I bought my first screenwriting books (written by the legendary Syd Field) at Hastings. This began my foray in to creative writing. Prior to that, I was a visual and performance artist. The drum set and guitar sit dusty in the basement, and I haven’t picked up a paintbrush in years. My keyboard, on the other hand, is missing letters because I’ve typed so much.
I bought Zen and the Art of Writing at Hastings. Ray Bradbury’s passion for writing rubbed off on me, and I went running to the word processor to write out my dreams and fears with reckless abandon. My process is still heavily-influenced by Bradbury, even if my style has changed over the years.
I worked at Hastings for two months in college, just before moving to Lawrence. I spent almost as much as I made, thanks to an amazing discount program, and the readership program gave me a good collection of classic books that provided the base of my extra-curricular literary education. I still have copies of Great Expectations and The Count of Monte Cristo that are missing covers, the price of their liberation from the store shelves.
I spent my lunch breaks walking through the stacks at Hastings, smelling the books and trying to soak in words, as if each aisle was a pool filled with nouns, verbs, and adjectives. When I got down on writing, or felt that things were hopeless, I saw all of these books by all of these writers who found the shelves, and it brought me back to work. You can’t place a value on that, but I bought it at the price of a mocha frappaccino and the occasional book.
I had my first book signing at Hastings. I sat in the front of the store, heard my name announced over the PA, and talked to every customer that came within earshot. I was nervous, but excited. I met other writers. I sold a couple of books. Mostly, I got used to selling myself as a writer to the public.
I sold more copies of All Manner of Dark Things at my local Hastings than anywhere else other than Amazon. For six months, I rode the end cap display, until I was displaced by a number of books by politicians in order to capitalize on the primary election season. I sold several copies, including one to a Hastings employee. She asked me to sign it when I came in for one of my lunchtime strolls. It gives me a thrill to know that complete strangers in my community have my book on their shelf.
Over the last few months, I’ve seen the signs. More used and clearance books than new. Large, empty shelf spaces. Fewer employees. Earlier this week, I saw the story that I feared would be coming. Hastings will have declare bankruptcy if they do not find a buyer. Another bookstore down.
As much as I would like for someone to buy and save my local Hastings, the truth is that the model is out-dated and the products are over-priced in comparison to their online counter-parts. They can’t compete. Few can. If this is the end of Hastings, as it was for Borders before it, as it probably will be for Barnes and Noble unless they do something drastic, then I have to say thank you to them for being there.
Hastings is a chain, but they always treated me like a local business would. They contained so many things that I loved, and as a result, I was able to pursue those loves. I’ve spent thousands of dollars in their stores, and even though that wasn’t enough, their closure will leave a vacancy beyond the strip mall storefront that they occupy.
No more random CD’s or DVD’s that I never knew I wanted. No more midnight releases. No more comics. No more lunchtime book section strolls among the works of my peers and idols. No more book signings. No more hope of seeing my name in the horror section next to Ramsey Campbell, rather than in the local author section. That’s a lot of no mores.
I hope they save it, but if they don’t, then I am thankful for the memories. Hear’s to you Hastings. We’ll always have Lawrence and Ames.