Yesterday, I had a great time appearing for a few hours at my friends Donna and Paul Forster's bookstore. I was there at Forster's Book Garden to help them celebrate Independent BookStore Day, the event that recognizes hard working retailers in communities across Canada who develop and maintain a thriving book industry. Nicole Moore and I had previously been at the Forster's store to sign copies of the book I wrote about her life, "Shark Assault: An Amazing Story of Survival" and I was happy to return and meet members of the public who support the terrific work these retailers do. They really care. I do encourage people to come out and visit and experience stores like the Book Garden.
Initiated by the Retail Council of Canada, Independent BookStore Day introduces the retail experience to members of the public as store owners go about running their businesses. Having a bookstore means integrating the customer experience with product knowledge, staff management, store design, supply chain, marketing and merchandizing, inventory control, real estate, money and credit handling, shoplift prevention and data security. It can be demanding.
"You always have to come up with new ideas to keep the public engaged, that's for sure," says Donna Forster. "We've staged Harry Potter parties. We've launched Christmas themes with books and gifts going to Caledon Community Services. As well, we've collected used books for a school in Cambodia." The hard work pays off: Forster's Book Garden has won the Caledon Chamber of Commerce Consumer's Choice Retail Award and the Caledon Reader's Choice Award.
Donna says that anyone who wants to get into the business needs to love books. "It's not like selling toys or clothing or electronic devices," she explains. "You need to know books well and have knowledge about the appropriateness of reading selections for specific age groups."
As for me and the other authors present, it's a great opportunity to meet and chat with readers. As Allan Fotheringham told me, "Writing is the loneliest profession. it's the only job you do totally on your own." So events like this offer an opportunity to connect.
Of course, I was asked the question that's most posed to me by readers: where do you get your ideas from for writing a book?
Funnily enough, that very morning I had received a message from a friend who's recommended me to the widow of Lou Myles: she wants to have a book written about her late husband and it looks like it's going to be my next project. Right from out of the blue.
And who's Lou Myles? Having been born Luigi Cocomile, the man gained fame as "Lou Myles, Desegnatore", famous for dressing international men from all walks of life, weather entertainers (Frank Sinatra), businessmen (Lee Iacocca), politicians (Pierre Trudeau), sportsmen (Muhammad Ali) and even mobsters (John Gotti)... all of them festooned with the latest Lou Myles suit, created for his Toronto store by his factory. With his slicked back hair, immaculate suits and gravelly smoker’s voice, Lou fit right in with the Rat Pack.
He was also noted for aphorisms to learn by, such as "If a man puts on a suit and it doesn't slim him by 25 pounds then there's something wrong with the suit."
Lou Myles was a legend long before the time he passed away at age 87 in 2015. And while I've yet to meet with Wendy, Lou's widow, we've been in touch and will get together soon. I look forward to it.