Tuesday, June 23, 2009

CBA Summer Conference 2009

I have to admit it. When the big publishers starting pulling out of Book Expo Canada in early 2009, and then the organizers (Reed Exhibitions) decided to cancel BEC, I was frustrated and upset. But I was also determined that members of Canadian Booksellers Association should still have some sort of annual gathering with like-minded book people.

As a member of the CBA board of directors, I was fortunate enough to have an immediate voice that we ought to do something. Of course, it was Eleanor LeFave of Mabel's Fables who invested a great deal of foresight into our dreams and visions and presented the board with her concept of Stronger - Shorter - Smarter - Sweeter, which became the mantra for our goals of putting together the CBA Summer Conference 2009 -- our mini version of the ABA's Winter Institute, which some of our members had already enjoyed.

Yes -- if we could do something, even something small, just to say to the overall industry that we're still here, we're still united in our determination as booksellers and we're not going away. The goal became to organize some educational sessions that would be beneficial to our members, then see if we could tie-in an opportunity for publishers to present information on their forthcoming titles in a more intimate setting, costing them far less than BEC and allowing them more direct and personal access in terms of face to face meetings with booksellers.

Michael Tamblyn discusses BookNet Canada's
Catalog 2.0 project with book buyers

Robert Charles Wilson discusses his new novel
Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America

Well, after endless meetings and calls and discussions and modifications to the venue and schedule, it happened. Thanks, of course, to the tireless efforts and endless dedication of the staff of CBA, Susan, Emily and Carol. I mean, after all, members and board members can have ideas, visions and dreams -- but, apart from the combined volunteer efforts of CBA members across the country, it's the core staff that actually pull through, tie everything together and make things happen.

And happen it did.

Robert Charles Wilson, James W. Nichol, John Brady

Last weekend in Toronto, CBA members gathered with like-minded book folks. They attended educational sessions, (one of which I had the pleasure of giving with fellow CBA board member and co-owner of Collected Works Bookstore, Christopher Smith), speed-dating with publisher reps, listened to authors talk about their new and forthcoming books, listened to author readings, did an intimate tour of publisher's tables and displays and celebrated the best of the best in the CBA Libris Awards ceremony.

Stephen Finucan shares highlights from the 8 year process behind writing The Fallen

Zoe Whittall proudly holding her new book up high before her reading

On the Sunday, CBA had a breakfast, held a member's forum, the AGM, a panel discussion on "Shop Local" campaigns and a lunch. The breakfast and lunch were a bookseller's dream as they each included talks and readings from authors John Brady, Robert Charles Wilson, James W. Nichol, Stephen Finucan, Zoe Whittall and Stuart McLean.

One of the greatest pleasure I have as a bookseller is getting the opportunity to hear from authors about the writing of their books, sometimes about the process, sometimes about the struggles and sometimes about the inspiration. But I always find it fascinating and a valuable experience that allows me to share something a little bit more with customers who come into my store. When talking about the book with them I can not only talk about my own interpretation of having read it, but I'm given a special insight directly from the writer that helps me deliver that extra little nugget that the book buyer can walk away with.

That's part of the magic of events that include author appearances and readings such as the ones that took place at CBA Summer Conference.

Stuart McLean reading a brand new story
he'd finished writing the night before

In all, the CBA Summer Conference was a fantastic weekend. And I'm not just saying that because my store, Titles Bookstore McMaster University, took home the 2009 CBA Libris Award for Campus Bookseller of the Year.

That was just a little extra icing on the cake.

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