Mayes: Contest hits target, packs local bookstore


Written by Mark Mayes, Sep 20, 2012

Randy Pearson received a clear sign Saturday that his attempt to run a writing contest and bring attention to locally owned bookstores had been a success.

He wished he had a microphone.

So many people showed up at Everybody Reads bookstore on East Michigan Avenue for the “Save the Independent Bookstore” writing contest awards ceremony that those in the back had trouble hearing. Pearson and store owner Scott Harris were thrilled by the response that filled the shop’s aisles and raised a few dollars for literacy.

“It was a win across the board,” said Pearson, a Lansing author and book lover.

In June, I wrote about Pearson’s desire to bring attention to the plight of the neighborhood bookstore before it was too late.

He approached Harris about creating a writing contest that would compel literature lovers to ponder the value of local bookstores — which are growing scarce in the age of Inc. and e-readers.

For $10, anybody could enter the contest as long as their pieces included characters, a plot or other content related to an independent bookstore.

The contest was sponsored by Writing at the Ledges, a writer’s group that meets in Grand Ledge, and Everybody Reads bookstore, 2019 E. Michigan Ave.

Winners announced

The contest received 57 entries, of which 15 were named finalists.

Former Lansing State Journal columnist John Schneider selected the winners, who were recognized at the Saturday event.

The ceremony also featured readings of the finalist entries, book giveaways and presentation of a $258 check to the Capital Area Literacy Coalition.

The winners:

• First place ($150): Terry Palczewski of East Lansing for “Refuge.”

• Second Place ($100): Will Forgrave of Jackson for “ ’Till it be Morrow.”

• Third Place ($35): Craig Gunn of Okemos for “Nathan.”

Here’s an excerpt from Palczewski’s “Refuge:”

The sign above the shelf nearest me says ‘CLASSICS’. They’re hardbound books that look old. Some of them have labels on them that say ‘USED’. Weird. He actually sells second-hand books? Hardbound books? Why would anybody buy something like that?

“They might look old,” he says, reading my mind, “but the stories in them are ageless. That’s the wonderful thing about them. They tell stories about things that happened years and years ago but you’ll discover that what they describe is still happening right now, today.”

He holds out a book to me. It’s hardbound and feels heavy and awkward and old, but friendly and comforting at the same time.

Welcome rush

Harris, whose bookstore has struggled since it opened six years ago, said participation in the contest and Saturday’s ceremony outpaced his expectations. More than 50 people showed up — and many shopped.

“The challenge for us has been to get people in the door,” Harris said. “We’ve tried creative marketing. Once you get people in the door, it’s on us really to give them a reason to come back. We got some new faces as well as some longtime supporters of the store.”

Pearson said he’s almost certain the contest will return next year.