Author Kwame Alexander set the tone for Winter Institute 11’s third and final day, when he told the crowd to “say yes to creativity” during his keynote breakfast presentation.

The Newbery Medal-winning author of The Crossover, who has written nearly two dozen books for both adults and children, told more than 600 indie booksellers that there is more than one effective way to sell a book, no matter how small the press or how obscure the author.

Alexander’s words resonated with booksellers throughout the day as they attended sessions on such topics as “The Best Thing My Store did Last Year” and “Sharing Best Practices for Selling Diverse Books.” The last official session at this year’s Winter Institute was the “Debrief,” in which two representatives of the Kansas City Leadership Center led booksellers through a series of exercises designed to better process their experiences at this year’s conference.

The Wi11 spotlight also shone on small and university presses throughout the day. During a luncheon in which a dozen small and university presses presented their favorite picks from 2016 lists, titles such as a reissue of Denise Nicholas' Freshwater Road (Agate) and several Buddhist art coloring books (Shambhala Publications) were touted.

A number of booksellers told PW their interest was piqued by University of Texas sales manager Gianna LaMorte's lively and irreverent presentation of half-a-dozen releases, including Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige (March) by Danny Alexander. LaMorte told booksellers she would fight anyone who didn't enjoy Blige's music. She also talked up the success of Don't Suck, Don't Die: Giving Up Vic Chestnutt (Oct. 2015) by Kristin Hersh. Hersh's tour for the memoir about her life with Chestnutt, a lauded songwriter who committed suicide at age 45, is the first one UTP has mounted for an author.

A number of small and university press authors signed books at an evening reception, and several drew long lines of booksellers to their table, in particular Danielle Dutton, author of Margaret the First (Catapult), and Benjamin Rybeck, author of The Sadness (Unnamed Press).

Next year’s Winter Institute will move north, to a city that truly embraces the season: Minneapolis. Winter Institute 12 will be held at the Minneapolis Hyatt Regency from January 27-30, 2017.

“Minneapolis is a great bookstore town with an incredible literary history. I think it’s a place that people will be pleased come to,” ABA CEO Oren Teicher told booksellers. He also noted that, with the city’s extensive Skyway System of enclosed elevated walkways, “You won’t even have to go outside.”