A Novel Idea: Newlyweds Bring a Niche Philly-based Bookstore to the Lit Community
Tianna G. Hansen // Rhythm & Bones Press
Christina Rosso & Alexander Schneider // A Novel Idea
Christina Rosso & Alexander Schneider
Tianna G. Hansen: First off, I must thank you both for allowing my small press to hold our first (and your first!) event at A Novel Idea. It’s so exciting to be able to know I’m in good hands and to launch such an important piece of work with you. So, let’s jump right in and learn more about this brand-new bookstore. How did you two first think of A Novel Idea?
Christina Rosso & Alexander Schneider: Thank you for letting us host this amazing event at our store! We can’t wait for it. And thank you for interviewing us. :)
The idea for A Novel Idea started as a joke. Christina always dreamed of owning and working in a bookstore, but never thought it would become reality. One night Alexander said let’s open a bookstore in jest, and the more we thought about it, the more we realized it could be a great opportunity to do something together and give our neighborhood a type of retail it’s been missing.
TGH: I’ve seen a lot of posts on your Instagram about the renovation process and floor plans for A Novel Idea. Did you both do all the renovations yourself? What is your shared vision for the place?
CR&AS: We did initial demolition and then passed it onto local professionals. Alexander’s mom, a long time interior designer, helped us development a floor plan and vision for the space. The renovations are still underway--we’ve learned that nothing stays on schedule--but hopefully will be done very soon!
We hope to create a place that encourages education and inspiration while supporting local artists and fostering community.
TGH: I know you also have another event after our book launch scheduled for the next weekend with Nick Gregorio, another fellow Arcadia alum, for his second book. Do you plan to have many events at A Novel Idea?
CR&AS: Oh, yeah. As many as humanly possible. We are hoping that events will be the backbone of A Novel Idea. We’re in the process of coming up with some holiday events, as well as talking to local artists about partnerships for the winter/spring. One thing underway is a few writing classes hosted by Blue Stoop running January-March, so keep an eye out for updates!
Christina is really excited about events at A Novel Idea because of her writing and teaching background. She did her MA in English and MFA in Creative Writing at Arcadia and has been teaching writing at several colleges and at Mighty Writers the past three years. Not only is she thrilled to have others host writing-based events at the shop, but she’s planning to run a writing group and several workshops.
TGH: How should interested parties contact you for planning these events, and what are you most looking to host?
CR&AS: Filling out our event request form is the best way to get in touch about events. We want to host book launchings, book signings, reading series, workshops, writing groups, book clubs, and even things like game nights.
TGH: What do you hope to cultivate here most? (i.e. goals, hopes for the future, community vision (who you hope to bring in), etc.)
CR&AS: More than anything, we hope to cultivate community. We want our customers to get know us and hope that we can all grow together. We hope to bring in patrons of all ages and backgrounds, and want to help our customers fall in love with books, either for the first time or the millionth.
TGH: The logo and branding work is phenomenal – Christina, you told me that Alexander did that on his own, as a graphic designer for 10+ years – is that correct? How did you, Alex, come up with the design and logo? What was your main goal/focus for branding A Novel Idea and what does it mean to you?
CR&AS: I’m so happy you like it, so far it’s been well received, which is encouraging for us. I graduated from uArts in 2007 dabbling in a little bit of everything from video production to graphic design.
For the bookstore, we wanted the logo to embody everything we have to offer from open mics and writing events to books signings. There were countless iterations and failed attempts at integrating “easter eggs” to keep people exploring. To us, A Novel Idea represents our marriage (neither of us ever planned to get hitched before meeting one another), opening a business (something that started as a joke and we were planning on happening six months from now), and our attempt to bring something different to our community.
TGH: Where do you see A Novel Idea fitting in to Philadelphia’s literary community? What do you want to accomplish most with this bookstore?
CR&AS: We think what we’re offering is a perfect fit for what our neighborhood and the city needs. There actually isn’t another bookstore for over a mile from us, so we feel very fortunate to be able to bring the first bookstore to East Passyunk. In terms of Philadelphia, there are so many talented writers and wonderful literary magazines and small presses that we’re really excited to work with and support. We hope to help Philly’s literary community grow.
TGH: Christina, as a contributor yourself for the book we are launching there on December 9th, You Are Not Your Rape, how do you feel about this first event? We feel this is somewhat of a “dangerous” book, in that it’s very powerful and focused on controversial and sensitive subject matter, spawned in the aftermath of Dr. Ford’s testimony. Do you think this book will make a difference in any way to your bookstore’s launch into the community?
CR: I’m so excited that this is how we’re kicking off events at A Novel Idea. My own writing has always dealt with gender and sexuality, so I feel as though I’ve been writing dangerous or unreadable material for years. In all honesty, it didn’t seem like people wanted to even hear these kinds of stories outside of shows like Law & Order SVU until the #MeToo Movement took off. And now with Dr. Ford’s brave testimony there seems to be a new wave of interest in hearing and discussing these stories. I was so excited when I saw that Rhythm & Bones was putting together an anthology, and even more so when a piece from the nonfiction collection I’ve been working on for the last year was chosen for it.
I hope the community will be receptive to this anthology and to the bookstore’s promotion of it. Stories of gender and sexuality have always been my passion, so I see this event and promoting this anthology as a representation of who I am. A Novel Idea will have a section dedicated to gender and sexuality studies, so this anthology will fit right in, and reflects the social justice issues that my husband and I find important.
TGH: Where do you see A Novel Idea in five years’ time? This is very much a creation from a husband/wife team, and how do you see this evolving?
CR&AS: Well, hopefully we can renew our lease for another five years and we’re also doing well enough to open a second location that continues to support local artists and community.
We’re newlyweds, so we’re hoping to grow as a couple and business partners in the next few years. This is a passion project for both of us, in part because we get to do it together, and so we look forward to many more sleepless nights discussing ideas for the bookstore and ways to agree while disagreeing.
TGH: Anything else you would like the literary community to know about you, and A Novel Idea?
CR&AS: We want to hear from you. We want to host your events and support you, so don’t be afraid to reach out to us.
Also, if you are an author local to Philly with a published collection/book and are interested in having it featured at A Novel Idea, please fill out this author request form.
TGH: Awesome, thank you both so much for taking the time to speak with me about A Novel Idea! Send them your requests, schedule your events, and support a local indie bookstore. The lit community is so excited to welcome you, and I look forward to a very successful book launch and reading event on December 9th! Their address is 1726 E. Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19148.
Be sure to give A Novel Idea a follow and show them some love!