Quail Ridge founder Nancy Olson, rest in peace

QRlogoWhen my first book “Off The Record” came out back in 2000, it was self-published. Having to go the DIY vanity-press route didn’t exactly fill me with confidence when it came time to call bookstores to ask if they’d let me do readings. So it was a pleasant surprise to find so many supportive bookstores around greater Raleigh, especially Nancy Olson’s Quail Ridge Books and Music.

Quail Ridge was the first place I ever did a reading. Unaccustomed as I was to speaking in public in front of people, I was kind of terrified at the prospect. But Olson and staff were kind, indulgent and willing to hold my hand and get me through it. For a krill-sized speck in the literary firmament like me, getting to do a reading at all in the same store as David Sedaris, Peter Guralnick and Charles Frazier was a big deal. And to actually be treated well there was unbelievable.

Since then, I’ve done enough readings at Quail Ridge for it to feel like my home court. The best “Losering” event in 2012 happened there, and we also had a really nice “Comin’ Right at Ya” reading at Quail Ridge last fall. I’ve seen dozens of other authors there over the years, too, local friends as well as visiting big-shots from out of town. It’s always been the best sort of artistic community space for readers as well as writers, continuing under new owner Lisa Poole after Olson sold the store and retired in 2013. Even on Planet Amazon, you can’t beat having a physical place for like-minded spirits to gather.

Olson has been battling kidney disease for several years and passed away early Sunday morning at age 75, which is a loss for anyone who loves books. But I am heartened from a detail at the end of this very fine obit — that she was reading until the end. That’s fitting.

ADDENDUM (4/10/2016): A most lovely remembrance by the great Allan Gurganus.

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