About bookstores and friendships
“At Two Owls” Bookshop is an independent initiative of two life-long best friends, Oana Doboși – Potcoavă and Raluca Selejan. It was only a normal course to open an independent bookshop in their hometown, since both are passionate about books and literary life.
On June the 8th , Oana & Raluca will share their ideas on business, books and life. Alin Constantin, TEDxFloreasca team member, presents you an interview which will allow us to get to know better Oana, Raluca and their bookshop!
Alin: If you were to talk about another topic, other than the one you chose for Tedx Floreasca, what would you talk about?
Raluca: Probably about the book market in Romania or something books related.Oana: About publishers whose career I admire and who became myths.
Anything else except the books?
O: About how important it is to do what you like, because when you really like what you do, you will succeed, because this is seen and transmitted.
Which TED talk impressed you?
R: Since we found out that we are talking to TEDx Floreasca, the one of Tim Urban, about procrastination. And before that, the one about the feminism of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.O: I have not seen any TED talk yet.
Who should be invited to talk at TEDxFloreasca next year?
R & O – Keep inviting writers or editors, cultural managers, book market representatives.
What models do you have?
This question is difficult, because there is always too much to say regarding models and mentors. We had a professor who guided us during the college, Daniel Vighi, a writer and teacher at the Letters of Timisoara. He and Viorel Marineasa discovered the cultural world for us and everything started from here, cultural events, our interest and our passion for the world of books as a profession. And, of course, an important role was played by our parents.
Are you very good friends?
Yes, this year in September we have 20 years of friendship (they are laughing); we were classmates from the 5th grade, we volunteered together, before the master, in cultural NGOs, we also had several years with different paths Oana had a mMaster in Paris), but somehow we have always ended to a common route. We also worked in the same places and, behold, we decided to open the bookstore.
Have not you been afraid of the bookstore as an experience?
Maybe, a little. The reason we postponed the time to start a business together was the fear that we are too young and have no experience. Although we have prepared, in our studies and cultural activities for this moment, we have delayed until we felt we were ready. And when the time came, we picked up the books market, we read studies, books, went to book fairs, talked to specialists and experienced people in the field. Then, headlong, because we do what we like and, moreover, we are passionate, and our goal is to make the library exist even after we are gone.
How do we raise the level of culture in general?
Through campaigns and laws that support culture, consumption and book acquisition, which support libraries and publishers. I listened to the booksellers presentations from other countries and the state encourages them very much through the book market laws. It has changed for us, too, since 25 years ago, and we are sure that we will see other changes, but that takes time and, from our point of view, reading should be encouraged from home, before attending school.
Would you change something in education?
There’s always a lot to change. From our experience, we have noticed that children like to experience the diversity. They like adults read to them, to be told stories and reading should be as much as possible attractive, more than the book, so we get their attention better. Today’s children are different than we were, they were born with gadgets in hand, they are more alert and aware of what is happening around them, and we have to adapt and find things as creative as possible to attract them to books.
How do you see the book in the future?
The book will never die, it certainly grows and today’s kids have options, the electronic version. It is important to read books, regardless of the format they are in.
What would be 3 books that you would recommend?
We cannot recommend 3 books because we read a lot and we like a lot, it is difficult to answer questions like this, it does not seem right to us.
Ok, what would be 3 books you would recommend to high school students?
George Orwell – One thousand nine hundred eighty-four (1984)J. Salinger – The Catcher in the Rye Ernest Hemingway – The Old Man and the Sea
Something new in the book world today?
From what we see, today it’s much easier for books to get to people and that should help increase the book market. On the other hand, it’s easy to get along with what you want from a commercial point of view and even if it’s been published a lot, it’s even easier now. There is a difference between the bestsellers from nowadays and the bestsellers that sell well over the years. And a simple example is Salinger, with The Catcher in the Rye, which sells well today.
What does guide you in life, as a motto or idea?
Do what you like. If you persevere, have courage, stubbornness and ambition, you can make a career by doing what you like to do.
What would you do if you did not do that?
Raluca: events or artistic impresario.Oana: a publishing house.
One thing you want the most in your life?
To keep the bookstore for our grandchildren, build a business based on friendship, to become a kind of tradition. And have more time to read.
How much do you read?
Less than before we had the bookstore, but more than last year. We can not say exactly, because we have several books started in parallel – literature, business, literary criticism, memoirs and journals. And we do not think we have ever taken account in figures of the books we have read, rather what we have left of them and what we carry with us in our daily lives.
Do you read fast?
Oana: You have opened a sensitive subject (both are laughing), because I read slowly compared to Raluca. I do not understand how she gives page after page. When we read side by side, I feel desperate. (both are laughing)Raluca: Yes, she always asks, “But how do you read so quickly?”
No, we like to read the print, make notes on books, browse them. We have audiobooks at the bookstore, but we prefer the book in print.
What defines you?
Oana: I’m optimistic, I’m sociable, I like being with people.
From “I” I understand that there is a difference between the two of you…
Yes, we are different, but that complements us. We realized we are a little different. Oana is on the figures, stocks, Raluca is on events; one manages the front of the bookstore, the other keeps the bookstore in the back office.
I understand you do not really like part of the stock?
Oana: Well, I do not see myself doing stocks all my life.Raluca: We’re graduates of Letters, though.
What are the things you do not like about each other?
We are very different and this leads to completing by collisions (laughs). The important thing is that we have a sincere and trustful friendship, the discussions are constructive and, most importantly, the annoyance does not last more than 5 minutes, that’s how it takes us to make us laugh.
What would you ask one another?
Raluca: If you would change something at your job description, what would you do differently?Oana: I would like to do just what I want, not what I need in the bookstore. It is false that when you have your business you do what you want, because you have many responsibilities. I would not make any stocks at all (laugh).Raluca: She would read (laugh).
Oana: What do you think we will do after we retire?Raluca: We will retreat to a mountain resort, for quiet and relax. And I do not think we’ll ever really retire. I think from the mountain resort we’re going to retreat, we’ll continue to coordinate small bookstore activities.
What does happiness mean to you?
We are not too much into this. In the bookstore, when someone else is asking for something cheerful to read, for example, it does not come easy titles to recommend. Most of the books we read are sad, full of meanings, to be long gone with you, that will put you in thought for a long time. The role of the books and literature is not to make you happy, they do not teach you to be happy. They have to ask questions, and more questions, and then the best books send you to other books and so on. A continuous search.
Happiness … does it exist … does it not exist…?
Raluca: For me, happiness is related to business, I’m more workaholic and happiness for me, now, is the bookstore. Oana: And health, family, friends are even more important.
What is the “most dangerous book” read recently that leads to many questions?
Raluca: “The Book of My Lives” by Aleksandar Hemon, appeared at Black Button Books. It’s a non-fiction book, but it’s so good, it destroys everything in you and makes you a lot of questions. As above mentioned, it’s a book that has sent me to many other books, some for reading again, some for the first reading.
Thank you for your time and see you on the Promenada rooftop!