Bookmarks in Winston-Salem

and a conversation with Jamie Rogers Southern, their Operations Director.

Linda-Marie Barrett, Assistant Executive Director of SIBA, and I recently paid a visit to the new home of Bookmarks in downtown Winston-Salem, NC.

Bookmarks is a literary arts organization that nurtures a love of reading and writing in the community. Their programming connects readers and authors and includes an annual Festival of Books, an Authors in Schools program, and year-round events in the community gathering space and independent bookstore.

The bookstore had only just opened. It doesn't have a traditional storefront on the main street, you have to go looking for it but, boy, it was worth the few steps to find it. It is a book lover's paradise and makes a fine addition to the already amazing bookstores of North Carolina. 

Just follow the signs!

Keep going...

You're almost there...

Ta da!

The good people at Bookworks renovated a building from the early 1930’s. It was formerly a garage and Nash automobile sales center that needed quite a lot of work but is now a beautiful bookstore and community meeting place. 100% of the profits fund Bookmarks’ mission of connecting readers with authors and books.
Inside went from this.....

to this!

Below are more photos of this beautiful and unique bookstore in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem.


Here are some of the hearts and souls who started and keep Bookmarks the jewel that it is.

From top left to right
Beth Seufer Buss, Community Outreach and Bookstore Manager
Jamie Rogers Southern, Operations Director 
Ginger Hendricks, Executive Director 
 Caleb Masters, Associate
the black octopus
Katy Abbott, Associate 
 Kathy Pounds, volunteer

 Jamie's answers to my deep and probing questions.

Tell me about where you live and why you love it so much.
I moved to Winston-Salem in 2009 and instantly fell in love with it. For a mid-sized city, it has so much to offer. It is home to the oldest locally established arts council in the country, the first public arts conservatory in the country, a world-class opera, symphony, film festival, and a community that is incredibly supportive of the arts. There is a lot of great history here, too, with Reynolds Tobacco, Hanes Hosiery, and national landmarks celebrating our Moravian heritage. After living in sprawling cities, I love the close-knit community feel in Winston-Salem and the fact that you can get pretty much anywhere in 15 minutes. 

Where were you living when you were 7 years old? Are they fond memories?
I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. I have very fond memories of my childhood growing up there and almost my entire family lives there still so we visit often.

Did you have a favorite teacher and are you still in touch with him or her?
I had several favorite teachers – almost all English teachers – who inspired me through the years. My family would say I was somewhat of a “teacher’s pet,” though I insist that I was simply a rules follower and I can’t help that teachers liked me for that. (Most people find this incredibly obnoxious). My 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Hightower, introduced me to Monty Python when we were studying Arthurian legend and also directed my reading to include more international fiction. So she stands out as a favorite from high school,  Hewitt-Trussville High!

Once I entered college, I had many excellent professors of English, one in particular who led our study abroad trip to Burma and Thailand, which was a life-changing experience I carry with me daily.

Is there a book that changed the way you look at life?
As a sophomore in high school I read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.
When someone asks me if a book changed my life, I always go back to that moment. It is a book for me that opened my eyes to more than anything I had studied in a history class. And I think that’s why I love literature so much anyway – I always feel like I come closer to understanding life and feeling truth in a novel better than I ever have in nonfiction.

Do you have a favorite children’s book and what about it makes it so?
My all-time favorite children’s book is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. 

I read all of her books, but that one is still my favorite. It really spoke to me as a young reader and still does today. The sisters’ relationships, their relationship with their mother, Laurie, sickness, sadness, dancing, war, and death…what more do you need in a book?

Jamie is married to the dashing Ed Southern, executive director of the North Carolina Writers’ Network.
How did you meet Ed? How did your first date go?
Ed and I met at the fall SIBA trade show ten years ago when it was held in Atlanta. I was working at the Alabama Booksmith and he was at John F. Blair, Publisher. Because he was living in North Carolina, and I was in Alabama at the time and later moved to New York, we dated long distance for a long time. But because of that, we really had some amazing dates like when we met at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. 
Southern Festival was pretty amazing! That was my first visit to the festival and I saw some great authors. We went to Rockefeller Center and did some fun touristy things in New York – toured Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, KyKuit Estate (Rockefeller home in Westchester, County), Phillipsburg Manor and other places in Westchester County and NYC. We also met in D.C. for  a long weekend one year. 

Is there a song that you listen to when you are feeling a bit down?
Probably ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” or Polyphonic Spree’s “Light and Day.” I like some weird stuff.

How are you different now than you were when you were 20?
Oh, Lord. I am less of a book snob for sure. I used to only read dead authors because I thought they were the only ones who mattered or who could write seriously good books. I also didn’t read any genre fiction. Now I cannot imagine my life without fantasy or mysteries, or reading some very good authors who are alive and kicking.

And in a short essay…………………………

to any period from before recorded history to yesterday,
be safe from harm, be rich, poor or in-between, if appropriate to your choice,
actually experience what it was like to live in that time, anywhere at all,
meet anyone, if you desire, speak with them, listen to them, be with them.

When would you go?
I read way too much fantasy to consider this question. I have a tendency to get into books too much and have read too many time travel books to want to even consider this possibility. 
I guess if I had to pick, I would like to visit Mexico in the early 20th century so I could observe 
Frida Kahlo, who is one of my favorite people of all-time. She has been an inspiration to me for years and I think it would be interesting to compare what the history books say about her with the day-to-day reality of her life. She was vibrant, full of life. I would love to hop into a time machine and see her for myself, talk to her and witness that brilliance with my own eyes.
Where would you go?
If I could travel more now, that would be ideal. I would love to travel to Spain, French coast and Italy, as well as Scandinavia.
Who would you want to meet?
When I travel, I always visit bookstores. Booksellers are the best people to meet around the world!

I certainly agree with you, thanks Jamie. I know we all wish you and all the fine folks at Bookmarks all the success in the world! 

To see Jamie and my homage to other Southern booksellers, click here.


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