Once Upon A Crime, the Raven Award-winning Minneapolis mystery bookstore, is marking a trio of anniversaries this year: its 25th anniversary, having opened in 1987; the 10th anniversary of the purchase of the store in August, 2002; and the 10th annual “Write of Spring” event, when local mystery and crime authors read one after the other on a Saturday afternoon.
To celebrate the store is throwing a huge party on April 7 that will combine this year’s “Write of Spring” with a book launch party for Writes of Spring: Stories and Prose (Nodin Press, April). The anthology, which is edited by Once Upon A Crime’s co-owners, Gary Schulze and Pat Frovarp, features stories by 34 of the 98 mystery, thriller, and crime writers who’ve participated in “Write of Spring” since the first event in March, 2003.
Writes of Spring is being released with a 2,500-3,000-copy print run. Featured authors include such luminaries as William Kent Krueger, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Ellen Hart, and Brian Freeman. The anthology also contains two previously unpublished works by Shamus award-winning mystery writer Harold Adams.
Twenty-two authors participated in the first “Write of Spring,” while 65 authors participated last year and Once Upon A Crime sold $5,000 in books during the four-hour event. “It’s always been our biggest day of the year,” said Frovarp. “It does bring in a crowd.” Although the store usually invites all mystery, crime, and thriller authors in the area to participate in the group read, this year only those authors whose work is included in the anthology have been invited.
On May 7, Frovarp, Schulze and 15 Writes of Spring contributors will read and sign copies at a Barnes & Noble in suburban Minneapolis. The irony of which is not lost on either owner. “It’s a first for me,” Schulze said. “But it’ll sell more books, and we want to sell books.”
According to Frovarp, sales at Once Upon a Crime have increased since 2009, with this past January and February being the strongest months since she and Schulze bought the store from Steven Stilwell in 2002. Pat Trone, the original owner, sold it to Stilwell in 1991.
“I don’t think the Nook or Kindle are going to wipe us out anytime soon,” Frovarp commented. Once Upon A Crime, which is housed on the basement floor of an apartment building in a neighborhood south of downtown Minneapolis, stocks 8,000 new titles and another 20,000 used and collectible titles. There is 750 square feet of retail space in the main area of the store, and another 450 square feet of retail space in “The Annex,” a separate retail area down the hall.
In 2009, Nodin Press published Once Upon A Crime: An Anthology of Murder, Mayhem, and Suspense, edited by mystery writers Gary R. Bush and Kris Everheart, which was dedicated to the bookstore during a difficult time, when Schulze was battling cancer. The anthology sold a “couple thousand” copies, Nodin publisher Norton Stillman told PW Daily. Royalties from the sales of the anthology were intended to raise funds to pay for Schulze’s cancer treatment. Because insurance paid the bills, the royalties were instead donated to charity.
All royalties from sales of Writes of Spring are being donated to the Memorial Blood Centers in Minneapolis by the editors.