When you're out shopping for books next weekend (as of course you will be), do not be surprised if some of your favorite writers are manning the cash registers or tidying up displays. Walk up to them. Ask for a recommendation. That's why they're there.

Saturday is "indies first" day — a day when writers show support for independent bookstores by helping out for a few hours. Sherman Alexie came up with the plan, which has been embraced by hundreds of authors across the country.

Lists are still being firmed up and are too long to give in full, but here's a sample:

At Chapter 2 Books in Hudson, Wis., Michael Norman and Stephanie Bodeen; at Red Balloon in St. Paul, Nancy Carlson, Kurt Scaletta, David LaRochelle and others. Will Alexander, Laura Purdie Salas and others will be at Addendum (that's the bookstore inside the bookstore — it's a corner of SubText in St. Paul). Peter Geye and Nicole Helget will be at Micawber's in St. Paul; Heid Erdrich at Birchbark Books in Minneapolis; Mary Losure and Sarah Stonich at Common Good; the ubiquitous Andy Sturdevant at Magers & Quinn; Erin Hart and Julie Kramer at Valley Booksellers in Stillwater; Benjamin Percy at Monkey See, Monkey Read in Northfield. The full list is at www.indiebound.org.

Meanwhile, Carol Connolly's monthly Readings for Writers at the University Club on Summit Avenue in St. Paul gets all gussied up in December, with violin music and white lights and decorated trees and poets and essayists reading works both humorous and poignant. It's free (7:30 p.m. Dec. 17) but the hat will be passed, as always, to collect money for Everyday Poems for City Sidewalks.

Most local bookstores have special holiday signings. Common Good Books and Magers & Quinn both plan author events every Saturday in December (some with food); Birchbark Books will host Kevin Kling at 1 p.m. Dec. 14 (and he'll be at Chapter 2 in Hudson on Dec. 10); both Red Balloon (2 p.m. Dec. 7) and Wild Rumpus (1 p.m. Dec. 8) will host Kate DiCamillo (with music and goodies).

Check bookstore websites for details, or go online to www.startribune.com/books each week for the full calendar.