A substantial increase in attendance over last year’s event buoyed an enthusiastic Southern California Independent Booksellers Association annual trade show and Authors Feast in Los Angeles at the Biltmore Hotel on Saturday, October 24.

SCIBA’s executive director Jennifer Bigelow reported that with 45 bookstores represented at the author luncheon and education seminars and 164 guests at the Feast and awards presentations, this year’s event was one of the most successful in recent years. Nearly half of SCIBA’s bookstore members attended. “They need each other now more than ever,” Bigelow said. “They need the networking, the education and the chance to see their reps.” Author attendance was down, however, from 63 in 2008 to 52 on Saturday, which Bigelow attributes to fewer submissions by publishers and a more discriminating author selection process by the SCIBA board.

Local HarperCollins sales rep and SCIBA board member Gabriel Barillas emceed the packed author’s luncheon at noon, which featured Joseph Kanon (Stardust; Atria), Norman Ollestad (Crazy for the Storm; HarperCollins), Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan; Simon Pulse), and Kadir Nelson and Sharon Robinson (Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson; Scholastic).

Robinson, daughter of the baseball legend, discussed the family home in Connecticut where the Testing the Ice is set. Racial discrimination was still rampant in 1955 when the Robinsons attempted to move into the all-white enclave. “Andrea Simon, whose husband was one of Simon & Schuster’s founders, helped us find a house in Connecticut after we were denied,” Robinson said. She acknowledged Nelson’s illustrative contributions to the picture book and told the audience that her inspiration for Testing the Ice was ensured by the knowledge that he was to be its artist. During a slide show presentation an animated Robinson read the first several pages of text to the crowd of booksellers in much the same way that an announcer would recap plays during a baseball game, dramatically and with great panache.

YA fantasy author Westerfeld emphasized how pleased he is that Leviathan includes 50 illustrations; his talk focused on the power of such artwork in all novels. “There’s no reference to Sherlock Holmes’ deerstalker cap in the text of Doyle’s books, but when his illustrator Sidney Padget added it to Holmes’ attire he created an image that is still legendary today,” Westerfeld said. He acknowledged the gradual disappearance of illustrations from YA fiction. “When that happened kids were told, ‘That’s so you can use your imagination!’ Well, you know what?” Westerfeld exclaimed. “That was bullshit.”

Book Soup staffers were out in force at the trade show, happily accepting congratulations from well-wishers on the store’s expected sale to Vroman’s and the end to nearly a year of uncertainty since the death of founder Glenn Goldman. Buyer Tosh Berman offered an eclectic mix of picks for strong holiday sales, including Dennis Hopper’s Photographs, 1961 — 1967 (Taschen America), which retails as a signed limited edition for $700. “I think we can sell ten copies,” Berman predicted. Other titles that Book Soup is banking on are The Death of Bunny Munro: A Novel, by Nick Cave (Faber & Faber); Moomin Book Four: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, by Tove Jansson (Drawn & Quarterly); and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals (Little, Brown).

ABA’s president Michael Tucker and COO Len Vlahos, as well as NCIBA executive director Hut Landon were on hand at the Biltmore to mingle and chat with booksellers, many of whom asked them about the much-touted Sony eReader for indies. “We’re just waiting on the third-party distribution arrangement at this point,” Tucker said. “Hopefully we’ll have something to announce within the next week.” Added Vlahos, “It has to happen in the next seven to ten days." When asked to comment on the ongoing book price wars between Amazon and Wal-Mart Tucker replied, “Our letter to the Department of Justice was the statement.”

The inaugural Authors Feast keynote speech was delivered by Elizabeth Kostova, author of the forthcoming novel The Swan Thieves (Little Brown, January 2010). Following her talk Adrian Newell of Warwick’s and John Evans of Diesel Books announced the first recipients of the Glenn Goldman Booksellers Scholarships. Judy Kruger of Once Upon a Time in Montrose and Catherine Linka of Flintridge Books & Coffee House were respectively given the scholarships to attend next year’s SCIBA trade show and Authors Feast in Los Angeles, and ABA’s Winter Institute 5 in San Jose.

In another first, the Glenn Goldman Art & Architecture awards, presented by Newell and Barillas, were also awarded. “Art was part of Glenn’s everyday life,” Barillas said of his late friend. “It was important to him, and I think he took it for granted that his community felt the same way. Glenn believed that artists were important, and he recognized that he lived in a rich landscape that was enriched by the art and architecture that sprang from it. This belief, and his sense of aesthetics, made Glenn a transformative power for Los Angeles.” The two winners (there was a tie) were Annie Leibovitz for Annie Leibovitz at Work (Random House) and Paul Ecclesine for Faces of Sunset Boulevard (Santa Monica Press).

Lisa See won SCIBA’s fiction award for Shanghai Girls (Random House). The nonfiction winner was Celebrating with Julienne by Susan Campoy (Prospect Park Books); the author died in March and her daughter Cynthia Campoy accepted on her behalf by saying, “My mother would have loved this. She turned her passion into her vocation.” Too Many Toys, by David Shannon (The Blue Sky Press) won in the children’s illustrated category and Michael Grant took home the children’s novel award for Hunger (HarperCollins). The T. Jefferson Parker Mystery Award was given by Parker to San Diego writer Deborah Ginsberg for The Grift (Shaye Areheart). “This award will always mean more to me than anything else,” Ginsberg told the audience. “I’m fortunate to be part of this warm and wonderful bookselling community, and I wouldn’t have a career without your support.”

It was an emotional evening, but an exciting one, with the general consensus among Southern California booksellers that the upcoming holiday season will be rewarding, financially redemptive and a reflection of their belief in the power of the printed word.