Growing up in Appalachian southeastern Ohio, Christie Stanger vividly remembers the Bookmobile.
Stepping into a rehabbed school bus, she could borrow any book on board. The arrival of the Bookmobile was as exciting as the ice cream truck (and that’s saying something).
The Remarkable Bookcycle is Westport’s version of the Bookmobile. The brainchild of international best-selling author Jane Green, it’s a mobile version of a free library.
Jane Green and the Remarkable Bookcycle, at Savvy + Grace downtown.
Jane (or her husband Ian Warburg) pedal it from their Owenoke home to Compo Beach, and other spots in town. Anyone is free to take a book — or leave one. It’s a brilliant idea, made even more “remarkable” by its homage to Westport’s favorite lost store, the Remarkable Book Shop.
(Click here for the Bookcycle’s amazing back story. It includes the factoid that Jane asked noted artist Miggs Burroughs to paint the book store’s “dancing man” logo on the Bookcycle — without knowing that Miggs’ mother Esta had worked at the store, from the day it opened to when it closed.)
Like Jane, Christie now lives in Westport. Also like Jane, her love of books has never wavered. So when Jane Green announced she was looking for a custodian for the Remarkable Bookcycle for the coming year, while Jane, Ian and their family is in England, Christie immediately typed “ME!!!”
Other Westporters offered to help, in other ways. Ryan Peterson — who as a recent Staples graduate 2 years ago transformed Jane’s cargo tricycle into the Bookcycle — gave it a touch-up. Ethan Olmstead fixed the emergency brake. And a small band of librarians will restock its shelves.
Remarkable Bookcycle librarians (from left): Kate Parente, Christie Stanger, Sue Goldman, Margo Amgott and Jennie Lupinacci. (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)
As Westport rolls into autumn, the group is excited. They’ve got big plans, including creating a children’s Bookcycle from an old-fashioned tricycle owned by Christie’s mother-in-law.
Also ahead: a collaboration with the “People Politics Planet” downtown art show, set for early October.
You can follow the Bookcycle — including its stops around town — on Instagram (@remarkablebookcycle) and Facebook (@TheRemarkableBookcycle). For the next few weeks, it will be parked at Compo Beach.
Neither Christie nor Jane visited the Remarkable Book Shop. But — thanks to both women — Westport’s long love affair with books, in out-of-the-ordinary but way-cool settings — lives on.
Melody Stanger touches up The Remarkable Guy. (Photo/Christie Stanger)
After a career spent in sports and political broadcasting, he knows how to make a subject feel at ease. Conversation flows naturally; insights pour forth.
After 12 years in Westport — and more than 2 decades at Fox News, NBC Sports and CNN — Briggs’ contact list bulges with big names.
Many of them live here. So it’s natural that for his new gig — an Instagram Live series of interviews for Westport Magazine — Briggs would chat with our town’s megastars.
He’s already snagged “Today” co-host Craig Melvin, best-selling author Jane Green and former NFL analyst/current ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky.
But it’s a testament to Briggs’ chops as an interviewer — and his belief that his series include local names we all can relate to — that his session with Staples High School principal Stafford Thomas drew twice as many viewers as Melvin’s.
Staples High School principal Stafford Thomas, live.
If you missed that — or any of Briggs’ other interviews, like 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — no problem. They live forever on Westport Magazine’s Instagram page.
You can find them — and upcoming interviews which may include CNN’s Alisyn Camerota, ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, actress Anne Hathaway, former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, musicians Nile Rodgers and Michael Bolton, billionaire businessman/Milwaukee Bucks owner Mark Lasry, and songwriter Justin Paul, plus superintendent of schools Tom Scarice, downtown developer David Waldman and police chief Foti Koskinas — by following @DaveBriggsTV on Instagram.
The Denver native did not expect to be sitting here this year, drinking bourbon (or tequila, or another beverage of choice), chatting with his neighbors.
But this year is unlike any we’ve ever known before.
Briggs always wanted to be a sportscaster. A broadcast and journalism major at the University of Colorado, he ascended the typical “pay your dues” ladder: covering high school sports and rodeo in Rapid City, South Dakota; college sports in Tulsa, and then the right-place-at-the-right-time Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics for Boston’s NBC station.
From there it was on to “a terrific” 5 years co-hosting “Fox & Friends”‘ weekend show with Camerota; handling the Rio Olympics, Stanley Cup, NASCAR and NCAA basketball for NBC Sports, and — most recently — 3 years as anchor of CNN’s “Early Start.”
Early is right: The show airs from 4 to 6 a.m. Briggs woke up every morning at 1:30.
That did not leave him much time to know Westport, where he, his wife Brandi and kids moved in 2008. She is deeply involved in the town: RTM representative, Westport Young Women’s League, the schools.
Briggs wanted to feel more connected. His chance came, surprisingly, from the same source that, he says, “punched my career in the face”: COVID-19.
The coronavirus put an end to his NCAA hoops work for Turner Sports. He talked to ESPN Radio about openings, but after cuts in other areas they filled those spots internally. A sports podcast called “Home & Home” was also canceled.
“It’s been a tough year for me,” Briggs admits.
But the Westport Magazine/Instagram Live interviews have been a huge bright spot.
He’d always known that many very successful, fascinating people live here. When everyone was quarantined, disconnected and frustrated, he realized an interview series could be interesting — and doable.
Jane Green, live.
Instagram Live is the perfect platform. It’s easy to use (and users get instant notifications when an interview begins). Anyone can ask ask real-time questions. And the format could not be more casual.
Whether his guests are big names nationally or just locally, they all want to talk about their home town. Why did they move here? Why do they stay here? What’s their ideal day here?
Those are staple questions. Craig Melvin was as happy to answer those as he was talking about national issues. He also discussed what it’s like broadcasting the “Today” show from his Westport home.
“People learned he’s not just a talking head. He’s of the smartest, most knowledgeable and analytical people in the industry,” Briggs says. “Plus, he’s nice!”
Dave Briggs and Craig Melvin, live.
Briggs shared drinks and a meal with Bill Taibe, at his new Don Memo restaurant.
For Jane Green, there was tequila. Many of her devoted readers asked direct questions. Whether they lived here or not, they learned how Westport inspires her.
The interview with Staples principal Stafford Thomas offered 3 surprises for Briggs. There were many more viewers than for some bigger names. Briggs learned “there may not be a better educated principal anywhere.” And the interviewer discovered that Thomas has been to every Major League Baseball Stadium in the country.
Feedback to the Westport Magazine/Instagram Live interviews has been superb. In fact, it’s so positive that the series — originally planned just for the summer — will continue indefinitely.
Elle Vail is a writer and blogger. So are many Westporters (including yours truly).
What makes Elle special is that she is only 13 years old. Here — in her own words — is her story.
Ever since I was in 1st grade, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be an author from the first time I found joy in writing at Saugatuck Elementary School where my teacher, Ms. Bader, made us write about our weekend every Monday.
As the years went by my passion grew greater. Once I reached 4th grade I practically rewrote “Dork Diaries” in 53 pages. Not the best first story, but it motivated me to write more.
Once seventh grade approached I was ready to write another long story. Luckily I had another life-changing teacher, Mrs. Hallama, to help me out. I told her I wanted to finish a book by the time I was 13 (which was the next year).
She helped me get to work by contacting her literary agent with questions, FaceTiming with her author friends and helping me bring out what I had into my writing.
Elle Vail is now a Staples High School freshman.
I was surprised she wasn’t already published. Soon after I left her classroom she emailed me that she got a book offer for 2 of her books to come out on Halloween of 2020 (knowing Mrs. Hallama, they will not disappoint).
By December in her classroom, I gained the confidence to commit to my first published novel, “adVerse Wishes.”
Through this journey, I had so much support from my friends and family especially author Howard Greenwald (the dad of a good friend of my dad’s), who influenced me to finish the book.
With so much help I completed the book by August 2018. I had written 75 pages but I was ready to write more.
November was National Novel Writing Month (I have to thank Ms. Rao for informing me about it at Bedford Middle School).
By the end of November, I had written 49 pages. With my 2 novellas done I was ready to self-publish.
I wish I could say I created the 2 beautiful covers for my books but really my amazing friends, P. Pretty and H. Fiarman, did it all.
By March 29 and 30 my books were out to the world. Although it took a while I eventually got them onto Kindle, Amazon, the Barnes &Noble website, the Bedford Middle School library and the Bookcycle.
Elle’s books, at Compo Beach’s Remarkable Bookcycle.
I am working on getting my books into the Barnes & Noble store, Westport Library and the Staples High School Library.
During this process I began to publicize that I was working on publishing 2 books, through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I post at least once a day on my social media accounts.
Local bestseller Emily Liebert inspired me to get on social media for writing and to blog. I met her when she did a speech at a National Charity League event as an author. I was intrigued by her story.
Soon after I reached out to her. We had coffee at Aux Delices. She talked with me about my books and how to go to the next level.
As I am starting 9th grade at Staples High School, I am sadly more short on time for writing, so writing another novella or writing a novel can be hard. Because of this, I started my blog. I now post at least once a week on evailwrites.com. I enjoy blogging so much and I hope to continue it for as long as possible.
After having coffee with Emily she released another incredible novel called “Pretty Revenge.” I was lucky enough to go to one of her book signings to meet her very kind friends and fellow authors Jane Green, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke.
Elle Vail at a book signing with authors Liz Fenton (left) and Lisa Steinke.
From the experiences with Emily Liebert, I learned the significance of reaching out to those you look up to in the profession you would like to pursue. This can help you plan for the future, and get some wise words from those who are more experienced than you.
I 100 percent recommend more kids go for it and advance their dreams at a young age. For all of the young aspiring authors, find someone who can motivate you and just write! Anyone can self-publish like I did with a couple of guidelines; all you have to do keep writing.
Elvira Mae’s opened last week. It took exactly that long for them to jump into their first great help-a-community-member fundraiser.
Lisa Laudico is a Westporter with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. She’s fighting the disease — and fighting to help others. With the Southport-based Cancer Couch Foundation, she co-founded the #Reason4FreezinMBC social media challenge.
It’s simple: Video yourself eating anything cold hands-free. Nominate 4 people, and donate to MBC research. 100% of all proceeds go to researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York, and Dana Farber in Boston.
The campaign launched earlier this month on the “Today Show.” Al Roker — and Westport’s own Craig Melvin — challenged other celebrities. Among them: Westporter Jane Green, who nominated Elin Hildebrand and Robin Roberts.
That’s where Elvira Mae’s comes in.
Today (Saturday, July 13, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), volunteers will sit outside the Old Mill deli. They’ll hand out flyers, and offer to video anyone doing the challenge. Elvira Mae’s is donating a portion of all ice cream sales to the campaign.
Anhtropologie is helping too. Volunteers will be outside the Church Lane store, doing the same. They’ll hand out popsicles too.
There’s no solicitation of money or checks. Donations can be texted (“freezembc”) to 44321.
Elvira Mae’s and Anthropologie picked a great day to help. This weekend, a challenge grant — in Lisa’s honor — means that every dollar raised becomes $4.
The mobile free library — a fun, funky collaboration between writer Jane Green, her husband Ian Warburg, artist/longtime Remarkable Book Shop enthusiast Miggs Burroughs and former Staples High School student Ryan Peterson — made its way from the Green/Warburgs’ Owenoke home to Bedford Square last fall.
EJ Zebro — owner of TAP StrengthLab — pedaled it over to Main Street recently, where it greeted visitors to the 1st Outdoor Market behind Savvy + Grace.
But Jane — a client and friend of EJ’s — told him the Bookcycle had to be back at the beach for the summer.
He and his TAP staff jumped at the chance to help. When the weather was right, Lauren Leppla hopped on, and made her move.
Local director Amelia Arnold chronicled the trip. If you didn’t see her (and it) riding by, here you go:
Jane Green’s Remarkable Bookcycle — the quirky, fun homage to the late, much-lamented Remarkable Book Shop — reappeared on Main Street this weekend, across the street from the old pink store at the corner of Parker Harding Plaza.
Next week (note rain date: Sunday, May 5, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), you can find it at the first-ever Outdoor Market. Savvy + Grace owner Annette Norton developed the idea of filling the private parking lot behind Tavern on Main with local artisans.
Nearly 2 dozen vendors will offer jewelry, terrariums, hand-designed greeting cards and more.
The Remarkable Book Shop is gone. But the Remarkable Bookcycle is back.
And next weekend’s Outdoor Market may be the start of a remarkable new tradition of its own.
The world knows Jane Green as a wonderful author. Her books have sold over 10 million copies, and been translated into more than 30 languages.
Westporters know Jane Green as our neighbor.
It’s in that role that we love a story from last week’s Washington Post Magazine. In a series of interviews, writers talked about what books meant to them — and to their homes.
Jane described her life with her husband Ian Warburg on Owenoke — and gave a great shout-out to her fantastic mobile library project, modeled on the Remarkable Book Shop.
I’ve run out of space. Books are starting to get stacked up on the floor, underneath tables, underneath chairs, on top of tables. They’re everywhere. With no more room on the bookshelves, I’ve been eyeing this gorgeous French armoire that takes up an entire wall. That wall is just perfect for shelves and would make the room warmer. I know, however, that my husband really likes the armoire. He sees: storage, storage, storage. I see: books, books, books. We’ll see who wins.
For years, I couldn’t get rid of anything. I have had to learn to manage the flow. Paperbacks I tend not to keep unless I love them and know I’m going to reread them. Hardcovers are really hard for me to get rid of. They all signify a time in my life. They all have stories around the stories. I will sometimes just stand there and look at my books and remember.
Jane Green, at home in Westport. (Photo/Chris Sorensen for Washington Post)
The first place I go in someone’s house is their bookshelves. You can tell exactly who they are.
I used to do something that I now realize was a bit creepy. After my first book was published and very successful, I was looking for a flat in London. Almost every flat I went into had my book on the shelf. I’d take it down and sign it! Sometimes, I even personalized it: “To Julia, with love, Jane Green.” I’ve never heard from anyone, but if they ever come across that, they’ll likely freak out.
They all signify a time in my life. They all have stories around the stories. I will sometimes just stand there and look at my books and remember.
Last summer, I started a little mobile library called the Remarkable Bookcycle. For 35 years, there was a bright pink bookstore in my town called Remarkable Book Shop. We had this cargo tricycle just sitting in our garage. I paid a high school student to turn it into a mobile free library. We cycle it around the beach in summer. I lurk around the bookcycle; I love to watch what happens. What’s extraordinary is that everyone gathers around the bookcycle and has conversations. I’m now able to get rid of books much more easily knowing they’re going to a good home.
I think I like to be surrounded by books when I’m writing, but the truth is I don’t. I’m easily distracted. I’ve done my best writing at my local public library in one of those little cubbies with noise-canceling headphones. If I need to do some research, I just make a note for later. If I go to a book or online, the whole day could be gone. Writing takes focus, and books pull mine in a million directions.
I subscribe to Nancy Lancaster’s rule of decorating; she’s an American decorator who moved to England in the ’20s. She brought the English country-house style into the mainstream. Her rules were that a home should always have books, candles and flowers. I walk into so many houses today that have been decorated. They’re exquisite. I find them beautiful: two artfully placed objets, stunning coffee table books. For a minute, I think, “I wish my house looked like this.” But then I remember I don’t feel like taking off my shoes and curling up on the sofa in these homes. In fact, I sit there terrified I’m going to spill red wine. A home needs a bit of curated clutter, and that curated clutter has to include things that tell the story of your life, of what you love. For me, that’s books.
(To read the full Washington Post Magazine story, click here. Hat tip: Elisabeth K. Boas)
Jane Green is a wonderful author. She’s written 19 novels, has over 10 million books in print, and been published in more than 30 languages.
Our Westport neighbor is as gifted a storyteller in person as she is in print. For years she entertained book tour audiences with her tale of cooking dinner for Hugh Grant.
The Moth — the wildly successful radio show and podcast featuring real people telling true stories — heard about Green’s routine. They chatted a bit, before deciding it was not quite right for The Moth. They asked if she had another story to tell.
She did. It was about her middle-aged head being turned by the attention of a handsome younger man. First told at Cooper Union, “Greener Grass” (clever name!) was wildly successful. It’s been heard more than a million times.
Which got Green thinking: Why not bring The Moth to Westport?
A longtime supporter of the Westport Country Playhouse — and one-time board member — Green always looked for programs appealing to young audiences. She’d helped bring a “Hamilton” singalong, David Bowie tribute and Lisa Lampanelli play to the fabled stage.
The Moth was a natural next project.
Which is why next Friday (January 25, 7:30 p.m.), 5 great storytellers will bring The Moth to the Westport Country Playhouse.
Well, 4 great storyteller. Plus me.
I can’t believe I’ll be standing up there with Green herself; Alistair Bane, a Shawnee who makes dance regalia, paints and rehabilitates feral reservation dogs; Henia Lewin, a Lithuanian instructor of Hebrew and Yiddish, and Trina Michelle Robinson of San Francisco, who explores memory through video, archival materials and text.
Not quite the Westport Country Playhouse. But close.
I tell stories every day on “06880.” I can type a tale in my sleep.
But performing as a Moth storyteller is waaaaay different.
I’ll join 4 experienced folks — including a woman who has done this before, and written 17 New York Times bestsellers.
And — oh yeah — the Moth Radio Hour is heard on more than 475 stations. The podcast is downloaded a million times each week.
But I’m ready. I might rock it — or bomb.
Either way, for the rest of my life I’ll have one more intriguing story to tell.
Last weekend, “06880” reported the remarkable story of the resurrection of the Remarkable Book Shop. The beloved pink shop suddenly appeared at Compo Beach, as a free library balanced on a 3-wheeled bike.
World popular author (and longtime Westport resident) Jane Green masterminded the project.
But she couldn’t have done it without the help of Ryan Peterson. The recent Staples High School graduate transformed Jane’s old cargo trike into a new/old/way cool lending (and donating) library.
Pictures told the story. But now — just before heading to Fairfield University, to study engineering — Ryan’s sent along a video of his handiwork.
Enjoy it. And remember: Jane knows the Remarkable Book Shop only through stories. She moved here after it closed.
Ryan was not even born then.
It takes a village to nurture a book store. And then bring it back to life.
Saturday night’s Pics of the Day was one of “06880”‘s most special — and most commented on.
The photo s– sent by a reader who did not identify him or herself — showed a 3-wheeler. In front of the pedals sat a wooden structure, filled with books.
It was painted pink — just like the old Remarkable Book Shop.
More remarkably, the front featured the beloved store’s dancing man logo.
And — in case you missed the other clues — a sign on the top said “The Remarkable Bookcycle.”
The photos were taken in and around Compo Beach.
Readers loved it. But no one knew the back story.
Now it can be told. And the tale comes courtesy of Jane Green: author of 19 novels, with over 10 million books in print in more than 25 languages. Besides being (duh) a huge book lover, she’s a longtime Westporter — and a very involved neighbor. She writes:
It started with George, although really, it started with the Remarkable Book Shop. Ever since I moved to Westport almost 18 years ago, everyone has told me that I would have loved the Remarkable Book Shop. Esther and Sidney Kramer were neighbors of ours, and I’ve harbored a secret fantasy of re-opening the bright pink bookshop for years.
Which brings me to George: a cargo tricycle we bought from neighbors of ours at the beach about 12 years ago. It seemed like a great idea at the time, a way to transport picnics and children back and forth to the beach, but those children are now teenagers, and George has languished in our garage for years.
More recently, I found myself obsessed with Little Free Libraries. The Little Free Library is a non-profit organization founded in the 1980’s to encourage people to read, and to bring communities together. Usually, people build them at the end of their driveways, giving away free books, bringing strangers together, chatting about books.
As a novelist who created the Facebook group Westport Front Porch for exactly that reason — to bring a sense of community back — and as an avid reader, I had always wanted a little free library. Also, my house is threatening to topple over with the piles of books everywhere. But I live on a small private street, and suspected my neighbors might not be so happy with an influx of readers coming over.
A mobile Little Free Library suddenly seemed an excellent idea, one that could travel around the beach and bring a bit of happy nostalgia to our town, for who doesn’t feel good when they remember the Remarkable Book Shop? I found a wonderful new Staples graduate, Ryan Peterson, to rebuild George and transform him into the bookshop. I downloaded pictures of the store for him, and with my husband Ian Warburg, who grew up here and has so many happy memories of the bookstore, designed the cart as a double-sided library where people can take home free books.
Jane Green stocks the Remarkable Bookcycle library …
I was ready to paint the sign myself, but realized that Miggs Burroughs would do a much better job. I sent him an email asking for his help with a secret project, with no idea that his mother, Esta Burroughs, worked at the book shop from the day it opened until the day it closed. (How remarkable is that?!) Miggs was thrilled, and painted both the sign and the instantly recognizable dancing man.
We have loved parking the Remarkable Bookcycle (pronounced bicycle!) by the beach this weekend, and seeing the smiles on people’s faces. At some point soon, we’ll have a website set up with news of how to donate books. In the meantime, look for the Remarkable Bookcycle around Compo, raise your glasses to the spirits of Sidney and Esther Kramer and Esta Burroughs, and don’t forget to stroke Heathcliff the cat while you’re picking out your book. Yes, there’s even a Heathcliff the cat tucked in amongst the books in the Remarkable Bookcycle!
… and takes an inaugural ride, along Compo Beach Road.
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