Friends, I am so excited for today's post. First, I have to tell you that although I sometimes resent the internet for taking time away from real life, it occasionally redeems itself by bringing bookworms together and that makes my heart happy.
Today I want to introduce you to a kindred spirit, Jenny Williams of the
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jenny for the blog, and we got to chat about how she became a bookworm, literary heroines, and kindred spirits.
Jenny, tell us about your life as a reader. When did you become a bookworm?
I've been a bookworm for as long as I can remember! I had a "lights out" time growing up, but every morning, I would come downstairs and "confess" to my mom that I had stayed up way too late reading, because there just wasn't a good place to stop. (She eventually told me to stop confessing, and just keep reading.) I read American Girl History Mysteries, the Dear America Diary series, the Little House on the Prairie series, and everything I could get my hands on by L.M. Montgomery.
Tell us about the origins of the Carrot Top Paper Shop. When and how did you get started?
Every since I was a child, I knew I wanted to do something creative when I grew up. But I never knew exactly what! Some days I wanted to be a ballerina, other days a greeting card illustrator, or a journalist, magazine editor, etc. After I graduated college, I moved to Washington, D.C. to work on Capitol Hill. I thought maybe I wanted to be a political speech writer. Needless to say, most of my life I've felt pretty all-over-the-map, career-wise. All of that changed after I had a baby, and was looking for literary nursery décor for her room. I had a very specific idea of what I wanted for her, but couldn't find it. So I decided to make my own, and that's when I created my very first literary heroine banner. I didn't create it with the idea of starting my own business too, but as we all know now, that's what happened! I tell people now that Carrot Top Paper Shop is the dream job I never knew I could have -- it combines everything I love into one perfect package: literature, creative a community around a shared loved of books, writing, art, and of course, Anne of Green Gables.
What has been the most popular product in your shop?
My Literary Heroine Banners and my Literary Bookmark Sets.
For many readers, these books contain not just characters but also close friends. Have you had any customers who have reached out with their own stories about the influence these books have had on them?
Absolutely! That is one of the best parts of my job. Before I started Carrot Top, I honestly thought only a few people in the world loved L.M. Montgomery's work as much as I did. I know now that was incredibly naïve! I get emails from people all the time telling me how much L.M. Montgomery has made an impact on their lives, or how her books got them through a difficult time. She feels like a dear friend, and everyone who loves her feels instantly connected. It's truly heartwarming!
You're a mom as well as a reader and shop owner. How did your reading life change when you had your daughter?
Great question! Sometimes I feel like I have no time to read. And when I am about to launch a new product line, I really don't. But I've learned that if I make it a priority, it happens. I cannot imagine my life without reading, but the biggest change now is that I don't put pressure on myself to read a certain number of books a year, or a month, or whatever. Sometimes I read a book a week, sometimes a book a month. As long as I am reading, I'm doing good.
I love your attitude towards reading. Why is it important that we read books with heroines to our children?
Growing up, stories about men inspired me too, but the ones that touched me most personally were the stories about girls and women. There's just something about being a little bit like someone else that makes you feel like it is achievable to be them.
Both girls and boys today are exposed to a lot of bad messages about where their worth lies. True heroines reinforce to our daughters that their worth is not in outward appearances, or popularity, or any other superficial expectation. And I think deep down inside, we are all greatly relieved by that. We all want permission to be comfortable in our own skin, but also to aspire to something more. Fiction, good fiction, has the ability to represent a truer version of the world than the one we know. As G.K. Chesterton said, "Fairy tales are more than true -- not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten."
If you had to pick just one, who would be your favorite literary heroine? How does she inspire you?
That's easy! Anne Shirley, 100%. Anne is smart, hopeful, brave, and kind. She is secure in who she is, but vulnerable at the same time. Most importantly, she gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. Everyone, no matter how crabby, is a potential kindred spirit. I love that about her! She may have a quick temper, but she is also just as quick to forgive. She gives everyone a chance because no one is without hope, just as life is never without hope.
Some things that Jenny and I agree on wholeheartedly: children need literary heroines in their lives, L.M. Montgomery is a dear friend to each of her readers, and the world is a better place when we remind ourselves to act like Anne Shirley.
Thank you, Jenny, for sharing your love of reading and of literary heroines with us!
Jenny has been incredibly generous in offering Top Shelf Text readers an exclusive coupon to her shop.
Use code TOPSHELFTEXT for 25% off the Carrot Top Paper Shop.
Coupon valid through Friday, July 14th.
I am a particular fan of both the quote prints and the to-do list notepad, which has brought a certain cheeriness to getting everyday tasks checked off. Next on my wish list are the Literary Heroine bookmark sets (shown above), which make a great gift for bookish friends!
Happy reading, and happy shopping too!