My Book Expo started out in a noteworthy fashion. Following two days of ABA Board meetings in Westchester, virtually the entire ABA brain trust nearly suffocated to death in a van en route to the New Yorker Hotel. There were 13 of us Board members in the van along with CEO Oren Teicher, Senior Program Officer Joy Dallanegra-Sanger, and Senior Program Officer Dan Cullen. The only executive officer not in the van was CFO Robyn DesHotel.
Robyn DesHotel, diabolically evil or just lucky?
The van’s air conditioning was not working. It was very hot and humid out. There were no windows that opened, and we were stuck in serious traffic. After an hour and a half of shop talk and chatting, conversations began to shift to the recognition that we were drowning in sweat, couldn’t breathe, and were well positioned to expire in a van whose resemblance to a Viking funeral ship was increasing every minute.
As it turned out, no one died. You are probably wondering if this was a brilliant, diabolical scheme by Robyn to remove all obstacles to her total takeover of the ABA. Well I have my suspicions but the matter is still under investigation.
Like many of my colleagues, I’m packing and traveling to New York CIty this week for BookExpo, followed by another trip to New Orleans for the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association (ASTRA) Marketplace & Academy, rebounding with a quick trip home to dump out the dirty clothes and go back to NOLA for ABA’s Children’s Institute. It’s a lot of planning, a lot of airport time, and definitely requires all my flat shoes…. and I think, perhaps, a bit of wisdom. Here, in the tradition of Gandalf to our friend Bilbo Baggins before he leaves the Shire, I offer all my fellow trade show explorers the wisdom from our oracles in the children’s book department.
On impossibly early flight reservations, with the accompanying wait in TSA lines before sunrise:
“Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the world of injustice. As a result, she now has a pig. A small one to be sure, but nevertheless a pig. It just shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed promptly.” CHARLOTTE’S WEB, E.B. White
A year and a half into sole ownership of the bookstore—after twenty years with a co-owner—I’ve found my business behavior transforming. Once, I was a kind of groundskeeper with four or five bookstore “gardens” to tend. I’ve now become a lighthouse keeper, needing to shine a beam on every aspect of the store in a never-ending revolution of shifting attention. My gaze is steady when it lands on an area: bill paying, event planning, frontlist buying, budgeting, customer attention, marketing, display, new programming, backlist restocking, returns, donations, and so on. But then the lighthouse beam must move to the next area, leaving the rest in the dark until the light sweeps back in again. I have wonderful staff to help with these islands of store needs, but I have to gaze on all of them regularly in order to run a tight … lighthouse?
Kate DiCamillo wows the crowd.
Last Saturday marked the launch of Austin’s first annual summer reading kick-off festival, put on in partnership between BookPeople, the Austin Independent School District and the Austin Public Library, and it was a blast! Kicked off by the incomparable Kate DiCamillo, the day was marked by a spirit of creativity and interaction. Setting the tone with a keynote followed by a generous Q&A session, Kate answered questions that ran the gamut—from how her mom’s beloved vacuum inspired a key moment in Flora & Ulysses
, to why her books so often deal with loss and sorrow, to what she recommends for a third grade class to read together as their first book next year (Charlotte’s Web
, of course). No one gets a crowd buzzing quite like Kate, and from there everyone went forth to explore the rest of the festival and connect with some favorite authors, old and new.
The announcement that Hachette Book Group will be providing exclusive “technology driven storytelling” content for Amazon Echo devices, provides a window into a world of exciting new possibilities for removing the antiquated obstructions to developing more pliable consumer citizens. One such still pervasive and unduly lingering obstruction is traditional reading. The malignant cognitive side-effects of reading are a result of the unnecessary work involved in an unmediated interaction with printed text. Producing a personal experience in the theater of an individual reader’s mind inhibits affected persons from being constructively directed by a robust interface with modern commercial algorithms dispensed by voice controlled digital assistants.
The technology driven storytelling produced as exclusive content by HBG for Amazon’s devices not only presents a strong medium for erasing and atrophying the development of independent critical thought in society members who have already contracted traditional reading habits, but even more importantly in preventing their development in children.
I love to go to trade shows. Not for the inevitable accompanying airport fiascos, the tiny hotel rooms located too close to the elevator, and the stress of all the minor store emergencies that occur while I’m away, but for the possibilities. I love being away, briefly, from my own aisles, where I stare and obsess about things that are selling and those that are not, and look instead at all the pretty, shiny new merchandise and just unveiled dust jackets of new titles and series from authors both familiar and new. I love to imagine whole new sections in my store, innovative displays, different programs and promotions, and new ways to delight customers. I picture giant stacks of boxes arriving at the store, and the staff exclaiming (with delight, not with “WHERE DO WE PUT THIS?” frustration) and getting excited about building displays and fixtures that require total section resets. I crave the time spent visiting with colleagues, hearing about what’s working in their stores, and commiserating about what isn’t. Choices and possibilities abound, inspiration flows like wine at the hotel bar, and all those hundreds of pre-show phone calls (“Hi! Are you attending …….? We are in Booth # …….”) fade away like the well-intentioned plan to pack at least TWO pairs of comfortable shoes and to be back in the room to sleep every night before midnight.
When the Elephant and Piggie Thank-O-Rama tour was offered to us for Sunday, May 13 (which fell on Mother’s Day), we knew it was one of those big events that needed planning within an inch of our lives. Venue, staffing, supplies, activities — all of these needed to be locked down as soon as possible.
The tour van comes with plenty of supplies — a reading corner with six colorful, tiny, soft armchairs for little readers and felt bins for books, a prize wheel with some truly excellent merch ranging from Elephant and Piggie postcards to a plush Pigeon bus (!!!), a craft station with tables, crayons, child-safe scissors, etc., sturdy cut-outs of favorite Mo Willems characters, a big backdrop against which families could pose for photos with the Elephant and Piggie costume characters, and two official Thank-O-Rama staffers to set it all up and help the event run smoothly. Continue reading
Magna cum sapientia means “with great wisdom,” a title honoring authors with words of wisdom for graduates and making some use of eight years of Latin instruction (or at least my ability to look up the ablative case in my ancient Cassell’s dictionary). As it’s graduation season, you may be looking for something fresh to add to all those copies of Oh, The Places You’ll Go on the display table. Here are a few favorites at Spellbound. I’d love to see some of your recommendations in the comments, as well. Continue reading
I know. The Beatles only had to invade America once, so what does that say about Skulduggery Pleasant making a second incursion? This nine-book middle grade fantasy series by Irish author Derek Landy was published simultaneously in the U.S. and the U.K. in 2007. It was a giant hit in Europe but passed almost unnoticed here in the U.S. where it was ignominiously retired after the third book.
Skuldguggery’s publisher, HarperCollins, is making a second attempt here now, simultaneously re-releasing the first three books in new paperback editions. Is this second invasion merited? The Secret Code* of bookselling demands an answer to that question and so I undertook the process of providing one.
The Mother’s Day displays are down in our little shop, replaced with Indy 500 themed books and graduation titles. The weather has turned from winter directly to summer temps, and the sneezing and sniffles of my poor allergy-ridden staff indicates that the pollen count has achieved May-in-Indianapolis levels. Mothers of school-aged children look haggard and over scheduled, and newborn-ish babies are making appearances, toes revealed, in brand new expensive strollers, and most days there’s a teenager or two dropping by after school asking about summer employment….. it’s time, indeed, for our summer reading program sign-ups.