It’s tough work to write a novel, there’s no way around that. It requires the most intense discipline to stare at the page. I have to force myself not to get chocolate or tea, not to check emails, and not to book a flight just to escape. Also, once I’m focusing on the actual writing, my brain starts to hurt a little. We all rub the strain out of our heads after concentrating that hard for a few hours.
All the more reason once the book is published to start partying on the road with friends far and near. Now that my fourth novel is out, a work of social satire joshing the upper crust in the Hamptons, I prefer to tour in local bookstores. Why? Because bookstores are just plain fun, and you connect more with a community in a way we rarely do anymore.
Finley Shaw, who owns a charming bookstore on Shelter Island, Finley’s Fiction, (and whose name should be my next protagonist!) had an event last week for my just released, It’s Hot in the Hamptons. Finley told me, ” I love hosting authors because it becomes a party! It is usually a ‘block party’ of sorts, and people from the community can enjoy a glass of rosé and chat with the author.”
A few Sundays ago, I took my favorite ferry from North Haven to Shelter Island with a breathtaking view of Smith Cove. Finley’s Fiction opened last May 2018. While downing too many mimosas and muffins, I signed dozens of books in a shop that feels like a cottage with wood paned windows and teeny nooks begging to be nestled into.
Touring the store, I wanted to devour all Finley had curated for the eager reader. I shook hands with new people and saw many old friends, all the while marveling a bit about how preppy Shelter can be. It has a very small town feel like Fisher’s Island or parts of old Nantucket. It made me want to find that Fair Ilse sweater in yellow and green I used to wear in seventh grade for one of my daughters.
Isobel Coleman, a mother of five I became close to at nursery school drop off, and who, in her spare time was a former bigshot at the Council on Foreign Relations, and current Chief Operating Officer at GiveDirectly, arrived with her cute husband Struan. Struan, who I also know from boarding school (I’m sounding more preppy than I am for sure!), is an orthopedic surgeon for individuals and the New York Mets.
Isobel brought her brother Boomer Coles along with his wife Kelly who showed in an open Jeep with no sides on it. I saw old friends and new friends such as Marc and Karen Robert, Karen Lawson, Lori Finkel, Margo Pinto, and Kathryn Lynch. I spent most of my time talking to Finley’s husband, Patrick Shaw, who advises high net worth individuals. We discussed whether art has become a full-blown asset class like stocks or commodity futures. Or, rather, I was trying to convince him that art is an asset class because of so many auctions online to see comps and move and sell your works.
Finley Shaw recently hosted a new friend of mine, Jamie Brenner, who has a book out called Drawing Home. She is formerly from Vogue and her natural flair shows with her bright red lips, rosy cheeks, stylish sundresses and perfect Converse sneakers in every color just to remind us that she’s cooler than the rest of us. Jamie told me she couldn’t wait to check out the intelligently curated store standing on a little grassy cliffy that overlooks the charming Chequit hotel (more like a country inn).
On Wednesday of the same week, I was kindly invited to sign copies of It’s Hot in the Hamptons at the Locust Valley Bookstore which Lisa Scully opened in May 2017. She said, “We just started year three. Most people thought we were nuts; that we would be living in a tent under the train trestle by now, selling apples in the street. That has not happened. Our business has exceeded our wildest expectations. Why? Our amazing customers and their incredible loyalty.”
Lisa gets fired up in the most passionate way about convincing people not to buy books cheaper on Amazon. I myself always call my local store and pick up the book I need a few days later. I like the activity of walking over and doing my part to assure Shakespeare and Co. stays on Lexington and 70th street, or Southampton Books, Sag Harbor Books or BookHampton in East Hampton remain vibrant storefronts in the center of their towns. (Berry and Co. is another favorite bookstore in Sag Harbor.)
Lisa Scully is very articulate about the public service independent bookstores provide. She told me, “The money that is spent locally is used to pay salaries to hardworking local residents who can, therefore, afford to live in this area, pay taxes, eat at local restaurants and put their money to work back into the local economy. It’s used to create an attractive storefront on a busy street in a thriving community. It’s used to make the store look nice, to nurture a place where people can visit, talk about books, provide nice gift wrapping, exchange book ideas, and browse new titles. It’s the multiplier effect. The extra money gets spent again and again.”
The designer Jeffrey Bilhuber had a packed event at the Locust Valley store awhile back for his new book, Everyday Decorating. He is found in Locust Valley often caring for his home that’s new on the market, known as Hay Fever. It is a famous home to people all up and down the Eastern seaboard. Hay Fever, named after Edith Hay, who was the second generation to live (and die) in the house, was built in 1668 and is one of the oldest continuously lived-in dwellings in this country. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Formerly a Quaker Boys School, and Inn, a tavern, and the Locust Valley Museum, it has been meticulously restored to its original beauty. The house boasts 8 bedrooms (down from the original 12), 6 actively used wood-burning fireplaces, and two deep porches surrounding the densely romantic gardens and pool designed by esteemed Santa Barbara-based landscape architect, Nancy Goslee Power. If I sell a ton of copies of It’s Hot in the Hamptons, I’m moving in!
In Locust Valley, the event at Lisa’s store was also hosted by my old friend Jenny Kelter, whom I met at the Windsor Club in Vero Beach, Florida. Her sister-in-law Suzy Bancroft showed support, who is the sister of NYC’s own, very chic Jen Creel. My Andover peer, Ritchey Banker, rushed from a real estate deal in Southampton to drink some rosé and connect with old friends and neighbors. Kevin Wade, screenwriter of Working Girl and Executive Producer of one of my favorite shows, Blue Bloods (whom I dated for about three minutes in my twenties!), showed his cute smile. Phoebe Timpson and Liz Brown also attended.
When I asked Lisa how she decides which books to sell and show, she said, “We churn through inventory. It’s fresh every week. Every day we learn from our customers. They bring us great ideas, and we bring them great ideas. Our customers come back time and time and time again.”
Finley in Shelter Island also reminds us we not only have to work at buying books locally, but even reading books in the first place. “I do think people get sucked into social media, returning emails, texts, etc. rather than reading in their spare time. I make a point of bringing my book with me all the time. I read while waiting for school pick up, taking the train or subway, traveling, waiting for a sports game to begin or end during one of my kids’ games.”
Finley Shaw (best name ever!) makes a good point.