Book festival connects sellers in small city

By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff
Posted July 31, 2011, at 12:57 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — In this town you can throw a rock from one bookstore to the next. To celebrate the bibliophile of a city, local sellers threw the first Belfast Bound Book Festival.

By Sunday afternoon, several booksellers said the festival did just what it needed to.

“My impression is this is a big success,” said George Siscoe, the owner of Old Professor’s Bookshop. “The goal was to show people there are many bookstores with different specialities. We did that.”

Siscoe’s store specializes in scholarly books. Across the street is an art-books store. Down High Street by a few buildings is BELLABOOKS, which offers new books, popular fiction and children’s books.

“Sometimes the old professor sends someone down to us and we’ll do the same,” said Gary Guida, a co-owner of BELLABOOKS.

“Which is a relief for us because we can’t have every book,” the other co-owner, Kim Cashman said.

BELLABOOKS is the newest bookstore in town. It opened in June. Cashman and Guida were on a roadtrip through Maine when they fell in love with Belfast. So far business is good. And although they are one of at least six book shops in town, they don’t feel supercompetitive.

“We don’t compete, we cooperate,” Guida said.

The festival had several readings by authors and other literary events.

Nannette Gionfriddo, the owner of Beyond the Sea, which is three stores over from BELLABOOKS, founded the event. According to her, 12 venues hosted 34 events from Friday to Sunday. This included library events, book signings and even readings by local actors.

“It’s a marvelous literary town. I think that was a well-kept secret,” Gionfriddo said on Sunday. “Even the yarn store has books. Craft books.”

In the back of her store, with a harmonica strapped to his head and a guitar hanging off his shoulder, Maine author Brian Robbins told sea stories. His audience of about four people sat in wicker chairs and listened to Robbins, who grew up in Stonington and worked as a fisherman.

Robbins’ book “Bearin’s — the Book” is a compilation of his columns in Commercial Fisheries News, which he started working for in 1988 after he left the fishing business.

Between songs, he told anecdotes.

“My brother and I grew up in a house as big as this room. But we had everything,” he said. “We had the best Christmases. My ma always got nervous around Christmas. I realized years later ma was waiting for a gas rebate check from Augusta so she could buy presents,” he said.

In the middle of discussing his family life, a passerby yelled at Robbins.

“Why should I buy your book?”

“Very absorbent paper,” Robbins said.

“Is that the kind of humor in your book? I’ll buy it,” the man said, walking toward the cash register. printed on August 16, 2017