Bookstores, coffee shops honor local author’s legacy


From: Myra Norman


For as long as I can remember, my father, Jim Schoen, would write whenever he found a free moment — daily. Every coffee shop in Winona knew him. He’d bring bags of books home from Chapter 2, Paperbacks and Pieces and The Book Shelf and be back a week later. He always said that someday, he’d love to take the stories he wrote and put them into a collection. At 64, that dream was becoming a reality. The book was complete, and he was in the midst of printing it when he passed away a few days after being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. We were all in shock and his dream of publishing his first and last book came to a halt. And then something surprising happened in these past few months that made me appreciate the book-reading community of Winona. The coffee shops that dad frequented (Blue Heron, Mugby Junction, Acoustic Cafe), the bookstores that he loved (Shelley of Paperbacks & Pieces, Chris Livingston of The Book Shelf) all started to reach out together as a collective to urge the publishing and promotion of my father’s book. We are moving forward with printing and promoting of it, but I am in awe of Winona’s small business community. The story that stands out to me here is that in an age where Caribous and Starbucks are coming into small towns to push out the local coffee shops, Winona offers something unique. Winona coffee shops remembered my father’s name, his favorite spot to sit over the years and his quirky sense of humor. I go to Starbucks every day in the Twin Cities and no one could tell you my favorite spot to sit. Also, as small bookstores are being pushed out of towns because customers can buy their books online or ship in a single day with Amazon Prime, the owners of Winona’s past and current bookstores banded together to help make a customer and local author’s dream a reality — offering ideas for publishing, events and marketing, even as some of them have had to shutter their own doors (The Book Shelf, and the recent sale of Paperbacks and Pieces). The small businesses of Winona offer something that the big box stores of the larger cities cannot in times of grief — care. Having never met these business owners before, they’ve pulled together like a family we didn’t know we had, to lift us up, provide support and memories of a man they knew as “Jim — the writer” and we called our dad.

With the push from Winona small businesses and reading community, we published his first, and last book, “Night Work.” We will be hosting the first author reading event at Acoustic Cafe on July 8 at 6:30 p.m. Reading on behalf of my father will be Chris Livingston, past owner of The Book Shelf, and Ken McCullough, local Winona poet and author.


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