That clerk in your indie bookstore just might be a famous writer

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This bag was distributed at the Miami Book Fair this past weekend to get buyers in the mood

This bag was distributed at the Miami Book Fair this past weekend to get buyers in the mood

If you step into an independent bookstore anywhere in the United States this Saturday, you might be met by an unusual clerk: A published author, perhaps even a famous one. Hundreds of writers have signed up to work peddling books (and not just their own) as part of the Indies First initiative.

The idea is to encourage book lovers to buy local, and also to give authors a glimpse of what it’s like to come face-to-face with the (often-demanding) reading public. The writer Sherman Alexie came up with the idea while chatting with Janis Segress, owner of the store Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle. It’s part of Small Business Saturday, which started three years ago as an alternative to the doorbuster deals at national chains on Black Friday and the online shopping deals on Cyber Monday.

Latte and book chat at our neighborhood indy bookstore with Carolyn Kellogg of the LA Times
Latte and book chat at our neighborhood indy bookstore with Carolyn Kellogg of the LA Times

Most independent bookstores in Southern California are taking part: Book Soup in West Hollywood, DIESEL in Brentwood, Pages in Manhattan Beach, Cellar Door Books in Riverside, Vroman’s in Pasadena, Book ‘Em Mysteries in South Pasadena, and others. (A full list can be found at the website Indie Bound).

To find out more, we went to Stories Books and Cafe on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park. Surrounded by the screech of the espresso machine, earnest writers tapping away at laptops, and, well, lots and lots of books, we chatted with Carolyn Kellogg, who covers all things literary for the LA Times’ Jacket Copy.