Kelly McMasters; Reader, writer, independent bookstore owner
TRR: Tell me about your column for The Paris Review. How did that come about?
KMcM: Well, I had an essay published in the American Scholar right as the shop was staring to open. The American Scholar is like my nerdy crush (laughter), so I was very excited, because I’m a religious reader. They had this column by Michael Dirda, who was a huge bibliophile, and I saw in one of his columns that he was going to be leaving and that they hadn’t found a replacement yet, so I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is perfect. I can write for the American Scholar on a column basis.”
So I put a pitch together and sent it to my agent. And she said, “I love your pitch—just the idea of leaving the city and coming to the country and opening a bookshop. Can you let me have this pitch for two weeks and let me try to [send it around]?” And so she sent it to The Paris Review, and they wrote back immediately and they said “yes.” Later on I asked why they were so quick to say, yes, and [my editor] said she thinks it’s every literary person’s dream in New York City to (a) leave the city and (b) open a bookshop. She also said she [didn’t want] this to be a sort of glowy thing; she wanted the real stuff, and that is what I think I’m giving in the column. But it’s also helped me figure out how I’m feeling [about the bookstore] and how it’s doing. I’m just trying to be honest on the page, but it’s also reaffirmed—not that I thought running a bookshop would be easy—but it’s just reaffirmed my relationship with books.