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50 Years of Island Books: The Staff

This 50 Years of Island Books series is about to reach the grand finale, because November is only a few weeks away and it's almost time to pop the champagne. Since April, I've talked to booksellers and owners from years past, sales reps, and many beloved local authors to paint a picture of what Island Books has meant to the community and how it evolved into the place it is today.

Now, I'm turning my attention to the people who show up hour to hour, in the here and now, to make the store the living, breathing wonderland that it is and will be in 2023 and beyond. On a rainy Monday when the store was closed for cleaning, I pulled them aside for some heart-to-hearts.

So many times we come in and say a quick hi to these friendly booksellers, the face of a familiar place we know and love, but it's rare we think about who they are as people and what they think about as they work. I've known many of them for years and have watched the staff evolve. From my little perch, I can honestly say that they put so much love into what they do, and that our island community wouldn't be the same without them.

Side note: since I already cornered the longest tenured Island Books employee for a separate blog, Cindy only makes a tiny (and fun) appearance via Caitlin in this post. If you want to learn more about Cindy, click here.

To our Island Books booksellerswe love and appreciate all of you. Truly. Now let's get into it.

50 Years of Island Books: Elise Hooper

A native New Englander, Elise Hooper spent several years writing for television and online news outlets before getting a MA and teaching high-school literature and history. Her debut novel The Other Alcott was a nominee for the 2017 Washington Book Award. Three more novels—Learning to See, Fast Girls, and Angels of the Pacific—followed, all centered on the lives of extraordinary but overlooked historical women. Elise now lives in Seattle with her husband and two teenage daughters. You can read a great interview she did with Kelleen back in 2020 for the release of Fast Girls here.

Miriam: I loved The Other Alcott and Fast Girls. We're big fans and happy to have you on the blog. Let's start with your first visit to Island Books. Where were you in your career then, and what stood out about the store?

Elise: If I remember things correctly, I was on Mercer Island because my younger daughter had swim practice at the Mercerwood Shore Club. This must have been sometime in the winter of 2017 because it was already dark and rainy and my first book, The Other Alcott, had not yet been released. Usually when my daughter had these practices, I'd find a spot in the clubhouse and work on my second book, but I was feeling restless and had just heard about Island Books, so I decided to drop off the swim carpool kids and go on a little literary island adventure. Because, duh, why work when you can visit a bookstore? 

When I walked in the bookstore, I found the staff gathered around an opened bottle of champagne and they were celebrating, although I can't remember what the occasion was. The amazing part was that they poured me a glass and we started chatting. Instantly I felt at home. Books, bubbles, and smiling, welcoming faces on a dark and rainy night? Clearly the store was my kind of place. That evening marked the beginning of a great relationship.

A Double Dose of 50 Years of Island Books: Rachel Linden / Martha Brockenbrough

Rachel Linden is a novelist and international aid worker whose adventures in over fifty countries around the world provide excellent grist for her writing. She is the author of The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie, The Enlightenment of Bees, Becoming the Talbot Sisters, and Ascension of Larks. Currently Rachel lives with her family on a sweet little island near Seattle, WA where she enjoys creating stories about strong women facing big challenges, travel, food, and second chances at love. She promises her readers a happy, or at least very hopeful, ending and infuses each of her stories with a touch of magical realism. Her newest novel, Recipe for a Charmed Life, comes out in early 2024.

Miriam: Welcome, Rachel. Let's start with your first visit to Island Books. Where were you in your career then, and what stood out about the store?

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