Creating a literary community in Warrenton
You don’t need to leave Warrenton to discover the kind of magic and sense of community that you find in a quality local bookstore. Simply plan to visit The Open Book, the new bookstore conveniently located in Old Town next to Great Harvest bakery and coffee shop on Main Street.
The three friends and partners who own and operate The Open Book — Chris Granger, Cammie Copps Fuller, and Rachel Sirene — all shared a dream of opening a true community-focused bookstore in town. Folks in Fauquier County, they agreed, should not have to travel out of the county to encounter the in-person bookstore experience. And, of course, a deep love of books was a factor in their vision. Cammie, a writer herself, said, “My mom was a huge reader and brought us up with books. I was always the kid reading late into the night under the covers with a flashlight.”
As their mutual interest in bringing a family-focused bookstore to Warrenton developed, the three friends searched possible locations where they could contribute to the economic vitality of Main Street. They found the perfect spot in the heart of downtown not far from the vibrant, successful Farmers Market — another spot where the local community comes together. Sitting at an outside table on a beautiful late summer day, Rachel and Cammie talked about their dream store as a “beautiful way to make connections” and an “opportunity to have intimate conversations” away from the noisy current events world outside. They said they want their business to say to customers, “We’re so glad you are here.”
Since its opening in March, The Open Book has already gained great popularity, not only because of its welcoming environment, friendly staff, and well-stocked shelves of books of every genre, but because of the frequent literature-related activities it sponsors. The store hosts many recurring and special activities for local families to enjoy. Many of these focus on children of every age and provide opportunities to “connect kids with kids.” For example, there are children’s story times, and book clubs for elementary, middle, and high school students as well as adults. Story telling competitions, meet-and-greets with local authors, and writing workshops are sprinkled throughout the year.
The shelves are stocked with a wide variety of literature with a careful combination of hot new picks and what Cammie calls a “select backlist,” which are simply books she likes and thinks should be offered to the community; The Shipping News by Annie Proulx is one of these, as is a selection of poetry. She is constantly adjusting the inventory as she learns the community’s interests. “Our customers really like historical fiction and current fiction. Our children’s section is really hopping, and our young adult books are also really popular,” she said. What are the best sellers in the store since they opened? It’s a toss up between Where the Crawdads Sing, fiction by Delia Owens, and Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover.
Support of local authors is also part of the objective of The Open Book. They provide a section of shelving in the front of the store devoted to these writers, and invite them for periodic workshops and book signings. The most popular book from a local author? “Jaded” by Warrenton author Kristy Feltenberger Gillespie, the first volume in her Nirvana series for young adults. Also selling well is Lily Barlow, the Mystery of Jane Dough, a mystery/romance set in Fauquier County, by Carla Vergot.
In this day of digital books and kindles, Cammie doesn’t see this technology as a threat to her bookstore. “There’s an application for all the formats, and there are still people who prefer holding a tangible book, turning the pages,” she said. “As long as we get the books to the readers somehow, that’s the goal.” In addition to their “real” books, the store sells audio books through libro.fm, the first digital audio book company that allows customers to support their local bookstore with their purchases. Just choose a subscription at libro.fm, select The Open Book as your store, and start listening to a huge selection of choices from all sorts of different genres.
But perhaps what best shows The Open Book’s desire to be a true part of the local literary community — both readers and writers — is the large, comfortable table in the center of the store. Customers are invited to sit and explore some of the books, and writers of all ages — both professional and those starting out — are welcome to come and sit a spell, work on their current project, and maybe even connect with readers or other writers. It’s a place to relax and share a love of reading and writing. “The table is the backbone of our store,” said Cammie. “It illustrates what we’re all about. We could use that space for display, but we choose to have that for our community.”
November 8: Story Slam! Story telling competition
November 16, 5-7 p.m.: Meet and greet with local authors including a brewery tasting, live music, and light snacks.
November 17: The Art of Writing a Thank-you Letter, a workshop for children (2-3 p.m.) and adults (3-4 p.m.)
All November: Tuesday – Thursday @ 8:45 am, The Open Book will be an official location for National Novel Writing Month “write-in.”