The second of what was decided last week would be a permanent joint trade show – the Heartland Fall Forum – was a roaring success for both the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association and the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. It was GLIBA’s turn to run the show, as 112 MIBA booksellers and 172 GLIBA booksellers descended upon the Crowne Plaza O’Hare, in Rosemont, Ill., from October 3-6 to check out the wares of 442 exhibitors from 75 companies. “It’s a fuller, richer, show. I like seeing other booksellers and other reps,” commented GLIBA member Carol Besse of Carmichael’s Books, who traveled 300 miles north from Louisville, Kent.; she reports that sales were up 12% last month at her store. It was a sentiment shared by all, including MIBA member Chuck Wilder of Broadway Books, who traveled 1,000 miles from Williston, N.D. to attend HFF; he considers both Winter Institute and HFF to be more productive for him than BEA. Wilder said that sales continue to spiral upward at his store, due to the influx of oil patch workers and their families into the area.

Maybe it was because attendees could see and hear planes flying into and out of O’Hare, but transition was in the air. Although change can be unsettling, the several booksellers looking for new locations were as upbeat as those booksellers announcing at the show that they are selling their bookstores. Sue Roegge of Chapter2 Books in Hudson, Wis. told PW that the store lost their lease; she is open to moving just about anywhere else in the Upper Midwest. “I don’t want to buy an existing bookstore; I already have a bookstore,” she said, “I just want to move to a community that needs and will support a bookstore.” Linda Bubon and Ann Christopherson were there, handing out sales flyers advertising Women & Children First; after 34 years running the Chicago store, which has sustained an increase in sales since Borders went out of business, the two are ready to retire. Sue Boucher of Lake Forest Books reported that she is moving to northern Michigan and has just found a buyer for her Chicagoland store. Boucher has a letter of intent and a contract; the closing is scheduled for two weeks from now.

After a lively opening night reception, HFF kicked into gear the next morning with an interactive plenary led by Jessilyn Norcross of McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Mich. Booksellers brainstormed on how to counter such issues as showrooming. “It’s all about making a negative situation into a positive interaction,” Norcross said, “It’s your store: you are allowed to step in if someone is taking pictures on a cell phone. Instead of allowing the sale to walk out the door, say something.” Linda Caine of Next Chapter Books & Bistro, in Northville, Mich. added, “We’re way too subtle.” She points out to “showroomers” that she pays Michigan sales taxes and Amazon does not. “It’s their responsibility to keep us here, if they like us,” she insisted.

The last time GLIBA booksellers met at the O’Hare Crowne Plaza, it was 2005, and they were treated to an impromptu visit from literary lion Studs Terkel. This time around, Jim Harrison paid a surprise visit to HFF to accept GLIBA’s Voice of the Heartland Award. Delighted booksellers gave him a standing ovation before he even spoke. Harrison’s bawdy remarks touched upon his favorite subjects: wine, women, his cabin, and books. “I’m still writing, because there’s nothing else to do,” he joked.

Regional nonfiction from Midwestern presses excited HFF booksellers this year, especially a book relating to Native American culture from Milkweed Editions and several titles from Wisconsin Historical Society Press. “Milkweed and Wisconsin Historical Society are both kicking ass these days,” remarked Lisa Baudoin of Books & Co. in Oconomowoc, Wis., one of many booksellers buzzing about Milkweed’s Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Oct.), as well as WHSP’s Wheel Fever: How Wisconsin Became a Great Bicycling State by Jesse Gant and Nicholas Hoffman (Sept.) and The Quiet Season: Remembering Country Winters by Jerry Apps (Oct.)

“People are hungry for good cultural history that the larger presses aren’t publishing,” Baudoin said.

Demaris Brinton from Apostle Islands Booksellers in Bayfield, Wis., ordered 20 copies from WHSP of Michael Perry’s From the Top: Brief Transmissions from Tent Show Radio (Nov.), saying, “If Mike Perry is involved, I know it’s worth buying. I like his humor: it’s positive and kind.”

Even though it was unseasonably warm in Chicago, the holiday season still was on booksellers’ minds; all queried anticipate a merry one, especially with such titles as An Otis Christmas by Loren Long (Oct.), and Snowflakes: A Pop-Up Book (Jumping Jack Press/Ingram Publisher Services) by Jennifer P. Chuchkoff, illustrated and engineered by Yevgeniya Yeretskaya. “I’ve done most of my ordering for the fall,” Robin Allen of Forever Books in St. Joseph, Mich. noted, “I come here to talk to other booksellers and to look for funky, mid-list Christmas books I might not know about otherwise, like that fantastic pop-up book.”

As HFF came to a close Sunday afternoon, Cynthia Compton of 4 Kids Books in Indianapolis, who’s attended 12 regional shows and facilitated the 2011 decision to hold a joint show, pronounced this one an unqualified success. “There’s a sense of a family reunion,” she said, “We’re not east coast, we’re not west coast; we’re in the heartland. We have a lot in common and even share our customers – like someone who lives in Indianapolis, but summers in northern Michigan.”