One of the highlights of my burgeoning book buying career took place right here in Salt Lake City on January 30th & 31st: the ABA’s Winter Institute. Thanks to the ABA’s recognition of smaller markets (next year’s meetings will be in San Jose) I was able to attend along with hundreds of booksellers from across the country. The ABA’s fourth annual Winter Institute (WI4) was my debut into the wide world of independent bookstores, and the experience was thrilling and enriching!
The programming was excellent, from the keynote address with Roxanne Coady (R.J. Julia) moderating a panel consisting of publishing executives Morgan Entrekin (Grove/Atlantic), Nan Graham (Scribner), and Bob Miller (HarperStudio) in a discussion of the state of the book industry to the presentations on using multimedia marketing (I lost count of how many times “every store should have a blog” was said) and taking your co-op to the next level. The education provided by the ABA and the panelists was pertinent and permanent. My manager and I attended separate sessions in order to soak up as much instruction as possible.
The divide and conquer strategy did not avail us at the author reception, however; not when we were outnumbered 38 to 2! The quantity and the quality of the writers present was somewhat daunting! I was hard pressed to meet all of the authors I hoped to, and did not manage to speak to our local standouts Shannon Hale (The Actor and the Housewife) and Brandon Sanderson (Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones). I was rather pleased to meet Joseph O’Neill (Netherland), Joanna Smith Rakoff (A Fortunate Age), Jonathan Stroud (Heroes of the Valley), and Carlos Ruiz Zafón (The Angel’s Game). I reminisced about the glory days of Hall of Famer Bruce Smith and the Buffalo Bills with Greg Ames (Buffalo Lockjaw), and held up the line while speaking with Katherine Howe (The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane). I was already an admirer of her outstanding book, and now that I’ve met her I am an ardent advocate!
In previous posts I wrote of my anticipation of meeting Katherine Howe as well as my mild apprehension of attending a dinner with Mehmet Murat Somer (The Kiss Murder). Howe met all of my expectations, but I didn’t know what to expect from Somer. His book was translated into English by a person who originally hailed from Salt Lake City, so there was a chance that he would be accompanied by his translator. He wasn’t; not only did Somer speak impeccable English, he had memorized the names of the dinner guests in alphabetical order! He was a cosmopolitan gentleman, holding the door open for the rest of the party, witty and amiable. Somer crosses continents and cultures with a first class deportment.
The valuable training and the opportunity to meet such esteemed authors are two wonderful parts of Winter Institute, but the true worth of attending is interacting with fellow booksellers. We are independent by nature, yet surprisingly co-operative. After meeting so many creative and open booksellers from across the country (and one from far off Sydney, Australia) I was left with a strong desire to roam from state to state, visiting as many independent bookstores as I could! One store owner was particularly helpful to me, which stands to reason since she was on the panel that discussed customer service! At the conclusion of the session I approached Kelly Justice, owner of the Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia. I introduced myself and told her that I would like to visit her store when I come to Richmond to research the novel I am writing, which is set in Virginia. She asked me if I had any contacts in Richmond and I said that I did not. Kelly said “You do now!” and handed me a business card. She inquired further about why my story was set in Virginia and in which time period. When I told her that Grandpa Art is set in the near future she plucked her card from my hand and wrote The Watch by Dennis Danvers on the back of it. Kelly recommended it to me because it is also set in Richmond in the future and Danvers, a Richmond resident, nailed the ethos of the city. I have not yet located a copy, but I will continue to search. Even if it takes me on a cross-country trek to every independent bookstore along the way!