Bookseller Interview: Nicoletta “Nico” Maldini of Libreria Trame Bookstore in Bologna, Italy.

By Angela Cerrito
for SCBWI Bologna 2018 and Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

Note: This interview is part of a series focusing on the Bologna Children’s Book Fair

SCBWI Assistant International Adviser Angela Cerrito talks with Nicoletta “Nico” Maldini, a partner in the Libreria Trame Bookstore in the heart of Bologna, Italy. 

Tell us about Liberia Trame, what inspired you to open the bookstore?

I started working in a bookstore since 1990, after my second degree in liberal arts and many years in my father’s menswear store.

After working at three different companies, I decided to start a new business, together with two friends. I opened Trame in December 2005; it’s an independent bookstore with a selection of books for children and adults, open Mondays to Saturdays, and all December Sundays.

The SCBWI community recognizes Liberia Trame for the SCBWI dance parties during the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. What other events do you offer at the store?

We love our common SCBWI Biennial Dance party, but you are correct we have much more going on at Trame’s.
In 2017, we had 120 events in the store, mostly book signing with authors, and conferences about new books, novels, poetry or essays, and sometimes classics.

We also hosted seven exhibitions, photographs, or illustrations.
We have a resident reading group and collaborate with three more. Also, we collaborate with cultural associations and Bologna University. Last year, we supported with books or press conferences more than 80 events out of the store.

One of the many successes of Libreria Trame is the sense of community. Your newsletter promotes events bringing together people from literature, drama, all areas of the arts and politics. How have you managed to attract such a diverse group of patrons to the store?

I’ve always liked the opportunity to offer different occasions of encounters. I’ve been working for a public radio for more than 20 years, and I’ve just started, with a bunch of friends, a new web radio called Neu Radio. Books offer so many ideas and people like to join together for a good conversation and a glass of wine.

What advice do you have for anyone considering opening a bookstore in their home town?

Maybe I would suggest first to check if it’s possible to cooperate with an existing one, it being not an easy moment to start a new business. And to study deeply the location and the relation with the scholastic community, starting from children and families as these customers could guarantee a better life for the store.

Nico has always loved books

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

I like cinema and music, classical jazz and rock. And, of course, I’m an early reader; I started at three and never stopped.

I’m a good eater, which being Italian is quite common, too.

Cynsational Notes

Nico Maldini is a partner in the Libreria Trame Bookstore, located at Via Goito 3/c, a side street of the Via Indipendenza.

Born in Bologna, she is a traveler and a book lover.

Angela Cerrito is an author and playwright.

Her latest novel, The Safest Lie (Holiday House, 2015) was named a Notable Social Studies Book for Young People by the National Council for the Social Studies, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book from the Association of Jewish Libraries, and received SCBWI’s Crystal Kite Award.

She serves as the Assistant International Advisor for SCBWI and a co-organizer of SCBWI at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. She also is the Cynsations reporter for Europe.

This interview is part of the SCBWI Bologna Interview series coordinated by Elisabeth Norton, SCBWI Regional Advisor for Switzerland.

Guest Post: Tara Dairman on Making Connections in a New State

By Tara Dairman
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

Moving 1,000 miles was not the way I anticipated kicking off 2017, but hey, not much about the last year has been predictable. So when my husband received a new job offer in January, we found ourselves relocating from Colorado to Austin, Texas, in a few short weeks.

Austin has a well-established kidlit community, and I was lucky to have a few friends here already. But still, it was hard for me to leave Colorado, where I had strong bonds with local authors, indie bookstores, and librarians.

Now—and with a brand new middle-grade novel on the way—I needed to start all over again??

Yep. But a few steps I took made the landing much softer than it could have been.

Here’s how I linked up with the writing, bookselling, and library communities in my new hometown—tips that I think would also apply to debut authors looking to get more connected wherever they live.

An Erin Murphy Agency gathering in Austin with authors Dan Richards and Lindsey Lane, along with Tara’s husband and daughter, standing: agent Tricia Lawrence, authors Sean Petrie, Liz Garton Scanlon and Tara.

1. Seek out other local authors.
Kidlit authors are among the friendliest and most supportive colleagues a person could wish for. But how do you find them?

If you’re agented, ask your agent if she has other clients in your area. (I didn’t know a soul when I first moved to Colorado, but quickly made some of my best writer friends through agency connections!)

Take advantage of social media. Someone in your network probably knows someone they can connect you with.

Attend events at your local bookstore. Kidlit authors tend to turn out en masse for each others’ launch parties and panels, making the bookstore a great place to meet folks in person.

Austin authors Samantha Clark, Donna Janell Bowman, Tara & her family
at a BookPeople book launch. (photo by Dave Wilson)

2. Connect with local booksellers. Speaking of bookstores, one of the first things I did upon moving to Austin was reach out to the children’s bookseller at local indie BookPeople.

Along with another author who was also new to town, I set up a coffee meeting at the store–which I’d recommend if you and the bookseller have time, since it’s always nice to get to know each other in person!

In this case, I wanted to make sure that the bookseller knew about both my already-published titles and my upcoming one, and that meeting even led to my partnering with the store for this preorder campaign for The Great Hibernation (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, Sept. 12, 2017).

Sometimes you can even set up a system for signing book orders on demand throughout the year, which is what I did with my local indie where I used to live in Colorado.

But also, remember that it may take some time for a bookstore to warm up to you if you’re new in town or a debut author, and try not to be offended if they’re not suddenly stocking your entire back catalogue the day after you first introduce yourself.

It may not be until after you’ve held a launch event there and brought in a nice crowd that a store will be willing to stock your titles regularly or recommend them.

3. Attend a conference (even if it’s on your own dime). One of the biggest perks of moving to Texas is its statewide network of librarians, who come together each year at the massive Texas Library Association conference.

I sent myself this year so that I could participate in a kidlit “speed-dating” event, where I got to meet lots of librarians—and thanks to that, I’m now on the radar of the organizer for the “What’s New With Texas Authors?” panel, which I hope to participate in at next year’s conference.

And it’s always smart to ask your publisher if they’ll send you; even if they won’t spring for all your travel expenses, they’ll usually at least set you up with a badge so you can attend sessions and wander the exhibit hall for free.

Another conference I made sure to attend soon after moving to Texas was our Austin SCBWI conference. Even though I wasn’t presenting, it was a great way to meet local authors, get my books out in front of members at the bookstore and silent auction, and—most importantly—get inspired by all the amazing craft talks.

If the stress of moving and/or debuting has put you into a writing rut, then attending a local creative conference can be a great way to jumpstart a new project.

Cynsations Notes

School Library Journal said The Great Hibernation “explores some rather important political ideas about individuality and the need for a balance of powers in governance. A strong selection for most middle grade shelves.”

Tara Dairman is the author of the All Four Stars middle-grade foodie series (Penguin Random House)—the first of which was an Amazon Best Book of the Month and SCBWI Crystal Kite Award winner.

She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and—thanks to an epic round-the-world honeymoon—has visited more than 90 countries.

Guest Post: Varsha Bajaj on Finding Your Book at Target

By Varsha Bajaj 
for Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations

On November 9, 2016, I was at my local Target store.

I had bought milk, eggs, bananas and dog treats and I wandered into the books section because that’s where I am known to stray when I need comforting.

Right there beside Dr. Seuss and under Eric Carle was This is Our Baby, Born Today (by Varsha Bajaj, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2016).

I pulled out my phone and clicked a picture, as if I needed proof for my friends and family, in case it was a huge mistake and they pulled the copies off the shelves the next day.

Then, I lurked around the aisle trying to collect my errant thoughts.

This book was born in January 2012 during my son’s senior year when the school requested that I send pictures of him between the ages of 0-5. I sat surrounded by hundreds of pictures with the impossible task of selecting five. Babies were now on my brain and in my words.

After months of writing and many failed versions and drafts, I realized the heart of my story.

While the baby is the mother’s alone in the womb, the circle of love gradually expands after birth and includes at first the family and then the world. The arrival of a baby is cause for celebration.

Around the same time, I read about the plight of elephants and their dwindling numbers.

My connection to elephants goes way back. I remembered the wooden elephant from my childhood home in India who was the hero of some of my earliest stories.

It struck me that if we celebrated the birth of every elephant, they would not be endangered today. The baby in the story became an elephant and the rest of the words followed.

This manuscript found the right editor thanks to my agent, Jill Corcoran.

The words found the perfect illustrator, Eliza Wheeler, thanks to my extraordinary editor, Nancy Paulsen.

I’ve been lucky to see my books grace the shelves of bookstores before.

But this was different.

While I wish everyone visited a bookstore, I realize and mourn the fact that only a small section of people frequent and support their local indie or Barnes and Noble.

Target manages to reach a much wider base.

I hope that the readers of this book will be sympathetic toward elephants and realize that these gentle giants need our help.

I hope that these young readers will wander into a bookstore or their local indie as teens or adults.

I hope there are people who will wander to the book section after buying their milk, eggs, bananas and dog treats and pick up a copy of This is Our Baby, Born Today.

Cynsational Notes

Kirkus called This is Our Baby, Born Today a gentle rhyming story and said it “works on two levels: the playfulness of the young elephant and its friends ensure that young children will be able to see themselves in the story, and given the depiction of the natural scenes, at least some young readers will become fascinated with the lives of elephants as well.”

Varsha Bajaj came to the United States as a graduate student in 1986. She earned her master’s degree in counseling from Southern Illinois University and worked as a Licensed Professional Counselor in St. Louis. This is Our Baby, Born Today is her third picture book, and she is also the author of the novel Abby Spencer goes to Bollywood (Albert Whitman, 2014). Her next book, Our Earth, Our Home, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani will be published by Nancy Paulsen Books in 2018.

Varsha with Kathi Appelt at the This is Our Baby, Born Today launch party.