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Tales from the Bookseller #3

One thing I have learnt over the last three years is that my dream to run my own bookshop … is a lot of people’s dream.

The amount of folk that tell me on pretty much a daily basis that I am living their dream astounds me. It seems everyone has a desire to run their own bookshop. I say if you can, then go for it. Just not here in Ipswich thank you very much!

The romantic and idyllic notion I had of spending long summer days (winter didn’t exist in my romantic and idyllic notion) sat in a battered old armchair with my nose in a book and occasionally serving the odd customer or three, never got past the stage of being a romantic and idyllic notion.

It's been anything but that. And I’m hugely thankful for that.

Ordering books and selling books (as well as squealing with delight over every box I open) is only a tiny part of my life as a bookseller. And I do things and am asked to do things that I would never ever have anticipated. And again, I am hugely thankful for that.

I’ve spoken at a writers’ event at the University, and been invited along to an assembly at a local school where I was cheered and applauded. I’ve had class after class in my shop and then just stood back and looked on as my perfectly aligned books and straight lines were demolished. I’ve written a comment for the proof copy of Matson Taylor’s book, a review for the back of James Jenkins’ book and there is a photograph of my shop in Sue Thompson's book. I’ve been in the papers so often that not collecting and framing my claims to fame was simply not an option. I’ve sold books at the May Day festival, Ipswich Music Day and Suffolk Pride, as well as the Red Rose Chain and the New Wolsey Theatre – and the Dial Lane Books banner will also be flown at The Regent.

I’ve been given letters and cards and presents and alcohol. I’ve received pictures that children have drawn for – and of – me, and I have a portrait of myself hanging in the shop that was drawn and gifted to me by a local author.

I work closely with the English department at the University of Suffolk and a Dial Lane Books pop-up bookshop can oft be found at their events. I supply books to Love One and Fox and Bramble, and Dial Lane Books can also be found every month over at the Ipswich Institute as part of Suffolk Book League’s monthly author gigs. I’ve even been asked to write for Suffolk Book League’s online magazine – BookTalk!

I’ve judged local writing, poetry and colouring competitions, and I’ve also been a judge on the BBC 500 words competition. I’ve sponsored an Owl for the St. Elizabeth's Hospice’s Big Hoot trail and then spent three months worrying about it. So much so that I bid on and won it at the auction and it now stands in my kitchen where I can keep a close eye on it. I’m also sponsoring a labrador for Suffolk Libraries PAWS-itivity campaign later this year.

I have a Wall of Queer© and a Wall of Matson© - well he is Dial Lane Books’ royalty after all. And I have (albeit temporarily) another four walls and shop to play with as I’m doing a three month summer residency (sounds better than pop-up) in Manningtree.

Bookselling is about more than standing behind my (new and improved) counter and simply selling books. It’s about community and about being part of that community. The members of this community have taken me and my shop to their hearts so I think it’s only right that I put myself out there and get involved with as much as I can – to say thank you.

Andrew Marsh

The Dial Lane booksellers provide books for our audiences at SBL events.

More about the Ipswich shop here:


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