#MCRPop: The Little Bookstore That Could

Humble beginnings. 💚

I didn’t have much money. What I had was the burning desire to fill a big void in my community: the need for multicultural children’s books, including bilingual books. The desire to put the books I love into the hands of the readers looking for them. The desire to support diversity-focused small presses and independent authors of excellent books, but whom I know to have no or little marketing budget. These books are not yet reviewed by big, well-known newspapers, and not carried by big chain bookstores.

I figured I’d start with 10 copies of 10 different titles, and replace sold-out titles by new ones, to keep the customers looking for new items. As you will read below, reality quickly outgrew my vision.

I sold some personal items and emptied my saving account to purchase a business license, a seller’s permit, and to place the required ad in my local newspaper, announcing that I was open for business.

MultiCulturalism Rocks! Pop-Up, my tiny bookstore, was officially born.

First pop-up banner.❣️

I then used my credit card to purchase the first books. I simply contacted the publishers and the independent authors on the list I had made, with the help of Robert C. Liu-Trujillo, a writer/illustrator friend, and I pitched them my idea. I can’t thank enough the first people who jumped onboard. Not only did they enthusiastically welcome the initiative, but they also supported it by accepting to work with me: Robert C. Liu-Trujillo, award-winning author Zetta Elliot, Tiffany Golden, Maya Gonzalez, Justine Villanueva, and publishers Heyday Books, and Just Us Books.

I opened shop at the Davis International Festival on October 1st, 2017. I had clients already lined up while I was still setting up. A friend came to help me, and we were so busy selling that we didn’t have time to pause and be interviewed when asked.

Though I initially only spent a few days every month attending events and selling books, I systematically sold out of at least one title every time. To keep up with the pace of the sales, I increased my inventory, not just by ordering more than 10 books per titles when I saw fit, but also by adding more titles to meet my customers’ demands.

I quickly received more invitations to attend school events and cultural festivals not just outside of my county, but outside of my state as well (hopefully I will be able to honor these one day.). The African Market Place, in Sacramento, CA, whose community gave me a warm welcome, also quickly became a home where customers know to find me twice a month.

The challenge I’m meeting is that I need to increase my inventory again. I don’t do consignments. I pay for the books that I sell, and I believe that this is an essential way of supporting the authors I work with, especially the indie ones. I know my customers. I know what they want, and I know that all the books I carry will sell. So far, they all have. I used to be a bookseller specializing in children’s books, and I was good at it. This isn’t my first rodeo. I know to order just the right amount of items, taking into account the space I have, and the events I have lined up. I’m at a point where I need to rent a small space where I will store my inventory, because it is about to increase. And it will be an even sweeter deal if I could sell books from that location too, while still traveling places to meet the customers — educators, parents and kids, who are most looking for these stories and can’t come either to me or to the closest culturally diverse brick and mortar bookshop. I have a location in mind, in a vibrant community and with a rent within my range. I’ve been doing this, the traveling and transporting the table, banner, chair and books, using my green 2000, slightly beaten up Volkswagen Jetta. It would be amazing to one day have a vehicle with more space, to transport more of these amazing stories.

w/ spoken word artist and fellow pop-up bookstore owner, danté péläyō. 💛

I keep tab of all the fun that happens every time I’m out — which books sell the fastest, anecdotes, pictures, etc. I’ve been asked to share these snippets by several people, and will try to regularly do so in the future. During this literary, nomadic journey, I’ve also had the pleasure to meet other mobile bookstore owners (all heroes to my eyes and, I’m sure, to the eyes of their customers). I would like to give them a big shoutout, and I’m planning on spotlighting them on this blog in the near future. Please help make this a recurring event by adding more names to that list.

Last but not least, one of the ways I look to timely meet the readers’ demands for more titles, before the end of this year, is by applying to small business grants. This month I’m applying to the NAV grant, as well as the Amber Grant, and as such a part of this blog post will also be shared in my applications.

Thank you for reading this far, and thank you for your support. Is there a book you would recommend? Any bookmobile you would like to give a shoutout to? What about your own work: What have you been up to? 🙂

PS: About the play on the colors in the captions: green for hope, red for passion, yellow for friendship. Those three colors are also an ode to my African origins.

First #MCRPop customers! 💜
A dad who told me he was buying these books for his “princess.” 😊👑
On the road again… 🚘
Library in the making for a toddler, global citizen! 🎁 (I need to brush up on my Spanish!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited 08/16/18 at 3:54pm to add link to my NAV application.

Picture Book Anniversary & Review: i see peace, by Maya Gonzalez

what-is-peace-2Favorite quote: “there can still be peace between us.”

There are a few books out there that will never get old, that are timeless. i see peace is one of them, especially when we consider the year that we’ve just had: all the shootings, the (suicide) bombings, the racial and political and economical tensions all over the world and closer to us.  I’ve lost track of the number of times I read this book since I’ve owned it. Every time I paused and pondered on a different page, on a different quote. I looked within and I looked around. Through its words I chased hope when it had become shy. I crossed the bridge of generations and of mutual understanding, one page at a time. The book speaks every language, and to every generation. It will make you smile when all is alright, and remind you of what matters. It is likely to make you feel peaceful when there is turmoil.

i see peace suits any occasion. It makes for a great holiday gift and beyond that, its reading can be appreciated all year long. It also strikes me as the type of message our world needs right now. I hope you will give it a chance.

Additional information:

i see peace book cover, courtesy of Maya Gonzalez.
i see peace book cover, courtesy of Maya Gonzalez.

More can be written about the concise writing style and the font use. There is matter to reflect regarding the deliberate lack of capital letters in the beginning of every sentence. The illustrations are minimal and leave room to breathe without being overwhelming, while adding to the depth of the reading experience. I enjoyed how, looking at them, they add to the multidimensionality of the theme of peace: peace with one self, peace with each other, peace with the earth and our surroundings. Yet for the purpose of this review, I chose to focus solely on the message of the book. I leave the additional literary analysis to the discretion of the reader.

i see peace was released on December 16, 2013, and is one of the excellently self-published books that I would recommend. It was free for upload on Amazon for short period of time late in 2014, which is how it first got to my attention and how I obtained it. I mentioned in my Amazon’s review that I “Loved the historical reference at the end, which deepens the roots of the peace planted within during the reading of this song to our soul.” (sp)

A curriculum and activity guide for the book, titled Creating a Culture of Peace in the Classroom and Beyond, are available on the author’s website.

i see peace is also available in Spanish under the title yo veo la paz.

Maya-Christina GonzalezAbout the author:
Maya Gonzalez is an award winning artist and innovative author, an activist and an educator based in the Bay Area, in Northern California. Year long she teaches, among other topics, workshops on writing and illustrating children’s books through her school, the School of the Free Mind. She is the founder of Reflection Press. She has been both traditionally published and self-published.

For more information about Maya and to get in touch with her, please visit:
o her website
o School of the Free Mind
o Reflection Press
o her Facebook Page
o Twitter

For the classroom:
o Educational Resources and Programs

This is my last post for 2015. I wish you all a warm and safe holiday season.