My sister’s family visited DC from Texas not too long ago. After a very hot morning wandering around Mount Vernon (the historical site, not the neighborhood), John and I took them to Virtue Grain and Feed in Old Town Alexandria for lunch. My sister suggested we check out the bookstore right next to it afterward, and I am SO glad she did!
I discovered three things on that visit. 1. Old Town Books is cute and fun. 2. They have book clubs! Which I decided immediately to join. and 3. They’e hosting an Emerging Writer’s Festival in August (that I knew I HAD to be part of).
I’ve actually been meaning to read more fiction for a while now. I generally gravitate toward nonfiction books, usually history or self help. If I DO read a fiction book, it’s probably a Tamora Pierce novel or historical fiction set around the English Renaissance (Tudor Times are MY JAM), or maybe Jane Austen. I also regularly act in Shakespeare plays, although I’m not sure how much that counts towards reading. But since I’m writing fiction now, I clearly need to read more of it. I wasn’t sure where to start though, which is why I was so happy to learn about Old Town Books’ book club! I figured this was a perfect way to discover new fiction and make new literary friends while also overanalyzing stories (which is one of my favorite things).
My first meeting was this last Saturday! This is the first book club I can actively remember going to, honestly. And it was delightful! We discussed “Mostly Dead Things,” by Kristen Arnett. It’s a wonderfully wacky book about how a family moves on after their paternal figure’s suicide. He was a taxidermist, as is the narrator Jessa-Lyn, and the book explores this craft in a really fascinating, realistic, and occasionally gory way. The narrator’s mother starts to work through her grief by making art in the form of sexually explicit taxidermy scenes, which leads to her meeting an art gallery owner and creating her own full art exhibit. The narrator ends up in a twisty relationship with the gallery owner, Lucinda, and shenanigans continue from there. It’s also a beautiful exploration of the nature of grief and family. It’s a tough read at times, just because it’s so emotional and raw, but I really enjoyed it and I greatly enjoyed talking to other book fans about it. My friend Arielle came along with me and we had a good time!
Also there was a dog. A DOG. All bookstores need dogs.
The author Kristen Arnett joined the meeting after a bit and we got to ask her some questions! She had some really thoughtful answers. She also talked about how she fit her writing into her life with her full-time job as a librarian - basically, she committed to writing 1,000 words every day Monday-Friday. She didn’t have to write on the weekend, but if she did, that was cool too. I’ve found this mindset really inspiring and have made a similar commitment in my own life (using the Momentum habit tracking app).*
Afterward, Kristen signed books for everyone. She had the coolest way of doing so too - she put hearts into various portions of the title on the title page! I really appreciated the extra effort she put into making the autograph experience more unique and it gives me ideas for the future. :)
I can’t wait for next month’s meeting! I haven’t figured out what the book is yet, but I keep checking their website obsessively and someday I’ll know!
*I previously used the Habitbull habit tracking app, but I switched to Momentum to save money. It’s a very similar set up and only cost $5-6 instead of the $20 per year for Habitbull.