Winter Institute – a common name for a most uncommon conference. Every year, the American Booksellers Association brings together 500 member booksellers to talk about our common issues, learn from one another, hear from publishers about their upcoming books and meet authors. What could be better? (Well, it’s free!)
Elizabeth Merritt and I flew off to the conference in Kansas City last week with our good friends from Eight Cousins Bookstore, Carol Chittenden and Sara Hines. Kansas City had just been hit with one of their worst snowstorms in recent history, but the airport had reopened and off we went, laughing and talking all the way, and arriving just in time for an opening reception featuring delicious hot Kansas beef sandwiches in the beautiful and historic Union Station.
Winter Institute is not really a glitzy conference. It’s all about the books. There are opportunities for tremendous discussions with really passionate booksellers, publishers and authors. We talk about how we can all work together to recognize and promote really good new authors, run our businesses better and utilize new technologies. One of our best discussions was about the exciting changes in the national core curriculum standards in our schools.
There were excellent keynote speeches by Daniel Pink, author of To Sell is Human, on the new art and science of selling in the internet age when we are overwhelmed with information, and Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers, who spoke about his upcoming book, David and Goliath.
Oh, but then there’s the author reception!! 70 authors of books being published this spring and summer all in one room! We had a chance to talk with Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle and Half-Broke Horses, who has visited us in the past. We can’t wait to read her new novel, The Silver Star, which will be published this June. What a pleasure to meet Italian chef Lidia Bastianich, who has just written a beautiful children’s book, Nonna’s Birthday Surprise.
Speaking of Lidia, there are great restaurants in Kansas City! On the first night, I met my niece, Sophie and her boyfriend, who took me to the unpretentious and utterly delicious Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque restaurant. In 1974, author Calvin Trillin called it “…possibly the single best restaurant in the world.” We feasted on their specialty, “burnt ends”. The next night, we were invited to dinner by the publishers of Sourcebooks at Pierpont’s Restaurant at Union Station, where we enjoyed delicious Kansas beef and met Cathie Pelletier, author of a wonderful new novel set in Maine, The One-Way Bridge, and Dr. Laura Bates, who tells the story of her program teaching Shakespeare to men in solitary confinement in her new book Shakespeare Saved My Life.
We packed 5 boxes of review copies of books for the upcoming spring and summer seasons and can’t wait to dive into them! One of the joys of working in a bookstore is that we receive review copies of books months before they are published so we can read and review the books and make decisions on what to buy for the store. I grabbed Kate Atkinson’s new book, Life After Life, to read while I burned off a few calories in the hotel’s excellent gym.
The conference came to an abrupt end for us as another huge snowstorm was predicted for Kansas, and, with much regret, we left a few hours early. But our early departure made for one of our most fun moments of our trip! Elizabeth, Carol, Sara and I sat rather sadly in the airport, each on our laptops or with book in hand. I looked up and saw a familiar face, and smiled at her, thinking she was another bookseller leaving early. Next time I looked up from my laptop, I noticed Carol talking with her and – suddenly – it clicked. It was Laurie Halse Anderson!! One of my favorite children’s and young adult authors! Her books, Speak and Wintergirls are incredibly moving and powerful novels for teens about the effects of abuse and eating disorders respectively. Chains and Forge tell the story of slavery during the American Revolution through the eyes of 13 year old Isabel, a slave in New York. What a way to end our journey!
We are back now and the boxes of review copies of books have just arrived, sorely tempting us to open them instead of finishing our annual store inventory, which began the day after we got home. We’ll be talking about many of these new books with you in the coming months. We came away from this inspiring conference with so many great ideas, many of which we’ll be implementing in the coming months as we plan for a great 2013!
We have a wonderful selection of books to inspire you in 2013!
Kids and parents love our bright new toy area downstairs!
Check this out! Just in at the store: Puppet on a stick, great for storytelling, kidding around, teacher’s ‘talking stick’, puppet shows…
Check out the video by clicking on link below:
Check out our fabulous collection of sale books, these are not used books, some coffee table books with beautiful photographs, some fiction, cookbooks, history, art and children’s titles! Something for everyone, get your holiday shopping started now! All drastically reduced from original cover prices!