Monday, September 29, 2008

NAIBA-Con: The Speed Recap

Can I truly ecap the amazingness that was NAIBA-Con 2008 in a blog post on a day when I have a million errands to run? Nay, I cannot. But I can give you the highlights.

THE BUS: NAIBA generously chartered a bus for us NYC folks to get to Cherry Hill. It was a small but talkative crowd, and I felt a little like the best parts of high school field trips -- not for the last time this weekend...

THE EARLY BIRD SUPPER: Brian Selznick (author of Hugo Cabret and more recently collaborator on The Runaway Dolls) is freakin' hilarious. He got co-author Ann Martin (of Babysitters Club fame) involved in a very silly scripted speech that had everyone's face hurting. Ask any bookseller who was there for his impression of a doll speaking into a microphone.

THE EMERGING LEADERS COCKTAILS: There were so few of us, and Workman's sponsorship so generous, that we invited all the seasoned booksellers to join us young folks for after-dinner cocktails, which was actually awesome -- it's all about mentorship, after all. And some booksellers and I had a fascinating conversation with author John Scalzi about the Bechdel Rule.

THE AFTERHOURS: Both Saturday and Sunday night I found myself staying up late and talking a mile a minute outside the hotel with fellow youthful nerds from the bookselling and publishing sides. There were boys there, and cigarettes (sorry, Mom!) so it felt a lot like high school speech and debate out of town trips where we tried to find shenanigans to get up to... except all we really wanted to do was satisfy our burning desire to talk about street dates, YA recommendations, the changing roles of women in publishing, and whatever Best Book Ever that we're reading right now... It's nice to be a grownup sometimes. And the talking to fellow booksellers is one of the most important parts of the show, whatever the age.

THE YOGA: Without Susan Weis's morning yoga, I would not have been able to functionally participate in the day's programming after the previous night's afterhours.

THE PROGRAMMING: Duh. The Store Self-Audit was a superhelpful way to analyze both my current bookstore and my future one, and some changes or changes of focus will be enacted as a result of it. The Pick of the Lists drew my attention to a bunch of titles I hadn't yet seen and will be handselling. And the IndieBound session hipped me to the joys of the new social networking aspect of the site, as well as the various ways folks are using the branding in their stores. All inspirational, all practical: change and experience, folks, right here in bookseller land.

THE MEALS: Not the food, persay (convention hotels being what they are), but the interactions with authors at the Moveable Feast, the moving speeches from Morgan Entrekin and others at the awards dinner, and the talks with booksellers at every sit-down event.

THE NOIR BAR: I got my Bronx Noir and Flipping Out books signed by their respective authors, then found myself in a fascinating conversation (that kept growing) about regional dialects: who stands "online" vs. "in line", who says "that needs fixed" even though they know it's incorrect, who reveals a Long Island or Southern or Midwestern accent when stressed. I know it's not 100% practical in business terms, but this is the stuff that you remember, and I was illuminated about my colleagues and my country (I was thinking all weekend of the fabulous book State by State, which has a similar effect).

THE PUBLISHERS: The show floor was a sight to behold, as publishers corporate and indie, large and small, displayed the best of what they've got, and welcomed booksellers in the uniquely intimate atmosphere of a regional show. In addition to sponsoring meals and drinks, they shared with us their picks for what will sell in our particular stores, and chatted with us about what they love and what we love about bookselling. I got so many congratulations this weekend about that lil' ol Times article, often from people I barely know, and that was only the tip of the iceberg of the true cameraderie and caring between the publishing and bookselling sides of the aisle.

And of course:

THE BOOKSELLERS: Stephanie Anderson of Moravian Bookstore (aka Bookavore), the most
put-together 23-year-old I know... Betty Bennett now of Sparta Bookstore, and her daughter Carolyn Bennett of BookStream, two denizens of one of the coolest families in bookselling and some of my favorite people... Susan Weis, the most inspiring Ayurveda afficionado AND savvy businesswoman... my McNally Jackson coworkers Erin, Katie, and Cheryl, whom I was grateful to get to know better as I saw them get inspired, too... Jonathan and Lucy of Talking Leaves in Buffalo, which embodies a good old tradition of bookselling and a smart awareness of new realities (and Lucy is a yente and one of the most generous and caring people I know)... Joe Drabyak of Chester County Books and Music, a source of vast and generous book knowledge and increasingly a character in murder mysteries (he always gets killed off early)... Henry Zook of Brooklyn's own BookCourt, who returned to the show after a long absence and was awesome to talk to about our own local issues... and about a million others (okay, a couple hundred), who spoke up in sessions, chatted at meals, said hi and congratulations when we passed on the show floor, offered advice, laughed at authors' jokes, shared passionate conversations over drinks, and opened up about what's working and not working, their triumphs and struggles, so that we can all benefit from our collective experience.

It took me a long weekend to recover from all of this goodness, and I've still got a packet of information and ideas to share with my booksellers back at McNally Jackson (not to mention way too many good books to read. If you were at the show, thanks for sharing it with all of us -- see you next year!