GLBA: REAFFIRMING THE "HEALING POWER OF THE WRITTEN WORD"
It was very much a planes, trains and automobiles scenario as booksellers, publishers and authors converged on Indianapolis September 20—22 for the Great Lakes Booksellers Association annual trade show and convention. Despite some initial reservations owing to the terrorist attacks of September 11 as well as problems with book shipments and travel arrangements, the folks who did show up, came, as Mary Yockey of Anderson's Bookshops in Naperville, Ill., said, "to get away, to get together and to get back to books."
Again and again over the three days, participants talked about the importance of art, literature and community in times of crisis, and professed a determination to reclaim a sense of normalcy. For the ABA's Oren Teicher and Carl Lennertz, the trip from New York was a step in the right direction.
"I was apprehensive a bit," Teicher told PW, "but it really has been like therapy. It's cathartic. I think it's important for all of us to try to get back to our normal lives as much as we possibly can."
"When we got into our first workshop on Thursday I felt almost normal for the first time in 10 days," concurred Lennertz.
Given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding this year's show, there were surprisingly few author cancellations. Jonathan Franzen made it in from New York to kick off the tour for his acclaimed novel, The Corrections, and fellow New Yorker A. Manette Ansay scrapped her prepared remarks to read movingly from an essay called "Home" at the Friday night banquet. Michael Moore, R.L. Stine and Naomi Wolf could not make it to Indianapolis, but GLBA was able to draw from a large pool of homegrown and regional talent. Craig Holden pinch-hit for Wolf at Friday night's Booksellers Banquet, and writers (and illustrators) drove in from all over the area. Caldecott-winning illustrator David Small carpooled down from Michigan with his wife and frequent collaborator, Sarah Stewart, and novelist Margaret Willey. There were similar stories being told all over the hotel and show floor.
"I cannot express adequately the appreciation I feel to all those authors and presenters who had the commitment and courage to come to Indianapolis," said Jim Dana, GLBA's executive director. "And it took courage. They made our show—they saved our show—and we will be forever grateful to them. It takes people willing to make the decision to go ahead and act as though things will be all right in order for things to ever be all right again."
The Indiana University Press won the GLBA Voice of the Heartland award Thursday evening. Scott Russell Sanders was the MC. Other winners were as follows: Fiction—Carrie Brown for Hatbox Baby (Algonquin); Children's—Sarah Stewart (author) and Caldecott winner David Small (illustrator) for The Journey (FSG); and General—Bill Vlasic and Bradley A. Stertz for Taken for a Ride (Morrow & Harper Business).
There was no getting away from current events on the show floor. From conversations with reps and booksellers alike, it was clear that people had begun to move from a sense of incredulity to a desire for a greater understanding of motives, origins and prescriptions. The Trim Associates booth was attracting a lot of attention with two Pluto Press titles (distributed by Stylus in the U.S.): Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America, and International Terrorism by John K. Cooley and Reaping the Whirlwind: The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan by Michael Griffin.
There was also strong interest at the Miller Trade Book Marketing table in Larry P. Goodson's Afghanistan's Endless War: State Failure, Regional Politics and the Rise of the Taliban (Univ. of Washington) and Paul R. Pillar's Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy (Brookings Institute).
Seven Locks Press was racking up back orders on an eight-year-old title from its backlist, Islamic Fundamentalism: The New Global Threat by Mohammad Mohaddessin. James Riordan of Seven Locks said the book was going back to press with new updates and would be available shortly.
Purely patriotic books seemed to be in short supply among GLBA exhibitors, which might explain the extraordinary interest in Kathy Wagoner's little book, 365 Salutes to America (Sourcebooks). The publisher sold 70,000 copies of the title in three days and ordered another printing.
Besides Ansay's much-talked-about performance at Friday's banquet, many booksellers were excited by other authors who appeared. People were reading aloud to each other in seminar rooms from Michael Martone's very funny, wholly fictional, tour of the Hoosier state, Blue Guide to Indiana (FC2). And Indiana native Philip Gulley, whose first novel, Home to Harmony, brought comparisons to Garrison Keillor (and whose second novel, Just Shy of Harmony, will be released by HarperCollins in November), stole the show at the Saturday breakfast.
This year's show launched a new format for the GLBA. After Friday's traditional industry get-together, the show's organizers reconfigured the floor and opened the doors to the general public for the first-ever Heartland Book Festival. It featured readings, publisher displays, special events and an on-site bookstore offering selected titles from the GLBA catalogue as well as books by most of the featured authors.
While some publishers privately griped about the challenge of displaying wares that were not for sale, John Mesjak, the sales representative for Publishers Group West, came up with his own unusual solution. Mesjak offered any of the books in the PGW booth to Festival goers for a $5 donation to the American Red Cross and raised over $500. His colleagues in the Holtzbrinck booth followed suit and raised another $250.
GLBA's Jim Dana admitted that attendance numbers were likely down and said, "I think this is a year when numbers don't count. But the experience does. I talked to a lot of people who said, 'I almost didn't come, I didn't really want to be here, but now that I'm here, I'm glad I came. It's been really good for me.' I think the really positive aspect of this year's show was the realization of what Terry Whitaker from Viewpoint Books in Columbus, Ind., said: 'Booksellers believe in the healing power of the written word.'" —Brad Zellar
MPBA HOLDS HEALING SHOW
I went with misgivings," said Betsy Burton of the King's English in Salt Lake City, who was named Bookseller of the Year at the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association meeting in Denver over the long weekend of September 13—16. "I felt like I should be at home with my family, but when I got there, I felt like I was with my family."
Burton echoed others when she told PW, "There was a strong sense of community, and it felt right to be there and to be carrying on. I always felt proud to be a bookseller, but I felt more so that weekend. It reminded me that we're a vital part in the chain of freedom of expression."
Lisa Knudsen, executive director of MPBA, agreed that the mood was "somber, but booksellers and exhibitors were so grateful that we'd gone ahead."
Attendance was affected by the World Trade Center and Pentagon disasters just days earlier: while 82% of the pre-registered exhibitors were present, only 52% of the pre-registered booksellers attended. "We had been sending out e-mails alerting people about the need to cancel some events, such as the banquet, and the probability of fewer authors [because of the air travel ban], so bookstores sent fewer people," said Knudsen. "Interestingly, exhibitors said they had the same or more orders placed as they did the previous year."
The streamlining of events was such a hit with attendees that the MPBA plans to do it again next year. "We got so many compliments on the intimacy of the event that we're not going to plan an off-site banquet next year," Knudsen told PW. "We're going to plan a more intimate series of events in the hotel."
The streamlining continued when all seminars were cleared from Saturday so that the trade show would have no competition. "I was really pleasantly surprised at how many booksellers were there," said Knudsen, noting that most of the educational programs filled Thursday.
Doug Hall, author of Jump Start Your Business Brain: Win More, Lose Less, and Make More Money (F&W), was scheduled to conduct a seminar but was unable to get to Denver. Instead of canceling, he did a videoconference from his offices in Ohio. "He's such a generous guy," said Knudsen. "It was wonderful; everyone was enraptured. Not only because of the content but because he went to the trouble to be there for us." Hall's business philosophy of how success can be hampered by fear was particularly stirring in the context of current events.
Attendees of the Author and Illustrator Breakfast on Sunday found inspiring content. Avi, who lives in Boulder, was a quick substitution for his friend James Howe. He read a letter from Howe before launching into his own speech on terrorism and tolerance. "Avi was a wonderful speaker," said Knudsen. "He read a portion of Pat Robertson's recent missive that was full of intolerance and hatred and then, with the cadence of a minister, he responded to it." He was followed by Patricia Polacco, who continued the theme of tolerance and warned how hatred can be instilled in children. "Everyone was shell-shocked and in a daze when they arrived," said Burton. "But after the inspiring breakfast, I think everyone was feeling good about being there."
The MPBA also gave out its annual Gordon Saull awards to Simon & Schuster's Terry Warnick as Sales Rep of the Year and to Burton as Bookseller of the Year.
This year the MPBA introduced a new award, the MPBA Award for Extraordinary Contribution to the Literary Community. "We wanted to honor people without calling it a lifetime achievement award and not give it every year," said Buster Keenan, owner of Boulder Bookstore, Boulder, Colo., and MPBA's treasurer. "We want to reward ongoing good work from people who don't fall into the category of booksellers and reps." The award went to Marilyn and Tom Auer of the Bloomsbury Review. —Kevin Howell
SEBA'S PATRIOTIC 25TH ANNIVERSARY
This year's Southeastern Booksellers Association show in Memphis was planned to focus on the organization's 25th anniversary, with attendance expected to be at the high end of the usual 2,500—3,000 turnout. The terrorist attacks on September 11 changed that scenario.
Still, although several authors were forced to cancel appearances and some booksellers sat out this gathering, attendance was solid, which executive director Wanda Jewell characterized as "reaffirming." Author James W. Hall (Blackwater Sound, Minotaur, Jan. 2002) captured the weekend's tone when, at Friday's breakfast, he said he had never before attended a trade show as "an act of patriotism."
Signs of patriotism were everywhere. A busload of SEBA goers attended Thursday night's 25th anniversary celebration for Mary Gay Shipley's That Bookstore in Blytheville, from Blytheville, Ark., which featured Pulitzer Prize—winning political cartoonist and first-time novelist Doug Marlette (The Bridge, HarperCollins). It opened with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer by Rev. Pamela Jean Estes, who asked divine guidance for "bringing from chaos order." Saturday's popular breakfast speaker was Lorraine Johnson-Coleman (Larissa's Bread Book, Rutledge Hill).
In the exhibit hall (boasting full attendance of all preregistered New York publishing houses), patriotic books and other timely indicators drew the most ordering attention. Sleeping Bear, a first-time exhibitor from Michigan, scored a hit with the children's alphabet book A Is for America by Devin Scillian, with illustrations by Pam Carroll. "Almost as soon as the exhibits opened Saturday morning, 100 copies were ordered by Peaches Bookstore in Dalton, Ga.," publisher Brian Lewis told PW.
Rick Bragg served as the keynote speaker at Saturday's Time Warner-sponsored supper, where he announced he would be curtailing the October portion of his tour for Ava's Man (Knopf) because of his New York Times assignment to Pakistan. But not all authors were able to make it. The cancellations by all three children's authors slated for Saturday's Book and Author Luncheon prompted Anne Ginkel of Hobbit Hall in Atlanta to gather her store's storyteller Charles Teer and Ingram's marketing and client services manager Nichole Greer to improvise a replacement sing-along.
The show collected $3,000 for Red Cross Relief, a sum SEBA will match for a total donation of $6,000.—Bob Summer