For some time now, I’ve tried to write an “Ode to Main Street Books”. Alas, I’m not a poet and writing an ode is quite beyond me. So, I’ll post this blog instead!

It’s hard to exaggerate how happy it makes me to walk into the bookstore on Main Street in Frostburg and see Fred Powell– bookstore owner for 32 years, guru to book-lovers near and far, not to mention community icon–sitting at his desk, squinting at his laptop.  It means that once he looks up, he’ll be glad to see me. He will speak wisely about books and suggest titles that might be of interest. He’ll give me advice when I need it. Fred is a very patient man.

Not only does Fred order books with dispatch, he ships them wherever you want them to go. He happily joins in kids’ events like “Pirates Ahoy!” and “Christmas Storybook Hour”. He  runs a book club, hosts readings, and supports local authors like me.

Having recently published  my second book Expecting the World – Learning from Women in Left-Out Places – a memoir about my 30 years working in international development for  the World Bank—I  was alarmed to learn that my publisher would be sending six boxes of my book to my house in the U.S. a full month before I’d return from my house in Portugal. Naturally, I conferred with Fred, who  offered  to receive the boxes at Main Street Books on my behalf, then store them for me until I got home. Not only this, but he’d also send copies of my book to my two sons in Oregon so they ‘d arrive in time for Christmas.

 Although  a winter surge of Covid in Western Maryland is likely  keep me from a live book launch, I have no doubt that Fred Powell will host a reading for me when it is safe again,

Fred and and author Krystyna Poray Goddu

Fred and Krystyna Poray Goddu

Krystyna Poray Goddu, author of A Girl Called Vincent about the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, remarked to me on the phone the other day: “Every small town should have a book store like Main Street Books, and a bookstore owner like Fred Powell. How lucky for Frostburg that it does!”  When I published my first book – also about Edna St. Vincent Millay – Fred was there for me – co-hosting my reading with the Frostburg Center for Literary Arts, and reported afterward that he’d sold many copies of my book.

Last year during lock-down in Portugal, I  couldn’t get home for Christmas. One phone call to Fred in Frostburg made it possible for me to “shop locally” in Frostburg, while living in Portugal! It also meant that my family and friends would all have received at least one wrapped Christmas present from me.

“When my grandchildren were in town for Thanksgiving,” Frostburg resident and prize-winning author Barbara Hurd told me recently: “We made our usual trip to Main Street Books. As we drove home, I told my daughter that if Fred ever left and the store closed, I would feel utterly bereft. For over 30 years, he has been the source of so much richness and the center of a surprisingly vibrant literary community in these scattered hills.”

Barbara Hurd and Stephen Dunn

Barbara Hurd and Stephen Dunn

“When my husband Stephen Dunn died in June and we were trying to figure out how to word the “make a contribution in his memory” line in his obituary, Stephen’s daughter Andrea suggested we direct donations to Main Street Books. She knew, as did the whole family from Boston to St. Louis, what a lively magnet the store had been for Stephen and how fitting it seemed to give something back to it.”

Yes! So, let’s buy our books on Main Street–the very least we can do for someone who’s such a gift to us.

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