Our New Bookstore Is Open for Business: An Interview with Dotters Books Co-Owner Margaret Leonard

Dotters Books co-owners Margaret Leonard (left) and Jill Heinke Moen (right)  credit: Drew Kaiser

Dotters Books co-owners Margaret Leonard (left) and Jill Heinke Moen (right)

credit: Drew Kaiser

B.J. Hollars

No city is complete without a independent bookstore. And now, Eau Claire can boast its very own! Dotters Books, located at 1602 Hogeboom Avenue, is now open and ready for business! Enjoy the grand opening festivities beginning at 10:00a.m. on Saturday, October 6!

Read on for an interview with co-owner Margaret Leonard.

Congratulations on your new store!  What makes Dotters Books different from other book stores?

We're planning to stock a smaller, curated selection of books on our shelves. We're focusing on women, authors of color, and small presses - like Graywolf Press, Milkweed Editions, Two Dollar Radio, and so many other great small publishers. We're facing all of our books out, privileging every voice, and we're trying to stock books that we have read and loved, or that we cannot wait to read. We have a dedicated room for children's books with a reading nook and mural painted by Serena Wagner. It is so cool! 

Throughout high school, I had the great pleasure of working in an independent bookstore in Indiana.  It was, perhaps, the best education I ever received.  How have bookstores played a role in your life?  What role would you like Dotters to play in the lives of your patrons and the larger community?


It has always been my dream to have my own bookshop. I loved going into libraries and bookshops as a kid and getting lost among the shelves. That love never went away. When I lived in Milwaukee, I tried to get a job at Boswell Books - one of my absolute favorite bookstores! - and they just kind of looked at me with pity and said they weren't hiring. No one EVER leaves a job at a bookshop because it's the best! So, in order to finally work at a bookshop, I opened my own. 

I think it is so important to have a space where people can come together to talk about the things that are important to them and to their community, and what better place than a neighborhood bookshop. Books teach empathy in such an active way, asking the reader to imagine a life very different than their own. We're hoping to be a space where readers of all ages can come together and listen and learn from each other. 

How have books impacted your life?  

In countless ways. As a kid, I devoured books. I suppose that hasn't changed a whole lot as I've gotten older. When I was in high school I had a few teachers who changed the way that I looked at books. I recently read a quote from Maggie Nelson (in the introduction to The Seas by Samantha Hunt) and it has stuck with me: "It took me back to how I felt as a kid, when you're newly falling in love with literature, newly shocked by its capacity to cast a spell." That's how I felt when I read books like Great ExpectationsThe Great Gatsby, and As I Lay Dying. A whole new world opened up and I knew I wanted to live in it forever. I studied English in both my undergraduate and graduate programs. I met some of my best friends as we bonded over our love, and hatred, for certain books, fought over whether Fitzgerald or Hemingway was better - now, I say neither, but back then I was a diehard Fitzgerald fan. The books that I have read throughout my life have helped me to become who I am. They have shaped my worldview and broadened my perspective, much like traveling. Each book is an opportunity to learn about other people and about yourself. 

How do you see Dotters Books fitting into the larger arts community here in the Chippewa Valley?

We are so excited to be a small part of the very impressive larger arts community of the Chippewa Valley. We are looking forward to hosting and sponsoring author events, children's Story Times every weekend, writing groups, and book clubs in our space and throughout the community. We're also hoping to have some live music, although we're still determining the best way to use our space for that. We're hosting our first concert here on October 29 - Siri Undlin and Shane Leonard - so stay tuned for more information about that event. Plus, artists need to read, right? We've got lots of books to keep you inspired.


What's your favorite rainy day read?  Your favorite summer read?  Best book when you're feeling down?  Best book when you're at the beach?

I'm don't often re-read books, so I don't have specific go-tos for these situations, but I'll do my best. 

My favorite book that pairs well with a rainy day is M Train by Patti Smith, but, to be fair, this is one of my favorite books in any weather. M Train changed the way that I look at possessions, material and otherwise. This memoir is the story of Smith's life after the death of her husband. It is full of everyday moments in coffee shops, and trips all over the world - most notably to La Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo's home. It is beautiful, and moving, and heartbreaking, and so wise. 

One of my favorite books that I read this summer was Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori. It felt seasonally appropriate while I was reading it. It's about a Japanese woman who works in a convenience store and struggles to fit into the expectations often placed on women in society. It's a bit reminiscent of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, but it's set in Japan, not nearly as dreary, and quite funny and quirky.

One of the most uplifting books that I've read recently is A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney. This is a fascinating history of female writers and their friendships with other women, and it is written by two female friends. Each of these authors was writing at different times, so the social conventions that governed their interactions shifted and changed. If you're feeling down and are struggling to find evidence of progress and equality, read this book and, even if just for a moment, you'll feel like we've come a long way. 

My favorite book that I've read recently that would be great to read at the beach is The Seas by Samantha Hunt. Full disclosure: this is not your stereotypical light, airy beach read. The book takes place in the Pacific Northwest in an unnamed ocean town. The main character is a nineteen year old woman who may or may not be a mermaid. It's eerie and weird, and it features an unreliable narrator, my favorite kind. I loved it.

Be sure to drop by Dotters Books and pick up a copy of a great book today!