The 2016 Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair

book fair feature

As many of you know I have been traveling the country a lot lately. I have spent a lot of my time in the Pacific Northwest and have even started writing my very own suspense novel.  Life certainly keeps me on my fair

I have traveled to numerous book stores and find it interesting how many independent bookstores the west coast supports.

I was just in a pizza parlor earlier this week and saw a poster for the 2016 Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair. I might be a bookstore owner, but it’s not because I have a passion to sell books—I have a passion to have them. I added the Book Fair to my itinerary right then and a few days later tried to ignore the beeping reminder of the event. It’s not that I didn’t want to go, but that I really didn’t have any extra money to buy more books.

Well, obviously, because there is a post about the event, I succumbed to the reminder and went. This was my first Antiquarian Book event ever and I have never seen so many amazing finds in one place.

I know these vendors only brought a small portion of their wares and I wonder how they even went about choosing. I believe everyone brought a first edition signed copy of The Old Man and the Sea, but what I wanted to see were books by our famous Harper Lee and Truman Capote.

Capote was more common and I only found one seller with any copies of To Kill a Mockingbird. He had two first edition copies of our favorite novel and they weren’t cheap. The price tags were steep because of the nature of the books themselves, but very reasonable for the finds, and– in my opinion—there were some very good deals. One day I am hoping we at Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe will be able to have a rare book room of our own.

How Fiction Makes A New Language Come Alive

fiction and new language
fiction and new language
Fictional stories can open up a world of new language opportunities.

Learning a new language is never easy, and doing it successfully calls for all of the assistance you can find. In addition to structured educational programs and self-directed language tools, you can also get a lot of help from fictional material composed in the language you’re trying to learn. Here’s a basic guide to the process.

How Fiction Makes A New Language Come Alive: Written Fiction

Reading fiction in your target language is a time-honored way to strengthen your vocabulary and your understanding of grammar. (Obviously, it’s not so great for practicing your pronunciation.) While you will get more mileage out of works that you pick based on your own interests, do not overlook the fact that there are likely a lot of learning aids available for classic authors. Reading Jules Verne to help you learn French, for instance, is such a common tactic that you will have no difficulty finding study guides on the subject.

When it comes to selecting works that fit your degree of familiarity with the language, you may find fiction written for children and young adults to be extremely useful. These works typically feature limited vocabularies and (somewhat) simple grammar plus illustrations to guide you through each page, which is perfect for someone picking up a second language. A lot of youth-oriented fiction is even written with the goal of improving language skills; it is easier to learn a new language when you have the author on your side!

No matter what novel or story you pick to read in a new language, keep an eye out for one potential pitfall: Not all authors are interested in writing accessible fiction. Hit the Internet and read up on a writer’s stylistic reputation before you commit to reading his or her work. José Saramago, for example, is probably the most famous modern writer of Portuguese fiction, but he uses a very idiosyncratic and challenging style.

How Fiction Makes A New Language Come Alive: Movies and TV

Movies and TV shows can be excellent language learning tools, but you have to approach them with the right methodology to get the most out of them. The biggest step you need to take is to concentrate on actively studying rather than passively viewing. This is the secret to unlocking visual fiction’s true learning potential.

Unless you are already quite fluent, do not challenge yourself to digest a movie or show you have never seen before. It’s not “cheating” to start with a subtitled version! Begin with the translated work, and watch it a few times to familiarize yourself with the characters and the plot. This will give you important context clues when you take a closer look at the language being spoken.

When you are ready to actively study the actor’s lines, do not try to chew through an entire show or movie at once. Pick out dialog-heavy scenes that are relatively self-contained and no more than 10 minutes long. Study these excerpts in detail, focusing on each line. You will want to break individual lines down when you start studying; by the time you have mastered a scene, you should be able to repeat the actor’s lines and thoroughly understand their meanings.

How Fiction Makes A New Language Come Alive: The Challenge Round–Online Video

As your language skills grow, sometimes you are ready for a genuine challenge. Thanks to the Internet, you have a great way to test your ability to comprehend a spoken language without any “safety net.” You can do this by trolling YouTube (and other video sharing sites) for videos made by native speakers of your target language.

Bear in mind that this is more of a test of your past accomplishments than a way to build your skills! In most cases, you won’t find a direct translation of the video you are watching, and even if you do there is no guarantee as to its accuracy. Trying to grasp online video is a real acid test, but it is also a superb way to fully immerse yourself in a language the way it is actually spoken.

While consuming fictional works won’t suffice to teach you a language on its own, it can be a powerful adjunct to a more structured course of linguistic study. By seeing and / or hearing the language in action, you will get a realistic view of how it operates. This helps you master tricky concepts, understand dialect and idiom, and develop a more vibrant, natural sense of the language as you learn it.

About the Author

Laurent Huc is the director of Nacel International, a language learning experience that incorporates educational travel for complete immersion. To learn more about the exciting and effective programs offered by Nacel, visit


The Ultimate Book Giveaway

Ultimate Book Giveaway Harper Lee
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Alright, so last year we had an amazing time getting ready for the Go Set a Watchman book release  on July 14th. Well, this year we would like to do something else big to give back to our loyal followers. So we have decided to give away a signed Go Set a Watchman Special Edition!

How you can win the Ultimate Book Giveaway

All we want you to do is sign up for our newsletter and like us on Facebook and share this on Facebook and on July 14th of this year we will give away a signed copy of Go Set a Watchman. It really is the Ultimate Book Giveaway! These are very limited and worth upwards of $2,000 so this giveaway is going to be pretty sweet for the lucky winner, but that’s not all…  You see, I am a goal setter and I want our little book store to grow just like anyone wants their small business to grow. So, on top of the Go Set a Watchman giveaway we are going to give away a signed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird! That’s another $2,500 prize to a different winner. The books will be given to two separate people and all we want from  you is your help in getting the word out.

The Ultimate Book Giveaway: Our Goal

Now, the To Kill a Mockingbird giveaway comes with reaching a goal of  100k people subscribing to our newsletter, and 100k people liking us on Facebook. Now, I know this will be an easy task and we might do other giveaways if you blow it out of the water– so share this post with all your friends and family and don’t forget to join our newsletter by going to and signing up!

Also, please remember that we are a full service book store and if you cannot find something you’re looking for on our website, you can always give us a call and we can get it for you. If you do not have a local book store, we would love to be your local store no matter where you’re located. Our Shoppe is very small and each and everyone of our customers make a huge impact in our small community. Your orders from us have a very personal impact on our lives and the lives of our employees. You make a difference shopping with us and we appreciate you guys more than you can imagine.

Why the Ultimate Book Giveaway Means so much to us

When Go Set a Watchman came out last year, a lot of people thought we were a corporate-sized store with unlimited resources because we sold over 10,000 copies. The world soon found out the Book Shoppe is actually a 2,000 square foot house and each package was hand wrapped, stamped, and processed. We learned lot and we experienced some very real growing pains as a small business, but it was worth every moment.  Of course, it’s our desire to continue to serve you guys–to really be your hometown bookstore. So visit us online, in the store, or call us and let us know how we can help you today.

Book Signings and more at OCBS this Weekend


If you’re local, or are going to be near Monroeville, Alabama this weekend, you should come by the Shoppe. We are going to be busy with events over the next couple of days.

We will be having a book signing and reading Friday night, with Georgia native and young adult author Ted Dunagan. On Saturday, we will be celebrating Independent Bookstore Day and having a book signing and reading with author Darlyn Finch Kuhn.

Ted Dunagan

Ted-DunaganTed Dunagan is the author of A Yellow Watermelon, Secret of the Satilfa, Trouble on the Tombigbee, and The Salvation of Miss Lucretia. These four books are young adult novels that feature the characters Ted Dillon and Poudlum and their adventures.






A Yellow Watermelon

A Yellow Watermelon is author Ted Dunnagan’s first book introducing us to the segregated South of the 1940’s. Dunnagan writes about the adventures of Ted Dillion, a twelve year old white boy, and his gradual discovery of racial double standards in his hometown. Ted spends most of his long summer days playing where he shouldn’t, thinking of how to get out of school in the upcoming fall, and wondering about why white and black people in his town don’t mingle. Dunnagan uses colorful dialect and even more colorful characters to spin a story that doesn’t just look at racism from one perspective.

When Ted meets Jake, they develop an instant friendship despite their age and racial difference. Soon Ted is picking cotton on his uncle’s farm and meets Poudlum, a twelve-year-old black boy. The two hit it off immediately and with Jake, get in over their heads in adventure. You can’t imagine the trouble these three can conjure up. As you’ll come to find out, the Tombigbee river plays a big role in this story and many more to come from Dunnagan.


Secret of the Satilfa

In The Secret of the Satilfa, we pick up the story of Ted and his best friend Poudlum catching up and fishing during their Thanksgiving Break. The boys have barely begun to settle down at camp before their trip is interrupted by fugitive bank robbers. No strangers to danger and adventure, the boys must figure out how to escape and solve a riddle that will hopefully lead to a hidden treasure.

Author Ted Dunagan dives head first into rural Alabama, in a time that was both simple and complex, due to the racial tensions of the time. Dunagan fleshes out the wonderful relationship between Ted and Poudlum even further in his second book. The boys spend the entire story escaping from one set troubles to the next, growing closer, and maybe even getting a little bit wiser.

Trouble on the Tombigbee

Trouble on the Tombigbee is Dunagan’s third novel following the escapades of unlikely pals Ted and Poudlum. The duo take adventure and adversity well in stride during a time when an interracial friendship could cause almost as much of a stir as the Klu Klux Klan’s latest shenanigans. After a brief separation when Ted’s family moves away, the boys get together to catch up, fish, and explore their beloved Tombigbee River. As luck would have it the river has more than catfish floating in its current.

The Salvation of Miss Lucretia

The Salvation of Miss Lucretia is the latest, but not last, book in his series following the adventures of young Ted Dillion and his best friend Poudlum. The two boys are once again neck-deep in adventure and action when their hunting trip comes to a screetching halt. The boys find themselves missing dogs, robbed, and held captive. Their captor isn’t just a bank robber or a bootlegger this time, it’s a bonafide voodoo queen! Miss Lucretia was banished to the woods for practicing voodoo by a “preacher” and “deacons”, but Ted and Poudlum soon realize that instead of fearing her they’ve got to help her.


Ted will be joining us at the Shoppe Friday, April 29th at 6 p.m. and will be doing a book signing and reading.

Darlyn Finch Kuhn

darlynA poet known for her saucy style and engaging readings, Darlyn Finch Kuhn is also a gifted storyteller. In addition to her two poetry collections (Red Wax Rose and Three Houses) her work has appeared in literary journals, newspapers, magazines and online. Her poems have been featured on Poetic Logic on WMFE-FM, and been read by Garrison Keillor on the Writers Almanac. She was interviewed on World Radio Paris. She is the eponymous “Scribbler,” of the Scribbles e-newsletter. Kuhn produces book trailer videos with her husband at Brad Kuhn & Associates, LLC in Orlando, Florida.




Sewing Holes

SH-front-cover-195x300A little girl grows up in the 1960s and 70s in a family with a volatile mother, a loving but very ill father, a brother who flees the country to evade the draft, a foster-sister whose life is consumed by waiting for her real parents to return, and a best friend who likes to beat her up. She survives on stories told` to her by her father, particularly the one about “sewing holes” – creating beauty out of what seems to be nothing.

Darlyn will be joining us on Saturday, April 30th at 2 p.m. She will be reading from Sewing Holes and signing books as well.



Also on Saturday, we will be celebrating Independent Bookstore Day all day long. In addition to the reading and book signing, we will have refreshments available to anyone who stops by to visit. Come on and join us, we would love to see you! It’s going to be a great weekend here at OCBS!



The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin


Melanie Benjamin, the New York Times Best Selling Author of The Aviator’s Wife, recently published a new historical novel, The Swans of Fifth Avenue. While all of her historical novels feature people that most of us are at least somewhat familiar with, The Swans of Fifth Avenue features one of our very own, Truman Capote.

Swans-of-Fifth-AvenueAbout The Swans of Fifth Avenue

Of all the glamorous stars of New York high society, none blazes brighter than Babe Paley. Her flawless face regularly graces the pages of Vogue, and she is celebrated and adored for her ineffable style and exquisite taste, especially among her friends—the alluring socialite Swans Slim Keith, C. Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness, and Pamela Churchill. By all appearances, Babe has it all: money, beauty, glamour, jewels, influential friends, a high-profile husband, and gorgeous homes. But beneath this elegantly composed exterior dwells a passionate woman—a woman desperately longing for true love and connection.

Enter Truman Capote. This diminutive golden-haired genius with a larger-than-life personality explodes onto the scene, setting Babe and her circle of Swans aflutter. Through Babe, Truman gains an unlikely entrée into the enviable lives of Manhattan’s elite, along with unparalleled access to the scandal and gossip of Babe’s powerful circle. Sure of the loyalty of the man she calls “True Heart,” Babe never imagines the destruction Truman will leave in his wake. But once a storyteller, always a storyteller—even when the stories aren’t his to tell.

Truman’s fame is at its peak when such notable celebrities as Frank and Mia Sinatra, Lauren Bacall, and Rose Kennedy converge on his glittering Black and White Ball. But all too soon, he’ll ignite a literary scandal whose repercussions echo through the years. The Swans of Fifth Avenue will seduce and startle readers as it opens the door onto one of America’s most sumptuous eras.

Behind the Story

melanie-benjaminAs a young girl, Melanie Benjamin always wanted to go to New York. She would read publications such as Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and dream of city nightlife, and attending openings and galas and mingle with the people in the pictures; among those, Truman Capote. All that young Melanie knew about Truman, the writer, was that he wrote a book called In Cold Blood that her mother owned, but would not let Melanie read. The Truman Melanie knew was the one she saw in the magazines, along with the likes of Babe Paley and other “swans” of New York.

Sadly, Melanie didn’t move to New York, but this extravagant world she knew from the magazines lived on in her imagination. As she got older, she read all the books she could about the people she read about in magazines as a child. And she still reads Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. Upon reading Capotes Answered Prayers, Melanie began to wonder about the puzzling friendship of Babe and Truman, before everything went wrong. Melanie only remembered pictures of Truman after the downfall of his friendship with Babe and the swans, when he looked as she says “grotesque.” Melanie said that was what she wanted to write about, the before. The friendship and the glamour. And that is exactly what she did!

Thoughts on The Swans of Fifth Avenue

A friend of the shoppe recently read The Swans of Fifth Avenue (we haven’t had a chance to read it yet!) and he gave us his thoughts on it. He said it was very well-written, well-researched and a “guilty pleasure” of sorts. Local patrons will recognize the names of Nelle Harper Lee, and Sook Faulk. He also said that the tone of the book asks the question “Was Truman’s famous black and white ball the beginning of his downfall.”

Keep an eye out for our review on this one! We don’t have this one listed online yet, but we copies in the shoppe. Come by or call us at 251-494-9356 to order your copy today?

Have you read The Swans of Fifth Avenue yet? What were your thoughts? What are your thoughts on Truman’s black and white ball?

Interview with Greg Neri, author of Tru & Nelle

Photo by Edward Linsmier

Next week, we are fortunate enough to be having Greg Neri, author of the book Tru & Nelle, stop by for a book signing while he is in town for the Alabama Writer’s Symposium. I was able to get a brief interview with Mr. Neri, through email, so our readers will get to know a little bit about him before he visits Monroeville next week. Then hopefully some of you will be able to meet him in person as well!

A little bit about Greg Neri

Photo by Edward Linsmier
Photo by Edward Linsmier

OCBS: Tell us a little about yourself and your background. How do you think your upbringing affected you as an author?

Neri: I was a quiet kid, an outsider, an observer of life, and a big fan of Sherlock Holmes. All that found a kinship with young Truman and Nelle.

OCBS: Have you always wanted to be a writer? If not, what else did you consider as a career and why?

Neri: I came to writing late in life. I was a filmmaker and digital media producer for a while, but did workshops with schools in hard hit areas on the side. Working with kids and hearing their stories eventually led me to writing about and for them.

OCBS: What inspired you to write your most recent novel, Tru & Nelle?

Neri: The day after Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away, I found myself watching his movie, Capote. And there, on screen, was Truman with Harper Lee (!) trying to solve a small town crime with his old pal from childhood. That got me curious. What was their childhood like and what was it about Monroeville that produced two of our greatest writers? When I found out that they were just a couple of misfits who pretended to be Sherlock and Watson solving small town mysteries as kids, I was hooked. That, and seeing how many of the events from their upbringing directly inspired To Kill a Mockingbird and many of Truman’s stories and that nobody had really tackled their friendship for kids before.

Neri on Writing

OCBS: You take an actual event and then spin it into a fictional masterpiece. How do you choose what to write? What does your writing process look like?

Neri: Wow, thank you. I’d have to say I don’t choose what to write, it chooses me. Every one of my books is inspired by something I accidentally stumbled across and couldn’t believe it was real. I’ve had books come out of a school visit in St. Louis, from talking to a distant cousin at a Christmas party, from coming across a photograph of a horse in the inner city, or reading a handwritten note from Johnny Cash. Seeing Truman at 8 years old in his little white suit and imagining him opposite Nelle in her overalls and bare feet solving crime as junior detectives is something too good to pass up. They were the ultimate odd couple.

OCBS: What advice can you offer aspiring authors?

Neri: Give yourself permission to write badly in that first draft. Your job is to get all that information crammed in your skull out onto paper so you can see what you have to work with. Don’t edit yourself, let it fly– good, bad or indifferent. It’s about momentum. Later, you’ll make it sing.
OCBS: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

Neri: I have given myself up to completely to follow my gut and listen to what the story is telling me, not the other way around. It’s a scary proposition sometimes but it has led to a series of books I could not have possibly predicted.

The Children are Our Future

OCBS: Your books are geared more toward middle grade and young adult. Tell us a little about the involvement you have had with school visits and your past work with inner city kids.

Neri: My connection with kids drives my whole effort. I am inspired by them and relate to those who are outsiders or have insurmountable odds to overcome. I try to represent their stories and their voices in my work. I hope my stories expand everyone’s knowledge of what is happening all around them that they may not see. Kids need to know that they are not alone. My books are realistic and deal with tough issues sometimes. But they are also hopeful.

OCBS: What advice would you give to your younger self?

Neri: Don’t be so shy. Speak up more. Know that you have worth.

One Last Thing……

OCBS: What do you want your readers to know about you?

Neri: That life is about having as many different kinds of experiences as possible. I try to say yes to any new experience. That has taken me to Russia, allowed me to live in Berlin, led me to places I never would have gone, and to people I never would have met. My life is so much richer for that. And that is why I am coming to Monroeville!


Well, that was fun and informative! We hope as many of you as possible can come to the signing next Thursday night. Have you read Tru & Nelle? Have you read any other books by Greg Neri? What are your thoughts?