By Carl Kranz, Operations Manager at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA.
SIBA time is always one of my favorite times of the year, and in need of a bit of a motivator this year, the Discovery Show stepped up bigtime. Right off the bat, I was in with my runnin’ buddies, and just seeing colleagues who have become some of my good friends for the first time in a while was rejuvenating in and of itself. But there’s always more people to meet and more work to be done. A full schedule of panels and education sessions filled Friday and highlights for me included discussion on Independent Bookstore Day, returns, and updates Ingram has been working to benefit booksellers through iPage, as well as a panel on nonfiction (which I love).
The main difference though between this year and past years was that I seemed to take a more philosophical approach to learning about bookselling. This is harder to put a price on but is just as important as the analytical tools we work on. Both through the inspirational programming as well as conversations I had up and down the trade show floor, there seemed to be a theme with me about my purpose as a bookseller. How to use my influence to make my community better and then grow that influence. Two events stick out in this regard. The conversation between Sharon Robinson and Peggy Wallace Kennedy about the legacy of their fathers and coming to terms with those legacies and finding their own voices in it all, to promote racial healing and reconciliation. There was also Wiley Cash’s speech at dinner on Friday night where he accepted the 2020 Pat Conroy Legacy Award. Cash spoke about how the right thing is typically the hard thing. We need to pull others up with us if we expect to get anywhere.
But it was also so much FUN, which we all need to stay inspired. The kickoff lunch on Friday with Julie Murphy, Akilah Hughes, Charlaine Harris, Kimberly Jones, and Gilly Segal was probably the most entertaining author meal I’ve ever been witness to. My face hurt from laughing so much! Every night went late for me, drinks with friends, passionate conversations, I couldn’t help but be inspired by my colleagues. I also can’t thank Hub City Press enough for playing wonderful hosts and their party on Saturday night was one I’ll always remember, so many people we had to spill out onto the sidewalk. Ending the show with the Moveable Feast, I met a number of authors that I felt a connection to and I can’t wait to read their books. It was a very proper sendoff. I was sad to leave but felt like I had lived an entire month in one weekend. Out of the three years I’ve been to the SIBA Discovery Show, this was easily the best experience I’ve had. The energy was vibrant and infectious and put a lot of life back into me as a bookseller.