Love Letters to Jersey 1932

I enjoy finding interesting things tucked into books that come into Classics.  I’ve found money, four-leaf clovers and personal checks written by witches.

My favorite, though, was found in a book of poetry in written by Richard Nixon (not THAT Richard Nixon, the other one).  There was a bunch of ephemera in it and as I went through it a story of lost love emerged.

First, I find, tucked between pages 22 and 23, a postcard that had written on it

“My Christmas thought/ Could not be bought.  /I searched the city through.  A sorry guest, / For the very best / Were none to good for you.  Richard.  Paris 1932.”

Second, later in the book, I find a typewritten letter, written from Paris on New Year’s Day addressed

Dearest Clarice.

You complain that I never open my heart.  Let us take the fanciful case of a man who after many years finds his soul face to face with a woman he once loved,–a woman presumably in love with a perfectly good husband to whom she reads her letters.  Such a man might well hesitate to unlock his heart, tho he might paraphrased Browning a little and say, Open my heart and you will see /  Graven upon it only Thee.  So it ever was, so shall it ever be.

“No, I didn’t stay on in Jersey beyond the merrie month of May, having finally been driven out of that terrestrial paradise by the Demon of Loneliness.

I was cheered by your news that this has been a successful year for Melvin and I hope that good humor in which you are ending it will extend far enough into the new one to stimulate you to write me again and soon.  Stella Farwell write me from New Orleans that you had been there twice since last spring, looking younger and handsomer than ever.  No wonder you are in such good humor, with a good husband who has had a successful year and with Time treating you like a spoiled child.

Later in the book, there is a Christmas card from Richard “with much love.”

Finally, there is a wedding invitation

“Mr. Richard Nixon has the honor to announce his marriage to Madame A Lelu in Paris on September Twenty-sixth, 1940.”

Advice for Self-Promoting Authors

Classics received a write up about the business of books in the blog   We covered used bookstores vs. big box chains, the future of books and promotional advice for self-published authors.

Here’s an excerpt concerning self-published authors.

WMI:   Booksellers have to be innovative to sell books. So too do authors. That shared, what advice would you give to authors who are seeking ways to sell more books in local bookstores? What three to four steps can authors take to increase the sale of their books at local stores?


#1. Promote your books at the stores that carry them. When you are selling the books personally, and therefore not giving a commission to a store, it is easy to justify just promoting your personal book sales and not your presence in stores.

However, many people who might not otherwise purchase your book might find shopping from a store more convenient and you can pick up additional sales. In addition, swapping links from your website to the store’s website makes both of your websites appear higher in the rankings of search engines.

#2. Come to the book signings of other authors. Frequently, authors will come to each other’s signings (as well as poetry readings and other events that don’t headline them personally), but still promote and sell their book.

#3. Organize a fundraiser. Authors who offer to donate 20% of their sales at a book signing to a particular charity, can more easily attract many more people who support that charity to their signing. Choosing the right charity is important as it needs to have an active base that shows up to events.

#4. Print a price on your book. I can think of specific examples of people who did not purchase a book because there was no printed price. Apparently this made them think the price was variable.

Read more:

Ian Gentles on Trenton and Classics Books

Singer, songwriter and Trenton native Ian Gentles wrote a song about white flight called a “Whiter Shade of Trash.”  Classics Used and Rare Books made the video!  Ian writes, in his latest blog,

I’m sure that most of it’s denizens today view Trenton simply as home. But as a white kid who spent most of his life growing up in the suburbs- a result of my own family’s participation in the ‘white flight’ migration- I was told not to go there. So I didn’t… Until recently.

A friend of mine opened a bookstore called ‘Classics’ on Warren street where the locals go to every Friday night to play Scrabble, Chess, and board games, or to simply just hang out and socialize. I’ve met some of the nicest people anywhere there, and you can’t help but wonder what the hell everyone was running from nearly half of a century ago. It proves just how devastating an emotion like fear can be.

Read the whole post and listen to the song here:

Publishing: The Good, The Bad and The In-Between, by Raining Deer

by Classics author, and guest blogger, Raining Deer ©2011

The Road to publishing your own work is a journey of the good, the bad and the in-between.

The GOOD  is the Creative Process — writing as a craft/art.  If you are a skilled writer, expressing your thoughts or storytelling may be a fairly natural thing for you.  I always say, “if you can talk, you can write,” i.e. – you should be able to write what you say.  But that’s not always the case.

For some, who don’t speak “the King’s English” writing may be more of a challenge.  Nevertheless it is always necessary to convey your thoughts from the “reader’s” perspective.  With that in mind, whether you consider yourself a writing technician or someone who just likes to tell a good story and will leave the grammatically correct aspect to an experienced editor, remember to write in such a way that the reader fully gets the point of what you are saying.  

The BAD in publishing can be lined with rejection – letters that is, if you are seeking a publisher.  This can be a lengthy, tedious process, and you might need to grow an extra layer of skin to soften the blow of rejection.  You could seek out a literary agent to run interference, but there are costs associated with having an agent represent you.  And still, you may not get a deal within the timeframe that you set for yourself.

If you don’t have or want an agent, are thin-skinned, or you or your agent don’t think your material will grab the attention of a small or large publishing house, self-publishing is always a good alternative.  Especially if you have a story or a topic that you simply must write about and it’s just oozing out of your pores, so to speak, self-publishing might make the most sense. 

The IN-BETWEEN is that, in any event, you must understand that you are a writer, but you will be in the business of marketing.  For some this is a hard concept to grasp. If you get a book deal with a publisher, your job will still be to market your book.  If you self-publish, your job will be  — to market your book. Today, even if you have limited financial resources, with desk-top publishing and a plethora of  electronic avenues for getting exposure for your work, self-publishing is a proverbial snap.

Once your manuscript has been written, edited, proofread, priced competitively, printed or set up as an e-book, you establish a website, start a blog and start some chatter on face book, Twitter, LinkedIn or some other popular on-line sites, and you’re good to go.  At least the ground work is all done.  Then comes the networking.  Actually, the networking should have begun from the moment of conception – or your book topic, because when you decide you want to write a book you have to know your audience, — i.e., who will be willing to pay money to read your work, and have a plan for accessing that audience.

In any case, see the good and don’t let the bad or the in-between deter you from following your passion.  As they say, “Don’t die with the music in you” or in this case, don’t die with your story in you.  Get it out.  Write about what you know and get it out.

Raining Deer is the author of BCV – RITES OF PASSAGE FOR BREAST CANCER VICTORS, which is available at Classics, , 117 South Warren, downtown Trenton,  You can learn more about Raining Deer at

Is it the Death of the Printed Book?

I often get asked about what I am going to sell once the eBook has destroyed the printed book.  Lol.

People are alarmists.  They like to get worked up.  Just watch political commentators or weathermen.  Their ratings go up if they are wringing their hands about the imminent destruction of either the American Way of Life or the next weather pattern. When the predicted storm of the century turns out to be one inch of rain, well, no harm no foul. 

It’s that way with changes in media too.  When radio was becoming popular, commentators predicted the end of books.  When movies became popular, commentators predicted the end of radio…and books.  When TV became popular, people predicted the end of radio and movie theatres…and books.   Obviously all incorrect.  Did video kill the radio star?  Nope!  The radio star is still going strong.

So when people predict that eBooks will kill printed books, I have to yawn.

Now, I do believe that things in the industry will change.  My experience as an independent bookseller has been that the sort of customers who shopped big box stores are exactly the same type of customers who like eReaders, so there will be a battle for market share between these two.  Publishing houses may print dramatically smaller print runs of physical books.  On-line sources will take a bite out of reference materials like encyclopedias and dictionaries.  The text book industry is due for a big change.  But the accounts of the death of the book are exaggerated. 

As long as there are people who prefer a particular format, there will be businesses who will offer to sell it to them.  Best Buy carries vinyl records, for Pete’s sake.

Here are the sorts of readers who will keep buying books—


People who like the feel of a book in their hands find eReaders unsatisfying.  I have one customer who buys books from me and ships them off to have them carved out and reinforced so she can fit her Kindle into them and give her Kindle a real-book feel.  She loves her eReader, but it feels insubstantial to her. 

After he fourth purchase, I asked her how many Kindles she owned.  She told me that she owns one, but likes to swap out the covers like another person might swap IPhone cases.  That’s most excellent.

In addition to the physical sensualists, there are the visual sensualists.  People who like the looks of a room lined with bookcases filled with books.  The books become conversation starters, trophies of reading accomplishments and intimate revelations of the reader’s soul. 


EBooks (and on-line sellers) are great for the people who know exactly what book they want.  But for people who want to wander the stacks and find something they didn’t know about, you need a brick-and-mortar bookstore.  If you want to explore books that are also out of print, you need a used bookstore.


The people who search out and hoard first editions, limited releases, signed books will not be searching these things out in digital format. 


Board books are made for infants who are likely to put the book in their mouth.  Do you really want your eReader to go there?

Pop-up books?  When eReaders can produce a Richard Sabuda pop-up, I will be impressed!

Gift Givers

A wrapped book is a gift.  A copy of an email certificate for an eBook, not so much.  There are whole categories of gift books that need the printed form: coffee table books, oversized kids books, pop-up books, miniature stocking stuffer books, art books with art that deserves a venue larger than 10.1 inches.


Reading is a solitary act.  But bookstores are explosions of community.  Our bookstore has poetry readings, writing workshops, author-led discussions, Scrabble games, knitting clubs, and, up near the register, what Eric Jackson calls “one continual community meeting” arguing politics, literature, art, urban revitalization, raw foods vs. hamburgers, Jeopardy vs. Family Feud, or which Wonder Twin was the best.   Try to get that while shopping for an eBook.

In addition, these contacts help strengthen the community.  When the mural up the street was vandalized, the Scrabble club contributed to its renewal.  When they heard that our troops in Afghanistan were short helmet liners, the Trenton Knit and Stitch knitted and delivered a box of helmet liners.  After arguing near the register about the lack of publishing opportunities for Trenton writers and artists, the Trenton Review was born.  In the midst of a recession, from the contacts they made at this bookstore, two people were able to find jobs from the network of people they met in the bookstore.

People who value community and reading will always value bookstores and the books sold there.

How to Organize a Bookstore

When we opened up our first bookstore in New Hope PA, it was before I had any kids, so I put the “Horror” section right above the “Parenting” section. 

It wasn’t what I thought about parenting, mind you, but I thought it was funny.  Most browsers didn’t notice it, but I would hear occasional snorts and whispers.  Sometimes people thought it was an accidental placement, which made it even funnier to them.

I’d like to take you on a behind the scene tour of Classics in Trenton, NJ.


I put the Christian section right up front near the door, the spot most likely to be the target of a shoplifter.  My theory is that if somebody steals a Bible, they’ll run home, read that stealing is a sin and bring the book right back.

In addition, the Christian section, the Islamic section, the Jewish section and the section of Buddhism and Hinduism are spread around the store as if to prevent any sectarian tensions.  This arrangement was accidental, but since there hasn’t been any religious conflict in my store, it seems like a good plan.

The Bathroom

You can shop in the bathroom too.  In this special themed section, you can find Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, How to Sh*t in the Woods and Going Abroad: Toilets in Foreign Countries

The Jeff Edelstein Science Fiction Section

Trentonian columnist Jeff Edelstein advocated separating the “Science Fiction” and “Fantasy” sections, while most American bookstores keep them combined.  Jeff had strong feelings that one of these sections shouldn’t be mingled with the other “inferior” one, and so we divorced them.

Apparently, combining the two sections is unique to the United States.  According to SF author Robert Sawyer, it is the fault of “Donald A. Wollheim, a science fiction editor, (who) brought out the first U.S. edition of what was then a unique work, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.  If someone else had scooped that up first, the two genres would never have been co-mingled.”

To read more about the history of the Jeff Edelstein Science Fiction Section, visit’s%20stories/17841067.txt?viewmode=default


I have customers who love finding The Perfect Storm (the true story of a terrible storm that swamps the crew of the Andrea Gail) in the “Travel” section.


Comment and let me know what other changes I should make.  “Horror” and “Parenting?”  “True Crime” and “Politics?”  “Etiquette” and “Television Political Commentary?”

The Value of Bookstores: Community

More and more, people are enabled in their insularity—enabled by home entertainment systems and by the computer.  They can shop from home, watch movies at home, play games by themselves. 

People can connect with other people online at home, but in shorter and short exchanges, as if conversation was a painting smashed into a million pieces—two sentences here, 140 words there, a “like” button. 

In addition, while the entire universe of social media is diverse, people there seem to gather into little homogenous groups, as if their FaceBook pages followed the logic of high school cafeteria tables.  

Classics Used and Rare Books is a place where diverse groups of people gather to have conversations longer than a tweet, deeper than what you can find on their info page and with people you might not otherwise get the chance to meet.  Classics is a store where you learn about real people in real time–a real social medium. 

I want you to meet a couple of the Classics family.

Keturah Monroe

Keturah is a Classics customer and friend and can often be found in the front of the store carrying on a conversation on any number of topics—raw foods, philosophy, the importance of international studies for urban youth.  She is fast talking, fast thinking and has a singing voice equal to “a thousand angels.”  But, she hates compliments on her singing, because it takes energy away from her true passion—teaching kids science.

Keturah runs a science enrichment program in Trenton, called OURSEP.  She has the radical idea that kids should practice science in the field FAR afield, as in another country.  Every year she leads a group of Trenton kids abroad—their first year they studied science in the rich habitats of Costa Rica!

My favorite Keturah quote: “I am hard-headed because I fear mediocrity and its secret entrances.”

This is Keturah.  

You can learn more about OURSEP at

Jon Naar

Jon was born in 1920 in Britain and is connected to Classics through the Scrabble Club, where we see him regularly on Friday nights handing out 2-letter word lists to new players and steadfastly preventing players from sneaking a look in the Scrabble dictionary in the middle of a game.  He is also connected to Classics through his many books on photography, graffiti and the environment.

With a little coaxing, Jon will tell you some of his amazing life.  In World War 2, he was a spy operating behind enemy lines, involved in the kidnapping of a German general.  He lived in New York where he was neighbors with Kurt Vonnegut, ate dinner with Julia Childs, hosted County Basie at his house, and had tea with Ghandi.  He has collaborated on books with Norman Mailer and Jacques Cousteau.  He photographed Andy Warhol and Melba Moore, Dachau and the beginnings of graffiti in New York.  His photographs are in MOMA, in the Met and on graced the final cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

All this, and here Jon is at Classics, hunched over his Scrabble rack, with many players none the wiser about his photographic talent or his endlessly fascinating life.

My favorite Jon quote, as befits a photographer, is told without words.  “

This is Jon. 

You can purchase Birth of Graffiti, Faith of Graffiti, and Getting the Picture at Classics Used and Rare Books.

You can learn more about Jon Naar at

Tips on Writing Children’s Books: Tika Bernadette

Tips on Writing Children’s Books

by Classics author, and guest blogger, Tika Bernadette 

Writing children’s fiction is a lot of fun, but it’s no easy task, in my opinion.  As with any well-written literature, there are rules and standards that industry movers expect when reviewing literary work for children.  If you wish to attract positive attention from editors, agents, publishers, educators and your target readers, there are some things you must take into serious consideration when creating your literary art for children.  Here, I will share some pointers that I’ve learned along the way to conceptualizing, writing and publishing two books for children, with a third book set for release this year. 

One simple rule for writing picture books is – Keep it simple. Let the pictures tell the story. Picture books are generally for babies and toddlers, with illustrations in place of text. Text, if any, is secondary to the illustrations and is no more than one word per picture, or two to three words per sentence, on average.  The text, if any, is often choppy.  And, the entire book is usually between 24 and 32 total pages.  

Learn the categories of children’s books so you can be sure that you are writing for your target audience.  As you have read above, many picture books are for babies and toddlers. There are also books for early readers. Readers in this group typically range from age four to age eight and are just learning to read and write.  They are still thrilled with pictures, but are also fascinated with written words.  Books for early readers have more printed words per page with fuller sentences, even when accompanied by illustrations.  The storylines, while still simple, are more fluid and imaginative. At this point, a few challenging words have been incorporated into the text.  Early readers are not as intimidated as you may think and desire to increase their vocabulary.  Structurally, books for early readers are usually between 45-60 total pages and no more than 1,500 words. Then there are your intermediate readers. Readers in this group range from age eight through age ten.  They are proud chapter books readers at this point.  Chapter books usually contain 48 to 80 pages and between 1,500 to 10,000 words.  These books tend to be thicker and have more sophisticated plots and themes.  Another category in children’s book literature is the middle school reader.  These readers are independent thinkers and are discovering themselves and beginning to pursue their own interests.  They usually select books based on their own personal taste.  Books for the middle school reader are usually 80 to 192 pages, with 20,000 to 45,000 words.

After middle school readers, we then go into young adult readers.  We won’t speak about them today. Today, we are discussing literature for young children.

Study your target audience.  Observe children’s habits, their movements, their language, their emotions, their follies, their antics.  Tune in to their interests.  Channel their energy and excitement through your work.  Take your mind back to when you were that young.  When you do so, you will find that you write on their level, but not down to them. They are intelligent creatures and learn quickly. They pick up on condescension and do not appreciate being talked down to. 

Read your story out loud.  Read to an audience of children before you send your work to an editor, agent or publisher. Get lots of feedback from parents, teachers and your target audience.  Is your audience fully engaged? Ask for audience participation.  You not only want to read your story aloud, you also want it to be interactive.  You want your readers to be so enthralled that they desire to become part of the story themselves.  Therefore, at some point during your reading, stop and ask your audience questions about what you’ve read so far.  Bring them into the story.

Keep writing!

Recommended reading:

  • Writing Children’s Books by Lesley Bolton and Lea Wait
  • Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul
  • How To Write And Illustrate Children’s Books (And Get Them Published) by Treld Pelkey Bicknell and Felicity Trotman

Tika Bernadette is the author of Baby Love and Zuri and Friends Conquer the Mountain.   You can buy her books on Amazon by clicking here.