An Interview With Independent Bookstore Day’s Founding Director, Samantha Schoech

If you’ve followed Glitter Guide for any length of time you know our happy place is inside a bookstore. There’s no better place to be than browsing the shelves of your favorite indie bookstore, hunting for treasures. April 24 is Independent Bookstore Day, and today we’re chatting with founding director and author Samantha Schoech about the upcoming festivities.

Samantha Schoech

Can you tell us your first memory of experiencing an independent bookstore?

There was a store called A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books near where I grew up in Marin. I used to go there with my mom sometimes and eat in the cafe. I actually don’t remember the bookstore part of it very well from that time in my life, but I started working there in my mid-twenties doing author events. Bookstores have been a part of my professional life ever since.

Why is it so vital to support local indie bookstores?

For the same reason it’s important to support any local business — they contribute to the health and feel of your community, they provide local jobs and a local tax base. Small businesses use other small businesses and bolster local economies. The more romantic part of it is that there is just nothing quite like browsing in a bookstore. For those of us who like to read, it’s simultaneously exciting and calming. A good local bookstore is like the beating heart of a thriving community.

How are shops celebrating Indie Bookstore Day during COVID-19? What can people look forward to?

There are more than 730 bookstores participating in Bookstore Day on April 24 (you can find the ones near you on our searchable map at Some of them are open for browsing and will have in-store celebrations with events and food and activities, others are still completely closed to in-person shopping. Those stores will celebrate online with virtual events, games, contests and giveaways. It will be a combination of things and I’ve been really impressed with how stores have figured out how to celebrate and have a good time even in the midst of everything we’re going through.

What are a few of your favorite local indie bookshops?

Well, my husband owns Green Apple Books in San Francisco, so that’s obviously my favorite. And I’ve worked at a couple others in the Bay Area that I love. But I try to visit stores wherever I go. I love Three Lives in New York City, Northshire Bookstore in Vermont is incredible. Wild Rumpus children’s bookstore in Minneapolis is like a fantastical kids’ museum that sells books. I was lucky enough to be an English major in Portland, Oregon so Powell’s is near and dear to my heart. There are so many. They are like jewels scattered all over the country.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I have a very distinct memory of being nine and being in the bath with my baby brother, who was three at the time, and starting to narrate it as if it were a scene in a book. But I had no idea you could just be a writer. Deciding to be a writer seemed to me like deciding to be a fairy princess or something, pure fantasy. It literally wasn’t until college, when I took my first creative writing class and my professor told me I could be a writer, that I ever considered it possible.

How has your job as a writer changed since the pandemic? How has it stayed the same?

The writing part of my job(s) — I am also the book consultant for the San Francisco Chronicle — hasn’t actually changed much, but I am much more distracted and unfocused these days. Unlike a lot of people, I haven’t found this time to be creative at all. I’ve even been reading less. I’m in a holding pattern.

Do you have an all-time favorite book?

I am now old enough to know that I don’t have to have an all-time favorite and it is such a relief! I have so many favorites. One of the novels that I find myself returning to again and again as a writer is Julie Orringer’s historical novel The Invisible Bridge. I think Tobias Wolff’s Old School is a piece of perfection in under 250 pages. I read Shuggie Bain last year and it might be up there as an all-timer. Random Family by Adrian LeBlanc was published in 2004 and remains one of the most astonishing pieces of reported narrative nonfiction I’ve ever read. I mean, I could go on and on and on. I know I am forgetting a thousand books I consider essential.

What was the last book you read that blew you away?

Shuggie Bain. It’s lively, it’s wise, it’s human, it’s heartfelt and heartbreaking. It’s funny. A perfect novel.

You write beautiful poetry. Is there a poem that has been helping you through these weird and challenging times?

I love everything by Mary Oliver. But there is a poet in Santa Cruz named Danusha Laméris and her poem “Small Kindnesses” is something everyone should read.

You and your husband own Green Apple Books in San Francisco (one of my absolute favorite indie bookstores). In your opinion, what makes it so unique?

According to California law, I guess I technically own Green Apple, but the truth is, I’ve never worked a day in my life there. I wouldn’t even know how to ring up a sale. Our working lives touch but remain distinct. What makes it unique? It was founded on and continues to be run with profound respect for books. There’s no cafe or soothing music. In fact, there is not even a comfortable place to sit. But it’s rambling and weird and probably one of the best places to browse books in the country. I’ve been going there for 25 years and it’s still a place of delightful discovery for me.

What do you plan to read next?

I’m going to reread All the Light We Cannot See. I just lent it to my dad and it made him cry with that wonderful feeling of profound humanity that good novels leave you with. I loved it the first time, and I could use a touch of profound humanity right about now.

Thank you, Samantha! Learn more about how you can get involved with Independent Bookstore Day near you here

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Author: Taylor Sterling

Taylor Sterling is the founder and creative director of Glitter Guide. When she's not working on all things GG, she can be found reading and sometimes art directing photoshoots for @LolaJayne. She enjoys spending time with her family and eating french fries (not necessarily at the same time, although that's definitely the best combination). Follow her at @TaylorSterling