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Customer blunders lead to book deal for Crouch End bookseller

PUBLISHED: 09:30 09 January 2012

Jen Campbell, author of Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops, pictured in Ripping Yarns bookshop. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Jen Campbell, author of Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops, pictured in Ripping Yarns bookshop. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

When Crouch End writer Jen Campbell got a job in a bookshop to help her get by, she didn’t expect it would lead to a book.

The 24-year-old had already penned poetry books and short stories after finishing her Edinburgh University degree, but the inspiration for her latest work came from her other task – dealing with the customers who made the strangest requests.

Ms Campbell, who has worked in bookshops for about three years, decided to jot down every unusual and comical conversation she had with people who entered her workplace. The result was Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, which will be published in April.

The book is a collection of odd things customers have said to her at Celia Mitchell’s Kentish Town antiquarian bookshop, Ripping Yarns, and before that at a bookshop in Edinburgh.

It includes such gems as: “Excuse me, do you have author-signed copies of William Shakespeare plays?” and “Do you have the sequel for Anne Frank’s diary?”.

“We love our customers at the bookshop,” says Ms Campbell, who landed the book deal after posting some of the weird comments on her blog This is Not the Six Word Novel. “Sometimes people say and do the strangest things.”

Her patience has sometimes been tested to the limits. “I think the worst thing that has happened was when a drunk man came in and was sick all over the counter,” she says.

She was approached by a publisher after posting just two of the strange comments on her blog. The book did not take long to write, with new stimuli coming every day in the form of quirky customers.

Ms Campbell has also recently completed a poetry challenge for charity, writing 100 limited-edition poems that can be bought from her site.

Although the job is frustrating at times, she insists she will not give up her bookshop role. “I do love it. I think it is very difficult as a writer to just be a writer. Some days, working in a bookshop is the best job ever.”

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