Once Upon a Retail Dream

I worked for Barnes & Noble many many moons ago. For the better part, it was a good job. I made a number of friends I still have to this day, learned a great deal about bureaucracy, came to grips with the fact that some people suck, and got to see the world of books from a side that was more terrifying and heart-wrenching than I could have ever imagined.

Working in a bookstore is a blessing.

Working in a bookstore during Christmas is soul-crushing.

One night I was the manager-on-duty during an overnight inventory. This involved a lot of wandering, answering questions when the inventory team (an outsourced company) had them, and an abundance of idle time.

I took some of that time to pay homage to one of my favorite stories of all time: How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I had it memorized at one point, though I doubt I could remember half of it now. To the beat–more or less–of The Grinch, I wrote about the experience of being in retail this time of year.

I was idealistic once, as well. My first Christmas at B&N put that to rest.

Final note: I’m not a poet. Generally, I’m an idiot. No need to edit my work here. Just enjoy, and maybe–just maybe–be a bit more kind to the folks working retail. It. Is. Hard.

Once Upon a Retail Dream

In a town, once there was, not so far from the fuss

of a city that travelled by car and by bus;

crowds of people who would pounce

and then pay no heed,

to the stories and literature they were told to read.

 

And in this small town was a store that sold books,

a place of joy and good will where friends and family alike

would come to browse and to gawk and to look

for stories upon stories to warm their bleak hearts,

for those in need, for those not quite right,

for those so eager to read by fine light.

 

And to this store one day, there came a man,

whose smile brought good cheer to this place in demand.

He came with a box full of ribbons and bows,

full of doo-dads and papers and puppets for shows!

They welcomed him warmly, this boss who promised the most,

and granted their allegiance as he took this fine post.

They cried, “Hooray for this man, who brings with him hope!

He seeks our redemption, he may right our doomed boat!”

 

But the man formed a grin, a strange little smirk.

“What do you mean?” he asked,

“This store is a blessing, not the slightest known quirk.”

The employees, they did laugh,

most simply shaking their heads;

then one spoke up light, her fair voice so sweet,

she bit at her lip and said, “Oh, brother, we’re dead.”

 

“Surely, you jest,” said the man still aglow,

“Let me show you the heart of the customer flow.”

He walked to the door with a bounce in his step,

his face full of joy, his hum full of pep.

He reached for the lock, those in wait staring long,

for a moment he paused, his mind waging within,

they looked so intense, unhappy and withdrawn.

But he drew his best smile—a patented grin—and parted the door,

which they pushed open so quickly,

he was knocked to the floor.

 

“We told you,” the workers said,

as he wiped dust from his pants,

“They’re maniacs, they’re mad,

they’re retail’s life-sucking ants.”

“Just anxious,” he said, with notable doubt,

“They needed their coffee, a few simple gifts,

they needed exercise books to workout.

They’ll get what they need,

then they’ll hurry right out.”

 

But the customers did linger, they plopped into chairs,

they scattered books and they slept,

and they bumped tables without care.

Signs fell to the floor, the children’s section was trashed,

the café was pillaged, and displays were crashed.

The carpet—once as neat as his bed—was littered

with pastries that were mangled, half-eaten and mashed.

“What are you doing?” asked the man, his hands wringing with fear,

“This is a store to buy books! There’s no carnival here!”

But the people paid no mind, they hurried instead,

their faces intent, eyes glossy like pearls,

they rummaged through clearance racks and filled him with dread.

 

“I don’t understand!” he cried, but to no great avail,

“You’re supposed to come shop, not barter for sales!”

And the man who did smile as he walked through the door,

with boasts of good fortune and scores of good cheer,

suddenly realized that retail was a little bit more

than selling to people who know what they want.

“They shop without purpose, they shop without heart.

They shop without discounts or knowledge or carts!”

 

And what did they hear on that cool winter day?

Those customers and employees, well, in whispers they say,

that the man with the smile and promises of more,

screamed and he screamed

as they carried him out from the store.

He screamed like a child, in the white jacket he wore.

Welcome to the world, Broadleaf Writers

I have ideas.

Many of them become stories. Some of them blog projects following my work-in-progress. Some of them become real things. Some of them stew in my brain for years before finding a port worthy of docking. A place where like-minded individuals may come aboard and assist me in making my dear sweet eager idea a reality.

Today, I get to unleash another into the world. Today, the Broadleaf Writers Association becomes a reality.

Sweet.

What is Broadleaf? Why is Broadleaf? How is … never mind, you see where this is going.

To simplify things here: Broadleaf Writers is an organization dedicated to educating and inspiring writers to become better writers. We believe the path to publication is paved in the perfection of your craft. We believe no writer should stand alone in the pursuit of their passion. We believe writers should explore the style they feel is best suited to their skill, that any genre may contain brilliance, and that nothing soothes a writer’s soul more than the opportunity to commune with other writers.

Through seminars, workshops, networking and peer groups, and much more, Broadleaf Writers is meant to be the home every writer has been looking for. And to kick it off, we will host the First Annual Broadleaf Writers Conference in September 2016! The site and date will be announced soon, as will the first of a growing list of fabulous, experienced, writers who will serve as speakers and mentors.

We’re still a bit under construction (aren’t we all?), but we’re very eager to get started. In addition to the above, we will be opening membership enrollment soon, in order to grant writers greater access to information on Broadleaf, educational opportunities, and discounts on the programs we offer. In the meantime, we’ve started a Facebook page, we’re on Twitter, and we have established a website at broadleafwriters.com! Please give them a look, like, follow, sign up for our newsletter (on the website!), and help spread the word. If you would like to donate to help fund our organization, we would be most grateful! There’s a donation button on the website, or if you would like to discuss it via email, I can be reached at broadleafwriters@gmail.com. If you have any questions, comments, thoughts, ideas, or any other word I’ve managed to forget in the sentence, email me, comment below, message the Facebook page, tweet to us, we’re easy to find!

There are so many talented, passionate, writers in the area, in neighboring states, in the Southeast, and we want to shine a spotlight on every one. Whether a New York Times bestseller, a product of the small presses, self-published, or one of the many seeking to become part of the process somewhere, we are all one family. One group. One idea seeking a port. Come aboard. This is going to be one hell of a ride.

Though this idea did stew in these here brain meats for more than two years, I would be remiss in failing to mention my wonderful Board of Directors. Though still in its infancy in size and scope, Broadleaf would not exist without their time, energy, and dedication to this dream. So a very heartfelt thanks to Alison Law, Ricki Schultz, Bill Bridges, Barbara Friend Ish, and Collin Kelley. You are all so wonderful, gifted, and a thrill to work with. LET’S GO TEAM!

If you have an interest in potentially joining the Board, offering your time on our Conference committee, or volunteering as the need arises, please feel free to email me. With all that we hope to accomplish in the coming year and beyond, it will take a small army of individuals working together to build our family.

So as to avoid spending two thousand additional words worth of your time detailing all that Broadleaf can be, all that gives me the tingles when I think on it, I’ll leave it there for now. Please do contact me if you have questions. Help us spread the word. Like us on Facebook, follow us on twitter, sign up for our newsletter. Donate if you can. Every single dollar will make a difference.

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