Sunday, January 31, 2016

Winter Institute and The Last Coffee Shop Disguised as One Lovely Blog Tag

Look at my post title.

This is why no one has hired me to name things. :P

Well, I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Denver (for work), and I am:
A. Thoroughly exhausted, and B. Behind on non-bookselling life. Prepare yourself for sleepiness and gifs . . .

Basically me at work when I got back

Nevertheless, I really wanted to share a few things on the blog and do some updates. In this regard, Sarah from Ink and Paper Tall Ship then inadvertently came to my rescue. She tagged me for the "One Lovely Blog" tag a month and a half ago. Thanks Sarah!

The rules:

1. List 7 facts about yourself

2. Tag 15 other blogs to do the same

She was always a little shouty, imo, but this was funny.

As usual, I am flouting the rules by writing 7 facts about my trip, and tagging no one. Not, understand, because I don't know 15 lovely blogs! I know LOTS of lovely blogs, and I am just choosing not to tag you all :) I will be like a ninja with tags, only tagging when least suspected.

In case you didn't read this post (linked), I was at the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute for the last 4-ish days. It was in Denver, Colorado, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous! I spent any spare minutes (and there weren't many of them!) walking the streets of downtown and taking it all in. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw pictures of exciting things like candy and lights.* I might incorporate some of those pictures into this post :)

Fact #1: The ABA gets some great keynote speakers.

Though this is my first Winter Institute, I've heard nothing but good things about the many speakers the ABA has had come in to inspire booksellers, authors, and publishers. This year's keynotes were Martin Lindstrom, Amy Cuddy, and Newbery medal winner Kwame Alexander. I was only vaguely familiar with them (i.e., I knew their names and what they did), but they were all absolutely fabulous!

Martin Lindstrom gave us fascinating insights into how "small data" can show and predict trends, and teach you a lot about marketing, business, and people.

Amy Cuddy (TED talks) worked with us on presence, confidence, and personal power. She was sweet and fun, and her presentation was great for introverts! (Fake it until you become it)

Kwame Alexander was hilarious and charming. He told us stories about his childhood, inspired us with his determination and drive, and was generally fantastic. I hadn't read his books before now, but they just jumped onto my list ;)

"Stories bypass reason and go directly to our unconscious" - Martin Lindstrom's talk


Fact #2: Denver has some fabulous Asian Fusion cuisine

Aside from books, Japanese and Korean food are something I always seek out in a new place. I found several gems in Denver. I had kimchi stew (kimchi jjigae) for the first time (it's incredible), and some lovely sushi as well. And naturally, I bought a bunch of imported sugar . . .
This is a serious priority
Miso and Sake at Aoba Sushi in Downtown Denver

And I found a quiet ramen shop. I worked on my book and was sad to leave :(

Fact #3: Downtown Denver is a lovely place for walking enthusiasts

Like most cities, there are a lot of interesting things to see within a 3 mile radius. Though Winter Institute had a packed schedule (and fifteen minute breaks, tops), I managed to sneak out a few times for some fresh air. After the sessions ended each evening, I had a little more time to walk around.

I went rogue on Sunday for a couple hours - to go to church. The church I attended met in this awesome synagogue!

 Fact #4: I finally got to meet some of the authors for the reading program I did - Indies Introduce.

Not everyone was able to make it, but the whole session on the Indies Introduce program was still really neat. Each author read a two minute selection, and then answered a question from one of the II booksellers. I was too shy to get on stage and ask a question, but I did get to visit with some of the authors, including Martin Seay, author of the upcoming debut The Mirror Thief. My blurb was the one chosen for the Indies Introduce promo spreadsheet, and we follow each other on Twitter, so this was a lot of fun for me.

 The picture on the right is a few of the covers for authors who couldn't make it to Winter Institute.

Fact #5: Booksellers like to party. And their parties are a lot of fun! 

The ceiling at the opera house.
There was a party basically every night. And by party, I mean organized events with booksellers, authors, reps, books, snacks, and drinks. The Scholastic party was at a gorgeous opera house. They had a french fry bar. It was as amazing as it sounds. I had a fabulous Cabernet, but I forgot to write down the name of it! Other party highlights included the author receptions (I met authors like Ruta Sepetys, and re-met Alexandra Bracken - who is one of the most personable, sweet authors I have ever met).
Okay, maybe this is not an accurate representation (it's not). But this reminds me of my sister and I pretending we are having a party. It usually involves dancing in the car. Badly.

And did I mention that there were books? More about that next.

Fact #6: BOOKS . . . BOOKS . . . EVERYWHERE!

This is the book I took home from the swap.
If you've ever been to BEA (Book Expo America), then you know what I'm talking about. There are a few magical times when people are just handing you books, and letting you keep them. And it's overwhelming. And you have to choose. I came home with books from all the keynotes, signed ARCs, and more ARCs that looked interesting. I actually preferred Winter Institute to BEA - it's centered on my line of work, and a lot less crazy (there are a ton of people at BEA). But I will go anywhere where they hand me books.

All of the publisher partners are incredibly generous - from the parties, to the books, to the time and knowledge that they put into their sessions. I learned so much about business, bookselling, publishing, the industry, and the importance of local independent bookstores.

Speaking of bookstores, I visited both locations of the iconic indie Tattered Cover Bookstore - and it was even better than the hype!

One of my favorite parts was the Backlist Book Swap - basically, you brought a book (5 years old or older) that you thought was under read, and swapped it for another person's pick. It's a brilliant idea, and could be easily adapted to many occasions. If you were wondering, the book I brought for the swap was Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. It's a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth, and explores sacred and profane love. It's brilliant, beautifully written, and I've hardly met anyone else who loves it!
“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.”
― C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

Fact#7: While I Can't Sleep on a Plane - I Can Finish a Book Draft!

Writing a first draft is the easy part - usually. But what started out as a silly short story became a behemoth that took me thirteen months to draft. It's a lot longer than a short story. A lot.

Anyhow, I was exhausted on the flight home, and I tried to sleep. It wasn't working, so I plugged in my headphones and pulled out my computer. Two hours later, we were landing in Grand Rapids, and I'd just typed the last few words of The Last Coffee Shop. Well, the initial draft. Revisions and polishing are ahead, but now I have something to polish! And I won't feel so bad about starting one of the handful of projects buzzing around in my head. 

The last page of The Last Coffee Shop
 It's hard to express the feeling that finishing a book (even if it's just a bad first draft) gives you. It's heady, satisfying, and I usually want to break out dancing. Needless to say, since I was on a plane, I refrained from the latter.

There was so much more about my trip (especially what I learned), but I'd have to write about twenty posts! The information alone was worth it, and it was a lot of fun too. I met a lot of booksellers, and I hope I'll run into more of them at future events. Denver was a cool place, and I'd love to go back some time.

The sunrise as seen from my hotel room.

So there you go. Feel free to pick up the tag and link back :) Have you ever been to Denver? Are you planning on any trips in the next few months?