In 2013, I went to the book fair at the Boston AWP for two reasons; to scout for literary magazines I might want to stock at the store and to pitch my novel to Melville House. (OK. You caught me. It was really just the later, but the former sounded better when people asked me what I was up to and I honestly did look at lit mags for the store.) Even at AWP, writers really can’t just walk up to publishers and pitch their novels. But when I approached Dennis Johnson, one of the founders and publishers of Melville House, I wasn’t some random writer, I was “Josh from Porter Square Books,” a bookseller who advocated (and still advocates) for Melville House titles. Dennis knew I wouldn’t pitch a book that I didn’t think would be a good fit. Because they knew me as a bookseller, they were willing to at least give my book a shot. On March 3, 2015, Melville House published my debut novel, An Exaggerated Murder.
Working as a bookseller at Porter Square Books gave me access to the book world in ways I could never have imagined when I took the job. I learned about the inner workings of publishing, formed relationships with people throughout the industry, and stayed current with the books being written today. Not only did my work as a bookseller help me connect to publishers, I was also able to get to know other authors at all stages of their careers and, perhaps most importantly, through the staff discount and advance reader copies, I was able to afford far more new books than I ever could otherwise. Working at Porter Square Books gave me access and resources that directly helped me as a writer, both in terms of my career and my work.
And I’m not the only author/bookseller at Porter Square Books. Photographer Carter Hasegawa is still here on weekends, New England Book Award winner and NYT bestselling author Marika McCoola runs our book fairs, Todd, our reciever is a poet, and we’re eagerly awaiting Rebecca Kim Wells’ debut YA fantasy novel, Shatter the Sky. Over the years, Alexander Danner, Elizabeth Moore, Chris Abouzeid, and Mackenzi Lee have worked here. (And that’s just PSB. The odds of getting a recommendation from a published author at your local independent bookstore are actually pretty good.)
Over the last couple of years, we’ve had an ongoing conversation about how we can best provide the resources of the book world to our community. Writers are, of course, part of our community. Though we can’t hire every writer in the greater Porter Square area, we still want to make some of the resources that were so important to our writers available to others.
We are excited to announce the Porter Square Books Writers in Residence program. We will select two writers--one writing for adults and one writing for young readers--to serve a nine-month term from February 2019-October 2019. During their term, the writers in residence will get the Porter Square Books staff discount (40% off!) at both the bookstore and Cafe Zing, access to advance reader copies, and access to the store’s offices on nights and weekends as a quiet place to work. They’ll also be able to write staff picks if they want. Writers in residence will contribute at least three pieces for the store’s blog, introduce or participate in a conversation with at least three other authors (thus making connections to other publishing authors), participate in a “Welcome Reading” and Independent Bookstore Day, and agree to launch with Porter Square Books if, ahem, I mean, when the book they work on during their term here is published.