The weather continued to disrupt Winter Institute 8 Monday, with a number of booksellers and publishers leaving the annual gathering early to beat the winter storm bearing down on Kansas City for the second time in a week. But most attendees stayed through the morning. Before introducing the nine publishers’ reps who presented their spring offerings at the Small Press Breakfast, ABA CEO Oren Teicher assured the booksellers that the institute would continue as scheduled. If necessary, he joked, Wi8 would morph into “Winter Institute 8.5” on Tuesday for those whose departures might be delayed until Wednesday.
As booksellers and publishers reps changed flights, bought train tickets, and monitored the weather throughout the day, the ABA staff tweaked the Wi8 program as needed. The Galley Room was opened up immediately after the Small Press Breakfast, so that booksellers could grab copies before they left of the books talked up by publishers’ reps at the breakfast. Previously, those titles were not going to be made available until the evening reception.
Educational sessions and panels drew booksellers throughout the day, with the ABFFE’s panel, “Banned Books, Censorship, and YA Literature” being especially popular, attracting approximately 120 booksellers. The discussion, moderated by Chris Finan of the ABFFE, featured authors Laurie Halse Anderson and Sherman Alexie, as well as bookseller Mitch Kaplan of Books & Books in Coral Gables, Fla., who engaged in a spirited discussion about the continuing challenges to YA literature, which Finan said was a “growing problem.”
“Censorship happens because people don’t know how to read,” Alexie stated, complaining that challengers to his YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian would either claim that the book contained objectionable content that it actually did not, or did not understand the context in which he used offensive language.
Anderson, two of whose YA novels have been challenged over the years, was sympathetic towards "good-hearted people" who find it “easier to demonize an entire genre of literature” rather than speak to their children about uncomfortable issues.
“Where we need to be strong is fighting people with political agendas,” Kaplan said, explaining that he feels that one of his missions as a bookseller is to educate his customers who express concerns over certain books that they have heard were objectionable in some way. Take a stand, Kaplan urged his fellow booksellers, “When you take a stand, you find a million natural allies out there.”
When a bookseller asked Kaplan what he would do if a school invited an author to speak to students, but would not allow his or her books to be sold there because of controversy, Kaplan and the other booksellers spontaneously exclaimed as one, “Find another school.” Kaplan added that he would publicize the situation and inform the school that his store would never work with them again. He would also inform the author of the situation.
“I’d still go, then I’d take over the assembly,” Alexie added, “That happened to me a couple times.”
Despite the departures of perhaps one-half of the Wi8 booksellers by Monday evening, the small & independent press reception was a lively affair, with five of the six authors scheduled present to sign their books. The event took place in a restaurant atop the Westin Hotel with floor-to-ceiling windows, treating booksellers and publishers to views of Kansas City’s skyline before the snow began to fall early Tuesday morning. Comparing Wi8 to Woodstock, “which was three days of bad weather,” Dan Cullen, ABA’s director of content, stood on a chair and thanked the booksellers for braving snow storms to get to Kansas City, and braving snow storms to stay through the evening.
“This is going to be a memorable institute,” Becky Anderson of Anderson’s Bookshops in Naperville, Ill. and ABA board president, told PW. “But what are you going to do? It’s mother nature.”
"Kudoes to the ABA," Amy Thomas of Pegasus Books in Berkeley, Calif. said, "This was looming all weekend, but everybody showed up. And I was impressed by the last-minute things [the ABA staff] did, when some of the publishers' reps had to leave."
Wi9 will be held in Seattle next year. While a firm date has not been set, ABA representatives plan on moving it back to a January time period after this year's show was moved to accommodate co-locating with CAMEX.