Ten years deserves a party.
Left Bank Books in Belfast is celebrating its 10th year in the book-selling business with a lineup of celebrity summer readers.
“This is our anniversary year, and we wanted to find the most fabulous array of authors we could offer to the community,” said one of the store’s owners, Marsha Kaplan. “We started with a list of favorite authors and got lucky enough that some of them could weave us into their schedules.”
So far, best-selling author Ann Patchett and Maine writer Marilyn Moss have come to the bookstore. On tap in August are inauguration poet Richard Blanco, Aug. 2; novelist Lily King, Aug. 3; Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction writer Elizabeth Strout, Aug. 9; and naturalist Bernd Heinrich, Aug 16.
Kaplan described Left Bank Books as the little bookstore that could. “It’s luck and it’s persistence,” she said.
In the case of Blanco, Kaplan and her colleagues began asking if he would come down from his home in Bethel to read in Belfast soon after he delivered his poem “One Today” at the second inaugural of President Barack Obama.
“Anytime he was on the radio or on television, we sent him a note of congratulations and told him, ‘You have an open invitation, including dinner before and a beer after.’ He finally said yes,” Kaplan said.
They booked Strout, who lives in midcoast Maine, at the tail end of a national book tour.
Patchett was pure luck. They’ve been asking her to come to Maine for many years. The store’s latest request arrived in Patchett’s hands the very day she committed to an event with her friend Richard Russo in Portland.
Patchett told the store’s owners that she said yes mostly out of curiosity. She joked that she wanted to meet the women who had been stalking her for years.
More than 300 people turned out for her talk in early June. Patchett also left with a trove of gifts.
Aware of Patchett’s love of blueberries, the ladies at Left Bank Books baked her a blueberry pie and sent a sailor’s cap home for her husband, who they knew liked to sail.
And for Patchett’s dog, Sparky, they included a squeaky lobster toy.
“We try to say thank you and let them know in every way that we will leap tall buildings and pull out all the stops to make the event a success for them,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan and co-owners Lindsay McGuire and Barbara Klausmeyer, along with friend and marketing director Nancy Hauswald, worked at a different Belfast bookstore many years ago.
They enjoyed each other’s company and dreamed someday of owning a bookstore together.
They opened in nearby Searsport a decade ago and moved to Belfast two years ago to a storefront on Church Street, just down from Main Street.
They love their community.
“We feel so fortunate and so lucky to be here,” Kaplan said. “Belfast is a reading community. Searsport was, as well. There are wonderful readers in small communities, just as there are in big cities. That may be a function of long winters and cold nights. But readers are alive and well here.”
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: