Bookseller spotlight: Emily Norman from Dymocks Burwood
What’s the first book you remember having an impact on you?
This is a really difficult question!
I remember The Adoration of Jenna Fox made me question for the first time what it meant to be human. Melina Marchetta’s On The Jellicoe Road broke my heart and gave me my first experience of deeply connecting and relating to a fictional character. A Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon brought with it the acknowledgement of nostalgia and childhood adventure. Of course, Harry Potter filled my whole world with magic and possibility.
Who were some of your favourite authors as a child?
As a child I was hardcore into Babysitter’s Club, so Anne M. Martin is a definite. I was obsessed with Deltora Quest, so Emily Rodda of course! And what child didn’t carry around a copy of JK Rowling's Harry Potter? As a teen I discovered Melina Marchetta and Scott Westerfeld.
How long have you been working at your bookstore?
I’ve been at Burwood Dymocks for about three years, with a brief gap of two years while I lived in London.
What drew you to becoming a bookseller?
I have always been in love with books. I grew up around my Nan and she was always with a Nora Roberts or J.D Robb book in her hand. Bookshops and libraries are my safe, happy places. What is better than being surrounded by the endless possibility of books? With this attitude it seemed only natural that I work in a bookshop and spend my days discussing books with customers and colleagues.
What did an average day look like for you pre-Covid? And post-Covid?
An average day pre-Covid consisted of the usual customer service, general tidying and shelving. As Covid reared its ugly head, things got a lot more stressful. We stayed open during lockdown, we were classified as an essential service. During those weeks we ran the store with a skeleton staff and each day was unpredictable, some days we were full of customers buying jigsaw puzzles and bags full of books, other days the store could be completely empty for an hour or two – this NEVER happens.
Now, I guess you could call it post-Covid, although our stress levels have eased, we are still very much aware of social distancing and always have stocks of hand sanitiser available for customers and staff. I was really touched by how many customers thanked us for staying open and being there to provide them with books. One lady went so far as to buy us a box of chocolates. It felt nice to be appreciated in that way.
What’s the best part about being a bookseller?
The best part about being a bookseller are those small moments of magic. It might be an in-depth conversation about your favourite author or books with a customer or an individual who comes back to thank you for your recommendation. I love those moments when I get to share something that is important to me and it becomes something special to another.
Any memorable customer interactions?
All the time! I meet so many people who share deeply personal stories about their lives while talking about books. Once a lady wanted recommendations for her 10-year-old daughter who had suffered a brain injury and was learning to read again. We needed to find something with pictures and not too many words, but it still needed to be interesting for a 10-year-old. I recommended Raina Telgemeire’s graphic novel re-tellings of The Babysitter’s Club. The woman returned a few weeks later to thank me; this was a special moment for me.
What advice would you give someone wanting to work in bookselling?
A love for books is a must! Customer service can be exhausting, your joy for books will be what gets you through.
Also, know your book knowledge strengths and weaknesses, this will better equip you for customer recommendations. If you’re lacking ideas for recommendations within a particular genre, try reading from that genre, know the bestsellers and/or know which of your colleagues is strong in that area. We fill in each other's blanks!
Who are some of your favourite Australian authors?
Craig Silvey (Honeybee is so special), Melina Marchetta, Jessica Townsend and Emily Rodda.
Do you have any favourite UQP titles?
How can we follow you bookstore online?
The best place to follow us is through our Instagram @dymocksburwood.