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From bookseller to best-seller, they hope

Michele Filgate, 27, writer/book critic stands for a

Michele Filgate, 27, writer/book critic stands for a porttrait in the American Literature section of Mcnally Jackson book store./Getty Images Photo Credit: Michele Filgate, 27, writer/book critic stands for a porttrait in Mcnally Jackson/Brian Driscoll

For every accomplished author with a best-seller, it seems there’s an aspiring author who’s a bookseller. Writers are toiling away in bookstores, manning the registers, stocking shelves and performing any task that keeps them around their favorite medium. 

Some, like Prospect-Lefferts Garden author Emma Straub, are published novelists themselves, but are still content to sell books for the simple pleasure of being in a literary environment.

“It’s one of those fantasy jobs for people who love to read,” said Straub, author of “Other People We Married” and the forthcoming “Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures.” “You’re getting discounts, so you can read as many books as you want, and you’re surrounded all day long by people who care about books, which is invaluable.”

Straub, 31, works at BookCourt in Boerum Hill.

Here are three more bookstore employees who may have book deals in their future:

Paul McQuiston, Strand
McQuiston, 28, of Harlem, selects suggested reading materials for the tables at the East Village store. “Primarily, I have an addiction to buying books more than anything. I’m like a kid in a candy store,” he said.

McQuiston credited his young and creative Strand co-workers with encouraging his writing. When he’s not at work, McQuiston is drafting a “pretty autobiographical novel” about his Midwestern upbringing and “how silly situations seem now with the benefit of hindsight.”

Michele Filgate, McNally Jackson
Filgate, 27, serves as events coordinator for the Nolita store, doing everything from hosting authors to organizing “nerd Jeopardy” events.

“I’m very fortunate because I get to meet some of my favorite authors — the ones who inspire me,” Filgate said. Working in a bookstore is “the equivalent of an MFA program.”

Filgate has penned criticism for outlets such as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Quarterly Conversation, but having worked in production on the “CBS Evening News,” she’s looking for a way to meld journalism and literature.

“I’m playing around with whether my first book should be a kind of creative nonfiction like ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ or ‘The Devil in the White City,’” she said. “I’m also working on short stories and essays and poetry. I don’t want to narrow myself to one specific type of writing, because I like it all.”

Corey Eastwood, Book Thug Nation
The 30-year-old went from hawking books on city sidewalks to co-owning Williamsburg’s Book Thug Nation shop.

Bookstores are “the best environment I’ve found to be a writer in,” said Eastwood, of South Williamsburg. “You meet interesting people — not just co-workers but customers.”

Eastwood has published short fiction, book reviews and creative nonfiction essays in literary journals such as Pear Noir! He’s working on an as-yet-untitled novel he describes as a “misanthropic rant about life,” writing during the three-month winter breaks he spends away from the store in Buenos Aires.

 


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