MBA is short-hand for the Midwest Booksellers Association and each fall we convene in the Twin Cities to kick-off another year of bookselling and have a small trade-show.
Unlike the national get-together that is held each May this has less bells and whistles and superstars floating around the convention floor. But what the conference actually yields is oftentimes equally helpful and more fulfilling.
The conference has breakfasts and lunches with specific authors that booksellers can attend and get some actual face to face contact with the writers themselves. There are also educational and informational panels on how to better display items, how to use social media and others with various titles(but the same goal) that simply mean: how to sell more books better.
On Friday evening I attended an awards reception featuring the Midwest Bookseller's Choice Awards winners. There was a winner and runner-up for 5 categories--Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Children's Picture Book and Children's Young Adult book. Seven of the ten authors were in attendance and it was a great joy to hear them speak about their books, why the Midwest matters to them or how independent booksellers have meant something to them.
David Wroblewski, author of "Story of Edgar Sawtelle" spoke of his connections to Wisconsin and how they continue to inform him despite no longer living there. Michael Perry has won legions of booksellers over, both near and far, for his great books of non-fiction, his sincerity and his ability to put on a good show--which he did in a speech that was nothing less than great stand-up humor. He also told a heart-warming story about his father, a farmer in Wisconsin, and when, at 17, Michael decided to tell him that he had decided to become a nurse.
Todd Boss and Freya Manfred followed by reading some poems filled with both wonder and whimsy and Todd recollecting his own personal connections to Michael Perry through his now-deceased editor. Todd was a manager at Micawber's before we bought the store and it was wonderful to see his poetry career continue to rise.
Ingrid Law and Lauren Stringer carried the children's portion of the event by discussing illustration of snowflakes and some items kept at the ready for inspiration. Law discussed taking a real road trip that followed one she was writing about to make sure she was "at least getting some of it right."
Neil Gaiman finished the evening with another wonderful speech. He said that he considers himself a Midwesterner now, after 17 years, and how he still felt it his job to point out that doing things like driving trucks onto soon to be thawed lakes only to see which fell in first "is a bit odd." He carried the laughter and the head-nodding from shared experience of the earlier speakers and told us how he got interested in good books; how one bookseller had done that for him as a child.
In all, it was a great reminder to me of the great sense of place so many books we sell can evoke for others. It was reaffirming to hear authors speak passionately in a number of different ways about how literature still matters. Most of all, it was fun and a real honor to be there in their presence.
Saturday I walked the floor of Rivercenter looking at new titles for fall and talking with sales reps from publishers both local and national. It was a fun, if tiring, weekend filled with books and the people who surround them. Rejuvanation in so many ways.