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.
In 2014, Sophie Pollmann — a Swedish-German woman who’d lived in rainy England for 16 years — finally took the advice of her friend, Westporter Jill Johnson Mann.
Jill convinced Sophie that this is a great place to live. The charity Sophie works for — International Animal Rescue — offered her a job as US director.
She and her husband sold their 11-acre home in Kent, and moved with their 3 kids to the cozy Compo Beach neighborhood.
The only problem: Sophie had to leave her beloved chickens behind.
Problem solved: Jill’s friend — best-selling author — Jane Green kept chickens. Plus, she’d moved here from England too.
The women hit it off. They share an office. Jane has MCed an IAR event for Sophie.
And now Jane is pulling out her well-worn oven mitts, and helping out with Cakes for Apes.
The idea is simple: You bake a cake (or cakes). You sell them to friends, family and colleagues. The money goes to IAR’s orangutan project in West Borneo.
The organization — which (of course) encourages the use of locally sourced, natural, sustainable and fair trade ingredients in all cakes — makes it especially simple. They offer thousands of recipes online.
When you sign up, you get a fundraising pack. It’s filled with ideas for successful bake sales. (Or — you can’t take the England out of Sophie and Jane — a tea party.)
So where does Jane Green fit in? She’s one of many celebrities who have donated recipes. Hers is a lemon and almond tart.
Cakes for Apes will be held April 23-30. But you can start planning for this jolly good project now.
(For more information, call Sophie: 203-919-7386. To sign up for Cakes For Apes, click here.)
The world knows Jane Green as the author of 19 novels, including 17 New York Times bestsellers. She has over 10 million books in print, is published in more than 25 languages, and has several books in development for film and TV.
Westporters know her as our neighbor (and the founder of the great Front Porch Facebook group).
And Moth listeners — over 1 million, and counting — know her as a wonderful storyteller.
In November of 2015, Green was invited to speak at Cooper Union.
Her tale — called “Greener Grass” — began with a trip from Westport to New York. When not one man looked at her, she realized to her chagrin that at 44, she had become “completely invisible.”
Green thought her life in the suburbs — with 5 kids, 2 dogs, 5 cats and 17 chickens — was good. But she met a “sweet, winsome, brilliant” — and young — writer in California.
She tried to figure out if they were flirting. When she was in London, they emailed. She still wondered if they were flirting.
She headed back to California, where the handsome young writer lived. Her husband came too.
After all, it was his birthday.
She saw the young writer’s house. They went for a walk.
The rest — we’ll you’ll have to listen yourself.
Which is easy, because The Moth posted “Greener Grass” online.
Listening to Jane’s story is well worth your 14 minutes.
If — as Tip O’Neill said — all politics is local, then Westport was the center of last night’s political universe.
A “meet and mingle” event — co-sponsored by the Westport Moms and Westport Front Porch social media groups — drew several dozen candidates, and many more interested voters, to the Westport Country Playhouse.
The 4 first selectperson candidates (and 2 running mates) spoke. Board of Finance, Board of Ed, Planning and Zoning and Zoning Board of Appeals hopefuls introduced themselves. RTM candidates were there too.
This is a decidedly local election. Aquarion’s water towers, the Cribari/Bridge Street Bridge, Compo Beach, taxes, historic preservation — those and many other issues are on voters’ minds.
We all had a chance to ask questions, get answers, and assess the men and women seeking our votes.
We looked them in the eye, and they looked in ours.
Locally at least, “politics” is not a dirty word.
Author Jane Green — founder of Westport Front Porch — addresses the large Westport Country Playhouse crowd.
Facebook teems with local groups. With names like Westport Moms, Westport & Fairfield Parents and What Up Westport, they’re great places to ask questions, share tips and (virtually) hang out.
But Jane Green was tired of reading about strollers and nursery schools.
So a year and a half ago — hoping to shine a light on local businesses, events and goings-on of interest to an audience broader than just kids’ parents — she started Westport Front Porch.
The front page of Westport Front Porch.
It wasn’t like she had tons of time. She is that Jane Green — an internationally known novelist, TV/radio personality, chef/entertainer — but she was passionate about using social media to create community in her adopted hometown.
Westport Front Porch has over 3,800 members. Most of the posts, Green admits, are “anodyne.” Recent discussion topics included bat removal, orchards and TV installation.
Green monitored comments carefully. She did not want the “discord and drama” so often found online these days.
But moderating comments is time-consuming. Gradually she pulled back. Jerri Graham took over day-to-day operations of the Porch.
In between writing, being a mother, running a household — and appearing on TV — Jane Green finds time to run Westport Front Porch.
As election season approached, some Porchers posted about politicians. Green began monitoring comments closely again.
“It felt fine to have the type of political discussions neighbors might have once had on their front porch,” Green says.
“I thought, let’s open the Porch up. There are real political issues in towns — about traffic, pedestrian safety, water towers. Let’s have those conversations.”
She posted guidelines. Civility topped the list. “Call me Pollyanna,” says Green.
Throughout that first day, Green moderated the comments. She removed some. She tried to keep the group “safe and comfortable.”
That night, Green woke up at 2 a.m. She took a quick look on Facebook.
“It was a nightmare,” she recalls. “Threads had exploded. People were duking it out. Insults were flowing. It was absolutely inappropriate.”
She does not point fingers at any one political party. Supporters of Democratic, Republican, independent — probably Whig and Know-Nothing — candidates fired away.
Green closed the Porch to all political comments.
“I love Westport. I believe in this community,” Green says.
“But in this age, we’re all locked behind technology. We hide behind screens. It’s become too easy to be nasty, in a way we never would be face to face.”
Green adds, “These are contentious times. We’ve forgotten how to communicate politely, and how to connect. But as humans we long for connection.”
She feels badly that Westport Front Porch devolved into a politically toxic site overnight. She is sad that she had to cut off comments about important town issues.
But she has not given up.
Jerri Graham proposed a political meet-and-greet. Now she and Green have partnered with Megan Rutstein and Melissa Post — founders of the Westport Moms group — who had already planned a political candidates event for October 18 (Westport Country Playhouse, 7:30 p.m.).
Politics as it should be, Westport style: Republican First Selectman Jim Marpe and his challenger, Democrat Melissa Kane, enjoyed the “06880” party in July. Two others are running for first selectman: John Suggs and T.J. Eigen. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
It’s a chance to talk with office-seekers, ask questions — and, presumably, do so in a polite, up-close-and-personal way. First selectman candidates will offer a few words; those for all other offices will be available to mix and mingle.
“Westport is a small town,” Green says. “We’re all friends and neighbors. But I’ve seen friends and neighbors no longer talking to each other.
“I’ll listen to anyone, so long as they talk about what they think is best for the town without blaming or shaming,” she says firmly. “If we come together for the greater good, and are willing to listen, great things can happen.”
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome, appreciated — and tax-deductible! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to “06880”: PO Box 744, Westport, CT 06881. Or use Venmo: @blog06880. Or Zelle: email@example.com. Thanks!)