The Southern California Booksellers Association held its version of a regional trade show last month, including an educational program and the highly popular Authors Feast, a dinner where many authors dine with booksellers. But this year, for the first time, SCBA opened a small exhibition where booksellers could meet with publishers, wholesalers and other distributors.

"That was nice," said Paul Cimusz, director of retail sales for Baker & Taylor, one of the premier sponsors of the show. "We got time to connect with booksellers. It was small and intimate enough so that you didn't feel you were at a trade show."

Booksellers liked it, too. "It's so rare that you get to step out of your store, let alone get to attend something like that," said Allison Hill, general manager of Book Soup in Los Angeles. While Hill didn't think the educational programs were revolutionary, she appreciated the chance to brainstorm and connect with other booksellers. Book Soup sent 14 staffers to the Authors Feast, at which Hill said she booked an event with Glen David Gold, author of Carter Beats the Devil (Hyperion), for her store.

This year's event attracted 36 authors and 250 booksellers, publishers' reps and wholesaler employees, according to Jennifer Bigelow, SCBA executive director. "The membership has grown 58% in the last two years," she told PW.

Michael Chabon, one of the headliners at the feast, apparently never heard the W.C. Fields line about not sharing the limelight with children, because he was upstaged by his infant daughter, Ida Rose, and wife, Ayelet Waldman, author of The Big Nap (Prime Crime).

"There were at least a half-dozen unofficial participating authors," observed Bigelow. For instance, first novelist Bo Caldwell (The Distant Land of My Father, Chronicle) brought along her husband, Ron Hansen (Hitler's Niece, HarperPerennial).

"That was hot stuff," said Diane Leslie, author of Fleur De Leigh's Life of Crime (S&S), who attended the feast in her role as bookseller at Dutton's Brentwood in Los Angeles. Booksellers were assigned as author escorts for the evening; Leslie escorted Elizabeth Rosner as she went from table to table talking about Speed of Light, recently released by Ballantine.

At the end of the feast, the booksellers returned home with a goody bag loaded with books. "We give away 300 copies of most authors," said Bigelow.

Next year, SCBA plans to keep the same format: lots of educational meetings, author events and a trade show squeezed in. As the last regional convention of the season, it pays to do things a little differently. The membership and sponsors all express love of the annual Authors Feast. "It brings you back to the whole purpose of being in this business," said B&T's Cimusz.