In March, bestselling author James Patterson announced the winners of his inaugural “Book Dollars for Scholars” program – 56 college-bound high school students who won prizes ranging from $5,000 to $250 to be redeemed at an IndieBound-affiliated bookstore of their choice. To enter the contest, students submitted an essay describing how their favorite book influenced their plans for the future.
Eight students were awarded first prizes worth $5,000; eight winners received second-place prizes worth $2,500; and 40 more received third-place prizes of $250 in bookstore gift certificates.
The value of the contest extends beyond the college-bound students, as it ensures a bump in sales for the independent bookstores where the prizes will be redeemed. Booksellers are delighted to be a part of the program, and some have already helped essay winners start redeeming their prizes.
Emily Clark, a first-prize winner who resides in Maine, chose to spend her gift certificate at her local indie, Apple Valley Books in Winthrop, Maine. Owner Rita Moran was happy to see the prize go to someone whose love for reading and writing she had seen develop throughout the years.
“We’ve known Emily since she was a little girl who shopped here with her mom, who has been a regular customer for years,” said Moran. “Both are very excited about winning the contest.”
Though Clark has not yet chosen her books, Moran is sure her winnings will go far, since the store offers a 20 percent discount on most special order books.
“We’re delighted that James Patterson has joined the ranks of other authors (like Maine’s own Stephen King and Richard Russo) who also stand squarely for local independent booksellers,” said Moran.
Bradley Gorline shows off his new library.
After Bradley Gorline, a $250 winner, took a trip from where he lives in Wisconsin, to shop at The Book Bin in Northbrook, Illinois, manager Nancy Usiak immediately shared her experience with ABA.
“Bradley Gorline, one of the James Patterson winners, just made his purchases at The Book Bin,” said Usiak. “I have to tell you, he took the spirit of the prize very seriously. As he left the store with a box of books, I heard him say to his mom ‘I’ve got books!’ He was really excited and pleased. He really started his library out with a bang.”
Shortly after his visit, Gorline sent the store this e-mail message, thanking them for his books:
I would like to thank you for welcoming me to The Book Bin on Wednesday. While I shopped for my books, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. Although the books are much better than candy.
I would like to thank The Book Bin for participating in the Book Dollars for Scholars essay contest made possible through James Patterson and IndieBound. I truly have a love for reading, and I am so appreciative for the awesome books I was able to add to my library. I have already finished reading one of the books.
Gorline is planning to attend Princeton University in the fall.
Shelby Triplett of Alabama is a $5,000 winner, who will be selecting her books from Alabama Booksmith in South Birmingham, Alabama.
Jake Reiss, owner of Alabama Booksmith, was happy to find out about a winner in his area, and looks forward to helping Triplett make her selections.
“We’re appreciative to James Patterson and his consideration of these students, reading in general and independent booksellers,” said Reiss.
In the fall, Triplett will be heading on a full scholarship to Jacksonville State University, where she plans a double major in Recreation Management and Elementary Education. Triplett is currently an aide to her high school’s assistant principal, who is a staunch advocate of literacy, and has been an inspiration to Triplett.
“I was ecstatic upon telling her and my family,” Triplett said. “I feel absolutely blessed.”
She plans to use the gift certificate to purchase children’s books and books that promote literacy.
Although Triplett hadn’t shopped at Alabama Booksmith previously, she is aware of how the program benefits indie bookstores and is happy about it.
“I think it’s awesome [Patterson] has made it exclusive to indie stores. Entrepreneurs are the symbol of our country’s independence, and I think it’s fantastic that Mr. Patterson is helping those businesses out while at the same time making very happy prospective college students,” she said.
Triplett who was without power for a week after the recent tornadoes hit Alabama contacted Reiss as soon as she could.
“This is a wonderful story for Alabama at this time, and I believe the entire state will have a warm fuzzy feeling for Shelby Triplett being a national winner, and for James Patterson for providing funding and coming up with this wonderful idea,” said Reiss.
When Jamie Layton, manager of Duck’s Cottage in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, found out about the contest, she immediately e-mailed a friend whose daughter is a high school senior and enjoys reading and writing. Layton was very happy to learn that her friend’s daughter, Taylor Swankie, was named a $5,000 winner.
Swankie has been on staff of the First Flight High School newspaper for four years, the last two of which she served as editor. She’ll be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has already purchased several AP study guides in preparation for end of year exams.
“I’m thankful to James Patterson and his organization for giving me this wonderful opportunity,” said Swankie. “I am proud to be recognized as one of the scholars. The contest is an excellent way for students to share their stories and how reading impacts them. My essay reflects who I am and hopefully serves an inspirational piece for others.”
As a fan of mystery and plot twists, Swankie plans to bring several Patterson books to school with her, along with others by John Grisham, David Baldacci, and Lee Child.
“I was really excited about Patterson’s contest, which is why I sent the link to Taylor,” said Layton. “It sends a tremendous message when a high profile author like James Patterson recognizes the importance of independent bookstores and the role they continue to play in people’s lives. There are just so many things ‘little stores’ like us can do that big boxes can’t… Indie booksellers actually have a connection to our customers. We’re in tune to their likes, dislikes, preferences and even sometimes, their needs. It was a wonderful day in our bookstore when we found out that, in our own little way, we were able to help make college a little bit easier for a truly deserving young woman.”