In the Grassroots Publishing panel at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association trade show, held October 2-4 in Portland, Ore., Elly Blue and Joe Biel from the local Microcosm Publishing company advised the crowd that “every title you publish is part of your identity.” They encouraged people to focus on the ground game, not the air game—think punk rock—and above all, “be excited about what you do because that’s infectious, that’s how you start a revolution.”
The infectious joy for all things books was palpable at the show, which drew a larger than expected turnout. Though overall attendance numbers were not available at press time, specific events evidenced the strong showing, such as the Kids' Table Dinner, which drew 172 attendees rather than the expected 120.
The good mood at the show was unquestionably bolstered by the comforting figures coming out of the retail sector. At the PNBA general meeting president Tegan Tigani told members she was “proud to represent” PNBA, especially given all the positive national media attention independent bookstores had been receiving because of the fact that store closings had leveled off.
Projections also show that PNBA is, from an operating standpoint, well in the black for this current year. The stat is a welcome change for the show, which was operating at a loss as little as five years ago. According to PNBA marketing director Brian Juenemann, this year’s Holiday Catalogue drew the highest publisher participation since 2007. The digest, which is a major revenue drive for the association, this year features 154 titles; he said the publication this year represents a “great balance of national and Northwest [books], children’s, you name it.”
During Friday’s Celebration of Authors lunch, attendees got the opportunity to hear from 10 Northwest authors; each was granted five minutes to wow the crowd. Emmy winner and Portland radio station host Sheila Hamilton discussed writing her debut, All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness, which chronicles her husband’s struggles with bipolar disorder and his eventual suicide. Portland author Ellen Urbani, who recently finished a multi-city tour for her much-lauded debut novel Landfall, wrapped up the event with a stirring talk about Hurricane Katrina—Landfall is set in New Orleans during the aftermath of the storm—and the importance of booksellers.
Throughout the day on Friday, publishers’ reps presented their respective fall and winter picks. Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers’s The Day the Crayons Came Home was assured to be a holiday favorite by the PRH rep who talked up the picture book. Moira Fowley-Doyle’s Dublin-set debut The Accident Season was also touted, according to its rep, as “perfect for adults who read YA.” Ivan Doig’s last novel, Last Bus to Wisdom, was a much-buzzed title, as well as two music-based memoirs, Elvis Costello’s Unfaithful Music and Portlandia star (and Sleater-Kinney member) Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl.
In a brand new panel, the PNBA Awards Committee, led by Billie Bloebaum of Portland’s A Children’s Place, gave the audience a sneak peak at what goes into choosing the six winners of the annual PNBA Awards. Each member of the committee presented a book that they personally hoped would make it to the final round of voting, though of course nothing was guaranteed. At this point in the selection process—over 270 titles submitted for consideration—some of the favorites include Megan Kruse’s debut Call Me Home; Martha Brockenbrough's YA crossover set in the 1930's, The Game of Love and Death; and Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Small Backs of Children, a book full of “prose steeped in the body” according to Powell's bookseller Dianah Hughley.
Next year PNBA heads back to Tacoma, Wash., and is set for September 30-October 2.