Base Camp Printing Co.!

An Instagram post from Base Camp featuring two of the posters they’ve made for us - check them out on  their website  or on Instagram  @basecampprinting !

An Instagram post from Base Camp featuring two of the posters they’ve made for us - check them out on their website or on Instagram @basecampprinting!

Hello Book Friends!

Many of you will have noticed that for some of our events, we’ve had beautiful posters printed, and certainly we’ve gotten lots of comments on our lovely bookmarks! Whether you’re one of the many people who’ve admired that lovely work before or you’re just seeing it for the first time, this post is just to thank the wonderful people at Base Camp Printing Co. who make them for us! Base Camp is a woman-owned business (just like us!) based in Charleston, West Virginia, founded by two sisters, who use a vintage letter press to print all their paper products!

Our super cool bookmarks, featuring Scout!

Our super cool bookmarks, featuring Scout!

The posters are part of the purchase of your tickets to any of the events that we have them made for, and as for the bookmarks, they’re free with the purchase of a book or tote bag - or for only $3 you can buy our little OTB swag bag, that includes the bookmark, a sticker, and a magnet! The bookmarks will be realeased in a new color each season; collect them all! Once again, thank you so much to the wonderful people at Base Camp for supplying us with such excellent merch, and check them out (link above) for your own printing needs!

Hope to see you in the shop soon!

-Team OTB

Partnership with MoonLit DC

Old Town Books is honored to partner with MoonLit DC for a series of workshops in the next two months. We’ll be hosting Storytelling for Parents on March 28th and Making Space: Writing When Life Gets Busy on April 25th (hosted by our owner, Ally!). You can register here if you’re interested in attending: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/storytelling-for-parents-finding-your-words-tickets-56448911213

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/making-space-writing-when-life-gets-busy-tickets-57281783356

MoonLit’s founder, Kristen King, kindly answered a few of our questions about the organization’s mission, workshop style, and collaborations with independent bookstores (like ours!).

What is the mission of MoonLit?

MoonLit was founded in 2017 as a way to "creatively connect community through low-cost literary programming."

Can you briefly describe the impetus for starting the organization and your origin story, so to speak?

Sure! I've been involved in the arts for most of my life, as a baby ballerina with the Fokine Ballet Company, a small-town theatre kid and musician, and now as a poet, writer, and artist facilitator. Even my day jobs have always revolved around the arts - I am incredibly fortunate to have worked with literary and arts organizations across the country and to have been consistently surrounded and encouraged by innovative and inspiring artists of all ages and backgrounds.

I moved to DC in 2016 and immediately fell in love. This is an area full of motivated, talented, and creative people and organizations trying to change the world. However, I also quickly became frustrated with things like the high cost of living, inaccessible buildings and spaces, and the often insular nature of many creative programs in the area. At the time, I was working at one of the largest literary organizations in the area where I couldn't afford to take classes. In addition, I saw a lot of programming that was isolating or inaccessible in other ways.

The arts - in particular the literary arts - have always been a way for me to connect with something larger than myself, a world both big and bright. I recognize that I am incredibly privileged to have had so much access to arts programming and find it disheartening that others are denied that connection, that community. It's important that people engage in the arts, and I don't think doing so should break any kind of bank (financial, emotional, creative, etc). So I basically just put out a call to a group of really wonderful artists and teachers and friends and said "hey…if I started offering low-cost workshops, would you teach for me?” And, thankfully, a lot of them said yes!  

At first, my view of "accessible" was just cost. None of my workshops or programs are over $20 per session (they're usually less!) and scholarships are regularly available regardless of merit or need. But I am always learning and growing and as the organization and I evolve, so does my view of what makes literary programming accessible. I try really hard to offer exciting and uniquely themed programming in ADA accessible spaces. This is not always possible, but I do make it a high priority. In addition, I really value my teaching artists - 100% of the profits made go back to them and I try and support them and uplift them in any way that I can. They are the cooks that make this kitchen run. (By the way! If any readers see a way that I can make MoonLit's programming more accessible, I'm all ears!)

I’m excited that MoonLit has taken off so quickly. In the first year MoonLit grew from small workshops and writing groups in my living room to 37 workshops and events that served over 325 people! And this spring we'll have our largest season yet, with 34 programs across Baltimore, DC, and Northern Virginia. For more information on that, check us out at www.moonlitdc.com or on instagram, facebook, or twitter.

One last thing - I'm trying to fill in the gaps I see in the literary community and I want to stress that I'm definitely not the only one doing so. There are lots of cool organizations that offer accessible literary programming in the area like Split This Rock, The Inner Loop, Writers & Words, ASAP Arlington, just to name a few. Check them out!

Why did you decide to collaborate with bookstores?

Bookstores are the lifeblood of a community. I believe with my whole heart that the creative arts, literature in particular, does two amazing things: builds empathy and creates community. I also believe that learning to write well is learning to communicate in an effective and meaningful way - and if we need anything right now, it's a little *more* conversation, a little *less* action, baby. Where better to do all of this - community building, empathy making - than in a space where important conversations both internally with oneself and externally with a larger community happen. Bookstores provide safe, progressive, and exciting spaces for people on both sides of the page to explore both themselves and the world at-large, and I am always honored when a bookstore opens their doors to MoonLit and allows us in for workshops or events.

How do you decide the topics for the workshops?

I have certain themes in mind, but outside of that, I let teaching artists pitch what they'd like to teach to me. If the teaching artist is passionate about a subject, genre, etc., it will come through to their students in the workshop.

While MoonLit does offer more general workshops, such as "Introduction to Poetry" or "Advanced Fiction," we really prioritize more "out of the box" one-off workshops that allow both the teaching artist and students to flex their creative muscles in exciting new ways. Some of my favorite workshops with MoonLit thus far have included “Empathy for the Other: Moving Past the Toxic Dynamics of the Writing Workshop,” with Jacob Budnez, “It’s All in the Cards: Using Tarot to Build Narratives” with Sharea Harris, several bookmaking workshops with Amanda McCormick of Ink Press Productions, "Written and Unwritten on the Body" with Natalie Illum, and “Choosing Anger: Rage as a Sustainable Resource in Poetry” with Rose Strode.  

What are the backgrounds of your workshop leaders?

The workshop leaders who work with MoonLit come from a variety of backgrounds - from those who have a more traditional academic or publishing background to emerging writers, spoken word artists, open mic hosts, community organizers, and those working outside of the literary field but who spend their free time writing and reading and engaging with the literary arts. My main criteria when I review workshop proposals and bios is passion - early in my career as a writer and artist facilitator, I was fortunate to have people believe in me and take a chance on my ideas and vision, which was monumental in helping me grow as a person and artist. I try and return that favor for my teaching artists, some of whom are teaching their first workshop with MoonLit.

What do you think participants take away from the workshops?

I think creation becomes a little easier when we take the capital L out of Literature or the capital A out of art. It's my hope that each workshop participants leaves with whatever they came looking for, but also with a little inspiration or spark that they will use to creatively bloom.

We are so jazzed by Kristen’s mission and passion, and look forward to a fruitful collaboration in the coming months. Come out and join us for some interesting thinking, writing, and conversation with MoonLit soon.

--The Old Town Books Team



Upcoming Event: Shop Tunes IRL feat. Kyshona Armstrong

The talented Kyshona Armstrong

The talented Kyshona Armstrong

Hello Book Friends!

As some of you will already know, we’re really excited to be welcoming Nashville-based singer/songwriter Kyshona Armstrong to our shop on Saturday, March 23 at 7:00 PM for the second installment of our Shop Tunes IRL concert series, where you get to hear the songs we play in the shop performed live by the artists who wrote them! If you who didn’t know about this event that’s coming up in just two weeks - get your tickets here! - or even if you did but were unfamiliar with Kyshona’s music, then this post is our little introduction for you!

Kyshona Armstrong’s music is a soul-inflected blend of various American musical styles, including blues, folk, gospel, and even hip-hop; her voice is as powerful as her songwriting is deep - reminiscent of Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and Etta James. She has released three albums, her latest is 2016’s “The Ride”. Kyshona is also a licensed art therapist, who has used her music to work with incarcerated people and the mentally ill; she believes that music has an unrivaled power to tap into human emotions, and the music she’s released certainly backs up that point! If you want to find out more about Kyshona, go to her website at kyshona.com, check out this NPR interview with her in which she’s described as “one of the most compassionate and uplifting voices in Nashville today,” or of course come check her out for yourself at the shop on the 23rd!

Happy listening, and hope to see you in the shop soon!

-Team OTB

Women's History Month at Old Town Books!

Our Women’s History month display at the front of the shop, featuring a curated selection of books and gifts!

Our Women’s History month display at the front of the shop, featuring a curated selection of books and gifts!

Hello Book Friends!

Here at Old Town Books, the beginning of March means we’re celebrating Women’s History Month! We’ve got a fantastic selection of new books from women authors, books that celebrate women’s history, and also a lot of women’s history themed merchandise; come on down by the shop this month and check out our display - we’ve pictured it above but it will definitely be changing as the month continues! In this post, we’ll highlight some of the great books and gifts we’ll have on display.

First off, some new March releases from women authors that we’ve been eagerly anticipating! Helen Oyeyemi’s Gingerbread is a fairytale-inflected story of family ties and a mysterious inheritence. Oyeyemi is one of our favorite authors, and her other novels are also on display in our shop! We’re all especially excited to read Gingerbread though (possibly for our book club in the future...hint hint…). Likewise, Etaf Rum’s A Woman is No Man is another new release worth checking out. Set in Palestine and America, this is a multi-generational dual coming-of-age narrative chronicling the difficulties faced by women, especially immigrant women, in remaining true to their heritage while trying to make a new way in the world for themselves. Lastly, Zadie Smith’s Feel Free isn’t quite a new release, but it is a new paperback release! Smith, in her typically sharp and engaging prose, writes about the proliferation of social media and the profound changes, many of them negative, it has wrought on our collective psyche - an intense, but necessary read.

Next up, some books specifically about women’s history, many of them released just in time for this year’s celebration! Michelle Dean’s Sharp is a breezily-written collective biography of several women who weren’t afraid to stand up for themselves and voice their opinions. Women highlighted in the book include Hannah Arendt, Joan Didion, and Nora Ephron; it promises to be a very engrossing read! The Woman’s Hour by Elaine Weiss, another new release, focuses specifically on the American suffrage movement, on this the centennial of the 19th amendment which was its fruition. Similarly, Tina Cassidy’s Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait? Takes a more granular look at the correspondence between Woodrow Wilson and Alice Paul which proved to be a major factor in the passage of the 19th amendment. Both look like fantastic and much-needed additions to the American history canon. Finally, Svetlana Alexeievich’s Nobel Prize-Winning The Unwomanly Face of War, in a new English translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky is a wide-ranging look at the many women who fought in World War II, told as an oral history in those women’s own voices. If you haven’t seen this one before or heard these stories, it’s truly incredible stuff.

Last but certainly not least, our friends at Blackbird Letterpress have provided us with some truly excellent Women’s History month gifts! We have cards and notebooks which feature artistic renderings of luminary women throughout American history, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Shirley Chisholm, and Alice Paul. The piece de resistance is a tote bag which features all the women mentioned above and more, as well as Susan B. Anthony’s quote “Wherever women gather together, failure is impossible.” That’s as good a valediction for this post as any, so feel free to come and gather at our shop and peruse these and many other books by women!

Happy Reading, and hope to see you in the shop soon!

-Team OTB

Open House Roundup

Ally’s awesome cheese board from the event! (ooooh, ahhhhh)

Ally’s awesome cheese board from the event! (ooooh, ahhhhh)

Hello Book Friends!

As those of you who attended will already know, last week we had an open house! It was a lovely opportunity to get to know some of our customers better as well as introduce many of our neighbors to the store who didn’t know about it yet! Our fearless leader Ally made a gorgeous cheese board (see above!), Matt baked chocolate biscotti, and our friends cookbook authors Cathy Barrow and Domenica Marchetti brought pie and even more biscotti! All in all it was a lovely evening of delicious food and good conversation. We’re extremely grateful to Domenica and Cathy for helping to cater the event; Cathy’s book Pie Squared and Domenica’s books Preserving Italy and Ciao Biscotti are in stock on our shelves right now, generously signed by their lovely authors - come down to the shop and pick one up!

Ally revelaing the logo for the Emerging Writers Festival!

Ally revelaing the logo for the Emerging Writers Festival!

However, the open house was more than just a chance to mingle and eat good food in your favorite community bookstore, it was also a chance for us to announce a major event coming this summer: the Emerging Writers Festival! It’ll run from August 16-18 and will include author events from many exciting new writers, including Mesha Maren, whose Sugar Run was our last book club pick! You can sign up for email updates about the festival at emergingwritersfestival.com, and early bird tickets will be available at the same link soon! We’re excited to be bringing many wonderful writers to Alexandria!

Happy Reading, and hope to see you in the shop soon!

-Team OTB

Old Town Book(s) Club, Take 2, Sugar Run!

Some of our wonderful book club members!

Some of our wonderful book club members!

Hello Book Friends!

Yesterday morning we held a wildly successful second edition of our very own Old Town Book(s) Club, discussing Mesha Maren’s debut novel Sugar Run. We got 24 very enthusiastic readers and commenters in our store to talk about the book, about half of whom by our count were first-timers, though by the end nobody could tell which half; so if you’re on the fence about joining the book club as a new member for April, don’t hesitate - everyone’s welcome! We are, of course, extremely grateful to our regular customer and bookstagrammer Casey (@caseythereader) for hosting the club; not only was this our second book club, it was her first ever time hosting this or any club, and she did a great job leading the discussion - you’re a natural, Casey! Sugar Run is a heavy book, but everyone praised its honest depiction of the rough life in rural West Virginia and its powerful prose that created a tangibly real atmosphere.

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Whether you’ve attended either of our first two book clubs or not, we’d love to have you for April’s club! We’ll be meeting to discuss Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, a beautifully-crafted work of nonfiction about the fire that devastated Los Angeles’ Central Library in 1986 which expands outwards into a celebration of the cultural role of libraries. Our very own bookseller/floor manager Matt will be leading the club, which meets April 6 at 10:00 AM, and as always, it’s free to attend, if you buy the book from us you’ll get a 15% discount, and there will be coffee and donuts!

Happy reading, and hope to see you in the shop soon!

-Team OTB

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