With the help of her fellow children’s authors, Suzanne Selfors has remodeled Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo, Wash.—in preparation for the community bookstore’s soft reopening on February 15. A longtime local patron of the 1,500-square-foot bookstore that opened in 1977 (originally called Shotwell’s Bookstore), Selfors became the store’s new owner at the beginning of February.
Throughout the month, children’s authors from the region have stopped by to help the new owner paint, decorate, and organize the bookstore. “Children’s writers are very supportive of each other,” said Selfors, who has written more than 30 books for young readers, including Wedgie & Gizmo (HarperCollins/Tegen). “This is a beloved bookstore and everybody wants it to continue and to succeed.” Selfors had help from children’s authors including Jennifer Longo, Maureen McQuerry, and Sara Nickerson. While the bookstore will reopen this weekend, the author plans on throwing a proper grand opening party in the future. In the meantime, there’s still plenty of work to do. “I’m basically going to put a cot in here and not leave until Saturday,” Selfors said.
The bookstore has been part of the Pacific Northwest’s bookselling scene for more than 40 years. Bookseller Suzanne Droppert purchased the store in 1996, building relationships with many local authors, including Selfors. “Suzanne was a great supporter of local authors. The store became an important part of my writing career,” said Selfors, who relied on Liberty Bay to sell books for hundreds of school visits and Skype chats that the author scheduled with young readers. “It started as a business relationship, but as the years went on, it became a friendship.”
In April 2019, Droppert asked Selfors if she would be interested in carrying on the store’s legacy. The children’s author spent months researching the business decision, consulting many independent booksellers in Washington, including Village Books co-owner Paul Hanson, Queen Anne Book Company co-owner Janis Segress, Brick & Mortar Books co-owner Tina Ullom, and Eagle Harbor Book Company co-owner Jane Danielson. “I couldn’t have done it without them,” Selfors said. She also made contact with attorneys, accountants, and other resources recommended by her fellow booksellers. “They were so upfront with me. They were like, ‘welcome to the tribe.’ ”
By September 2019, Selfors had decided to take the plunge, and the transition became official on February 1. The store’s three employees will stay, and the re-opening will include a number of changes at the bookshop—starting with kids’ books. “I’ve made the children’s section bigger. I’m curating it, because that’s my sweet spot,” Selfors said. “I’m enlarging the graphic novel section, because that’s a huge part of publishing now. I want to celebrate this [category].”
The remodeled space will include new bookshelves with wheels, allowing the booksellers to make space for author visits, children’s storytimes, and community events. Beyond children’s offerings, Selfors created new memoir and historical fiction sections, and expanded the store’s stock of books by regional authors.
Selfors’s son, Walker Ranson, has helped with the remodel, and will work as a bookseller at Liberty Bay. The mother and son co-wrote the upcoming novel, Braver, A Wombat's Tale (Macmillan/Imprint, June), and they will host an author event at the store in June. “I get to have a launch party with my son in my bookstore,” she said. “I think that will be one of those incredibly memorable moments.”