careers and to strengthen their practice. Artists-in-residence stay in a charming farm house located by the historic Prince Edward County, Ontario. Prince Edward County is the quintessential rural environment, filled with open fields, walking trails, fresh air and starry nights. It is also home to amazing food, beautiful beaches, dozens of wineries, art festivals and live music.

Interested artists may apply to live and work at Spark Box from a weekend to 2 months. To learn more please visit our website Spark Box Studio Residency
885 County Rd. 5., Picton, Ontario, K0K 2T0
t. 613.476.0337 / [email protected]

(ARTISTS) The European Pépinières for Young Artists Residencyis currently calling for proposals within two frameworks: the map 2011-2012 programme and the M4m programme.

The map 2011-2012 programme is a extension of the map programme, which has been initiated by the Pépinières européennes pour jeunes artistes. In order to address the different movements of the young generation of artists, this program offers a panel of artists mobility concepts led by partner places. It is open to artists between 18 and 35 years old, living in one of the program’s member countries:
Austria – Belgium – Bulgaria – Cyprus – Czech Republic – Denmark – England – Estonia – Finland – France – Germany – Greece – Hungary – Iceland – Ireland – Italy – Latvia – Lithuania – Luxembourg – Malta – Netherlands – Poland – Portugal – Quebec, Canada – Romania – Serbia-Montenegro – Scotland – Slovakia – Slovenia – Spain – Sweden – Turkey.
This residency must be outside of their country of origin and/or residence.

In the framework of the map 2011-2012 programme, you can apply for the following residencies:
  • Buitenwerkplaats, Starnmeer, Netherlands
  • KIK, Nijeveen, Netherlands
  • Plaatsmaken, Arnhem, Netherlands
  • NP3, Groningen, Netherlands
  • Transcultures, Belgium
M4m (M for mobility) is M4m is an artistic mobility programme supported by European Commission and initiated by 7 cosignatories and 12 associated partners in order to facilitate encounters, exchange and common work between emerging artists and professionals from the creative and cultural world taking part in the different steps of an art production. This programme is dedicated to young artists and young professionals from the creation and cultural world from all fields of expression over 18 years old and living in a European country. Every artist or professional can apply for only one residency, which must be outside of its country of origin and/or residence.

In the framework of the M4m programme, you can apply for the following residencies:

(ARTISTS) Open Call - Residency Unlimited—seeks a NYC based artist for an 8 months residency starting Oct. 1st, 2011 (Deadline Sept 9th, 2011)—for more info, go to:
What does this residency provide?

What are the criteria for selection?

  • Artist must be living in New York City and is in need of a working studio.
  • Artist agrees to cover the monthly rent for the studio. ($188 per month for 8 months)
  • Artist agrees to develop a body of new work

To apply, please submit the following by September 9, 2011
via email to [email protected]

Update on the Jacob J. Javitz Fellowship for Graduate Students

Hi everyone,
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but....if anyone is applying for JACOB J. JAVITZ fellowship this year, an astute Mira's List fan just informed me that the program was closed by Congress this year and they don't know when it will reopen again. And for some reason, they are not posting about the closing on their site and apparently will not email you in writing about it. You have to call them to hear about it over the phone. This is unfortunate because this fellowship is a great one for those of you applying for MFA programs in the arts. But things do change year to year so check back on their website next season. In the meantime, you should know about this and maybe call their office to double check about the status of the fellowship or just not waste your time applying for the Sept. 30th deadline this fall.

Welcome to Mira's List

This blog provides information on upcoming grants, fellowships and residencies for artists, writers, composers, and media artists. It is for serious professionals only, from emerging to mid-career to established. I also publish information for graduate students from time to time. However, I do not publish information on exhibition or publishing opportunities, nor do I advertise artist retreats and workshops that charge money. At least that is my current policy. For more info on where to exhibit or publish, please see my links section which I try to periodically update. I sift through hundreds of search engines and websites to find opportunities for YOU dear artist. In return, I ask you to pass the information along to those who need it. Also, since this is a free blog, I don't always have the time to weed carefully through everything. If you find a grant or website or residency that is not up-to-date, is dodgy in some way, or is no longer in existence, please let me know! Also, if you stay somewhere at one of the residencies I suggest and have a good experience, I want that feedback too. Please check my FAQs at the top right side bar if you have questions before starting your search. Best wishes and happy hunting!