This past weekend over 70 bookstores came together at the Sheraton hotel in downtown New Orleans for SIBA 2013. Kicking off the show Thursday night, the Binc Foundation, with sponsor Baker & Taylor, hosted a Trivia of Cheaters match featuring The Doors’ drummer, John Densmore. A spirited bidding war ensued over Densmore with Karen White’s (The Time Between, NAL) table winning him as a team player. Though they came in second, White and her teammates weren’t left disappointed – particularly as $1,478.75 was raised for Binc.
The energized atmosphere continued into Friday, where authors C.J. Lyons (Broken, Sourcebooks), Susan Gregg Gilmore (The Funeral Dress, Broadway), Sheri Fink (Five Days at Memorial, Crown), Lauren Myracle (The Infinite Moment of Us, Amulet Books), and David Levithan (Two Boys Kissing, Knopf) were featured on education panels like Infinite Pieces, Novel Novels, One Book - One SIBA, What Booksellers Can Do to Defend Kids Books, and Complicated Relationships. While authors Sheila Turnage (Three Times Lucky, Dial), Lee Smith (Guests on Earth, Algonquin), Amy Tan (The Valley of Amazement, Ecco), and Elizabeth Gilbert (The Signature of all Things, Viking) attended the show and mingled with booksellers and book buyers.
Pulitzer Prize winner Fink, who spent her hours away from the show reconnecting with the doctors, nurses, and people she interviewed for her book about the tragedy and loss of life in Memorial Hospital during and after Hurricane Katrina, noted, “[SIBA] is such a wonderful organization. Getting to connect with a roomful of people and booksellers is just a dream. The book came out last week, and I’ve been waiting for the stories of these events to be out in the world.”
To help further spread the word on author works, SIBA partnered with Clearstory Radio who interviewed authors and booksellers live from the show floor to showcase the “spirit of independence that is at the heart of every indie.” Clearstory host and best-selling author River Jordan (Praying for Strangers, Berkley) said of the show, “Clearstory Radio waded into the deep waters of story at SIBA 2013! Every author we interviewed, from Elizabeth Gilbert to Joshilyn Jackson, raved about the incredible important of the indie bookstore and the invaluable support of indie booksellers. They make the world a better place.”
SIBA proved to be a hotbed of authors, book buyers and booksellers, who were more than happy to reunite in what many referred to as a “family-like gathering.” Booksellers like general manager Linda Barrett Knopp and bookstore assistant manager Laura Donahoe from Malaprops Bookstore were eager to attend the educational panels. Donahoe was particularly interested in learning more about upcoming YA titles, noting how much the genre and books have changed and grown over the years. Others like Lyn Roberts, general manager of Square Books in Oxford, Miss., and Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Books, in Richmond, Va., were eager to return to the show and reunite with old friends and colleagues. Justice remarked on how much booksellers do for each other, noting they often share information and tips with each other that save not only time but also money.
Generosity was evident at the show, which sold out rooms at the Sheraton in record time. SIBA sponsors Dave and Reba Williams granted scholarships to 10 bookstores, including City Lights in Sylva, NC. “I am grateful for the scholarship generously offered by Dave and author Reba Williams (Restrike, Delos). Their dedication to independent bookstores, literature and reading allows our store to better serve our readers,” said Eon Alden, bookseller and publicist of City Lights.
Attending authors were equally supportive of booksellers. "It's important for me as an author to understand what independent booksellers need for their success, and it's exciting to talk with them about my book, and books overall," said Jessica Handler (Braving the Fire, St. Martin’s Press). Tim Federle (Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Twist, Running Press) emceed Saturday night’s first-time event Paralooza and noted, “The giant book conferences can be exciting just for sheer hubbub, but this was my first SIBA and I loved how down-to-earth and human the scale was, just like the South. It felt like folks were really connecting as opposed to 'making connections.'"
Parapalooza kept the party atmosphere of SIBA in New Orleans going Saturday on night. Serving margaritas – in theme with Federle’s book - 12 authors from different genres read a paragraph from their books, and Danny Ellis sang the audience into wonder with the graph of his song, The Boy at the Gate (Arcade/Skyhorse). New Orleans proved a vibrant setting, with Bourbon Street and the surrounding French Quarter lulling authors like Joshilyn Jackson, Myra McEntire (Hourglass, Egmont) and Claudia Gray (Spellcaster, HarperTeen) out into the city after hours. But it was SIBA, and the world of booksellers, that most raptly held their attention. McEntire told PW, "You'd think it impossible to improve upon New Orleans, but filling it with book people made it even more magical. Indie booksellers are obviously in love with what they do, and their enthusiasm weaves a powerful spell."