An interview with Donna Paz Kaufman of Story and Song Bookstore

1. What’s your favorite area of your bookstore?

It depends on my needs, but I always feel calm, supported, and grounded when I’m in the corner we call “Our Lives”. The sections we’ve grouped there are Personal Growth, Wellness and Faith. Plus, you’ll find handmade beaded jewelry from women who volunteer to create gorgeous pieces and donate the proceeds to local charities. The whole area is filled with good energy on many levels!

2. What’s the coolest book cover that you like to have facing out on the shelves?

I Am Woman, I Am Invincible, I Am Tired…

3. If you had a staff pick for a recent new release, what would it be? Backlist pick?

Fresh Water for Flowers: I was so intrigued by what became a runaway bestseller in Europe during Covid that I just had to read this book and put it on top of my reading pile. The novel is beautifully written with an uplifting ending. There’s so much to discuss – this makes for an excellent selection for book groups.
For backlist, The Storyteller’s Secret is my go-to for someone who wants a well-written story that is engaging and transports you to another life and another country. Set in the U.S. and India, this story is about healing and growing and embracing life. This didn’t get a whole lot of attention when it was published, but is one to savor and read with a nice hot cup of tea.

4. Do you have a strange customer story?

I think all of us booksellers have a cast of characters among our customers and we have ours too. One is beloved and always cheerful and loud. One of her comments is a keeper: “I just love coming in here. It always smells like books and Sunday supper!”

5. What author have you been starstruck to meet, or have you gotten to host a fun virtual event?

After reading “Florida” and “Matrix”, I was so very happy to meet and interview Lauren Groff. We hosted a literary luncheon for her during the pandemic and she drove from Gainesville for a small, vaccinated group. She’s smart, funny, authentic, and such a great writer.

6. What are some misconceptions people have about working in a bookstore?

By far the biggest one is you’ll have time to read. We are always so busy that there is never a day we leave when everything that needed to get done is crossed off the “To Do” list.
Sadly, I think we are always working to counteract the idea that booksellers are smarter than the customer. We try to break those barriers immediately when we greet each customer with kindness and a smile.

7. What is your least favorite bookstore task? Favorite part about working in a bookstore?

I am least fond of bookkeeping. My favorite part is enjoying an event right along with our customers. We often host author events with a talk-show setting where someone on staff facilitates a conversation. How lovely it is to hold these conversations with an author and our community. This isn’t work; it’s a calling.

8. Can you recommend an underrated readalike book for one of the store’s top titles?

If you liked The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi, read The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani.

Donna Paz Kaufman is the co-founder and owner of Story and Song Bookstore in Fernandina Beach, Florida.