The California Independent Booksellers Alliance hustled attendees between author events, rep picks, tech tips, a Drag Story Hour session on hosting controversial events, and soirées including a small press bingo night during two jammed packed Fall Fest days September 27-28.

The centerpiece of every show is the books and CALIBA’s author lineup included a California–focused panel of Obi Kaufmann, whose Deserts of California (Heyday Books) complements his California Field Atlas; David Kipen, editor of Dear California: The Golden State in Diaries and Letters (Stanford University Press, out now) and the founder of the bilingual lending library Libros Schmibros in L.A.; skateboarder José Vadi, whose Chipped (Catapult, April 2024) is a memoir-in-essays about an iconic Cali sport; and Macarthur Fellow Jason de Léon, who writes about human smuggling in Soldiers and Kings (Viking, March 2024).

At an Indie All-Star breakfast, CALIBA board president and Bookshop Santa Cruz head book buyer Melinda Powers introduced what she called “a fantastic group of authors” championed by independent booksellers. Viet Thanh Nguyen, whose memoir A Man of Two Faces (Grove Atlantic, out now) is longlisted for a National Book Award; Stephanie Land, whose memoir Class (Atria/One Signal, Nov.) returns to themes in her 2019 Maid; Alex Michaelides came from Greece to talk about his new thriller The Fury (Celadon, Jan. 2024); and The Incendiaries author R. O. Kwon introduced her forthcoming Exhibit (Riverhead, May 2024), about ambition and desire between two artists. Asked for her take, Stacy Gould of Ruby’s Books (Folsom) didn’t know which to read first: “They all made me want to read their books.”

Artist mimi tempestt delivered a show-stopper of a slam piece, the title poem from The Delicacy of Embracing Spirals (City Lights, Oct.), one of PW’s Most Anticipated Poetry Books for fall. Tempestt performed the piece from memory: “It’s in my bones now,” she said of the poem. Tempestt’s reading kicked off a lunchtime panel moderated by Jhoanna Belfer of Bel Canto Books (Long Beach, Ca.).

Although the 2023 holiday season has only begun, Belfer’s panel previewed buzzy books of 2024. Matthew Blake, whose manuscript for Anna O. (Harper, Jan. 2024) set off a bidding war that garnered 16 international offers in four hours, said “masters of the unexpected twist” like Agatha Christie inspired his thriller about a sleepwalking murderer. Téa Obreht, who came to the U.S. from the former Yugoslavia in 1997, at age 12, reflected on how the lore she heard as a child helped shape her climate refugee story, The Morningside (Random House, March 2024).

Claire Oshetsky reflected on becoming a novelist after age 60 (“I will have spent many more years as a reader than as a writer”) and crafting a troubling but not hopeless story of accidental gun violence in Poor Deer (HarperCollins/Ecco, Jan. 2024). The final presenter, Yangsze Choo, spoke about the origins of her detective story The Fox Wife (Henry Holt & Co., Feb. 2024) in the shamanistic roots and promiscuous interpretations of the “shapeshifters of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean literature.”

In the exhibit hall, Simon & Schuster ran out of Jesmyn Ward’s Let Us Descend. Bookseller Katie Achero of Ink Spell Books (Half Moon Bay) sought out Such a Fun Age author Kiley Reid’s new Come and Get It (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), and PRH touted Kelly Link’s debut novel The Book of Love (Random House, Feb. 2024), Percival Everett’s Huck Finn reinvention James (March 2024), and Jill Foulston’s translation of Alba de Céspedes’ Her Side of the Story, with an afterword by Elena Ferrante (Astra House, Nov.). At the Norton table, readers could get Jill Lepore’s The Deadline or Ben Goldfarb’s Crossings (about infrastructure, animals, and Hollywood Hills mountain lion P–22), but everyone had to wait a few more days for Michael Lewis’s embargoed Going Infinite.

Beyond Books

On the show floor, publisher sales reps and vendors got acquainted with booksellers. At Edelweiss/Above the Treeline, software developer Claire Fields hoped to interest willing participants in testing “the beta phase of the new catalog view software,” which will help the company update the everyday catalog experience.

Caleb Haag, program director of Edelweiss’s nonprofit Legacy division, talked about Legacy’s summer internships for people of color in publishing and bookselling. Sponsored by Edelweiss, Legacy will fund 10 applicants to gain experience at BIPOC-owned and -run publishers and bookstores. The program aims to mentor career starters and career changers who identify as Black, Brown, Indigenous, and POC, and application information will be available in the year ahead.

Basil Bookseller Software, a Georgia–based point of sale and inventory system, also was touting new developments. V-p of operations Mike McKnight said Basil established “brand new integration with Squarespace,” to make it a handy tool for pop-ups, bookmobiles, and fairs that use Square in offsite settings. Like many vendors from outside the region, McKnight is participating in several trade shows this season, in addition to Winter Institute.

New Horizons for Longtime Reps

CALIBA made a toast to three sales representatives—Scholastic sales rep Roz Hilden, Penguin sales rep and PW rep of the year nominee Wendy Pearl, and Hachette sales rep Tom McIntyre—who are retiring this year. Pearl said PRH’s voluntary severance offer program for employees aged 60–plus eased her decision, and McIntyre commented that he’ll be working on a novel. From the crowd, someone joked that retirement should be deemed “rewirement.”

A Scholastic-sponsored lunch and author panel moderated by Brein Lopez of Children’s Book World (Los Angeles)—which featured authors Mason Deaver (Okay, Cupid), Booki Trivat (Meet You on Mercer Street), Ali Terese (Free Period), and Joanna Ho (On the Tip of a Wave)—doubled as a surprise party for Hilden.

Maureen Palacios of Once Upon a Time Bookstore (Montrose, Ca.) and Mark Adam of San Marino Toy & Book Shoppe (San Marino, Ca.) composed and distributed an affectionate song about Hilden’s desire for international travel in her retirement. Palacios led the assembled crowd of booksellers in a singalong, to the tune of “Jingle Bells,” “No more orders lost/ No more books to sell/ No more urgent late-night calls/ Just a travel bug to quell.”

Hilden’s informal celebration also involved a star-studded montage compilation of authors’ and booksellers’ well-wishes. Seated at a table with colleagues, Hilden remained remarkably composed amid all the sentiment. Brian Selznick, David Shannon, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Mac Barnett, Raina Telgemeier, and Dav Pilkey appeared in the congratulatory video, as did Lauren Savage (The Book Bug), Palacios and her daughter Jessica Palacios (Once Upon a Time), Pam Page (Pages: A Bookstore), Susan Reckers (Rakestraw Books), Angie Kelsey (The Book Seller), Stacey Haerr (Warwick’s), and Valerie Lewis (Hicklebee’s).

Further coverage of CALIBA’s children’s and YA book events will appear in Children’s Bookshelf.