Every fourth Saturday I come here, from Philadelphia, to play Scrabble. After I take Septa to Trenton, Barbara – our well-known Classics fixture – picks me up and drives me the short mile. Classics is such a friendly place! Somebody always brings in Scrabble food, or we go to that little outdoor place around the corner and across the street. Sometimes, to start out, Barbara and I are the only ones here, but soon other friends arrive. Barbara knows their names; I don’t. Little by little, though, I’m beginning to recognize people and things about them. I know, e.g., that John is, like me, a writer and, like me, has written memoir. On “Scrabble day” Classics is like a little commune; it’s everybody’s home. I assume it’s that way all week.

There are going to be two serendipities in this post. The first involves how I came to know about Classics. Well, first I came to know Barbara. Meeting her was itself serendipitous. About eight years ago my friend Susan and I were playing our weekly Scrabble game – or two or three… — in Starbucks on 10th and Chestnut in, yes, Philadelphia. Along came two friendly strangers, interested in watching our game. By the next game, they had joined in. They also joined in the next week, and the next, and the next.

And so began our Scrabble group — Barbara, Bruce, Susan, and me — meeting at that same Starbucks. This went on for several years until life evolved and Barbara got involved with Classics. Now we join her there, for Scrabble. (Barbara and I also sometimes meet for thrift-shopping, usually in Trenton.)

And then something serendipitous happened for my life as a poet/writer! I’m a mathprof and also the author of several books, poetry and memoir (one book about my passion for math), published mostly by small presses. Like many poets/writers, I have almost as many unpublished books as published. And like many poets/writers, I’m always on the lookout for (A) places to do featured readings (as opposed to open mics) and (B) publishers for unpublished books.

It wasn’t long before Barbara invited me to do a featured reading at Classics. And I never dreamed that a small bookstore reading, in a town over an hour from where I live and where nobody but Barbara and Classics knows me, could lead to so much! After Barbara, and then Eric’s, invitation about two years ago I did one Classics reading, attended by about ten people (and sold more books than I often sell at readings). Then, about a year later, when a new chapbook of mine was released – Parables for a Rainy Day – I did another.

Eric, by the way, is one of the kindest poetry reading coordinators I have encountered. And I’ve encountered many, most of whom you have to email more than once, indeed more than twice, in order to get an answer to a reading query, and many of whom consent to schedule you and then forget about it, and many of whom actually do schedule you and then forget about it. Not Eric! Eric gets back to you right away – give him a day or two – with a reading date. So I, like many, very much appreciate Eric.

At my own second Classics reading about a year ago – again, in this small town that barely knows me – something happened that’s every writer’s dream. At that reading was an actual talent scout! Elizabeth – another familiar figure around Classics – runs a press called Red Dashboard and she was at the reading looking for authors. And then – again, every writer’s dream – she heard me read and invited me to submit a book manuscript – not a chapbook, mind you, but full-length. No reading fees! No fees of any kind! (So many presses, small and large, charge anything from five to twenty-five dollars to accompany the submission of a manuscript). Of course I sent Elizabeth a manuscript right away, probably as soon as I got home from the reading.

At that time my books totaled 21, with the possibility (which did pan out) of finally placing the sequel memoir to Dirty Details: The Days and Nights of a Well Spouse (Temple University Press) being released by a small press, Unlimited Publishing. (That memoir is titled Still the End: Memoir of a Nursing Home Wife.) Of course, I was thrilled to have the sequel memoir published, but I still had many poems, both new and backlog, uncollected in books. So I was very happy when Elizabeth emailed me back, after a not very long wait, with an acceptance for my 23rd book (Lights I Have Loved).

Only at Classics has such a thing happened to me, or perhaps to anybody! In my almost-forty years as a serious writer, I’ve found publishers – and I always have to search anew – at book fairs, open mics, and mostly by hard-core sending out queries to people I never met and vice versa. Only at Classics does a book fall into my lap!

Find out more about Marion Cohen on her website:



Classics News

Barbara Keogh, reigning Scrabble Champion and artist, became a US citizen Friday May 29!

Though we give free books to kids all the time, we recently gave an inordinately large number of books (18 boxes) to the DYFS visitation room for kids to take home.

The First Capital City Book Fair, run by Jon Gordon and Iana Dikidjieva, was a great success–70 vendors (authors, bookstores and small publishers) and two full days of events, including Pultizer Prize winners Yusef Komunyakaa and Chris Hedges.

The Times of Trenton wrote up a nice article about us.  You can read it here:

Book Stalagmite

Capital City Book Fair

Join us May 1 and 2nd for the Capital City Book Fair!

Features include

Book Market with 50+ authors, publishers and bookstores running along the street from Classics Books to Mill Hill Park. Chris Hedges on The Wages of Rebellion. Jenna Pizzi on her Pork Roll Cookbook. A screening of Standing on my Sister’s Shoulders about the Mississippi civil rights movement. Guerrilla haiku. Kimmie Carlos. Clifford Zink on the Roebling Legacy. Poetry slam. Scrabble. A film festival under the stars. Books and Barbeque. Writing workshop. Papermaking. Open Mic. Book repurposing. Step teams. A literary bike tour.

For times and specifics, visit the Book Fair web page at

10 Years in Trenton

In 2005, Classics Books came to Trenton, successfully recruited by the Trenton Downtown Association (TDA), when part of its mission was to recruit retail businesses.  Matt Bergheiser, then Executive Director of the TDA, led a burst of growth on South Warren.  In this time period, empty dirt lots and gutted buildings were turned into buildings that now house delis and the AT&T store and a yoga studio.  The Zagat’s rated Italian restaurant Settimo Cielo came to Front Street.  And Classics Books came to town.

Classics started as part of a TDA co-op on South Warren, expanded to take over the entire space and eventually moved to its current location, across from the hotel, at 4 West Lafayette.

In those ten years, Classics has dealt in metric tons of books–cookbooks, poetry, fiction, history, science, classic literature, art, science fiction, kids books.  It sold top-of-the-line first editions like The Cat in the Hat and leather bound Shaker histories.  It has hosted book clubs, and Peoples and Stories, and poetry open mics.  They supported authors–from neighborhood Shakespeares to Pultizer Prize winning Yusef Komunyakaa.  They printed the Trenton Review, hosted booksignings and sponsored the 2008 Trenton Book Fair.

In those ten years, they played Scrabble on 520 Friday nights–each night until midnight in the heart of Trenton.  They played Cards against Humanity, the Name Game and Civilization.  They knitted, and origamied, and discussed urban development.  They hosted the filming of music videos, mayoral hopeful meet and greets, jazz bands, rock bands and belly dancers.

In those ten years, they distributed over 25,000 books to Trenton kids free of charge, through the Books at Home program, because having books in your home has a dramatic effect on how long kids stay in school and how well they do.

In those ten years, people made good friends, found jobs, found publishers, supported local businesses, built a life, built a community.

Classics in ten years old in April.  To celebrate, one party didn’t seem like enough.

  • April 4 from 2 pm to 6 pm, poet Todd Evans, host of the Capital City Open Mic, will host a poetry marathon with poets and musicians from all over Mercer County featuring poets Janelle T. Harvey and Jay Knives.  FREE event.  50% off all poetry books.
  • April 10 from 6 pm to midnight, the Trenton Scrabble Club will have a Scrabble party with prizes for every winner.  All skill levels are welcome.  FREE event.  50% off all used and rare books.
  • April 11 from 12 noon to 2 pm, the Trenton Knit and Stitch will toast community and creativity.  FREE event.  50% off all craft books.
  • April 18 from 12 noon to 4 pm, the Trenton Party Games Coalition will break out Cards Against Humanity, Trivial Pursuit, Headbandz and the Name Game.  FREE event.  50% off all used board games.
  • May 1 and 2, the Capital City Book Fair will line the streets with up to 100 authors and bookstores from Classics Books on one end to Mill Hill Park on the other.  For more information, visit!/pages/Capital-City-Book-Fair/450123515140208.

Happy 10th Birthday Classics!

2014 Books at Home Report

In 2014, the Trenton Books at Home Program distributed $4326 worth of books to Trenton students.


The Books at Home Program provides free books to Trenton kids. Studies show that when kids have more books in their home, they do better in school—no matter how much they are struggling. You can see one such study from 2010 as published in Science Daily here


Books were handed out with the help of the African American Pride Festival, the Carver Community Center, Ida Malloy’s neighborhood reading program, Isles Youth Build, BOYD, Children’s Futures, Kelli Mitchell’s Hoagies for the Homeless, the Butterfly Effect, Razor Sharp Barber Shop, the Capital City Community Coalition’s, Westminster’s GetSet program, Planned Parenthood, and teachers from Jefferson, Hedgepath, Paul Robeson, Trenton High School West, and the Foundation Academy.


Current major supporters include donors honoring the loving memory of Lois Dowey, The I Am Trenton Community Foundation, Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson, Home Rubber, and Children’s Futures.

Bookstore People: From the Night Kitchen

Bruce Bentzmann is a man of letters, in several sense of the word. His dream is to own a used bookstore where he doesn’t have to worry about the rent. He writes poetry, short stories and hand written letters to a number of friends. He writes essays for SnakeSkin Poetry which he has collected into a book called Selected Suburban Soliloquies (available at Classics).

Contrary to Classics orthodoxy, and the hard-charging bingoing of his wife Barbara Keogh, Bruce cannot stand playing Scrabble. His argument is that Scrabble is a game that disrespects words. He is bothered that a real working vocabulary isn’t as important as memorizing the list of words that are so esoteric that they are almost only used in on the Scrabble board—“qat,” “za,” “ourie.”

When you visit Classics you will find Bruce behind the counter, talking about anything that crosses his mind–from the latest book he is reading to fountain pens to fortune cookies.


Bruce Bentzmann

The Endangered–One Classics Author Reviews Another Classics Author

Classics author Cherrelle Shelton (author of the kids book Feelies) reviews The Endangered, a book by Classics author S.L. Eaves about vampires and werewolves.



Life in a Bookstore–December 2014

Leah Alabrè found a $20 bill inside a $6 Charles Dickens book at Classics Books last Saturday, making it undoubtedly the best value for your money. My theory? Some book-loving Willie Wonka is planting $20 golden tickets in various books at Classics for you to find.

Poet and activist Caitlin Fair is spearheading Books and Breakfast at Classics once a month, where free food and books are provided for all community members who would like to feed their mind and their stomach!

Barbara Keogh won the shortest game of Scrabble ever played at Classics. She played one word, for 100 points, and everybody else quit the game. The word? “quitted”

Print Books vs. EBooks–the Result

Three years ago, in 2011, I wrote a blog post about how independent bookstores were not going to be crushed by the eBook. Here’s the blog for proof.

In the three years that passed, sales at independent bookstores (selling real physical books) grew about 8 percent a year for three years running while eBook sales have leveled off at about 33% off the market (outsold by both hard covers and paperbacks).

In that blog, I reasoned that cries of disaster were just Chicken Little alarms and listed the sorts of book lovers that would never leave real books for eBooks. Here’s that link again in case you forgot to check it out when I gave it to you in the first paragraph.

In addition to the reasons I gave three years ago, here’s another reason eBooks have leveled off in their appeal. While they have some great things going for them (it’s easier to carry 150 books in digital format, for example), EBooks have turned out to be not as cheap as promised. First you aren’t going to buy a best seller for 99 cents. Second, the cost of the machine (and its upgrades) has to be factored into the cost. If you only read a handful of books a year, real books (especially used books) are far cheaper. If you read lots of books, you are more likely to fall into the categories of people who love physical books, like to browse books and like to belong to a community of readers—all people who love their real books.

Here’s some other people’s thoughts on the subject:

Print Books vs. E Books

Independent stores vs. Amazon



How to Date a Werewolf, by Classics author Jessica Eppley

So you’ve met the man of your dreams! He’s loyal, he’s affectionate, and he’s an animal lover…well, I guess you’re the real animal lover here, because your boyfriend happens to be a little more inclined towards his wild side. Your boyfriend is a werewolf.

Don’t go running for the door just yet. It is possible to have a healthy relationship with a werewolf without that nagging fear that he’s going to devour you face the first every time he goes in for a smooch. Impossible you say? Not if you follow my ten easy to follow guidelines.

Communication is Key

(We’re not just barking at the moon here)

As with any relationship, communication is crucial. The best way to manage your mangy mate’s temperamental nature is to not be afraid to express your feelings while acknowledging his. Are you peeved at his snippy attitude in the days prior to the full moon? Well, allow him to vent his frustrations with understanding and a nonjudgmental attitude. Tossing him a chew toy is also effective.

Encourage Good Hygiene

(And monthly flea baths)

No one likes a dirty dog! Pamper your man-beast with a surprise spa date together! Seaweed wrap and manicure for you. Haircut and anal gland expression for him. You’ll both be relaxed and smell a heck of a lot better.

Go Out to Eat

(Not recommended for vegetarians)

So he takes you to your favorite restaurant every Friday? It’s time for you to return the favor! A candle lit venison dinner in a secluded forest under a full moon is a great way to get the romance back…and also prevents him from dragging bloody carcasses back to your apartment. Hope you like your steak rare!

Be Social

(No butt-sniffing…unless you’re into that)

Everyone needs a little random consideration, and your beastly beau is no exception. A casual phone call to the office in the middle of the day can perk up even the droopiest ears. Ask him what he wants for dinner, how his day is going, and if he wants the ball. He wants the ball doesn’t he? YES HE DOES!

Mark your Territory

(Keep the b*tches back!)

Being a werewolf boosts his appeal to the opposite sex, so make sure those doe-eyed damsels know he’s your devotee! You could leave a few belongings at his apartment sure, but a little bottle full of your eh-hem…natural perfume stealthily dribbled into the decorative plants at the outdoor café will make your ownership of him known to rivals. Just make sure the wait staff doesn’t see you.

Share his Interests

(Which is killing…lots of killing)

So you’ve never been into hunting, okay. He loves you anyway, but there’s no harm in trying something new. After all, he does wear clothing and bathe for you every now and then. Give a little, get a little. Just don’t wear pumps in the forest, and be sure your laundry detergent has a strong stain remover.

Me Time

(Don’t be afraid of your own lone wolf)

He’s a pack animal, so it’s not natural for him to be away from you. Unfortunately that makes him a little clingy. Express your need to have some alone time by spending your full moon nights soaking in a bubble bath with a good book. Make sure your doors have strong locks, preferably silver ones.

Assert your Dominance

(Be a she-wolf!)

Put him on his back and show him whose boss! No need to elaborate here.

Acknowledge his Human Side

(You know, before he was awesome)

Your lupine lover has a soft side too, his human side. Find the time to discuss his life before he was turned. Ask him how it happened, visit his old haunts with him, exact revenge upon the wolf that bit him, and so on.

Release the Beast

(If you can’t tame him, join him!)

No woman should change just for a man, but if you’re so inclined towards the nocturnal lifestyle, allowing your boyfriend to bite you might be just the thing to kick this relationship into full blown pack-mode. You can have a lot of fun roaming the night side by side with your furry fling, just make sure he knows who’s alpha if you do.

The truly important things in any relationship, whether they’re paranormally prone or not, is trust, respect, and love. Keep these three things in mind when following the above advice. If you manage to get though the first few months without losing a body part, your wild animal should become your beloved pet in no time!

Jess Eppley is the author of the YA Fantasy series the Books of Siavon. The series includes The Ruby Child, The Tail of Murias and The Blood Moon. You can purchase her books at Classics Books or through her website at


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