For the first time in 25 years, the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association held its fall trade show in a location other than downtown Oakland, and both attendance and enthusiasm were up at the event this week in South San Francisco. "I solicited and received much more feedback than usual," observed Hut Landon, NCIBA executive director. "I have been gratified by the overwhelmingly positive response to the venue and the programing from both exhibitors and booksellers."
Along with a new venue, NCIBA tweaked the show's schedule as well, cutting back one day. This year it featured a full day of educational sessions on Thursday, followed by the trade show exhibits that evening and a full-day of trade show on Friday, uninterrupted by education sessions. And while NCIBA did away with its separate author signing area, several author events and some signings were held in the booths.
A newly added children's author tea was the most well attended meal event in NCIBA history, said Landon. It also was the first NCIBA event since the Northern California Children's Booksellers Association became part of the association this summer.
"We're so happy to be joining forces," said Luan Stauss, owner of Laurel Books in Oakland and NCCBA board member. "Our membership is really varied," she noted as she started the program for the afternoon tea, "and we intend to bring that variety and experience to the rest of NCIBA."
Wrong questions are at the center of Who Could That Be at This Hour?--the (perhaps) autobiography of young Lemony Snicket coming from HarperCollins later this month--but the book was a highlight of the tea and provided a theme for all the children's authors at the event.
Maggie Stiefvater, author of The Raven Boys (Scholastic, September), said she is constantly fielding two questions: "Why YA?" and "Why fantasy?" The first question, she pointed out, was not one she needed to address with the tea attendees. The second one--and its familiar follow-up, "Don't teens want to read about reality?"--baffled her, however. "No reader of fiction is reading about reality," she said. Fifty Shades of Grey is as much about escapism as A Wrinkle in Time, she noted. To Stiefvater, the better question than "Why fantasy?" is "Why not?"
For Ally Condie, author of the YA series Matched (the third book, Reached, will be published by Dutton next month), an important question was the one she asked her artist mother, about why she preferred pastels to the more durable oil paints for her work. "It's not about what lasts," she said her mother told her, "it's the act of creation that changes me."
The question for Jon Klassen, author of the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award–winning I Want My Hat Back, concerned whether he could follow that up with another book about a hat. The answer was yes; This Is Not My Hat was just released by Candlewick. He shared that interviews with two great Hollywood directors, Hitchcock and Polanski, helped shape the story in his new book, which is about a fish who steals another fish's hat, and how we know pretty early on it will not end well for the main character (as in Psycho). In Rosemary's Baby, Polanski deliberately kept an actor halfway out of a shot and delighted in watching audiences lean into the shot, just as Klassen said he enjoys watching children lean in when they read This Is Not My Hat.
Daniel Handler, standing in for Lemony Snicket, rounded out the tea event by reading from what he described as "a source of a current-day Socratic dialogue" in his daily newspaper: Dear Abby. Signed "Black-and-Blue Mom," the letter described how the woman had fallen down 14 hardwood stairs while holding her baby, Carl, in one hand and a telephone in another. Handler then turned to another letter, this one from Brandi to Lemony Snicket, who wrote: "I have read your books. Why do I enjoy them so much? I am always curious when something happens." Handler noted that he's been curious about bad things happening over and over again since he was 10.
With an unusual talent for making a profound point while also making people laugh, Handler went on to talk about how a grade school teacher once asked him if he was proud of his father for escaping Germany in 1938. His father turned the question on his son, asking if he thought he was braver than those who did not escape. "I had asked the wrong question," said Handler.
Who Could That Be at This Hour? is a book Handler said he had wanted to write for 25 years, because "horrible things can happen again and again and again, like a mother falling down 14 hardwood stairs." In the end, Handler said, "I am always curious when something happens."
And something always happens when NCIBA booksellers get together to buzz about books--whether in Oakland or South San Francisco. Check in tomorrow for some of the best buzz from the show. --Bridget Kinsella