Bookseller spotlight: Jayne from The Bookshop at Queenscliff
What’s the first book that you remember having an impact on you?
A book called No More Wheels, about Gertie the cat who started her own garage. She was so successful she became overwhelmed and one day had to say ‘NO MORE WHEELS’. It awakened my two-year-old feminist and entrepreneur.
Who were some of your favourite authors as a child?
Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Louisa May Alcott, CS Lewis, Dr Seuss, Judy Blume, Lewis Carroll.
How long have you been working at your bookstore? Can you tell us about the store and the community it serves?
Just under a year now. It’s a lovely, small, independent bookstore in the historic seaside town of Queenscliff. Lots of ghosts of shipwrecks and old grandeur; real-life mermaids that swim in the mornings. It’s a magical place, perfect for a bookshop. The community here is a mix of holiday-makers – the population multiplies massively in summer – and local residents, of wide-ranging age and demographic. Many book-lovers and a deep literary community. There is an artistic heartbeat to the town that has had a major resurgence, so that’s exciting.
What drew to you becoming a bookseller?
Becoming a bookseller was never my dream. I wanted to write the books that lived in the bookshop – not necessarily sell them. But I’ve always been a bookshop-lover and major haunter of the dreamy back-alley ones. The opportunity to take over The Bookshop at Queenscliff arose when we were living in Paris, and wondering what to do next. Our daughter was very keen to live full-time in Queenscliff, after many years of back-and-forth between the two countries. So we just decided to dive in. It felt crazy – and people did say – you’re nuts! But we knew it was right. It was a step towards something bright, and positive, and hopeful, which you don’t often get an opportunity to do in life.
What did an average day look like for you pre-COVID? And post-COVID?
Pre-COVID, an average day involved waves of people of all sizes washing through the shop, staying a while, meandering. During lockdown, the shop looked more like a stock warehouse and call centre – darkened by silence and the fact that we had stacked books so high in the windows, they blocked out the light. But people could browse outside and they loved it. The windows became our gallery.
As of this week we are open to six people for browsing, and it feels like heaven. Bookshops are made for touching, lingering over pages, chatting. The in-out vibe of the new system, where people are queuing outside so customers are looking over their shoulders, is a little strange. But we’re just grateful to be able to share books with people again. And people are grateful too, even if it isn’t the same.
What’s the best part about being a bookseller?
Every day is Christmas. Boxes to unpack. Ooh, what’s inside? And seeing people’s faces when they talk about a book they love. Oh, so many things. It’s a wonderland.
Any memorable customer interactions?
So many. My favourite (and any seasoned bookseller will laugh and think I’m an amateur for still noticing this) – is that one that happens several times a day when the person says ‘I’m after that book,. You know, The one with the guy on the cover. They were talking about it on Radio National.’ Classic. You wouldn’t believe how many times a day this happens!
What advice would you give someone wanting to work in bookselling?
Do it! It’s the best. But be warned, it’s very hard work. You have to be super passionate. I remember years ago asking for a job at Readings and them saying ‘Do you have bookshop experience?’ ‘Dah,’ I thought, ‘I know how to give change to some dude.’ Now I know. There is so much to it. Receiving stock, ordering, merchandising, talking, knowing, reading, hosting, event-managing. It’s a huge job. But hugely rewarding, if you’re into it.
Who are some of your favourite Australian authors?
There are many, but my all-time favourite is Helen Garner. Autofiction is my favourite genre, and I can never get enough of Garner’s stories and experiences. As a writer, she’s my touchstone. ‘What would Helen do?’.
Do you have any favourite UQP titles?
How can we follow your bookstore online?