Throughout this year's 28th annual New England Booksellers Association (NEBA) trade show, held in Boston's two-story World Trade Center October 5—7, from the industry luncheon featuring lifetime achievement award winner David McCullough, author of John Adams (S&S), and keynote speaker Don Weisberg, president of Random House sales & operations, to author breakfasts—featuring, among others, Vernon Jordan, author of Vernon Can Read! (Public Affairs) and New England Book Award winner Elinor Lipman, author of The Dearly Departed (Random)—the operative word was "hope."

McCullough, who received a standing ovation for his remarks, said that he woke up the Monday after the attacks and decided, "No, I'm not going to let those vermin keep me from doing what I have to do." He was the first of many writers throughout the weekend to commend booksellers for "bringing the whole world of ideas and ideals to your customers."

Despite the events of September 11 and the show's later-than-usual date, bookseller attendance held steady with last year—1,540. And judging by the number of raffle entries—one order, one entry—orders at this year's show were up 25%. Booksellers were also responsible for filling the coffers of the Boston Adult Literacy Fund in even bigger numbers than before. By donating $1 for every signed book that they took at the show, they raised more than $5,500 for the local literacy group.

As at the other regionals held this fall, the number of exhibit booths declined. NEBA executive director Rusty Drugan attributed the decrease to a general downturn in sales caused by ordering cutbacks at Ingram and Borders. "It had nothing to do with us," he told PW, adding "the nice thing about it was that the bookseller-exhibitor ratio was almost two to one."

For most attendees, the show occurred in a period of relative calm. "It was the first regional show fully recovered from the events of September 11," commented Drugan. "Some authors canceled, but no exhibitors."

Because most booksellers and publishers had left the show on Sunday, before news spread that the U.S. had begun bombing in Afghanistan, the quiet but upbeat mood continued throughout the show. Still, the tragedy was seldom far from most attendees' minds. For the first time, NEBA had its own exhibit booth at the show, and used it to display suggested titles relevant to recent events. The organization has not yet decided how it will more formally commemorate the attacks.

Most of Friday's programs opened with a nod to September 11, and there was a moment of silence at the industry luncheon. At the New England Book Awards ceremony, which, in another first, was held during the trade show, many writers paid tribute to the tragedy, including literary excellence award winner John Edgar Wideman, author of Hoop Roots (Houghton Mifflin), who read a new short story about two office workers trapped in the WTC. The death of longtime bookseller Bruce MacMillan of the Broadside Bookshop in Northampton, Mass., was also marked by a moment of silence preceding the NEBA annual meeting on Saturday afternoon, and Elinor Lipman read a eulogy for him—he was her local bookseller—at the Sunday breakfast.

Although Friday, as usual, was jam-packed with educational sessions, there was a lighter schedule on both Saturday and Sunday, to give booksellers more time to browse the exhibit areas. The changed strategy worked for Craig Popelars, marketing director at Algonquin Books, who couldn't even give away all his galleys last year. "This is definitely better," he told PW. "There are more people, and there's a lot more traffic and enthusiasm." Most of the programs centered on the bookstore basics needed to make New England's first-ever regional book festival a success—Read Around New England, Read Around New York, which will take place in October 2002. NEBA president Donna Urey, owner of White Birch Books in North Conway Village, N.H., who has worked on the festival for the past two years, described it as "a celebration of books, bookstores and authors, with readings in New England and New York City. We think it's very appropriate for this region; we don't need another Boston-based festival."

Popular workshops included ABA CEO Avin Domnitz's day-long presentation on bookstore finances, budgeting and cash flow, and another on how a big book happens, featuring Anita Diamant, author of The Red Tent; Walker and Co. president and publisher George Gibson, Simon & Schuster senior v-p/marketing Michael Selleck and booksellers Roxanne Coady of R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn., and Urey. There were also workshops on planning author events, using co-op, reading groups and handselling children's books, as well as an in-depth look at ABA's new marketing service, Local Marketing Intelligence, conducted by ABA's Jill Perlstein and Coady, who was one of 20 booksellers in the pilot program.

Other writers who spoke at the show included New England Book Award winners Robert Finch for nonfiction and Joan Bauer for young adult, and novelists Suzanne Berne, author of A Perfect Arrangement (Algonquin), and Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls (Knopf). The children's author and illustrator dinner featured Kate DiCamillo, Gail Gibbons, Mary Ann Hoberman and Michael Emberley.

In other news, the results of the recent NEBA board elections were announced: the new president is Linda Ramsdell, owner of the Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick, Vt.; v-p, Susan Novotny, owner of the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, N.Y.; treasurer, Peter Sevenair, senior buyer for trade books at Brown University Bookstore in Providence; and clerk, John Muse, sales representative for Simon & Schuster. Karen Gudmundson of HarperCollins received the Saul Gilman Award for outstanding New England sales representative, and Pat Koen accepted an award to Koen Book Company for providing shipping service to the ABA's Prescription for Reading Program.

While no big book emerged at this year's trade show, bookseller enthusiasm will insure continued legs for McCullough's John Adams, which has been on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 20 weeks. As Michael Katzenbach, owner of Bear Pond Books in Stowe, Vt., told PW, "I've never seen a trade book sell so well or so consistently other than a regional Vermont book."

Given the tears in booksellers' eyes when Vernon Jordan finished his talk at the Saturday breakfast, no doubt Vernon Can Read! is also destined for strong holiday sales in New England, as is John Edgar Wideman's Hoop Roots and Anita Diamant's Good Harbor (Scribner), which shipped too late to be at the show.

But NEBA, as Gilda Bruckman of New Words Bookstore in Cambridge, Mass., pointed out, is as much about community as it is about books. "I come here," she said, in between discussing the books on display at the NEBA booth, "to see my friends."