Practicing law and running a bookshop — two totally different career paths.
But not for Tiffany Phillips.
Phillips is the new owner of Wild Geese Bookshop, a small bookstore opening at 107 S. Water St. on Nov. 4.
“In some ways it’s different, law practice and bookselling. But in a lot of ways it’s the same,” she said. “Because when you read a novel, you are able to get inside someone else’s perspective. It helps you see something from a different perspective in the same way that you’re called to do as an advocate. So I think the more we can put ourselves into other people’s perspectives, the more productive we can be as members of the community.”
Community is important to Phillips, especially after she, her husband— George Phillips, an associate English professor at Franklin College—and their two kids moved to Franklin last year.
“I think a lot of choices that I’ve made for the shop are driven by moving to a new place, feeling a bit lonely, trying to find my tribe,” Phillips said. “Everyone’s been warm and welcoming, but I think a lot of my choices are splintered around connections, and I think that’s what makes it special.”
The shop will carry a wide selection of books with a focus on storytelling. Categories include memoir, writing, fiction, art, photography, crafting, cooking and more.
It will also feature gifts that relate to the selection of books and are items that could be given to people who are always doing things for others.
“I wanted a place where you could give a gift to someone who doesn’t often do things for themselves,” Phillips said. “It’s hard to find something for someone who doesn’t really impose on anybody but deserves a break.”
Professionally, Phillips manages a litigation portfolio for a company, a career that allows her to work from home.
She wanted to rent office space in Franklin so she could be around people. That’s when she found the Water Street location.
“When I decided to do it and I saw this space, I thought, ‘Well this is the perfect opportunity because it’s a small enough store that you can really fill it with a curated selection of books, and the things that feel more like a recommendation from a friend,” she said. “Then I have my space in the back where I can continue to do my work.”
Phillips wasn’t always so sure about the idea, but her 11-year-old daughter Auden helped nudge her in the right direction.
“Every day she would say, ‘Have you signed the lease yet?’” Phillips said. “There was part of me that just wanted to chicken out, but she was watching, and I didn’t want her to be afraid to try new things. And I didn’t want her to be afraid.”
Phillips said she gained inspiration from a poem by W.H. Auden, who her daughter is named after. The poem is titled “As I Walked Out One Evening,” and it includes these lines:
“I’ll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.”
“The feelings in that poem are very much what gave me the reason to start,” Phillips said. “My work professionally deals with people on their very worst days, and so it deals with emotions and feelings that people have experienced in very difficult times, often in situations where a loved one has passed away.”
Another poem by Mary Oliver also helped inspire both the name and the purpose of Wild Geese Bookshop, titled “Wild Geese.”
It says, “Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”
“The poem is very much about being reminded of your own humanness, which I kind of need to be reminded of,” Phillips said. “And that it’s okay to feel that humanness and to be called back to the things that you love. I think that kind of pushed me.”
Phillips wants that “humanness” to be a pulling factor for customers to come in to her shop rather than shop online.
“Bookstores offer something in a community that no online shopping can offer,” she said. “It lets you hold things in your hands and smell paper and look at pages and allow that serendipity to happen, where a book finds you that you really needed in that time in your life.”
Phillips has many hopes for Wild Geese Bookshop, including storytelling nights, a Gilmore Girls event on Nov. 19, readings, book signings and a “Franklin, Indiana Reads” section of the shop, which features book recommendations from the community.
“Every day, there’s something new that I have no idea what I’m doing, but I do it anyway,” she said. “I make mistakes, and I’m sure I will continue to make mistakes, but it’s fun to challenge yourself. I’m so far outside of my comfort zone. But anything worth doing is a risk.”
You can follow Wild Geese Bookshop on Twitter and Instagram, or visit their website at wildgeesebookshop.com.