On Luck and Magic: Farewell to the Flying Dragon Bookshop

Getting Ready to Put the Poster in the Window! August 2010

I have always been lucky. Like many people, I believe that in most cases luck is the result of hard work paying off at the right time, but I can’t deny that in my life, I have had what seems like more than my fair share of good fortune. One of my luckier happenstances was walking into The Flying Dragon Bookshop almost four years ago.

One of many beautiful displays

Many people dream of working in a bookshop, and whether they realize it or not, the ideal bookshop they are imagining in their heads is The Flying Dragon. It is the perfect space: cozy, luscious, beautiful, warm, comforting. It is a true book lovers oasis, a space that one young customer described as akin to “walking into Narnia.” This is due in part to the gifts of Cathy Francis, who can look at a space and transform it with a bit of sand, a bit of greenery, and a few great-looking books. The pieces she has hand selected for the store look like they grew out of the ground, or perhaps were discovered in cast off room at Hogwarts. She has found a way to translate her own compassion and love into a physical place for people to visit.

Flying Dragon Staff in the Spiderwick Tree, Summer 2009

But a beautiful space is given true vibrancy by those who occupy it. We truly have the best staff in the world. Everyone has such passion for life, and their love of books stems from this love of life. I am grateful to Cathy and Nina who welcomed me into their store and into their lives with open arms. The Flying Dragon mission is to enrich the reading experience, but what these two women have effectively done is enrich the lives of every person who enters the store, staff included. I come in to work everyday wondering what incredible stories I am going to hear, what life lessons I will learn, and not from the books on the shelves, though we have plenty of those. I could write entire posts about the individuals who have come through The Flying Dragon; maybe someday I will.

A Few Friends of the Flying Dragon at Words That Start With B Launch, Sept 2010

And our customers. In the store, we refer to our customers as ‘friends of the Flying Dragon,’ because the word customer does not adequately describe the supportive and welcoming people who we serve every day. These customers remember my birthday, brought flowers to the launch of my first book, let me hold their babies, lent me books from their own collections to read, sent me postcards from Harry Potter World, invited me to their book clubs, and offered me a hug and asked me what I was going to do next when we announced our closing. These are friends and role models and book lovers who I have been lucky enough to spend time with. Not enough time, but when has anyone ever had enough time?

In the days to come you will hear people talk about the Flying Dragon magic. This is the kind of statement that may induce eye rolling. I know, because I am of that generation that perfected the art of the eye-roll. But my time at The Flying Dragon has taught me that magic comes in many forms. It is hard to explain the magic unless you have been in the store and experienced it  firsthand, or better yet, watched a child experience the store for the first time. For it is certainly a kind of alchemy that takes place when we are able to connect to a customer and hand them the perfect book. Perhaps it wasn’t even the book they were looking for, but a good bookseller knows that sometimes the best book is the most unexpected one. Since our announcement went public, the number one comment I’ve been hearing is how the store was a magical place. How fitting that like magic, which is fleeting and intangible, the store has also had a brief but powerful moment in time.

Cross Promotion: Me and Wallace Edwards

We dragons may be leaving our roost, but who knows where we will land next. I have been lucky to begin my career at the kind of classy, top notch establishment many people strive to end their careers in. I am leaving the store enriched and fufilled and my experiences here will ensure that I never settle for anything but the best. I will  leave the Flying Dragon on June 30th feeling extraordinarily lucky to have been given so much time there, among the books and the people that will forever be in my heart. Until then, please come visit us and celebrate the magic with us.

Dragon Ladies: Cathy Francis, Me, Nina McCreath at Words That Start With B Launch, Sept 2010

For more Flying Dragon love, check out these links:

Shelf Elf says good bye

Andrew Smith’s Blog, reflections from a visiting author

Official Press Release

Toronto Star, Article May 20, 2011

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