Travel Dispatch: The 7th ABA Winter Institute

Much to my surprise and elation, I was this year's recipient of the Glenn Goldman scholarship to the annual independent bookseller's conference, The Winter Institute. For those of you not familiar with Glenn Goldman, he was the owner of Book Soup on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. When he passed away in 2009, a scholarship was established in his name so that eligible Southern California booksellers could apply in the hopes of winning an opportunity to attend The Winter Institute. This conference is conducted by the ABA, The American Booksellers Association, whose sole purpose is to support the independent bookselling community. Let me tell you, this is no small task!

It was the 7th annual Winter Institute and this year's chosen city was New Orleans. The ABA board members put in countless hours, organizing a myriad of presentations relating to all aspects of bookselling. Structured days left you with just enough time to rotate fro
m meeting to meeting. Some topics included improving profitability, tools for demographic studies, and procedures for supporting the rights of free speech. Publishers and authors were there as well, showing us all new and exciting titles that are coming this spring. It was a whirlwind of activity but, I have to say, one of the highlights of the conference was listening to author/bookstore owner, Ann Patchett, speak. Her enthusiasm and passion for books was so infectious and moving, she got a standing ovation and I actually shed a tear or two.

Over the course of the three days, there were many opportunities to meet other independent booksellers from all over the United States. The available slots for the Winter Institute quickly filled to capacity, with around 500 attendees. That's an impressive amount, representing booksellers from almost every state. The wealth of knowledge and experience was astounding, not to mention the dedication.

In
our free time, we all ventured out into one of the most charming cities I have ever seen. This was my first time visiting New Orleans and I was immediately smitten. Its history, architecture, people, food, music, art are all so amazing...I could gush all day. On my last night there, I sat on Royal Street enjoying the balmy evening, trying to sift through my experiences over the past few days. Trying to sum it up in one word, the best description is overwhelming, but in a wonderful, life-changing way. I return having learned more about the business I love, grateful for the new friends I have made, and for the opportunity of experiencing a city that now feels like home.

Diesel, A Bookstore, New Orleans anyone?

-Cheryl Ryan