Writers Without Borders

I mentioned yesterday I was thinking of a post that combined congrats for Greg Bardsley and an obituary for Borders. I couldn’t figure out how best to do that one, but Borders has been weighing heavily on my mind lately so you’re going to get a solo topic.

Insert Shocked Faces.

I know the impression of Borders is that of the villain, and for many they may well be. But for me Borders was always the good guy. I am not a fan of Barnes and Noble. I dislike their selection, their design, the culture, and just about everything else. But Borders always felt like more of a community book store. They had a good selection of books from small presses and they were always welcoming to local authors, even little know local authors. When I was first coming of age as a book buyer, the closest book stores were in Ann Arbor. There were lots of used book stores, and of course there was Aunt Agatha’s, but there was also Borders. Up in Flint, where I grew up, there was no local bookstore other than the mall Walden books which didn’t do much for me and always seemed overpriced.

The Borders in Flint opened during my early college years and brought a little bit of Ann Arbor to Flint. This was before Amazon and really even the Internet and Borders let me browse and find new authors just by wandering I never would have found otherwise. I spent so many Friday nights browsing that store, and drinking coffee there, and writing, and buying great books that it came to define me at an important time in my life. Everyone knew that a Borders gift card was always a good choice for any holiday.

Borders was the only place I ever felt confident approaching and talking to girls I didn’t know, something I never did at bars or anywhere else. Anytime I started feeling close to a new friend, I talked them into visiting Borders so we could stroll the aisles and see where we stood on the important issues of literature and society (like should Chicklit be its own section or should it be under romance, or why some crime books were housed under literature and some under Mystery). Again, so much of that impressionable time in my life can be traced back to Borders and now it’s going to be gone.

Even as I’ve aged and grown up, Borders has played a big role in my life. After Spenser was born, he screamed A LOT and on Saturdays one of the things that would calm him down was walking around the mall. When he would finally fall asleep I’d roll through the Borders Express and when Spenser would eventually wake up, those were the only times he wouldn’t wake up screaming. I think the whole environment of the place calmed him down.

And then there’s the writing memories. I’ve written chunks of every novel I’ve completed in a Borders at some point. There were Borders in New York, Chicago, Flint, Ann Arbor, Toledo, Cleveland, and many other places where I left pieces of my creative self and absorbed pieces of the city. For the longest time, Borders was where I went to finish stories because they were the only place without free wi-fi access. So most of my favorite stories were completed at a Borders, including the story (Murder Boy from Thuglit) that would finally see my own name in a printed book on a Borders shelf thanks to Todd Robinson and the marketing muscle of Kensington Books.

I’m sad my own novels won’t ever be on a Borders shelf. I really sad that I’ll never get to take Spenser or Holly to story times there or buy them books there. I’m sad that the Borders just around the corner from me that opened the week I moved to Canton and made me feel like home will be abandoned. Other memories will replace these I’m sure. The independent stores (including Aunt Agatha’s where Spenser and Holly have both spent significant time since they were born) are still alive and will hopefully thrive in the new environment, but I’m a sentimental twit and don’t deal with change well.

RIP Borders. Thanks for everything.