October 2016 marked Skylight's 20th anniversary!
THIS PAGE CONTAINS MEMORIES, STORIES, HIGHLIGHTS, PICTURES, EPHEMERA, ETC FROM SKYLIGHT BOOKS TWENTY YEAR HISTORY!
Help us relive the past two decades,
Monica Carter worked at Skylight Books for many years and was instrumental in growing our translated literature section:
"I really wish I could have been there to celebrate my favorite bookstore (by far) and to see everyone in person. Skylight was such an important part of my life/career and I learned so much from you (Kerry), the staff, customers, the authors and yes, even the cats:) I have developed wonderful relationships with people whom I met or worked with at Skylight and I still think book people are the best around. You gave me a home for awhile and taught me valuable lessons that I use to this day. Thinking of that time in my life is filled with nostalgia and also a bit of sorrow. I miss Justin, but I have to be thankful that we all were able to spend time with him for a few years. Even though Skylight has grown in number and space, I will always remember Skylight as you, Lucy, the tree and the wonderful environment in the store and the neighborhood you helped create.
I think of Steve as the ambassador, Charles as the soul and Mary as the new captain of the ship. I couldn't be happier for you or for Mary. I will remain proud of my time there and the bookstore it continues to be."
Thank you so much Monica! I don't think any of us will ever get over losing someone as incredible as Justin Jasper, I only hope we are somehow making his soul proud.
Ex Skylight Books bookseller Cory Garfin chimes in and tells us the best way to get your book in the staff pick area:
"I’m a firm believer that the best part of any bookstore, and the clearest window into its soul, is the Staff Picks section. At Skylight, that section was always on an endcap unit right up front by the register, given pride of place next to McSweeney’s-ville (side note: I once made a snide remark about the glut of hipsters in L.A., and how I didn’t associate as one, to which a friend replied: “Dude, you work at Skylight Books.”) Staff Picks was one of the first places customers would go after entering the store, and the first place staff would check every day after clocking in to see if their book had sold since their last shift. Even coworkers who made every excuse possible to not have to shelve made sure that that one spot never stayed bare too long.
I took my recommendations seriously – it was maybe the closest I will ever get to being a Thought Leader. Even if I never give a TED talk, I’ve known what it is to be an “influencer” just by having that real estate on Staff Picks – and the floating “shelf talkers” around the store – which I curated as carefully as Taylor Swift does her social life: as a reflection of the me that I most wanted seen and talked about; the reflection of my best, most intellectual, most unique self.
My rotation of titles included some of the eclectic works that I’d recently been introduced to through my grad studies at CalArts, such as the strange story spinners: Barry Yourgrau and Etgar Keret; the deep, wandering souls: W.G. Sebald and Geoff Dyer; the humanistic theorists: Lewis Hyde and Judith Butler; the genre-defiers: Lydia Davis, Aimee Bender, Italo Calvino and John Barth. There were also works by people I actually knew on campus: Steve Erickson, Douglas Kearney, Bruce Bauman, Tom Lutz, Maggie Nelson and Claudia Rankine (my recommendations coming well before those last two were recognized as geniuses by the MacArthur Foundation. Coincidence? Absolutely). Also, neighborhood writers, some of whom I feel fortunate to still consider friends: Edan Lepucki (whose dog Omar was the closest thing I had to a soulmate at times), Katherine Taylor, Rachel Kushner and John Haskell.
Having these writers on my fantasy roster of Staff Picks felt important – and not just because of any superficiality mentioned above: if a book was a Staff Pick it meant it was constantly on order. It was such a great feeling – and a huge sense of responsibility – to know that my recommendation meant a book by someone I admired could always be found, and would most likely be sold, as long as I tagged it as relevant.
And I was just one of many staffers, whose tastes reflected a diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints that made working at the store such an incredibly rich experience (and who Kerry and Steve did such a great job of hiring and supporting). Our conversations there – with each other and customers, as well – ranged all over the cultural spectrum, from film history to Hold ‘Em poker to the featured place in the pantheon of Western art where the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer rightfully belonged (hi, Charles!).
It was an incredible place to work, and that Staff Picks section exemplified the growth and discovery I experienced there. At one point, I even got to put a piece of my own up there when a story was published in the literary magazine ZYZZYVA. In my bio for the piece, I wrote that I worked at Skylight Books. Seeing that, a famous writer I’d never met before reached out to me to say how much he enjoyed the piece, and that Skylight had always been a bright spot on his tour schedule. It was such an honor, I did the only thing I could think of to commemorate the gesture and say thanks: his books became a fixture of my Staff Picks selections."
Thanks Cory! And congratulations on your new baby!
Ex Skylight Books employee Emily Pullen (who went on to work at Word Bookstore and is now at the NYPL) shares her memories:
"Oh, where to begin with my memories from Skylight...
Knowing, from the moment I walked in, that it was where I wanted to be, to work, so much so that I began courting them that day, and eventually begging them. And Kerry's way, even in the interview, of allowing you to envision what you want your life to look like, and how working at Skylight might bring you there. As I have managed employees myself, I have aimed towards being as supportive and encouraging of people as she is.
The DFW party that Bonnie Nadel mentions, such a magical evening with an Infinite Jest cake, limited edition tennis balls, a "You finished!" poster for marathon readers to sign, stories from Bonnie (his agent), from Katherine Fitzpatrick (a colleague at Pomona), and a dramatic reading by John Krasinski from Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. And the halfway party where we played badminton in the store.
When we had to do an event in the dark with flashlights because the power was out on the street.
Hot Summer Nights, and dressing up as Orson Welles and playing the War of the Worlds broadcast.
Playing music with Arlo and my beloved coworkers, and after-hours rehearsals at 1814.
My morning chats with Victoria, afternoon chats with Silvia, evening chats with Miles and Briana and Joe. All of my favorite dog regulars -- Daisy and Bianca and Omar...
The humble beginnings of Corpus Libris.
Turning Miranda July and Mike Mills away from the Dave Eggers event because we were already beyond capacity.
Lucy crawling in Darin's sweatshirt when he came back to visit after leaving for The Hammer Museum. She missed him so!
Giving Franny mani-pedis.
Battening the hatches every time it rains because of leaks in the roof and skylight.
The Town Crier, Ladder Man, the woman who blesses the neighborhood, the woman who curses the neighborhood...
Seeing the commercial on TV during Jeopardy -- magical!
Visiting with family a few years after leaving, not recognizing a single person working, fearing that they wouldn't believe I'd actually worked there, and then being recognized by Brian, a regular customer. Phew!
Helping Bruce to send books to Billy as an inmate.
Shrink-wrapping Justin's shirts. (and discovering that we'd accidentally added them to inventory (at $40,000 each!) when we printed bar-codes for them).
Bringing Cecil flowers to match her book cover for the launch of First Day on Earth.
Interviewing David Mitchell for the Millions during the De Zoet tour, and capturing a photo of his sly little smirk while crouching hidden on the stairs during the intro at his Skylight event.
Having Jeanette Winterson sharpie my Matilda tattoo, where her name is on one of the books.
Still one of my favorite pick-up lines ever: "Want to be in a two-person book club with me?"
Learning that one of my staff picks was discovered by a filmmaker at Skylight Books and made into a movie.
Recommending The Immortal Life of Henriette Lacks to Sandra Oh, not knowing that she was probably on the way to the set for Grey's Anatomy...
Wrapping books for Tim Curry and Maggie Nelson and Orlando Blum.
Going to my first (and only) red carpet premier for a Bret Easton Ellis movie, and while finding our seats in the theater, someone points at me and says "Hey, you're that girl from Skylight! So cool!" I beamed, and thought, "Isn't that Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke over there?"
The generosity of letting me sell books on the sale cart to fundraise for my road-trip across the US to my new job in New York. And the best going away party ever, complete with staff and book club all wearing bow ties.
I don't know where I'd be without you guys, certainly not where I am now, and I'll always daydream about coming back..."
You'll always be that girl form Skylight to us Emily! So cool!
("Here's a pic of Michael Blake, who wrote "Dances with Wolves", his fan Jonella (left), and me (Deanne Stillman, right). It was a wild horse double-header at Skylight; Michael and I were signing our books - Twelve the King (MB) and Mustang (me).")
"Thank you, Kerry Slattery and Skylight Books, for helping me launch Twentynine Palms, and walking me down the SCIBA aisle...always grateful!" - Deanne Stillman
(Nine years before Skylight Books)
Kerry Slattery's long time friend, actress Ms Christopher Callen tells us how the store has been "blessed":
"As a long time friend of Kerry Slattery’s (we were roommates at San Francisco State University, shared time in the Drama Department there ,knew each other in NYC as young actresses, and reconnected in Milton Katselas’ classes at the Skylight Theatre next door), we have always had a lovely “braided“ friendship. Over the decades we have continually woven in and out of each other’s lives. It was with all that as a background that Kerry invited me to “stop by“ when the renovation of the Skylight Bookstore was on the verge of completion. It was to be opened to the public in about two weeks. No bookshelves yet…but the tree in place, rafters exposed, the walls painted.
As we talked and she shared her vision of what the physical and aesthetic space would become, Kerry spoke of how she wanted it to relate to the neighborhood of Los Feliz (where I have been a resident for 23 years). It became crystal clear to me what she hoped to create. And I knew, knowing Kerry as I did, that it “would be so!”. Kerry gets things done. It also seemed perfect for her many varied talents. I was so excited for her!
After my “personal tour“ of the beautiful, renovated, environment was complete, Kerry turned to me and asked if I would “bless“ the space with a song. Honored by her request, I said, “Of course!” (I am a profession singer. But Kerry has always been the most supportive of friends when it comes to all the arts I am involved with ---singing, acting, painting, writing, poetry!!! She is that way with ALL artists !!!)
Well, It was around 5;30 pm, that “Golden Hour“ of the day —that late afternoon sun ---the one the movies always try to capture here in Los Angeles, the one the California Painters work to depict so vividly...”Magic Hour”! The room was filled with that gorgeous, incredible light. And without much thought —I started to sing —from my heart —with the intention that all who would come here, into the space, would sense a healing, a nurturing, a comfort, an exhilaration —all the things that Kerry spoke about. Time stood still. The music echoed through the empty room filling each nook and cranny with that intentional energy that Kerry and I had in that moment. It was wonderful.
When the song was over—all we could do was smile and laugh. Somehow we sensed a "blessing“ had occurred. Our job for the day was done. We happily locked up and hugged goodbye --- excited about the possibility of what was to come in this, now, beautiful building. Over the years we have often reminisced about the magic of that afternoon —and how that magic continues —at The Skylight Bookstore. I am so grateful to have been there on that day. Grateful Kerry asked me to sing. Grateful for this treasured memory."
Thank you Chris! The magic lives on!
Karine Rosenthal worked at Skylight Books before becoming the wonderful playwright and televison producer/writer (Bones, Backstrom) she is today:
"Skylight was the first place in Los Angeles where I felt at home. It’s where I got my first job in Los Angeles, after moving here from New York. Charles, Steve, Garret and Kevin both protected and needled me like brothers; Kathy was my much cooler sister, helping me settle into the city (I still use the dentist she recommended); and Kerry… Kerry was a walking life lesson, a true original and the beating heart of the store. I felt safe at Skylight, surrounded by books and by people who loved them as much as I did. I remember how hard my co-workers could make me laugh. I remember going to work on September 11th, all of us shell-shocked and wondering whether to close the store – then deciding the store was exactly the place most of us wanted to be. I learned so many things, working at Skylight, not the least of which was the proper way to water a huge indoor ficus tree (hint: must be done in stages, or the water will simply run of out the bottom and damage piles of new books that are waiting to be shelved), as well as how exhausting and brain-scrambling it is to inventory and dust every single book in the store. When I eventually left Skylight to pursue new challenges, the support and pride I felt from my Skylight family buoyed me along my way. I still feel such a wave of affection and belonging every time I enter the store, even though it’s been well over ten years since I worked there. I’m proud to be a teeny tiny part of Skylight’s history, and hopeful that Skylight will be a part of my future and the future of our whole community, for many many many years to come."
Thank you Karine! We are proud of you!
(Steven, photo by Lavonne)
Steven Salardino, Skylight Books Manager, been here the whole time:
"Skylight Books is bigger than all of us. But also a little part of a lot of us. A big part of me, happily. Thank you everyone that ever read in, wrote in, was inspired in, fell in love in, laughed in, rocked out in, and just walked in. All of you made this place. You are a letter, word, or sentence in the book of Skylight Books. It is one of my favorite stories ever told."
(Liz, photo by Gustavo)
(Kat, photo by Gustavo)
(Arlo and Aisling, photo by Gustavo)
(Josh Kun, Janet Fitch, Susan Straight in Los Angeles Times)
(Darin, photo by Mark Sprecher)
(Darin and Garret)
(Noel, photo by Mark Sprecher)
(Bookgroup, photo by Mark Sprecher)
(Kevin, photo by Mark Sprecher)
(Steven, photo by Mark Sprecher)
(Kerry, photo by Mark Sprecher)
(Christine Blackburn and the Los Feliz Holiday Village, photo by Mark Sprecher)
(Original Skylight Books Bookmarks proof sheet)
(Jenn and a robot)
(Emily and Jeanette Winterson)
(Chris, Noel, Andrea Tetrick, Jeanette Winterson, Charles, Mary, Emily)
(That time Felicia Day helped a couple become engaged, photo by Cecil)
(Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Cain, Willy Vlautin at the Skylight Books event with The Echoplex, photos provided by Chuck and Chelsea!)
(Noel and Christine at the Dead Poets Slam)
Christine Louise Mills (Berry) worked for Skylight Books during the glory days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons 5, 6, and 7:
"Way back when, on the night Al Gore gave his concession speech, I found myself in a new apartment in a new neighborhood, evicted from what I’d thought was my ideal life of love in Topanga. Dog-less, cat-less, single and alone, I started to navigate Silverlake and Silverlake-adjacent…Los Feliz. The day I walked into Skylight Books, Charles was working. When I asked if they were hiring, he gave his usual, ‘Sorry pal’ shrug until I mentioned that I’d worked at Dutton’s Books in Brentwood for ten years. He got so excited and with a “Wait here!” charged upstairs, and came back with Kerry who brimmed with contagious enthusiasm for the store, the books and all that this world means. Their genuine excitement about another true indie bookstore person made me feel so welcome, and being hired at Skylight was the key to making the east side my home. For months, maybe years, Charles would find some quirk to tease me about and it always ended with him saying, “You can take the girl out of the west side, but you can’t take the west side out of the girl...”
From behind the counter, I met everyone I ever needed to meet, saw everyone I needed to see, including a childhood friend from Fresno whom I’ve known since before kindergarten. While at Skylight, I enjoyed my most productive years as a performing artist and curator of literary happenings: Smart Gals/ Are You Interested? Bloomsday?, for which Kerry and her limitless zeal for her staff helped me secure Cultural Affairs funding. This show started with a Ulysses reading group, and culminated in a chorus of Molly Blooms performing the final chapter of James Joyce’s tome around the tree. I also met artists, writers, and a host of locals took part in the Speakeasy I hosted in the basement of nearby church. I came to Skylight broken, lonely and lost and soon found my life crowded with too many books to shelve, holidays at the register, and wonderful people.
I’m getting teary as I write this, so let’s skip to some highlights:
When I think of Skylight books I think of:
The sound of Kerry cracking open her second Diet Coke at 10:30 in the morning.
Risking my life in the Vermont Ave. crosswalk to ship special orders at the absurdly-always-busy post office.
When I started at Skylight, the names of ALL of the women working there had the same phonetic “k” root: Kerry, Kathy, Karine, Courtney, Christine.
Lucy in the window…and Barbara coming in to brush her under the tree and give her treats.
Pursuing a shoplifter on foot with Kerry.
Sean O’Shea stealthily loading up flyers at the counter.
Kevin Awakuni giving me a hard time about ‘writing notes’.
Darin Klein telling a caustic customer, “We don’t need your racist, homophobic attitude here.” and welcoming him to leave.
All of us arguing with Charles about his specialized political sections (there weren’t enough books to make up an entire shelf of “Anarchy” stand up…)
Arthur drawing high-heeled shoes for Perla.
Kathy Parkman’s baked goods.
Kathy and Richard.
Garrett and Rebecca.
Kerry and Ben.
Thanks Christine! "Looks like the Hellmouth is officially closed for business", but Skyight Books is still goin'!
(Christine Berry and the Bloomsday performers)
(Danzy Senna and Paul Beatty)
(Darin, Steven, Garret at Kathy's wedding - we actually closed the store for a day!)
Author Aram Saroyan (Complete Minimal Poems, Still Night in L.A.):
"By my lights, Skylight is the neighborhood bookstore of L.A., even though I don’t live in the neighborhood. Somehow that quality pervades the place. The fact that you may run into a friend there, one who happened to step in at the same time as you did. In 20 years while the staff has changed the place has somehow kept that feeling. Happy 20th anniversary to a genuine L.A. oasis."
Thank you Aram for being a part of Skylight Books!
(Jake at the Chuck Klosterman author event)
(Dan, Meg, Jenn, and Mary moving into the Arts Annex 2.0)
Here's the story of Keith Patterson, ex-king of customer service at Skylight Books:
"My memory of Skylight Books came about four years ago. Four years ago I was just released from L.A. county jail for a felony charge. The lowest, darkest time in my life. Following jail I was court ordered to a rehab facility about two miles south of the bookstore. The last phase of the rehab process was to exit out of the treatment facility and back into society, finding a job and a place to live. The journey back into the working world was difficult due to the fact that no company was willing to hire a felon. As my final two weeks of rehab approached I was still unable to find a job. I remember taking my last $10 to my name and photocopying my resume, copying as many pages as I could for $10. I threw on my only shirt and tie and I walked up Vermont avenue, handing out my resume to any open business.
I reached the doors of Skylight and dropped off my resume at the front desk. In the past, I had worked at Vroman's bookstore in Pasadena after graduating high school. I was hoping that bookstore experience was enough to get me an interview. Several weeks passed and I still was unemployed and the pressure to find work was mounting.
Then I received a call from Skylight for an interview. I was thrilled. On the day of the interview I met Kerry Slatterly, Skylight's co-owner and General Manger. Kerry sat me down in the office and asked me my knowledge of the book industry. Genres, authors, my retail experience at a bookstore. The conversation of books lasted 30 minutes and flowed like two book lovers talking books. Then suddenly Kerry asked me what I had been doing for the last 6 months. It completely threw me off guard. I now had to talk about the lowest, most uncomfortable part of my life. I froze. Kerry then said to me that she already looked up my record. She already knew what I was arrested for. She said she knew that I was staying at a rehab facility. At that moment I realized that the only thing to say was the truth. The only thing to talk about was the reality of what I did. To tell of a crime that most all business owners would distance themselves from. I felt so ashamed, embarrassed as my voice weakened telling my truth. It felt like an eternity spilling out the shame of my past. However when I finished telling Kerry what I did, why I did it, I felt relived. At that moment it didn't matter if I got the job or not. I had said it. I told someone what I did. I didn't hide anything. I said it for what it was. The truth.
I left the interview not knowing if I'd get the job or not. It didn't matter, I felt free. A few days later Skylight called me back to say I was hired. It was a moment that felt so much larger than it was. I was making just above minimum wage at a bookstore. It felt like the greatest job opportunity of my life.
I worked at Skylight for nearly four years. I will never forget the chance that Kerry took on me. Looking back, it was by far the most influential part of my recovery, to be back into the working world.
Someone took a chance on me. Someone saw potential. Someone realized that people make mistakes in life. Someone knew that extending a hand to help someone was greater than themselves. In turn, someone should also know that taking a chance on someone by giving them a job at a bookstore meant so much more than they will ever know. Kerry Slatterly, I will never forget the chance you took on me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Keith! Thanks for living in the truth with us at Skylight Books!
(Dan and Frieda)
Kate Santos shares this Skylight Books/John Waters story:
"I moved to LA from San Francisco and was having a tough time. My boyfriend hated it, he blamed me for ripping us from our quaint, lovely Sunset lives. We fought everyday. I was miserable, lost, sweaty, broke and confused. I worked so hard to leave my dirty Tennessee roots and move to CA. Maybe I blew it all by moving out of the Bay? I decided to go on a long walk and spend the day contemplating about my next move. I wandered into a few places before arriving at Skylight. The store reminded me of my daily excursions to Green Apple, so I went in, penniless and embarrassed that I couldn't even buy anything. I was in the store for about twenty minutes before I realized John Waters was there, in the back of the store, signing books. In my short time living in LA, I had already seen a myriad of famous people, but seeing him gave me a rush. "What should I say?" I went over it in my mind. My palms sweaty. Thanks for making films. Thanks for showing me that I didn't have to be embarrassed of my weird Southern upbringing. In San Francisco, I dreamt I sat beside you on MUNI. I had a doo-wap playlist ready.
But, I said nothing. I checked my bank account. I had enough for a Bukowski poetry book and a beer. I bought the book and I walked, very quickly, out the door and to a bar. I realized that I had made it this far and I wasn't going to go anywhere. LA, broken, big and dirty, was my home."
Thanks Kate! Welcome to home!
(Kat, Dan, Darren at UCLA/L.A. Times Festival of Books)
(Daniel Clowes at USC/L.A. Times Festival of Books)
(Noel, Alicia Erian, Steven)
(Kerry and T.C. Boyle at UCLA/L.A. Times Festival of Books)
(Jake, John, Christine, Noel, Arlo, and Aisling - afterhours jam)
(Kerrie and Charles)
(Liz, Meg, and Emily)
(Meg and Gabe)
(Robert Siegel, Karen Bender, Natashia Deon, David Francis, photo by Dan Smetanka)
(David Ulin and Luara Pritchett, photo by Dan Smetanka)
The REAL TRUTH about working at Skylight Books by John Rossiter (Young Jesus):
"I don't want to paint working at Skylight as the dream zone many people assume it is. It is a job with things to do and (some difficult) people to deal with. You may be surprised to learn that I have not and do not intend to read The Alchemist. I can't tell you which Bukowski is the most chill because I actually think all of them are unchill. Honestly, I have no opinion regarding Interior Design or Business.
Still, (HERE'S THE TURN) I recognize that some people do . And the main thing about selling books is learning to care about the things you do not care about. I think Skylight is a great place for that. If you want to talk about Bukowski or The Alchemist or doin' biz I am down. It might legitimately suck, but if you're reading those books for thoughtful, empathic, and/or strange reasons, you can hang at the store all day. If you wanna talk about where you grew up or why you think the earth is flat even better! If you wanna talk about Mircea Cartarescu or Julio Cortazar or Elena Ferrante or Muriek Spark or Frank Stanford or books about birds or poems about rivers or essays about improvisation YOU HAVE MY HEART. Maybe that's the thing about Skylight. It's not a dream zone. We're all too busy or stressed out or socially inept to be dreamy. But we all love books and if you do too (or even if you just like sitting under INDOOR TREES) we'll probably get along. If you come in enough and the talks are good maybe I'll read The Alchemist if you tell me to enough. But probably not AND arguing is way more fun anyway. DO YOU REALLY WANT A WHOLLY POSITIVE RETAIL EXPERIENCE? No! No one wants a wholly positive ANYTHING. But Skylight is a totally REAL zone. The real deal NO SPIN ZONE.
Anyway, I've learned a lot here. It is often really sick. Books rule. All my best friends work here. I've fallen in AND OUT of love here (no one wants a wholly positive anything etc etc). It's good. Skylight's good. Twenty years, dang you know? Right?"
You rule John. Thank you.
(Mary and Kerry at USC/L.A. Times Festival of Books, photo by Tom LaBonge)
(Kerry and Amy, photo by Mark Sprecher)
(Grand Opening including: John Rechy, Wanda Coleman, Hubert Selby Jr, James Ragan, Jeffrey Tambor, Nancy Cartwright, John Fleck, and Flea)
(Really Great Book party and Skylight Books 2nd Anniversary event with Jerky Girls (KBLT), Brendan Mullen, Billy Shire (Wacko), Mike Mollette, Ted Soqui, Gary Leonard, and Chicken Boy with bonus flashbacks about Spaceland, The Garage, and the Troubadour.)
(Shout outs to Los Feliz hangouts: Dresden Room, Fred 62, Purple Circle, Squaresville, Sinister Store, Koma Bookstore, the Onyx, X-Large and X-Girl, Skylight Books, Ultralux, and Vinyl Fetish.)
(Francesca Lia Block, Hillary Carlip at UCLA/L.A. Times Festival of Books)
(Chicken Boy and Steven at UCLA/L.A. Times Festival of Books)
The incredibly talented Amy Inouye (book designer, "mother of Chicken Boy", Skylight fan):
"Congratulations Skylight—such a vibrant and important part of the city--a smart oasis where all are welcome. The smell of ink and paper—it’s subtle but intoxicating (note: there’s a scent called “2” based on the smell of ink). I’ve attended many signings there because I design books and like to support the authors. One of the first I remember was for “Take My Picture Gary Leonard”—we invited everyone in the book, which was a lot of people—including the Budweiser girls, someone dressed like Chicken Boy (I’m his “mom,” another story), and we saved a parking spot out front for Dennis Woodruff and he was an honored guest (he was famous for being famous and had several cars decorated with glued-on-stuff and signs to hire him as an actor; it is rumored he lived in one of his vehicles for a while; apparently now he’s doing quite well selling copies of his own films out of the trunks of his cars). Once, while planning an early LA Times Festival of Books, the quiet Skylighter Garrett Kurai volunteered to dress up like Mr Boy and wander the festival. We joke that he became another person under the chicken head—totally working the festival—he was filmed by NHK Japan driving one of the janitorial jitneys, posed for photos with the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, and was mobbed by children until being told by security that he needed to stay at the Skylight booth. Whatever. (I saw Garrett recently and we reminisced about it.) For many years, I took the last giftwrapping shift before Christmas and collected donations for different groups—mostly it was for a Pug dog rescue organization; once it was to help replace the stolen custom-made musical contraption of Arthur Nakane, one-man-band (he’s still performing, mostly in Little Tokyo Plaza—his “Secret Asian Man” is a classic). I always brought my own supplies and little toy things like spacemen and aliens to tie on the packages so tips were pretty good. People were super nice and it was the holidays, so it’s OK that one guy asked me to giftwrap six magazines separately and didn’t leave a tip. He thanked me politely, and that was okey dokey."
Thank you Amy! You know the coolest people!
(Garrett with the some of the Jazz greats from Central Avenue Sounds:
Clora Bryant, Buddy Collette, William Green, Jack Kelson, Horace Tapscott, Gerald Wilson, and Marl Young)
(Our three special 20th anniversary bookmarks! Artists
l-r: Esther Pearl Watson, Jaime Hernandez, Vanessa Davis! Thank you!)
(New Kate (Wolf))
One of our earliest (and youngest...and smartest!) booksellers, Kate Wolf (Veggie Cloud, Los Angeles Review of Books, Night Papers) remembers the early days:
"I started working at Skylight Books when I was 16. The first time I came into the store happened to be the night that my predecessor—also named Kate—found out she had gotten accepted into cooking school. Maybe she was even waiting on me when someone called her at work with the good news. I can’t quite remember, but I know when I learned from the original Kate that her job would be available soon, I immediately started to petition for it. Earlier that day, I’d lost a job acting in a student film because I had such bad grades in high school. We were about to start shooting when SAG discovered I was failing not only one (which was allowed), but two classes. I’d come to Los Feliz to return my costume to the film’s director, who was studying at AFI. After I did, I walked down to Vermont with my best friend, devastated by what felt like the world’s injustice. But good thing I was such a delinquent. I quickly forgot about playing someone’s kid sister in a campy student film about suburbia. I forgot about being an actress altogether, even. Books were much better.
Though I was always messing something up, working at the store was a dream come true. There were so many cute guys to ogle and the rest of the clientele who came in seemed very sophisticated and cosmopolitan, especially compared to people I encountered on the Westside, where I grew up. My coworkers—Steve, Charles, Garret, the other Garrett—would fill me in one who was who. They pointed out the local celebrities, like Dr. Paul Fleiss, Madame Heidi’s dad, or members of Beck’s family; along with more certifiably famous people like Bud Cort, star of Harold and Maude, as he perused our newsstand one night. There were also the customers who unnerved me: the melancholy homeless boy who stared past me when he spoke and cradled hardbacks between the two large metal hooks that replaced his hands; an older woman in a black wig named Dorothy, who carried an endless collection of papers and pads in thick folders with her and was always asking me elaborate questions I couldn’t answer; Scientology school children all in uniform demanding copies of H.P. Lovecraft.
I’m not sure how old I looked to people, but I would think my spastic handling of the cash register would have been a dead give away. Still, sometimes I got asked out. Once a secret admirer left me a letter behind the counter that said he’d been watching me for a long time. I was only a bit apprehensive, more excited. I left a message for him in writing that I would be willing to meet. When we did, though, one Saturday afternoon on my break, it was a little like walking out of a dark theater of fantasy into the blinding day. He was probably in his late 30s, sweating from nervousness, stout and elfin—not what I’d imagined. What was supposed to happen next? I’d learned that, as with any neighborhood microcosm, you were fated to see the same people on the block over and over again. There was no running away.
Not that I let that stop me from pursuing other romantic intrigue, or befriending people much older than myself. Sometimes on break, I’d wander down to Mondo Video or eat tuna melts at Fred 62 or noodles in the smoky Japanese restaurant next door to the shop, where one of my crushes, a tall, wispy, rocker-type named Spider worked. But mostly I frequented the Onyx down the street and eventually started going to their “spoken word” nights. A contingent of the people hanging out there were really drugged out and would just sit in front of the café drawing all day without their shoes on.
I’d begun to write poetry, to read a lot in my spare time, and beyond the socializing or the feeling of discovering a city in what before had seemed a like jumble of disconnected boulevards, streets, and storefronts, of course the best thing about working at Skylight was the unlimited access to books and the knowledge of my coworkers. Everyone had the things they liked and recommended, but no one was as persuasive as Charles, who I must have seen sell at a least one copy of Gravity’s Rainbow every time we worked together. Maybe more than realizing I wanted to be a writer, what I got from the store was a confidence that my taste mattered, from what I read to the music I played during my shift. People asked me what books to buy for their friends and family; even if I hadn’t read that much by then, shelving had given me an intimate knowledge of all of our inventory, and based on what people told me, I could place them with a book or two and they seemed happy. Like everyone else on staff, I wrote out my recommendations for books and put them on the shelves. One day, one of our regulars came up to me and said, “really, Kate, The Wasteland?” I guess he thought it was way too obvious, like recommending Moby Dick or something. But I loved T.S. Elliot. And even though I was just a teenager, the store cared what I thought and gave me the space to express it, and for that I will always be grateful."
We are forever grateful to you Kate! You still have fantastic taste!
(Original Kate (Steffens). Also pictured Ray Zone, Lisa, Tom Antell)
(Clark and Whitney)
(Coyotes book group)
(l-r: Darren, Chris, Kerrie, Hannis, Justin, Liz, Steven)
(Kenneth Anger photographed by Gary Leonard)
Longtime regular customer Paul Ehrlich fully endorses Skylight Books:
"I first came to Los Angeles about twelve years ago, and like most people who come out here, I was certain that I would make it big in the entertainment industry. Within a year, I was sure that I was going to be driving a hot sports car and living in a palatial estate with solid gold toilets. I was excited to be here, and was probably more nervous than I would have liked to admit.
In the meantime, I figured that I would have to rent an apartment. After spending two weeks living at a hotel in a lively part of town--with authentic police shootouts--I managed to find an affordable apartment in Los Feliz. I had no idea about the neighborhood, and didn't realize how lucky I was.
It was pouring rain for the first few days that I lived in the neighborhood, and I had no idea what was around me. I was just grateful not to hear gunfire in the night and to be sleeping on a comfortable bed. My life consisted of watching the pouring rain, trying to get temp jobs, and bailing a pesky roof leak.(To my landlord's credit, he fixed it pretty quickly). When the rain broke, I went outside and realized just how incredible Los Feliz really is. Having a movie theatre, restaurants and funky shops close by is pretty amazing.
Of course, seemingly towering over all of it was Skylight Books. It was the first bookstore I had ever been in that felt as if it were catering to me. There was no food served, so I knew that any book I bought there wouldn't have a greasy thumbprint on page 104. The books actually had subject matter I was interested in, like Buffy The Vampire Slayer or how to write an amazing Hollywood screenplay that would earn me those solid gold toilets. The staff was friendly, and best of all, the hours were ten to ten, every day. Easy to remember, predictable and dependable. Unlike almost everything else about Los Angeles.
Twelve years have come and gone. There have been good times as well as bad. In some ways, this city is a Cuisinart of the soul. But Skylight Books has always been there, ten to ten, every day of the week--a bulwark for the neighborhood and for me.
I remember when I was going through a rough time a couple of years ago--both of my parents were sick with cancer, I had lost a business and was unemployed, and literally anything I tried to do seemed to fall apart. I had to get a book for a project and I walked down to Skylight. They didn't have it in stock, but offered to order it. I had misgivings--this was at a time in my life when I couldn't order a burger at a restaurant without drama and hassle--but I agreed, bracing myself for the inevitable problems. The book probably wouldn't be available, I figured, or it would cost a lot more than originally stated. Maybe they would forget to call, and I would have to call a week later, irritated with them for forgetting and with myself for being naive.
The book came within 48 hours and someone on staff called me immediately. It cost exactly what Skylight said it would. Walking out of that bookstore with my book in hand was probably one of the best feelings I had that year. It was a terrific experience.
I admit to buying books from other bookstores, but there's nothing like buying a book from Skylight. They always offer a bookmark, which I always take.(My heirs will be well-provided for in the bookmark department.). Their paper bags are always brand new and crinkly. Even better, no matter who is ringing me up, they seem absolutely delighted with my choice of reading material. No other sales transaction in L.A. even comes close to buying a book there.
Whenever friends from out of town come to Los Angeles, I always make a point of giving them a tour of my neighborhood. We shuffle past The House of Pies, Alcove, Fred 62 and the Los Feliz 3 without much comment. Usually my friends are horrendously jet lagged and not really interested in eating or watching movies--at least when they first arrive.
However, at a certain point on Vermont Avenue, they always stop, look up at a certain sign and are poised to ask a question when I quietly interject, "This is Skylight Books. And yes, we can go in here for a little while." Usually, the little while stretches on into an hour, or sometimes two. Often, we go back the next day.
After we leave Skylight, my friends and I walk in silence for a bit. But they always wear the same expression on their faces--an expression of envy and admiration. I may not have solid gold toilets, but I do have Skylight Books, and as my friends will tell you, that makes me one damn lucky guy."
Writer, poet, educator Terry Wolverton (Writers at Work, Insurgent Muse):
"One of the most important contributions Skylight makes to L.A.’s literary communities is its commitment to present, stock and support local authors. Skylight has always been a welcoming environment for L.A.-based poets and prose writers, whether published by major independent presses, providing a space for readings and making room on the shelves. I have personally benefitted from this as an author, and many of my writing students have benefitted as well. That sense of allegiance to being an L.A. bookstore, to presenting local authors right alongside the out-of-towners on their book tours, has helped local authors to build audiences and readerships. L.A. has a stronger, richer writing landscape because Skylight exists. Happy 20th, Skylight!"
Thanks Terry for all you do for literary Los Angeles!
(the old magzine section)
(Before the creation of the Arts Annex)
(Wanda Coleman and Kerry with Douglas Kearney in the background)
(Bill - backstage)
Bookstore bookkeeper extraordinaire, Bill Bentley:
"As the bookkeeper for a number of years, I had the best seat in the house at the edge of the loft.
When I needed to stretch my legs for a moment, I would simply stand up and walk to the railing where I could see the entire store.
From there I would watch the “anti-hustle and bustle” of book browsers - faces buried in the pages of books - sitting poetically under the leaves of our tree inside the bookstore!
I recall once, looking down from the loft, seeing a woman who had just purchased her copy of the latest Harry Potter book, settle in for the midnight “slumber party reading."
She removed the special edition book cover (that doubled as a print suitable for framing,) rolled onto her back, and held it straight above her, and let out a full-breathed sigh, with a big smile on her face.
Now THAT’S the joy of books…and she hadn’t even started reading yet!
I’m thankful to Kerry Slattery for searching me out for the job. I’ve never forgotten my time at Skylight, and all the wonderful fellow staff members, authors, book reps, and even our neighbors in the local shops and restaurants I’d met over the years.
Congrats Skylight…20?…you look so young!"
That IS the joy of books Bill! Thanks for keeping us in the black all those years!
(Monica and Justin)
(Lavonne and Perla)
Literary agent Bonnie Nadell (Hill Nadel Literary Agency) shares some nice memories:
"Skylight was always the bookstore where David Foster Wallace came to read in LA. There are so many different times that they have all become one big party in my mind. Was it 1996 when Infinite Jest came out that Skylight had a giant cake made with Infinite Jest written on it and the bookstore gave out neon green tennis balls? Or was it in 2006 for the 10th anniversary of Infinite Jest when we ate cake and John Krasinski who had directed Brief Interviews with Hideous Men came to speak? I remember talking to Charles who was a serious DFW fan about Infinite Jest and the essays while watching the crowd gather for one of the readings. Then there was 2009 (I think) when Skylight did a beautiful event commemorating David's work after his death.
No matter the year, Skylight has always been full of passionate readers and booksellers like Kerry, Steve, Mary and Charles all of whom love books deeply and know how to find the right one for each person. Congratulations on 20 amazing years."
(Charles Burns and Kerrie)
(Syliva Simon Tansey and Jodi Wille)
(Pearl and Elyse)
(Dora, Kerry, Pearl)
Julia Callahan (Rare Bird Books) tells it like it is:
"I don’t go to church. I don’t do yoga. I don’t meditate. I go to Skylight Books every Saturday.
When I first moved to Los Feliz, I was 24 and worked in a bookstore across town, but I shopped at Skylight. It took me a while to realize it, but in those years of my late-20s when I worked too much and stayed up too late, Skylight Books became my safe space. The place I went for quiet. The place I went to recharge.
I work in the book business and I spend a lot of time in bookstores, but Skylight is my bookstore. It’s the place where I know what has changed when new books come in on Tuesday. I know the staff by their staff recommendations, sometimes better than I know them in person. Skylight is the place I go to buy my friends’ kids books and the place I go to find a great title I’d never thought of before.
Skylight Books is the center of my Los Angeles. It works as a short hand for telling people where I live—“a few blocks away from Skylight”—and it works as a short hand for telling people who I am. During business meetings at other bookstores I often tell people, “yeah, Skylight books is my bookstore,” as a way of letting people know exactly what kind of person I am and what kind of reader I am.
I’m so glad that I don’t know a Los Angeles without Skylight Books because without Skylight Books, I’m not sure who I’d be.
Happy Birthday, Skylight. Thanks for everything."
Thank YOU Julia!
Long time customers Alba Francesca and James Karen share these nice thoughts and wishes:
"Kerry Slattery was an actress friend and producer at Milton Katselas’ Skylight theater next door to the now Skylight Bookstore. As an excellent producer she produced a bookstore and did a hell of a job at creating a living, vibrant oasis for our neighborhood. When she recently retired to move north, Kerry left the Skylight in the capable hands of those who had been part of her team. For your neighbors and customers who treasure the Bookstore, this seamless transition was reassuring. We need and cherish you in our neighborhood and wish you a Happy 20th Anniversary with at least another 20 to look forward to.
Now here is the story from the person that we all owe for creating Skylight Books as the literary institution it is. Kerry Slattery, co-owner, ex-General Manager, and the visionary who created a place that has survived 20 years and is posed to continue for a long, long time:
"My whole life changed on Friday, November 1, 1996
When my former acting teacher Milton Katselas tracked me down the year before to help create and run a bookstore at the recently closed Chatterton’s Bookshop, I was enthusiastic but knew we had a big job ahead in order to make sure we would not become one of the many independent bookstore casualties. (At that time, it was the big chains that threatened; we didn’t yet know about the on-line ordering giant that was starting at about the same time.)
For the next year, I worked weekends and nights after my job at the Artists Rights Foundation helping to raise the money needed, picking the brains of generous local and national booksellers, and devising a plan for the kind of bookstore it would be. Ten investors were found who knew the risks of independent bookstores but were committed to be part of this Vermont Avenue renaissance.
Milton worked with architect Leonardo Chalupowicz to economically enhance what already worked in the character-filled 1930s space – exposing the old brick walls, sandblasting the domed lamella ceiling and cement floors and repairing and cleaning the old Chatterton’s book fixtures. But most of all, his attention was on creating a welcoming, light-filled focus under the central skylight with a circular bench designed by Noor Adabachi ‘floating’ around a poured concrete planter and a huge ficus tree that has flourished over the years. I successfully resisted Milton’s idea for a motto: “meet me under the tree of knowledge at Skylight Books” but over the years I have actually heard customers referring to it that way!
Even more crucial to me was creating the right mix of books and assembling a staff that was knowledgeable, self-starting and committed. Tim Morell brought his years of book buying as our first Buyer and Manager, and eventually left to create his own film and tv bookstore. Charles Hauther, a unique and passionate young bookseller who had worked at Chatterton’s for its final five years, had tracked me down at my home way back in 1995 when he heard that the store might have a new life. I knew right away that we would find a place for him. And I had chatted with Steven Salardino one day months before, as we ate at the counter next door at Mako, and was impressed with the way he described the book he was reading. Both he and Charles have been at the store for the whole 20 years, Charles now as Head Buyer and Steve as Manager. Our key relationship with the Los Feliz Branch Library was also forged in those months before we opened, and has grown over the years as senior librarian Pearl Yonezawa has almost become an unofficial staff member in the support she has contributed (including serving as check-in person at our all-night Harry Potter slumber party and helping shelve books and coordinate volunteers when we expanded to the annex next door).
Our book inventory budget turned out to be not nearly enough, as printing costs had increased since our original budget, and we had raised less money than we initially intended. But even so, it takes a long time for a small staff to shelve an entire store, and we worked day and night unpacking, shelving, displaying, even as we quietly opened the door that November 1. Word spreads fast in a neighborhood like ours, and by the end of the day, we had had an amazingly respectable sales day. I particularly remember our terrific staffer Garret Scullin, a former Waldenbooks bookseller, coming up to me and shaking his head in confusion because everyone was thanking him. He had been accustomed to disgruntled customers at his previous job, and here, everytime he told someone that we didn’t yet have the book they asked for, they just picked something else and thanked him profusely. We knew we were in the right place – a neighborhood that was hungry for our kind of books!
My unconditional relationship with and co-creation of Skylight Books is the achievement I’m proudest of in my life. There have been some tough spots over the years, but there never was any doubt that we would make it through – because we were all committed to make it thrive. Two years ago I retired as General Manager and passed the job on to incredibly capable staffmember Mary Williams, and in January I will also pass on to her my share and management of the ownership. But a good part of me will always be there – remembering the days I pulled old plaster slabs away from the brick walls, worked in the loft office till 2am trying to figure out finance systems, learned how to set up a website for the first time, and said goodbye to our longtime store cat, Lucy, as I held her in my arms."
Kerry, we couldn't have done it without you. Literally. Your love and dedication shows in every brick in our store and every page that passes through our doors. Thank you!
(Kathryn Louyse, Kerry, and Dora)
Dora Herrera has been feeding us delicious food from Yuca's since before we opened:
"Skylight is not so much a bookstore as an essential part of our neighborhood. Besides the usual reason of purchasing books, people go there regularly to relax in the quiet atmosphere, to wander the aisles in search of new treasures, and to share a love of books.
One night I experienced this love of books at its maximum - the latest Harry Potter book was being released at midnight and the air was charged with excitement. Skylight Books was buzzing! There were several activity areas in the store and readers, young and old, were excited for the all night sleepover/reading.
We arrived early to dive into the fun, stopped to say “Hi” to Kerry, the store manager and…were quickly drafted to help with the much anticipated, Midnight Book Distribution!
Dragging boxes out of the locked storage, opening them, seeing the promise of hours of pleasure unveiled, and handing each person in line a treasure was a thrill. I loved that almost every person I handed a book to had the same reaction, “Dora! What are you doing here? What does Yuca’s have to do with Skylight?”
Everything. Community, sharing, love of something precious."
Thank you Dora!
(young women of WriteGirl)
(WriteGirl mentor and mentee)
(young women of WriteGirl)
WriterGirl's Keren Taylor has a long history with us:
WriteGirl has celebrated the publication of 15 anthologies at Skylight Books over 15 years! Our teen writers have always enjoyed the intimate space, the tree, the books, the neighborhood, the cats and the chance to share their words at such a cozy and iconic location. When WriteGirl was featured on CNN, they brought their whole film crew to the bookstore to shoot their feature story on us. We love Skylight! We always found it hard to get our girls (and mentors) to leave. One day, we will bring sleeping bags, and hot chocolate, and flashlights, and stowaway behind the stacks, forever.
Thank you Keren Taylor for being a part of Skylight Books and helping so many teen writers find their voice!
(Nina Revoyr and Felicia Luna Lemus in the magical spot!)
Nina Revoyr (Southland, Lost Canyon) shows us the magic:
"My second novel, Southland, came out in 2003. When I arrived at Skylight for my first reading in Los Angeles, after events in other cities, the place was unbelievably, inexplicably full. This floored me. I was not a big name. My book had been published without fanfare by Akashic Books, a fledgling Indie press. The audience included a few friends—but mostly it was made up of people I didn’t know. Readers. It was a multiracial crowd that reflected my book--and represented my city. The event felt like a coming out party, and I remember feeling mystified, happy, and hugely grateful. That night, I became an L.A. writer.
Much of the magic of that first evening was due to what the Skylight staff had so generously done—talked about my book, publicized the reading, supported a local writer they’d never met. And there’s been a lot more magic over the years, for me and for so many other writers—and readers. Kerry and her staff have been the kind of booksellers who give you faith in books, and in the world. Every gathering there is like a family reunion.
Thirteen years later, I’m still with Akashic Books. And for each novel I’ve published since, the launch has been at Skylight. The store has a more personal meaning, too. A decade ago, in front of the bench around the tree, I met another writer, Felicia Luna Lemus—and six years ago we were married. Every time we go to Skylight, we sit in that spot. It feels like coming home."
Our house is your house Nina! Thank you for sharing this! Love to you and Felicia!
(Cecil, Ralph Nader, Christine)
(Cornel West at Barnsdall Park)
(Sophia, Cecil, Eduardo - Cornel West event at Barnsdall Park)
You know Darin Klein as "the guy from Skylight Books", Hammer Museum's Public Programs Associate, and (currently) Associate Director of Events and Programs at the Broad Museuem:
"Skylight Books is more than a bookstore for many who have visited there, worked there, or otherwise been involved with the unassuming yet steadfast literary emporium. It was my first real job in LA and a home-away-from-home for the six years I was employed there. I fell in love with LA when I visited from San Francisco in 1999 and stayed with my friend Johannes on Vermont just up the street from the store. Without a car, I’d walk around Los Feliz Village (so much of the neighborhood has changed, while so many great things remain the same as back then). I moved here in 2000 and landed a great apartment nearby – a four-plex in the style of a castle from 1929! Along my regular route were bike rides to the Griffith Observatory, Fred 62 for breakfast, The Dresden Room for drinks, and Skylight Books for my literary and cultural fix. With bookstore experience on my CV, I applied for a job at Skylight, fingers crossed. When I was called for an interview I was thrilled, and doubly so when I got the job. Among the multitude of things I did at Skylight: manage special orders; oversee the consignment section (zines! chapbooks! other independent publications without distributors!); prune, water and seasonally decorate the tree growing in the middle of the store; set up and work the booth at the awesome and overwhelming Festival of Books several years in a row; flirt with cute guys; pet Lucy the cat; recommend great books to eager readers; and so much more. One time, filmmaker and Hollywood Babylon author Kenneth Anger asked me to cash a personal check for him out of our register. When I explained to him that we didn’t offer check cashing services, he ripped open his shirt (buttons flying everywhere) to reveal a Satanic tattoo, and cursed me – I mean, he actually put a curse on me! Or so he said. Other highlights: meeting Francesca Lia Block, Dennis Cooper, AM Homes and countless other writers I admire; playing cool even though I was star-struck when celebrities like Reese Witherspoon or Jake Gyllenhaal came in; mistaking Gwen Stefani for a drag queen (huge high heels and tons of makeup don’t immediately read as cisgender female to me…); staying up to date with all the latest books and catching up on titles I’d missed before (Jesus’ Son, Two Girls, Fat and Thin). Coworkers became friends, and our circle of friends felt like an important part of the community. Kerry Slattery presided over us all in a kind and maternal manner. Though many from that timeframe scattered to finish degrees, start families, or pursue other interests, there are still some “old-timers” who have dedicated themselves to staying the course of the independent bookstore. Although I left Skylight in 2007, there’s not a single month that goes by when I don’t run into someone who says, “Hey, you’re the guy from Skylight Books!” The energy in the store is still homey and familiar when I walk through the doors or call up the shop to ask for a title or place a special order (almost ALWAYS, rather than Amazon!). You could say that, like much of LA, while some things about Skylight have changed, so many great things remain the same as back then."
We love you Darin!
(Allison Hill - Book Soup and Vroman's bookstores)
(Diane Leslie - Dutton's and Diesel bookstores)
(Noel, Serena, Steve, Buddy Ebsen, Kerry)
(artwork by Jenn)
(Kerrie and Arthur with time machine - photo at Y-Que!)
(Franny and Mary)
From loooooong time supporters (includes the origin of Franny!) Aaron Paley and Judith Teitelman:
"In the late 80s / early 90s, we would regularly go to Chatterton’s on Vermont. It was this quirky, neighborhood bookstore, at that time still common to find in many different parts of Los Angeles. Along a stretch of Vermont, it functioned as an anchor for a small set of stores and restaurants that created a real sense of place. It was our urban oasis. A few retail stores, the Onyx (which served espresso in a café-setting long before coffee bars could be found on nearly every corner), Sarno’s with its opera-singing waiters, the Los Feliz theater with its single screen (soon turned into the current triplex) and the bookstore—the connective tissue between them all.
So it was a very sad day to see the store shuttered and empty. We worried that this space would never again offer the convivial setting that brought neighbors and strangers together.
But, then came signs that a new set of owners was going to take over and create another bookstore in this important locale. Same concept, but new name—Skylight Books.
We started going to the new store as soon as it opened. Aaron immediately recognized Kerry Slattery behind the counter. She had been very involved in the LA theater scene in the 80s and they had met through the 1987 Fringe Festival. Kerry volunteered to help make that Festival happen and it was great to see a familiar face. We quickly discovered that the new bookstore took its role as a committed neighbor seriously. It became a true gathering place, and its program of events combined with friendly, informed local staff guaranteed that it always felt comfortable and homey to walk through the doors. The selection and variety of books slowly grew from modest to sufficient, and then from good to amazing.
We loved that there was a bookstore “kitty”—the wonderful Lucy. With her passing, we felt Kerry’s pain and experienced the emptiness of the store without its feline soul. So it was with great pride and joy when one of the kittens birthed by our Mama cat, Chouchote, became Skylight’s mascot in 2009. We are so honored to be the “birth humans” of Franny.
Skylight has never stopped growing, expanding and rethinking its role on Vermont. It’s now the anchor for many in our great and growing city—not just for locals.
Thank you for 20 amazing years! Here’s to 20+++ more!"
Thank you Aaron Paley and Judith Teitelman!
"The first thing I think of is the TV commercial that the store did a few years ago. I know it didn’t “feature” Stella (I think she was 9 or so), but in my mind she was the star! I’m sure you’ll find a way to use that commercial, right? Looking forward to the party!"
- Tom Benton, Penguin Random House
Johanna Ingalls, Managing Editor at Akashic Books:
"I was at Skylight during one visit out to LA several years ago. Johnny had stepped out to take a phone call so I was wandering around when I overheard A.M. Homes walk in and politely introduce herself as she was arriving for a prearranged stock signing. After seven years in the music industry (pre-Akashic), I had at this point lost a lot of my star struck-ness and am usually casual around celebrities of any sort…But A.M. Homes is one of my favorite authors and apparently I lost all the cool I had developed in the music industry, and decided to stalk her stock signing by quietly hiding while listening to her politely engage with the store’s staff. Johnny finished up his phone call and came back into the store to find me awkwardly crouching and pretending to look at some book. Looked at me with the appropriate amount of confusion when I shushed him (he hadn’t spoken) and quickly stood up and ran-walked out of the store. It was a small moment, but amused me to no end—my silliness in A.M.’s presence who couldn’t have been nicer and more approachable…Why I didn’t just introduce myself as a fan of her work is beyond me…But I decided to be a weirdo stalker…"
(We love A.M. Homes too! Thanks Johanna!)
(David Mitchell and Mary)
(Paula Woods and Noel)
(Iris Berry and Pleasant Gehman)
(James Ellroy window created by Squaresville!)
(Skylight Books 1996 promotional postcard)
(David Foster Wallace)
(Jeffrey Tambor and Scott Thompson)
(Kerry, Chuck Morell, Joy Nicholson, Betsy Amster, Mike Slack)
(Franny - photo: Gustavo Turner)
(Patti Smith through the shelves - photo: Gustavo Turner)
(Darren and Gustavo = Corpus Libris ala Emily Pullen)
Francesca Lia Block shares this memory from the launch party for her book Guarding the Moon (2003):
"It was about my first year as a mom to my daughter Jasmine. She was tiny at the time and sat on my lap wearing a knit cap with a rose on it, to match my pink top and skirt, while I signed my books under your tree. Now she’s sixteen and still my little moon. This memoir was an unusual departure for me, as I had best been known for Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books but Skylight welcomed us just the same. My definition of a great bookstore is one where writers are recognized, seen, supported and embraced in all stages of our careers and lives.
Thank you for letting me be a part of your family."
Thank YOU Francesca!
Teen Apeles, Writer, local, Author of Women Warriors:
"No store in Los Feliz has transformed the neighborhood more in the last two decades than Skylight in my opinion. The bookstore and the staff together are like that best friend who you couldn't imagine the world without.
That friend who is so knowledgeable, kind, and amazing that you have to tell everyone about--and when they finally meet, they fall in love too.
That friend who makes people embrace the city you call home.
That friend who welcomes your furry friends like they're family, and when a new family member is born, always has a special place where that kid can play, explore, and grow.
That friend who survived when others couldn't and inspired so many in the process.
That friend who hosted one of the most memorable events in my life... (trying to find a pic to share!)
Steve, Skylight couldn't have become one our best-loved destinations if not for you. You're the best."
(Cue the tears! Thanks Teena!)
(Dan Fante and Tony O'neill)
Ellyn Maybe shares this wonderful poem:
You think of Vermont having trees.
1818 Vermont Avenue has a tree growing through the roof, tall as a giraffe.
Skylight Books, 20 years growing minds through the astronomy of ink.
Dancing above us, words, music, books floating, ancient and new.
Like a city, like Los Angeles.
-- Ellyn Maybe
(Mary with Joseph Gordon Levitt)
(Cecil with Lucy at Harry Potter sleepover)
(Jerry Stahl - photo: Carolyn Kellogg)
(Garret and Kerry)
Former employee and current writer/producer of Halt and Catch Fire, Chris Rogers:
"Like so many before me I moved to Los Angeles from Virginia with a single black suitcase and a sketchy arrangement to crash on a friend of a friend’s couch. I wasn’t much of a writer then, but I thought I was. I wrote a forgettable poem on the plane as it passed over the Grand Canyon, its big line was something like: items may have shifted during flight. If I’d known how hard it was all going to be I’d probably never have come. I slept on an air mattress under my coat in Northridge for a month, fled from the friend of a friend’s couch because he turned out to be a coke fiend and finally took the big orange #2 bus down Sunset to Los Feliz to live with some guys growing drugs off Fountain and Edgemont.
That first night in the neighborhood I discovered Skylight. I can still see its bright display window glowing warm like a sodium-vapor beacon on the alive sidewalks of Vermont Avenue. I loved the tree, the people darting in and out of the shelves beneath it, the fucking smell of the place and all those pages pressed together. I finally approached the check out counter with a paperback copy of John Dos Passos’ The 42nd Parallel and a huge lump in my throat to ask if they were hiring.
For the next three years I worked there weekends while trying to make it as a fact-checker at Conde Nast’s Architectural Digest during the week. Most notably, I was the guy who opened the store on Saturday and Sunday mornings, usually pretty hung-over, with my partner in crime Liz Janssen. We have the place to ourselves and listen to the Pixies while we sipped hot coffees from Figaro (served up by Beck Bennett, now of Saturday Night Live) and tried to keep down breakfast burritos from Machos Tacos on the corner.
It used to be my job to water the tree every week and I took it very seriously. We were all obsessed with David Foster Wallace at that time, with our own writing and trying in vain to make ours like his. On night shifts, we’d listen to Explosions In the Sky (because Charles) and sneak pulls of cheap wine (from Palermo) in the security camera blind spot behind the shelving cart. Skylight felt like the epicenter of everything good in those years. It was where my friends were. It’s where I was the night Obama was elected. My girlfriend at the time lived in those apartments just across the street -- the ones John Lennon was legended to have crashed in when he and Yoko were on a break and he and Harry Nilsson were behaving miserably -- and we’d (the girlfriend and I) get up the fire escape somehow to smoke cigarettes and look down across the street at Skylight and be reassured by the way some internal piece of it glowed all night like the beating good heart of that time in our lives.
One Saturday morning a girl with red hair came in wearing paint-spattered sweatpants and carrying a tote bag. I was hurting bad from the night before, wearing the same Squaresville button down I’d slept in, but when the girl asked if she needed to check the tote, I responded: “I don’t know, are you going to steal anything?”
Now she’s my wife. True story.
I don’t work at the bookstore anymore. I run a TV show for AMC, and I guess I got to be a real writer somewhere along the way, but I keep the fact that I worked at Skylight in the first line of my bio every time somebody asks me for one. I do this because that fact is shorthand for something special that only the initiated know, it’s how I think of myself and how I want people to know me. Most of the kids I grew up with at the store are gone now (RIP Justin Jasper, you were the real thing in an era of posers) and onto other dreams, but I still look for my old shelf talkers (All The Kings Men) whenever I duck in for a paperback and sometimes they’re even still there. So’s the tree. So’s that smell and all those wonderful pages pushed together, the light from the display window like a beacon on Vermont and that fucking grateful lump in my throat when I walk up to the checkout counter. "
-- Chris Rogers, ex-Skylight Books bookseller, Co-Creator/Writer/Producer Halt and Catch Fire
(Emily and Chris)
(some bookmark history)
Join us each weekend in October 2016 for a different sale...
10/01 & 10/02 Children's & Young Adult
10/08 & 10/09 Film, Music, & Fashion
10/15 & 10/16 Art & Photography
10/22 & 10/23 California History/Culture/Guides
Come to our COCKTAIL PARTY on 10/29!!!