PORT TOWNSEND — Once in a while, the ideal person walks in the door at exactly the right time.
It happened at the Writers’ Workshoppe and Imprint Books (WWIP) this past spring, when owner Anna Quinn realized she was ready to sell her beloved store.
Samantha Ladwig, having moved to Port Townsend in late 2017, was doing various jobs at WWIP, as it’s known: leading classes in essay- and novel-writing, book-selling at Imprint. Also a freelance writer, she publishes articles in magazines such as Bust and Real Simple.
Altogether, Ladwig is “perfect,” Quinn said. Turned out she has the goods and the passion to become the next owner of this independent bookstore.
The two began discussing Ladwig’s purchase of the business Quinn and her husband Peter have built throughout the past 12 years. Ladwig’s partner Thom Nienow stepped onboard. The couple will take over Oct. 1.
Last year was the turning point for Quinn: She published a critically acclaimed novel, “Night Child,” toured the country giving readings — and knew that she wanted more.
“I probably have three or four more books in me. I wanted to see what it’s like to be a full-time writer,” she said.
And Peter, who is CEO of the Quimper Mercantile, is also a poet — with more he wants to publish.
The “if not now, then when?” moment has arrived for the couple. Quinn decided to take the advice she gives her two grown sons:
“Stop doing what you like and do what you love.”
The transition from proprietors to author is “exciting and terrifying,” Quinn said, “for all of us.”
Ladwig and Nienow are first-time business owners. Ladwig said she knew, from the inside out, that this is the place.
The Quinns broached the idea in May, “and it was an immediate yes of interest, and wanting to know more about what all that would entail.”
It entails plenty: The bookstore open seven days a week, with authors frequenting the place, asking to put their books on the shelves and do readings and signings, and the Writers’ Workshoppe, where more than 1,000 classes have been taught since 2007. More, with subjects ranging from poetry writing to finding a literary agent, are scheduled through fall.
Authors who have visited the bookstore at 820 Water St. include Dorothy Allison, Pam Houston and Jonathan Evison, while a flock of local writers have their books displayed at the front of the shop.
A chalkboard bearing inspirational quotations stands outside on the sidewalk.
With Ladwig and Nienow signed on, Quinn emphasized that she and Peter aren’t moving away.
She plans to continue teaching and consulting along with her days working in her writing studio. For years that was the couple’s tugboat, but she and Peter sold it. Now they have a “hippie van,” which she parks in some water-view spot.
Ladwig, 28, who grew up in Monroe and has lived in Bellingham, Seattle and Los Angeles, uses the “terrified” word too, along with “giddy” — but most of all she calls herself grateful for “a one-of-a-kind opportunity.”
Quinn and Ladwig both see WWIP as a place to grow a literary community. People at various stages of their writing lives get together in the snug classroom, while customers from everywhere walk into the bookstore.
“It was heaven to spend each day with readers and writers. Heaven,” Quinn said.
As Writers’ Workshoppe participant and teacher, she got to see people learn and transform.
Working in the bookstore, she’s been privy to what happens to readers when they find the right book: one that provides comfort or hope or mind expansion.
“I will also never look at another business again without knowing the incredible blood, sweat and tears that go into it. The sacrifices,” she added, “the hours and hours of anxiety and lost sleep, the accomplishments. I now have epic respect for anyone who starts and runs a small business.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.