Photography ©Avery Pearson.

Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeehouse

Helping Local Authors and Readers Flourish

by Lynn Cline

For more than forty years, Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeehouse has been the heart of Santa Fe’s literary community, an inviting and inspiring place for readers and authors alike. With shelves full of classic and contemporary works — including fiction and nonfiction, poetry, children’s books, cookbooks and every other genre — this venerated independent bookstore is not just a wonderful place for discovering great books, it plays a vital role in a city that loves literature.

As Santa Fe’s oldest locally owned bookstore, Collected Works is busy with book launch events featuring local, national and international authors as well as collaborative offsite events with nonprofits. It’s also a venue for book clubs and other groups and rotating art exhibits. And Collected Works is passionately committed to local authors, including those just launching their literary careers. It stocks and recommends local authors’ books and toasts writers’ success with well-promoted book events. “We pay attention to the local authors and local publishers,” says Dorothy Massey, who has owned Collected Works since 1996. “We certainly try to represent New Mexico authors as much as possible — some with established successful years of writing behind them and some with their very first published book. It’s been a joy to watch many of these authors grow into their deservedly successful careers.” Massey continues, “One example is Kirstin Valdez Quade, who as a teenager was a bookseller here at Collected Works. She is now a full professor at Princeton University. We are about to launch and arrange an event for her novel, The Five Wounds, her second offering from W.W. Norton. Her first book, Night at the Fiestas, a short story collection, launched in 2015 at Collected Works. We had a big crowd for that one. Her grandparents still live here, and she is local talent made good. I’m very, very proud that Collected Works has been able to watch her career flourish.”

“We certainly try to represent New Mexico authors as much as possible — some with established successful years of writing behind them and some with their very first published book. It’s been a joy to watch many of these authors grow into their deservedly successful careers.”

Other writers with beginnings at Collected Works spoke about their love for the bookstore during Keep the Pages Turning, a virtual event hosted by actor and Santa Fe resident Ali MacGraw in August. The evening brought twenty-four authors together in support of Collected Works during the pandemic. Virtual though it was, emotions were powerful, as each participant talked about their strong ties to the bookstore and the store’s indelible ties to the community.

Renowned award-winning Santa Fe poet and translator Arthur Sze, who took part in the event, regards Collected Works as a “cultural treasure.” “For over thirty years, I have launched each new book of poetry at this bookstore, and the generosity and commitment to my work has been nurturing and amazing,” says Sze, whose Sight Lines won the 2019 National Book Award for Poetry. “I have always loved reading at the store and connecting with the diverse, talented community of people here in Santa Fe. The staff is also dedicated and works tirelessly to promote contemporary literature.” Sze adds, “Unlike many bookstores where books are put on display and then sent back to the distributor shortly after the reading and book signing, Dorothy has kept my books available month after month, year after year, and I so appreciate this remarkable commitment. As a small independent bookstore where people can take their time, browse, converse and read, Collected Works plays a vital role in the literary life of our community.”

A portrait of Arthur Sze.
Arthur Sze, whose latest (and tenth) collection of poetry won the 2019 National Book Award for Poetry. Photography ©Forrest Gander.
A portrait of Carmen Padilla
Carmen Padilla, an award-winning journalist and author who writes extensively about the region's Hispanic art and culture. Photography ©Jack Parsons.

Award-winning author and journalist Carmella Padilla, who also took part in Keep the Pages Turning, couldn’t agree more. “The entire crew at Collected Works have played a major role in my life writing books,” says Padilla, whose numerous books, including The Chile Chronicles: Tales of a New Mexico Harvest, eloquently explore New Mexico’s art, culture and traditions. “That’s nearly twenty-five years! From my first book in 1996 to my most recent one in 2017, Collected Works has supported, promoted and sold every title, not just in the store, but at public events throughout the community. During this time, Dorothy has become a dear friend whose ongoing encouragement assures me that my next book will have a spot on a Collected Works bookshelf. It’s hard to express how much that means to a writer.”

Padilla also has praise for Collected Works’ devotion to a diverse community. “I am not the only writer who has the gift of the store’s support,” she says. “Santa Fe’s literary community, in all its voices and genres, is always at home there. Collected Works has created an open, inclusive and creative space for writers and readers. As an independent bookstore, Collected Works has not merely survived in trying times, but has thrived. Because Dorothy has believed in nurturing our community of writers, our community has nurtured Collected Works. Dorothy’s vision puts writers and readers at the heart of Santa Fe. For that, all of Santa Fe owes her a debt of gratitude.”

The story of this beloved bookstore begins in June 1978, when Collected Works “was opened by two gentlemen, David Douglas and David Hall,” says Massey. “I certainly admire them for their courage and their love of books. They subsequently sold the store to Lynne Moor, who ran it for years. The store was established on West San Francisco Street, and my daughter and I bought it from Lynne in January 1996, so we are the third owners. Mary is a silent partner in the store, as she’s busy being an independent consultant, mother and a wife.”

It wasn’t mere luck that brought Massey to Santa Fe. Rather, she combed the country to find the right place. “After a three-year search for available bookstores and being familiar with the breadth and diversity of cultural offerings in Santa Fe, I knew that Collected Works would be a perfect pick,” she says. “I had visited the city for musical events in the past, so I was familiar with Santa Fe.”

Inevitably, Collected Works outgrew its original space and started a new chapter at 202 Galisteo St. “We moved in 2009 from a space that was 2,400 square feet to over 5,000 square feet,” Massey says. “We put in a coffee bar, and it did not take long for me to realize that running a coffeehouse is a very special talent, which I do not have. We’ve been very lucky to have a partnership with Iconik Coffee here in Santa Fe for the past several years.” Collected Works also has a stage for readings, a handsome fireplace and cozy couches for book browsing. Despite doubling its size, the bookstore retains its warm, welcoming ambiance.

The interior of Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeehouse.
The interior of Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeehouse. Photography ©Avery Pearson.

Treasured author and “aural historian” Jack Loeffler regards Collected Works with a reverence so profound, it approaches the holy. “I feel like it’s a spiritual event every time I go into Collected Works, whether or not I’m signing books,” he says. “It’s really a sacred place to me, and that’s why I think of Dorothy as Santa Dorotea. When I think of all the different signings that I’ve done there and what they’ve meant to me, it’s about Dorothy and the entire staff, but also the people who come to the bookstore are to me the real deal — not just intellectual, but people who try to understand, who live in Santa Fe, people who really are inquisitive but are here for a bigger reason. Collected Works is the best place for people to gather in Santa Fe.”

Loeffler appreciates that his many books, including his most recent, Headed into the Wind: A Memoir, are on the shelves at Collected Works. “Dorothy keeps my books there and, boy, what a delight that is,” he says. “I’ve visited a lot of bookstores over the years and done signings all over the Southwest and beyond, but there’s no place like Collected Works. I remember going into the City Lights bookstore back in the ’60s and there was an incredible energy there that I really love, and that’s surpassed by Collected Works.”

Massey shares Loeffler’s admiration for the people who come to the bookstore. “This is a very literary community, and we listen to our customers,” she says. “It’s the joy of putting a well-written book into the hands of a well-read person that is a driving force. And if Santa Fe didn’t have such a plethora of erudite readers, we would not enjoy the success that we have. Book buying is all about trust because you can’t try on a book before taking it home, and most people buying a book here have not read it themselves. Bookstores are about sharing ideas and thoughts and representing as wide a variety as possible. And the encouragement of idea sharing in the coffeehouse as well as in the book stacks themselves is a combination that we love offering.”

A portrait of Jack Loeffler
Jack Loeffler, author, oral historian, environmentalist and radio producer. Photography ©Dr. Philip Schultz.
A portrait of Alex Richards, author of Accidental.
Alex Richards, author of Accidental, an acclaimed young adult novel that debuted last summer. Photography ©Nina Goodheart.

Customers clearly love this combination, too, as generations of families often frequent Collected Works. “It is a treat to see parents bringing their children in to shop the same kid’s section that they shopped a generation ago,” Massey says. For novelist, film critic, actor and political cartoonist Jonathan Richards, Collected Works is practically family. He’s a staple at the bookstore’s annual reading of holiday stories and poems, and in September his daughter, acclaimed young adult novelist Alex Richards, celebrated her debut YA novel, Accidental, set in Santa Fe, with a virtual event at Collected Works.

“I grew up in Santa Fe and have been going to Collected Works for as long as I can remember,” says Alex Richards, who now lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children. “I love the fact that Collected Works promotes local authors and books set in New Mexico. From the second you walk into Collected Works, it’s so clear how much they care about books, the thought that goes into creating displays and which books they choose. Connecting with a local, independent bookseller and establishing a relationship is vital for authors. Indies care so very deeply about books and about promoting authors­, especially local authors. I’ve done a few virtual events to promote my book, but you can instantly tell when the bookseller really cares about the people they are promoting. Collected Works is one of the best and made me feel important from our first interaction.”

More than ever, independent bookstores need the kind of support they offer their communities. While Collected Works remains closed because of the pandemic, curbside and mail service for online and phone orders make it the holiday gift source for every booklover on your list.

Lynn Cline
Contributor

Lynn Cline is the author of The Maverick Cookbook: Iconic Recipes & Tales from New Mexico. She has written for The New York TimesBon Appétít and numerous other publications. She also hosts Cline’s Corner, a weekly radio show on KSFR 101.1 FM.

Visit The Vault  | THE BEST OF PAST ISSUES

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.