You have to love independent book shops! Can you image the buyer at a chain bookstore saying, “The main thing we look for is good writing”? Those are the very words of Valerie Welbourne,owner/manager of The Fountainhead Bookstore in Hendersonville, North Carolina (www.fountainheadbookstore.com).
MUF: Valerie, how did your shop get its name and get started, and what keeps you going?
Valerie: The Fountainhead is a nod to Moby Dick, with the fountain coming out of his head . One of our logos has the spout coming out and if you look closely it says “books books books” over and over. Our loyal customers keep us going. They offer not only financial support, but moral support as well. Nothing is better than bookstore customers! They are such nice people.
MUF:Describe the atmosphere and layout of your store. What happens when, say, an eleven-year-old comes in looking for a good book?
Valerie: I think our atmosphere is fairly casual. When an eleven-year-old comes in, I get very excited if they say they are looking for some ideas! I will ask them some questions first about their preferences, and then pull out several choices I think they might enjoy. Parents really appreciate this too, because it helps them avoid a “power struggle” with their kids over what to read.
MUF: As middle-grade authors, we’d love to know how you choose what books to carry in your shop?
Valerie: We consider many factors. The main thing that we look for is good writing! And we also take into account if the book matches our particular customer base. And finally, we read lots of ARCs. If someone on the staff loved it, it’s in!
MUF: Can you tell us a few titles, new or old, fiction or nonfiction that you are recommending to middle-graders right now?
Valerie: Middle Grade kids can run the gamut of ability levels and interests, so we take that into account when making recommendations. If a child is on the younger end of the spectrum and indicates they like more realistic, situational fiction, I recommend anything by Donna Gephart. If they are older and looking for a new and serious fantasy series, I would recommend the Chaos Walking trilogy. The Inventor’s Secret is a new steampunk book out for kids that I found very intriguing. Also, I’m reading the ARC for The League of Seven by Alan Gratz right now that I am really enjoying. It is also steampunk. Here are a few more I really am a big fan of: Snicker of Magic (lovely!), The Shakespeare Mysteries (page turners and I learn something), Disappearance at Hangman’s Bluff (coming out this August – great!), Shark Wars, and What I Came to Tell You by Tommy Hays. Actually, I could go on and on…I really am a Tween Fiction enthusiast. In fact we are starting a Tween Book Club for adults this June at the request of adult customers.
MUF:You have some enticing children’s book camps coming up this summer, most all of which sound like they’re right up the alley of middle-graders. Please tell our readers a bit about them. Valerie: Our book camps are great fun. One of my favorites is the one based on Treasure Island. We have sword fights, do popcorn reading (great language for reading aloud), write our own backstories for some of the characters, do illustrations, scavenger hunts, etc. I think I have more fun than anyone there.
MUF: What have been some of your favorite events at Fountainhead Books? Have you had some visits from middle-grade authors?
Valerie: We just hosted a Tween Panel Extravaganza, and it was so much fun. We got amazing feedback from the attendees, which included kids, adults, librarians, and teachers. Everyone said please do this again! It helps that we had some incredible authors participating. They were: Deron Hicks, John Thompson, Alan Gratz, Donna Gephart, Tommy Hays, and Natalie Lloyd. I’ve attached a photo of the event.
MUF:If a family visited Fountainhead Books from out of town, would there be family-friendly places nearby where they could get a meal or snack after shopping? And if they could stay awhile, are there other unique sights or family activities in Hendersonville that they shouldn’t miss?
Valerie: Here are some cool places to take kids when visiting Hendersonville, after of course a visit to The Fountainhead Bookstore. These are all within two blocks of the bookstore: * Kilwins ice cream – the best! * Dancing Bear Toys * Hands On Children’s Museum
Thanks, Valerie, for giving us a glimpse into your shop. It’s always a pleasure to “meet” children’s book store people, because you’re book readers and curators as well as sellers. Readers, have any of you visited Fountainhead Bookstore (yet)?
Sue Cowing is the author of the middle-grade puppet-and-boy novel You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012)
I love it when book sellers are actually book readers, too. Hats off to Valerie and her store.
Valerie is a gem. She’s thoughtful and generous and LOVES books and her customers. I was so glad to have been part of her extraordinary event for tweens. And doubly pleased to meet such a wonderful person!
Great interview, and what a great book shop! Love the sound of that camp. I don’t live close to Hendersonville, but I am in NC, so if I’m ever over that way I’ll make sure I drop by!