TAMPA — If the inaugural Florida Bookstore Day is successful Saturday, founder Tiffany Razzano sees more sales and exposure for writers and owners of the state’s small publishing houses and independent bookstores.
More than 40 bookstores from the Florida Keys through the Panhandle signed up to host events such as open mics, book signings, panel discussions, special sales and more. Promoters hope such a critical mass of literary events will accomplish more than they could individually.
A list of those participating is at www.WordierThanThou.com and includes Tampa Bay area stores Wilson’s Book World, Haslam’s Book Store, Inkwood Books, Mojo Books and Records, Oxford Exchange and Old Tampa Book Company.
Razzano, 32, of Largo, says the three-year journey leading to Florida Bookstore Day had a selfish beginning — not because she wanted to draw attention to her own literary work but because she needed to fight a phobia.
“I have always been horrible in front of crowds. I get so nervous,” Razzano said. “I wanted to find a way to get more comfortable but wanted it to be in a controlled environment — meaning one I was in control of.”
With that in mind, she launched an open mic night in St. Petersburg three years ago where she could host and read at to get practice in front of a crowd. Called Wordier Than Thou, it is a gathering of journalists, authors and essayists who recite their work.
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Razzano writes for La Gaceta Newspaper, Creative Loafing, the Seminole Beacon and the Pinellas Park Beacon.
She is also an essayist whose work has been published in the book, “There is No Cholera in Zimbabwe,” a collaboration of 18 authors from six continents showcasing the silent struggles of oppressed people.
Razzano’s contribution focuses on the gay and lesbian community.
“My rule has been no poetry or songs,” she said. “They have their own events already.
“I was not sure if there were enough writers like me in this area who would want to come out and share their work or if people would want to hear it. I’m glad to know there is.”
Wordier Than Thou proved so successful that it grew beyond one night a month.
“By our second or third one we were getting over 20 people a month who wanted to read,” Razzano said. “It got out of control and we needed to expand.”
The event is held the first Thursday of the month at Florida Avenue Brewing Company in Tampa and every third Thursday at The Studio@620 in St. Petersburg.
When participating writers from other cities asked Razzano to come closer, she launched Wordier Than Thou in Orlando and Sarasota.
She then started the Wordier Than Thou online radio show featuring writers who read and discuss their work. It airs every second and fourth Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon at lifeimprovementradio.com.
Next, she began publishing a “Wordier Than Thou” e-zine. This collection of stories by the event’s regulars is available at Amazon.com.
“It has gotten overwhelming,” she said. “It’s like a second job. Although I don’t get paid to do it. At times it exhausts me. But it’s also fun. I feel like I am part of something.”
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Local author Deborah Frethem, a participant at Wordier Than Thou since the beginning, said the movement has helped create a community among the area’s writers.
“It connects those in the literary community,” Frethem said. “Yes, it offers writers exposure and it is entertaining to listen to other people’s work, but that is all second to the sense of connectivity it has provided. Writing is such a solitary pursuit so it is wonderful to connect to other writers.”
Frethem will read from her new book “Haunted Ybor City,” a collection of ghost stories from the district, 2 p.m. Saturday at Wilson’s Book World in St. Petersburg.
The idea for Florida Bookstore Day came to Razzano earlier this year when she spotted a sign in the window of Daddy Cool Records in St. Petersburg promoting Record Store Day, observed the third Saturday of April.
“I thought, ‘We should do something like that for bookstores,’” Razzano said. “I looked into it more and was shocked to learn that only California did something like it.”
Melani Cade, owner of Tampa’s Mojo Books & Records, said record story day does indeed work.
“Some younger people come in to the store and say it’s the first time they’ve ever been to a record store,” Cade said. “They usually get everything from Amazon and then realize we sell vintage or limited edition items they cannot get online. Some will come back and become regulars.”
What stores do to mark Florida Bookstore Day is up to them.
Tampa’s Inkwood Books, for example, starts its day with a story time for kids at 10:30 a.m. Then, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., author and University of Tampa professor Andy Plattner will sign copies of his book, “Offerings From a Rust Belt Jockey.” The bookstore concludes the day with a cocktail hour at 5:30.
Mojo Books & Records will present “Readings by Musicians Who Also Write” at noon, featuring local musical talent such as Oran Oppelt, Jeremy Gloff, Scott Harrell and Shae Krispinsky reading their essays.
“This is different than or record store day,” said Mojo owner Cade. “We’re not trying to impress customers with rare items. Rather we are selling the spoken word. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.”
“Every stop offers something different,” Razzano said.
Has all this helped improve Razanno’s public speaking?
A little, she said, through she still hems and haws and her stomach is in knots up to microphone time.
“That’s why I’m a writer,” she said. “No one watches you when you write.”