Reading, Writing, and Bookstores during Covid-19

Old Capitol Books - Monterey

Photo above from website: proprietor Ali Elfaki (upper right) and associates, Old Capitol Books.

So, here we are in the midst of the pandemic; and in this period of “social distancing” (a phrase that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives), many of us are missing that special sense of community that only bookstores and libraries can provide.

You know what I mean: bookstores are not only places to buy books and check out the latest bestsellers. They are also venues for readings and workshops; they are spaces that celebrate new and old books, as well as writers and artists; they cultivate the enjoyment of reading and knowledge.

The same can be said of libraries, which do all that, and mostly for free. In recent years they have been diversifying into community gathering places, providing lectures (check out DIY Science Saturdays), teaching opportunities, storytelling events and readings, annual free tax preparation and information, and even sheltering the homeless during daytime open hours. With pandemic restrictions, libraries have had to adapt.

We know that some of these venues are now struggling, and it’s difficult to watch it from a “distance.” So this site’s blog will be focusing, for awhile, on local bookstores and libraries, as well as writers — what they’re doing to survive and thrive.

Older photo of Old Capitol Books. Photo by JVengua.

One of my favorites is Old Capitol Books in Monterey. Housed in a building that was originally an automotive repair shop in the 1930s, and later a dance and martial arts studio, it became Book Haven in 1999, and later Old Capitol books, which is now owned by former bookstore employees Ali Elfaki and Stephanie Spoto.

They and their staff have made the bookstore into a community space with its own special qualities. As well as the usual promotional book readings, they offer weekly writers’ workshops, theory and philosophy discussions, LGBTQ hangouts, political prisoner support events, a virtual open mic event, live music, and even speed dating nights!

Now they ask for your support by donating to their GoFundMe site to save Old Capitol Books. In the meantime, there are other things you can do to help out, and continue to keep books and bookstores in your life: you can order books, book certificates, and “book care packages.”

Patrice Vecchione, author of My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice.

I suggest that you check out their website regularly for updates, including events such as author and artist Patrice Vecchione‘s upcoming event, My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: A Writing Workshop. From the $80 fee, 50% will go to Old Capitol Books, and 50% to a writer, who can also use some support!

–J. Vengua