January 2016: Meditations on the first year

January 2016
Dear Eight Cousins' Friends,
 
It has been one year since Mary Fran, Sara and I purchased Eight Cousins from Carol Chittenden. How fast did the time go by? I was just reading about the speed of a minute. Depending on what you are doing, time can feel like the blink of an eye or seem like an eternity, as in the last two minutes of a close sports contest with your team ahead by a small margin.
 
For me the highlights of this year stemmed from working closely with Mary Fran and Sara and hearing from all of you about your appreciation that Eight Cousins stayed open. My favorite moments included watching how you rely on our staff for help finding the perfect book as a gift or for yourself, learning the secret to Eight Cousins' gift wrapping, seeing small children on their tip toes at the counter asking about a book they would like, sending grateful customers (usually men are the most grateful!) off with a beautifully wrapped gift, and celebrating when the final name has been taken from the Giving Tree because that means that several hundred Falmouth children will have a book this holiday season.
 
We have watched You've Got Mail, so we were prepared for the challenges of running an independent book store, but it is the little unplanned things that can take you by surprise. Last winter was the worst on record which affected our sales, followed by a beautiful summer which brought the crowds to Main Street and turned things around. Owning a business that is closed only three days a year (we did cheat a little this year for renovations) means it is on our minds every day. Another good reason to have partners!
 
The highs outshined the lows, and we head into 2016 with a year's worth of valuable experience. We hope you will continue to stop in, call, email, order on our website because as I heard so many times this year: Falmouth is a town that should have a book store.
 
Happy New Year!
Eileen Miskell
 
 
 
It's hard to imagine our first year is over; it went by in a flash and I often  had a hard time just stopping to catch my breath. One customer recently asked me, "When are you going to stop calling yourself one of the new owners"? I plan to do so now!
 
And truthfully, it has been a remarkable year. Even though I have been on the Eight Cousins staff for almost eight years, there has been much to learn as one of the "new owners." We are fortunate that Carol Chittenden had lain down an incredibly strong foundation and has established a bookstore that is very well respected within the industry as well as in the Falmouth community and beyond. We plan to build on this foundation!
 
The most humbling moments for me this past year occurred when customers thanked me for keeping Eight Cousins alive. They stressed the importance of having a bookstore in the community. I can't imagine Falmouth without Eight Cousins! And without you, our customers, our success is not possible. Thank you for your support this past year, and thank you for your faith in us as we go forth as "the owners."
 
Mary Fran
 
 
 
After starting a new endeavor, it is customary to comment how different, or more difficult, the task was than expected. I think that this adventure might be one of the few times that I knew exactly what I was getting into, in that I knew I didn't exactly know what I was getting into.
 
One of the things that has surprised me the most this year is how much I've relied on academic training. It defies logic, I know. Studying English surely can't have any real practical value (don't get me started). I thought running a business would feel new, but instead it feels very much like writing an essay, a dissertation, a book . . . First, you need a plan. No, wait. First you need to do research so you know what to plan. Actually, first you need to create the structure so you know the parameters of your reseach. Ultimately, you realize that what you really need to do is write. Structure. Revise. Conduct more research. Write, plan, research, plan, revise, write. Do we still have a structure? Keep going. 
 
They say that easy reading is damn hard writing. Who exactly said it first is still up for debate, but writers know how true the statement is. Running a business is the same. Ease in execution requires a tremendous amount of work. Thankfully the work is fun. It really is fun to work in an industry with people who are so passionate about books and reading. Many many thanks to everyone who has helped along the way this year: staff, family, loyal readers/authors/illustrators who have stopped in to say hi, and fellow booksellers who have offered much valuable advice.
 
On to the second draft!
Sara
 

Tasha and Lola's Book Corner

 

I recently received a lesson in the power of reading aloud with a child. Esphyr Slobodkina's Caps for Sale, a picture book about a peddler whose wares are stolen as he naps beneath a tree full of mischievous monkeys, did not thrill me when I first read it silently to myself, so I wasn't too excited when I sat down to read it with my 2 ½ year old daughter, Lola.

 

Much to my surprise, however, we had a blast, and she has requested it frequently since. As I read the book aloud, I find myself unconsciously acting the story out. I shake my fists, stamp my feet, and throw my imaginary cap on the ground. Lola finds all of this hilarious, and so do I.

 

Reading the story silently and by myself as an adult, I didn't see the magic that the book held, nor did I feel compelled to act it out. Reading it aloud, though, is a completely different experience. Seeing the delight in my daughter's eyes and hearing her giggle every time I say "tsz, tsz, tsz" like the monkeys makes me realize how much fun it can be to immerse myself in a picture book, to see it from my child's perspective, and to not be afraid to be expressive and act downright silly. On an educational note, Caps for Sale can also be used to practice counting and color recognition.