After the lockdown months of semi-hibernation (in fact we were very busy sending signed Julia Donaldson books out all over the country!) , we re-opened our doors in mid-June with a host of COVID-safe measures – a second till-point in the children’s area, plastic shields around the 2 tills, hand-sanitiser stations, and masks for those who have forgotten theirs! It was truly wonderful to be back chatting to our lovely customers again, and we were very busy through July and August, with lots of visitors to the village excited to find a real bookshop!

We have bravely ventured into the new world of Zoom online events – our first was a children’s story and drawing Zoom event with illustrator of Giraffes Can’t Dance Guy Parker-Rees for his sweet new picture book Elephant Me. As a first foray into Zoom events with authors rather than book group meetings we were pleased and relieved that all went pretty well – just a short blip at Guy’s end at the finish. It was his first online event too! Guy also decorated our childrens window, here he is in action-painting mode!

This was followed by an interesting book group Zoom meeting with Sarah Moss, author of Summerwater, published by Macmillan, a fascinating novel which curiously, although written well before Covid, had striking resonances to our current preoccupations – featuring small family units confined in a remote Scottish cabin site and the tensions this isolation created. We felt very fortunate having Sarah to ourselves to quiz about the book, from her new home in Southern Ireland where she is taking up a post at University College Dublin teaching creative writing.

We were very sad not to be able to have a big boozy launch party for local poet Simon Zec’s second volume of poetry, ‘In the Downtime’ which was published at the end of September by Steyning-based publisher, The Real Press. Instead, we had a ‘virtual’ launch online – Simon read a few verses, and participants were able to raise a glass from their own comfy armchairs! Still fun, but sadly lacking Sara’s delicious book-launch canapes! We have signed copies of ‘In the Downtime’ available at the shop and online, and a few of the print+book packages which include the two beautiful and eminently frame-able prints by talented local artists Rob Winterson and Benita Hibberts which feature on the cover and inside the book.

All through October we are continuing our VIRTUAL SIGNING for Julia Donaldson’s brilliant new picture book, The Hospital Dog! This is an even lovelier rhyming story than ever (especially if you are a dog-lover like me!) The illustrator is Sara Ogilvie who also illustrated the very sweet The Detective Dog and captures the movement and expressions of children (and of dogs!) beautifully. Here Julia returns to the theme of a helpful dog saving the day, this time in an amusing and touching story of Dot, a delightful Dalmation who visits children in hospital to cheer them up. Your children aged 2- 6 should LOVE it and you will too we’re sure! You can request a signed and name dedicated copy at the shop or order via our online store, adding the dedication names in the ‘order notes’ section at checkout.

Saturday October 3rd was ‘Books are My Bag’ day – or ‘Bookshop Day’ as it is now called. Usually we celebrate with author signings, lashings of tea and Sara’s home-made cake distributed to the throngs of chatty customers picking out bargains in our annual sale, but due to COVID we can have neither crowds nor cake! But we DID have our sale with some great bargains still to be found, and the wonderful ELLY GRIFFITHS kindly popped by to sign copies of her very entertaining new murder mystery ‘The Postscript Murders’. It was lovely to catch up with Elly, who, like her characters, is always very upbeat and full of fun! We have plenty of signed copies of The Postscript Murders and Elly’s other books in store now, and are eagerly looking forward to hearing Elly chat with fellow authors William Shaw and Lesley Thompson at our Zoom online event on October 15th.

Elly Griffiths signing copies of The Postscript Murders

Looking into the Autumn, we are very excited to have sold lots of tickets for our event ‘A Criminal Conversation’ on Thursday 15th October at 7.30pm, which will see Sussex-based thriller writers William Shaw, Elly Griffiths, and Lesley Thompson discussing their craft. The silver lining to Zoom online events is that readers from ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD can join, and we were very excited to see that we have readers from as far away as Australia and the U.S.A joining this event! Also of course, if it is a dark and stormy night, you can stay home in your own comfy chair with your favourite tipple and still be ‘in the room’! Do get your questions ready as there will be an opportunity for attendees to ask questions at the end. Ticket holders are entitled to £5 off the latest hardback by any of the 3 authors, do mention this when purchasing whether it be online or in the shop so we can deduct your £5!

In 2019, as part of our ‘Book Lovers’ literary festival, author, archaeologist and broadcaster Mary Ann Ochota came to Steyning and treated us to a fascinating guided walk around Chanctonbury Ring (along with her dog and her very well-behaved little baby son on her back!) and a brilliant talk with slides at the atmospheric Gluck Studio. Mary Ann specialises in the human history of our landscape, and is bursting with knowledge and enthusiasm for her subject! We are very excited to be part of the virtual bookshop tour for Mary Ann’s new book ‘Secret Britain; Unearthing our Mysterious Past’, on Thursday October 22nd at 7.30pm. This is an absolutely splendid book, beautifully-produced, chockful of photos and featuring a host of both famous and lesser-known artefacts, and historical sites, from notable treasures like the Sutton Hoo helmet, to prehistoric wooden goddesses and the compelling evidence for ancient British mummification… complete with handy maps and visitor tips! I am really looking forward to joining Mary Ann’s online talk – tickets are available via Ticketsource or ask at the shop, for either the ticket-only price of £6 or ticket-with-book price of £20.