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Storymatic Studios: Say Yes to Your Imagination

Posted By Nicki Leone, Tuesday, November 5, 2019

What made you decide to come to the SIBA Discovery Show?

Storymatic StudiosWe wanted to continue meeting people from stores in the South. SIBA was at the top of our list when we were figuring out our fall schedule. We’re glad we could make it too Spartanburg, because SIBA offers so many good opportunities to get to know people.

Did it meet your expectations?

Yes! We’re based in Vermont, and when we first did SIBA (New Orleans, 2017) we barely had a presence in the South. We are now carried in quite a few shops throughout the South, and it’s much easier for customers to find our products. I’m glad we could return this year.

What did you learn from attending the show?

I learn a lot at every show, but I think what I especially like about SIBA and other regional book shows is that you get to meet so many people who are passionate about the importance of bookstores. I like to learn about the history of each store, and about how people came to own or work in the store. Bookstores usually come with a lot of history, and they are run by people who care deeply about their communities. The Haunted Book Shop, for example. I really liked talking with Angela about how she ended up running the store, which has such a rich history in Mobile.

I also continued to learn about how stores incorporate sidelines into their product mix. I can’t remember the exact percentage, but someone told me that around 25% of their sales come from non-book items. Storymatic is a fun, literate sideline, and it was interesting to talk with people who are just beginning to diversify their offerings to include more than books. 

Why do you think the independent bookstore market is important?

Independent bookstores have importance that goes way beyond the economic impact they have within their communities. Books change people’s lives. I have a ton of respect for independent bookstores. Indies pay rent, employ people, and make important contributions to society. It’s important to me that customers can find Storymatic in actual bookstores around the country, that they can hold it in their actual hands, and that they can buy it from an actual person. When you work or shop in an independent bookstore, you have experiences and interactions you cannot have online. You gain knowledge that cannot be transmitted through fiber optic cable. You make memories and friends you cannot make online. Bookstores are very, very important.

On a personal note, when I was 16, I started working at Railroad Street Books in Great Barrington, MA. The store is long gone, but it made a huge difference in my life. I worked there off-and-on through college, and I’m grateful for that experience. Being around books and readers helped me begin to think of myself as a reader and writer. Working in the bookstore gave me a glimpse of what it’s like to run a community-based business. Often, when I package up an order for a bookstore, I imagine a younger version of myself at the other end of the shipment, opening it and showing it to a customer. 

Storymatic StudiosDescribe Storymatic Studios and how it got started

I made the first Storymatic several years ago while leading a fiction workshop at Marlboro College in Vermont. I then took that first Storymatic to my high school classes at The Putney School Summer Programs. I added to that first Storymatic year by year, class by class. All the while, students told me I should make more than one Storymatic, because they wanted to buy it and use it outside of class with their friends and families. Finally, I took their advice. Really, if it weren't for the excitement and support of my students, there would be no Storymatic.

After the first Storymatic came out, parents started asking me to make one for younger kids. So I took their advice and made Storymatic Kids. Even though it’s called Kids, it’s great for all ages.

And then my poetry and memoir students started going, “Hey, what about us? Where’s the poetry one? Where’s the memoir one?” So I modified some of the memory prompts we use in those classes to make Rememory, which helps you recall and share moments from your own life.

I thought I was pretty much done at that point, but then students started asking me why I hadn’t done anything with one prompt that involves writing sentences that mix up your senses, and another prompt where people ask questions about your story and you have to give an answer, even if it’s about something you’ve never considered before. That’s how Synapsis came out. It gives you a different way to make up stories.

So now we have four different products that help people explore their imaginations and memories. I think it’s important to do that. Stories keep our minds nimble. Inventing characters can help build a sense of empathy. I’d like to see a little more imagination and empathy in the world.

We’re based in Brattleboro, Vermont. We have a lovely little space in an old mill, alongside a variety of small, independent businesses.

The “we” that I keep mentioning is me and my wife, the photographer Vaune Trachtman. Sometimes people think Storymatic has a bunch of people. But it’s really just me and Vaune.

Synapsis

What are your newest products for the holiday season?

Synapsis! 

It’s a conversational, somewhat improvisational way to open doors to your imagination. In Synapsis, you’re prompted to turn two or three words into a sentence, which you pretend comes from a certain kind of story. Then you answer questions about that story and begin to flesh things out. I love how in just a few minutes you can go from a couple of random words to knowing all about the characters, settings, motivations, and arc of a story. 

You can use Synapsis by yourself as a writing prompt, or you can make an evening of it with your friends. It’s super adaptable, so you can make your own ways to play. I like how Synapsis offers a different way of thinking about how stories are created, so it can be a little challenging at first. But challenges are good things.  We like to think of Synapsis as being a little box of Yes.

Who should booksellers contact if they want to place an order?

You can contact me directly at brian@thestorymatic.com or leave a message at 802-451-0050. Thanks!

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SIBA19: "This is what I want to spend my life doing"

Posted By Cat VanOrder, Bookmarks, Monday, November 4, 2019
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2019

First, I’d like to thank the Reba & Dave Scholarship for allowing me to attend SIBA wherein I was able to experience a scene of community and belonging like I’ve never felt before. Second, I’d like to thank the independent booksellers, reps, and authors that are a part of that community, for making me feel entirely welcome, because that’s what my entire experience was. Like stepping into a home of a friend and knowing that no matter what, you belong there. I learned that independent booksellers absolutely do not care about showing vulnerability, that they will always reach down a hand instead of pulling up the ladder. 
I had never been to anything like this before, at least definitely not on this scale, that made me more positive than I had been before that this was what I want to spend my life doing. Helping my community connect and grow through the words and worlds of the authors that rely on, and support us the way we support them. That was something I hadn’t expected, or thought about; just how much independent booksellers mean to authors, but after hearing literally every author that spoke bring it up, it’s very much in the forefront of my mind now. A grave responsibility to be sure.

The roundtables were a bit of a conglomeration of my favorite things from SIBA coming together, in that it was where I truly got a good helping of knowledge from those determined to make sure we all succeed. From learning more about Ipage, which I thought I had known a lot about already (I hadn’t even scratched the surface), to learning how to up our display game, I came home with a ton of ideas that I immediately hopped on trying to figure out how to make it all happen, and I’m very excited for it all.

From the panels where I learned how to help make Independent Bookstore day a success, to the authors I chatted with that want to help make our Teen Advisory Council have some pretty cool meetings and events in the future, I’d say I achieved the goals I had going in. I connected with the people I wanted to, the people I didn’t expect to, and I made so many friends and opened up in a way that was incredibly shocking for myself. I explored the exhibition floor mostly on my own and found a ton of arcs to take home and review, and felt entirely comfortable doing it, like I was making an impact of my own. I came home from SIBA that Sunday knowing full well what I was going to be doing and why I was doing it, helping my fellow booksellers bring Bookmarks into a bright future for our community.
~Cat VanOrder, Bookmarks, NC

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Bookish Birds offers book-themed gifts for the holiday

Posted By Nicki Leone, Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Bookish BirdsWhat made you decide to come to the SIBA Discovery Show?

Our good friends at Bookmarks here in Winston-Salem first told us about SIBA and had connected us to several SIBA stores who are now selling our items (shout out to Page 158, Quail Ridge, Sunrise, Wonderland, Read With Me, Books to Be Red, Downtown Books and Ducks Cottage). When Bookmarks found out that SIBA was going to be so close in 2019, they really encouraged us to attend and we took them up on it. 

Did it meet your expectations?

Absolutely. Our goal for the next few years is to grow our business with independent bookstores partners, and having the chance to meet so many of them in person was truly fantastic. We added at least 10 new bookstores thanks to the show, with more contacting us each week now, it seems. Add to that the fact that bookstore people are just generally delightful folks to get to know, and it was a lovely two days. 

Bookish BirdsWhat did you learn from attending the show?

Having the chance to talk to so many different stores gave us great insight into their buying patterns, how they choose their sidelines, and how they time their purchases to account for holidays and events. That knowledge will be invaluable as we continue to grow our partnerships with independent bookstores. Plus, we made some new friends, so that’s always a plus.

Why do you think the independent bookstore market is important?

For our business, book people are the target market - and no one is better at attracting book people than independent bookstores. But more than that, we love the idea that our little creations can help independent bookstores make money to keep their enterprises going. The value an indie bookstore adds to a community is immeasurable, and it makes us so happy to know our items might be helping their bottom lines! 

Bookish BirdsDescribe Bookish Birds and how it got started:

It’s a strange story. We are best friends and former college roommates both with full time non-Bookish Birds jobs. In 2014 we were finally living in the same town again (on the same street, actually) after 20+ years apart. Diana had a great idea to make some holiday ornaments for her husband’s office at Wake Forest University and people loved the ornaments so much we thought there might be a market in them to sell. So, we started with those and then met with a small business adviser who said we really needed to find something that would sell better year round. As we were pondering what that might be, we took a girls trip to London together and saw some page art for sale in Covent Garden Market. Those were mostly images printed on old book pages, but it dawned on us that book quotes on book pages could be popular - and the other half of Bookish Birds was born. That was in 2015, and we have steadily grown since then. 

ornamentsTo Kill a Mockingbird

What are your newest products for the holiday season?

Bookish BirdsWe’ve been working to add more quotes from African American authors and now have several new Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison prints. We also have the personalized pages we made for each SIBA store, so any store that did not pick theirs up at the Discovery Show can just contact us and we will happily send it along to them. We would love to partner with bookstores to provide staff gifts, author gifts, or donor gifts that can be personalized for the specific need. 

Who should booksellers contact if they want to place an order?

They can just email bookishbirds@gmail.com and we can send the order forms to them!

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SIBA19: "An incredible experience"

Posted By Nora Ketron, Star Line Books, Monday, October 14, 2019
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2019


The 2019 SIBA Discovery Show was an incredible experience, one filled with learning, networking, amazing new reads, and a jam-packed weekend that made me even prouder to be a part of the Southern bookselling world than when I started. I came to SIBA 19 hoping to hone my understanding of the industry, especially as it relates to the many things that make bookstores so special in the South. I was able to accomplish this and much, much more. I spent time learning about management best practices, handselling techniques, how to improve and refine our e-commerce platform. Meeting other first-time attendees and booksellers who are faced with some of the exact same challenges and rewards I am was inspiring and encouraging. The trade show floor was a veritable cornucopia of delights and opportunities, offering the chance to source sidelines, new reads, meet and network with reps from the big five publishers and small presses alike. I spent time getting to know authors, thinking about new ways to feature and highlight southern writers in my shop, and gained a much better understanding of the industry landscape and just how and why one small shop fits into that landscape. SIBA 19 was truly a chance at discovery, and I am so thankful and grateful for the chance to have attended and the scholarship funds that made it possible.  
~Nora Ketron, Bookseller & Coordinator of Many Things, Star Line Books, TN

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SIBA19: "I felt like I was coming home"

Posted By Stephanie Crowe, Page & Palette, Monday, October 7, 2019
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2019

This year at SIBA was one of my best experiences. I felt like I was coming home, so many friends and authors that I have seen in the past felt much more comfortable. I sensed a lightness of spirit throughout the total event. There was more laughter and optimism in the meal events and in the workshops.   The AUTHORinteraction which revolved around Pat Conroy’s friends was especially jovial. Delightful to attend!
I’m very grateful to have been able to attend this year and thank SIBA for their support of indie booksellers! SIBA is my family!
~Stephanie Crowe, Page & Palette, AL

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Meet TJ Klune!

Posted By Nicki Leone, Thursday, October 3, 2019

One of the highlights of last month's #SIBA19 was the Parapalooza event, held in the hotel bar -- for ambiance -- and by all accounts a riotously funny hour filled with authors reading short paragraphs from their books, WITH FEELING.

But for all its hilarity and deep-felt moments, the night was missing something, or rather, someone. T.J. Klume, author of the much-looked-for "The House in the Cerulean Sea" had been scheduled to read, but instead became the victim of a capricious set of circumstances when his flight was delayed because of mechanical problems (not the sort of thing a passenger wants to hear), making him late for his connecting flight, which after being rescheduled was also delayed...because of mechanical problems.

Since he couldn't be on-site at the show, we asked him to record video so booksellers would have a chance to meet him (and his cat) and hear about his wonderful book.

The House in the Cerulean Sea"1984 meets The Umbrella Academy with a pinch of Douglas Adams thrown in." (Gail Carriger)

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret. An enchanting love story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours. The House in the Cerulean Sea is Lambda Literary Award-winning author TJ Klune’s breakout contemporary fantasy.

TJ Klune is an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. He has won the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance and the 2016 the Gold Medal from the Florida Publisher’s Association. Visit him online at TJKluneBooks.com, on Twitter at @tjklune or on Instagram as @tjklunebooks.

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Finding My Tribe in the Bookselling World

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Tuesday, September 24, 2019

By Andrea Richardson, Bookseller/Assistant Buyer at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA.

I had a wonderful time at #SIBA19 - the best part was meeting and connecting with fellow booksellers and authors, as well as our publishing reps that I hadn't been able to put a face to before SIBA. Another highlight of my time in SC (and I don't think I'm alone in this) was the lunch with Julie Murphy, Charlaine Harris, Akilah Hughes, Kim Jones, and Gilly Segal. They were so much fun and I am loving all of their books! I also really enjoyed the handselling seminar, where I learned several valuable tips that I'm excited to try out during my store shifts. I really feel like I've found my tribe in the bookselling world and I could not be happier to continue my journey in this amazing business! I am so grateful that I won a scholarship and can't wait to attend more events. Thanks to SIBA, ABA, Wanda, and everyone else that put together this event!

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SIBA Time is Always One of My Favorite Times of the Year

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Tuesday, September 24, 2019

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.

 

  

 


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#SIBA19: A High Energy Show

Posted By Nicki Leone, Thursday, September 19, 2019

SIBA19SIBA 2019: Spartanburg Hosts High Energy Show

Of course, the very point of the show is to put booksellers in front of reps and several publishers and their reps were impressed with the traffic. Steven Wallace, marketing and sales director for the University of Georgia Press, is a veteran of many SIBAs and noted that the traffic on the show floor was “non-stop and didn’t let up for a second” -- Publishers Weekly

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SIBA Celebrates in Spartaburg

SIBA19On Friday, SIBA offered a packed schedule of education sessions, including the SRO "Independent Bookstore Day: Celebrate with Success," "The Art of the Pitch: Handselling Books to Customers" and "Romancing the Indie Bookstore." The well-attended breakfasts, lunches and dinners showcased a range of authors and titles, but the standout was the Friday lunch featuring authors Julie Murphy (Dear Sweet Pea); Akilah Hughes (Obviously, Stories from My Timeline); Charlaine Harris (A Longer Fall); and Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal (I'm Not Dying with You Tonight). The authors hit it off so well in the green room earlier that they decided to skip the usual individual speeches and just talk to each other--and to the audience. The result was a charming, entertaining, hilarious performance that, in a way, encapsulated the SIBA experience: love and support for each other. -- Shelf Awareness

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More snapshots from #SIBA19 (photos by SP Rankin):

          

 

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Scholarship Recipients at #SIBA19 Share Their Stories

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Scholarships make such a difference, creating the opportunity for stores to send one or more staff to the SIBA Discovery Show. Thanks to generous sponsors like UNC Press, Binc, Penguin Random House (Pat Conroy Scholarships), and Reba and Dave Williams, SIBA is able to help defray the costs of travel, lodging, meals and other expenses. The following booksellers share how attending #SIBA19 made a difference for them.


"Going to SIBA this year was an experience like Peter Wohlleben's The Hidden Life of Trees. Instead of an interconnected system of roots, there exists the life-giving channels of indie bookstores pulsing around the American South. Southern Indies are diverse variations of the same organic matter. They bring reading and intellectual vibrance to a region of the country that has long been perceived as lacking of, or not even wanting to explore, the world of books outside of the caricatures of complicated Southern identity. I witnessed authors on the verge of tears as they gave their precious books into our capable hands. And, I trust in the team of booksellers present this weekend to carry those direct emotional pitches with them onto the bookfloor. I have been a bookseller since 2015. In 2019 at SIBA, l became a bookseller for life."- Davis Shoulders, Union Ave Books, Knoxville, TN


“Main Street Books is truly indebted to the Williams for an unforgettable and impactful experience. Main Street Books is a 90 minute drive from Spartanburg, close enough that we could reasonably send all 6 staff members to SIBA without incurring crazy travel costs. That said, we closed the store on the two busiest days of the week at the start of serious fourth quarter ramping up - a sizable risk, but one I was willing to take so that my booksellers could truly understand the empowering experience of spending 70 hours among booksellers, authors, and publishers. The scholarship allowed us to reduce that financial risk. 


Most of my booksellers have had established careers previously and attending a conference was not a novel experience. However, working in a retail job and attending such an enriching meeting was truly remarkable. Each of our booksellers, including our event coordinator, was able to attend at least three author meals and several were moved to tears (Kevin Wilson!) or felled by laughter (Akilah, Julie, Gilly, Kimberly, and Charlaine!) or empowered to embrace our role as community conversation facilitators (Sharon Robinson and Peggy Wallace Kennedy!). 


Having our staff attend education sessions like the "Work on your biz" helped us all see better ways for us to redesign the way we work so that I, as owner/manager, can have more time for strategic planning. Staff also embraced their time on the exhibit floor. They had great conversations with every single vendor that attended. I am pretty sure that a Main Street Books staff member visited every table at least once on Saturday. We've come back with new sidelines to stock, stronger relationships with publishers, and great under-the-radar books to read and share back here in Davidson. 


We also had valuable time together to meet as a whole staff and to perform a S.W.O.T analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). One effect of attending education sessions and meeting/conversing with other booksellers is that each of my booksellers could informally assess our store, getting a sense for what and how we do things in comparison to other stores. This "intangible" outcome has instilled pride of purpose in us! Thank you so much for helping us gather together at SIBA19!” -Adah Fitzgerald, Main Street Books, Davidson, NC


"Recently I read a middle reader book called The Spinner of Dreams and there's a part of a story where the protagonist is told, "Someday you will walk into a room and everyone will have been waiting for you, there will be a spot for you at the table and everyone will be so glad you came." As someone who is slightly too loud and talks way too much, I've always wondered if that day would come for me. At SIBA this year, this quote kept running through my head as I met friends I never knew I had, wept with authors over their beautiful writing, and laughed with others like me who were just trying to bring books to a hurried world. While the entire weekend was very whirlwind, it was the happiest tornado I've ever been able to be swept up into. I learned more about the industry from all angles, from the author's perspective, from the publisher's perspective, and from other booksellers as well. I was so blessed to be chosen for a scholarship to attend and I will always be so grateful." -Katlin Kerrison, Story On the Square, McDonough, GA

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