Trade Show 2013 - Recap - Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association
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Trade Show 2013 – Recap

Left to right: Nancy Curtis, High Plains Press publisher and
Trade Show exhibitor; Craig Johnson, featured author
of SPIRIT OF STEAMBOAT from Penguin Group/Viking;
and booksellers Amy Daniken and Karen Downey
from Back of Beyond Books in Moab, Utah.

“MPIBA a Big Success”

October 10-12, 2013
The Renaissance Denver Hotel in Denver, Colorado

  • To view a Slideshow of all the Trade Show photos, click below.

  • To view dozens of marvelous photos taken by Tori Henson, please visit our Facebook page:
  • To take the 2013 Trade Show Survey, click here.
  • Please take a moment to read the wonderful articles below by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly and Julie Wernersbach from BookPeople Bookstore in Austin, Texas.


MPIBA a Big Success in Denver

By Claire Kirch in Publishers Weekly
Oct. 14, 2013

As the 155 booksellers attending the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association fall trade show arrived at Denver’s Renaissance Hotel between Oct. 10-12, they were given bags from Utah publisher Gibbs Smith that read, in large white letters on a red background, “Keep Calm and Read On.” It was an apt slogan for the show, as a number of attendees were impacted by September’s torrential floods in Colo., amplified by this month’s government shutdown, which is also affecting booksellers throughout the region. Not only are there furloughs of federal employees who are bookstore customers, but national parks are closed in a region heavily reliant on the visitors they draw. (Utah and Colo. booksellers were relieved to hear during the show that their home states were taking over national parks and temporarily reopening them.)

With a crowd of American Red Cross workers in residence at the hotel, it was hard not to reflect upon the impact of the recent floods, particularly on MacDonald’s Bookshop in Estes Park. Although the store suffered no damage, it was closed for four days; afterwards, the sidewalks outside had to be cleared of mud and debris so customers could enter. The store was slammed yet again in Oct. when nearby Rocky Mountain National Park was closed. Sales are down about 50%, co-owner Paula Steige said, with no signs of a rebound. “Winter is a down time in Estes Park anyway,” she said.

Boulder Books closed for three partial days and for an entire day, when the city of Boulder shut down, book buyer Arsen Kashkashian reported. It was, he recalled, the first time in the 20+ years he’s worked at the store that it ever closed because of weather. Kashkashian, who once skied from his home to the store to open it during a huge blizzard, said that Boulder Books lost 20-25% in sales last month, and is still down about 5% in Oct. “Hopefully, it’ll continue to go up,” he said.

In contrast, Old Firehouse Books in Ft. Collins stayed open the day floods blocked access between downtown and the rest of the city. “Downtown was an island,” co-owner Susie Wilmer recalled. Sales were good, because people were “trapped” downtown, but “not as high as normal.” Even though the store took a hit in Sept., sales this year are still up 3%, and last year “was the best year we ever had.” She is, Wilmer says, “counting upon” a strong holiday season.

Other regional booksellers fared much better this year. Sales are up at Park City, Utah’s Dolly’s Books, manager Sue Fassett says, due to a vibrant tourist industry in the upscale resort area. Valerie Koehler reported that Blue Willow in Houston was up 3% and Vicki Lee Burger reported that Wind City Books in Casper, Wyo., an “oil-boom-or-bust town,” is riding a boom now that’s fueling sales. Plus, she pointed out, Blue Heron Books and Ralph’s Books & Cards have closed in the past year or so, making Wind City Books the only bookstore in Wyo.’s second largest city.

While recent nonfiction releases with a regional bent like Hell on Wheels: Wicked Towns along the Union Pacific Railroad by Dick Kreck (Fulcrum Publishing) and Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iversen (Crown) enticed booksellers, adult fiction dominated the show.

Craig Johnson’s novella, Spirit of Steamboat (Viking), had to be the most buzzed-up book of the show. It didn’t hurt that Johnson, a gregarious, charismatic, and larger-than-life Wyomingite, captivated booksellers, first with a visit to the show floor during the day, and then with a rousing speech at the authors’ banquet that evening, when he reminisced about his visit to MPIBA in 2004, promoting his debut novel, Cold Dish. Spirit of Steamboat is Wyo.’s inaugural state-wide reading selection; the program launches next week. Other novels that most appealed to booksellers include Monument Road by Charlie Quimby (Torrey House, Nov.), which Anne Holman of the King’s English in Salt Lake City praised for its characters and strong sense of place; and Shotgun Lovesongs (St. Martin’s/ Mar. 2014), Nickolas Butler’s debut, which bookseller Jackie Blem of Denver’s Tattered Cover talked up to seemingly everyone at the show. Shotgun Lovesongs is one of the titles featured in the ABA’s new “Indies Introduce” marketing program.

Although the quality of the books on display overwhelmed many booksellers that PW queried, the 71 authors in attendance stole the show. Blue Willow’s Koehler pronounced this year’s author events to be “spectacular,” with the “best set of authors ever,” including literary icons like Armistead Maupin, who told booksellers that Days of Anna Madrigal (HarperCollins, Jan. 2014) would be the last of the “Tales of the City” that he started writing in the mid-1970s; and Kent Haruf, who received the Spirit of the West Award for lifetime achievement. Haruf, who was interviewed by PW at MPIBA 2012, touched booksellers when he disclosed for the first time publicly that a cleft palate made his teen years miserable, “but ended up being a blessing.” His social withdrawal during his youth caused him to be “more aware of others and to pay close attention to how people think,” which still serves him well in writing fiction. Ever since he started writing, he declared, “I’ve tried not to write too small, and I’ve tried not to live too small either.”

“There was a lot of laughter and poignancy” during the author presentations, Koehler noted as the show wound down Saturday. Her sentiments were echoed by Dolly’s Books’ Fassett, who commented that she’s “always surprised at how eloquent and entertaining authors can be. Of course, they’re wordsmiths, and it often translates. MPIBA chose their authors well.”


Children’s Authors Upstage Their Books at MPIBA Show

By Claire Kirch in Publishers Weekly
Oct. 17, 2013

Although there were plenty of great children’s books on display at the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers annual trade show, which took place at the Denver Renaissance Hotel from October 10–12, the 71 authors present indisputably stole the show, particularly those who spoke in front of the 155 MPIBA booksellers in attendance. Valerie Koehler, owner of Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop, described the slate of authors as “spectacular,” a sentiment echoed by scores of others.

This year’s MPIBA show kicked off with the Children’s Author and Illustrator Breakfast, featuring Matt de la Peña (The Living, Delacorte), Lauren Myracle (The Infinite Moment of Us, Abrams/Amulet), and Robert Sabuda (The Little Mermaid, Little Simon), who spoke before booksellers seated at tables festooned with colorful plastic sea creatures and seashells.


(From l.) Matt de la Peña, Lauren Myracle, and Robert Sabuda adorn themselves with the table decorations at the Children’s Authors & Illustrator Breakfast.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen this book,” de la Peña said, as he held up an early hardcover of The Living. “It’s very pretty.” De la Peña, who has written four other YA novels, related some stories from his childhood, growing up Mexican-American and working-class in Southern Calif. Describing his earlier books as having “race and class out there as the focus,” de la Peña called The Living “more contextual”: Espinoza, a teenager working on a luxury cruise ship, and Addie, wealthy teenage passenger, are thrown together after an earthquake off the California coast releases a tsunami that sinks the ship.

“This was my attempt to tone down the class and race issues and play up the larger story elements in the hopes of reaching a broader audience,” de la Peña said.

Lauren Myracle also addressed inclusiveness in her presentation of her most recent novel, The Infinite Moment of Us. “One of my goals is in writing books is to make the point that we are so much more alike than different,” said the author, who has written 19 books for middle-grade and teen readers. “To downplay anyone’s struggles is to do them a disservice.”


Robert Sabuda signs The Little Mermaid, his 24th pop-up book.

Describing her YA novels as stories about teens whose “souls [are] colliding, as well as bodies colliding,” Myracle explained that she wants to contradict the myths that society perpetuates concerning teenagers. “Boys can be nervous about sex and girls can enjoy sex,” she said, before reading correspondence from “haters” as well as from parents wanting to know how they could connect with their teenage children more effectively.

Adolescent concerns resurfaced with an unlikely author, when pop-up creator Robert Sabuda joked that The Little Mermaid is the story of “a young woman with body issues who doesn’t understand the phrase, ‘he’s just not that into you,.’ ” Sabuda related the details of hisjourney toward becoming an acclaimed illustrator and engineer of 24 pop-up books published since 1994, when The Christmas Alphabet was released.

“From the first moment that I could pick up a crayon and draw it across the paper, I knew I would be an artist,” he said. At age eight, he received a Cinderella pop-up book by the Czech artist Vojtech Kubašta as a gift and tried to replicate it, using manila folders his mother brought home from work. When he was 15, Sabuda disclosed, he was caught shoplifting oil paints from an art supply store, but was let go after the mall security guard asked him if he was an artist. “Was it a subconscious respect for art in a poor part of Michigan?” Sabuda asked the MPIBA booksellers.

Literary Speed-Dating

At the Children’s Author Tea, eight tables of booksellers each welcomed a rotating procession of authors making five-minute elevator pitches.

“My books are traditional fairy tales with a tough-girl edge and set in the West,” said Erin Zweiner, a Montana resident and debut author; her next book will be titled Snow White and the Seven Burros.

“I never thought there’d be this many,” Jennifer Adams said of her Babylit series, which now has seven classics adapted for toddlers. “I do read the originals; I want to capture the spirit of the book and make it approachable.”


MPIBA booksellers listen to an author’s five-minute presentation during the Children’s Authors Tea at MPIBA.

Holly Goldberg Sloan said that her Counting by 7s “is not a happy book, but it’s a hopeful book.” Though it’s aimed at middle-grade readers, it’s also appropriate for both YA and adult readers, she added, calling it a “family novel.”

According to Todd Mitchell, Backwards is hard to describe, and told in reverse. Dan commits suicide, and his alter ego, The Rider, “loves life.” Mitchell, a high school teacher, explained that he wanted to “address the seriousness of suicide, but also write an uplifting book that would attract readers who wouldn’t normally read books about suicide.”

Julie Berry told booksellers that she had “stumbled upon a character” and wrote All the Truth That’s in Me in the second person in a short amount of time, drawing upon her own “stalker mentality” as a teenager.

Paolo Bacigalupi explained that Zombie Baseball Beatdown targets those boy readers in the third to seventh grades “who think that books suck.” Mark Tatulli also wants to engage reluctant boy readers, he said, even though he hopes that girls will like Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic as well. “It’s not Gone with the Wind, but it’s a gateway to reading. If they have a positive experience with a book, they’ll want to read more.”


(From l.) Author Jennifer A. Nielsen, bookseller Valerie Koehler of Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop, and Liesl Freudenstein of Boulder Bookstore chat after the Children’s Authors Tea.

Jennifer A. Nielsen’s three Ascendance novels – The False Prince, The Runaway King, and The Shadow Throne (out February 2014) – are also for the reluctant reader, the author noted: “This is a good middle-grade alternative to Harry Potter. It’s got romance and adventure and the action goes on and on.” As Nielsen wound up her short presentation, she celebrated the partnership between booksellers and authors, noting, “When we write books and you sell books, we make magic. Neither of us can do it alone.”

During the author presentations, “there was a lot of laughter and poignancy,” Blue Willow’s Koehler noted as the show wound down Saturday. Sue Fassett, who manages Dolly’s Books in Park City, Utah, said that she’s “always surprised at how eloquent and entertaining authors can be. Of course, they’re wordsmiths, and it often translates. MPIBA chose their authors well.”



“What Happens in Denver Stays in Denver”

by Julie Wernersbach
BookPeople Bookstore in Austin, Texas
Blog Post (with additional photos from MPIBA)
October 16, 2013

Last week Meghan G., our Kid’s Book Buyer, and I took a little trip out west, where the air is cold(er than it is here) and the mountains are high. Denver. City of dreams. City of this year’s Mountains and Plains trade show.

The Mountains and Plains Independent Bookseller Association is comprised of booksellers from twelve states ranging all the way from Texas to Montana to Colorado. Once a year, we congregate en masse to talk tips of the trade, meet authors with new and upcoming titles, swap favorite new reads and drink in the lobby of the Renaissance Denver Hotel.

With dozens of authors in attendance and a nonstop schedule of activities (and did I mention that hotel lobby?), it was near impossible for this bookseller and her iphone to keep up. I did what I could. Here’s what I captured.



Children’s Author & Illustrator Breakfast

Matt de la Pena talked about his new YA novel, The Living. He told us a story about a trip to the beach as a kid that wound up with his favorite uncle in handcuffs. The Living examines the porous boundaries between social classes.


Pop-up book artist Robert Sabuda gave us The Brief History of Sabuda: Birth to This Breakfast in ten minutes. We were all left wondering, just like his mother, why DID the boy Sabuda go for not one but two raisins up his nose? His new pop up book, The Little Mermaid, is exquisite.



Pick of the Lists

After breakfast with Matt, Robert and Lauren Myracle, we gathered together while publisher sales reps offered up their favorite books for the next couple of seasons. It was here I discovered this beauty:


The Secret Language of Color is super freaking cool. The history, science, nature, and everything else of color. Absolutely fascinating. And gorgeous. This is the book for your science nerd, your artist, and, well, for me. I loved it.



Exhibit Hall Opening Reception 

Thursday evening the exhibit hall opened. In addition to tasty hors d’oeuvres (I had this crab stuffed cucumber thing that was divine; or I should say, I had six of those divine things), we had our first look at the books publishers were showing off. And there was wine. And author signings. And singing.



Children’s Afternoon Tea


Authors of Buzz Books Breakfast

I didn’t take any pictures at this breakfast, mainly because I was so focused on meeting coffee to mouth. This was a wonderful conversation between Gina Frangello (A Life in Men), Anne Hillerman (Spider Woman’s Daughter) and current Austinite Mary Miller (The Last Days of California). They talked journey, place, sisterhood, Waffle House and so much more.


The Last Days of California is my personal pick of the show. A road trip novel that moves across Texas on its way towards California, it’s told from the perspective of one of two teenager sisters riding in the backseat of their father’s car as he attempts to meet the Rapture in Pacific time. The forward momentum of this novel is addictive. Miller moves over some tough subjects in this story, faith and dysfunctional family dynamics and teenage sex and mortality and failure, while keeping the narrative rolling. I loved her look at America from inside the King Jesus t-shirts. Don’t be fooled by their slogans – these sisters are no innocent believers.


The Rest of Friday’s Daylight Hours 

Went by in a blur. I toured the exhibit hall again, talked to booksellers about the books in the Mountains and Plains Winter Catalog and holed up in my hotel room a while to do some work for the store (this little site doesn’t blog itself).



Cocktail Reception & Literary Trivia

All you need to know right here is that Texas won the Literary Trivia Championship for the second year in a row! Okay, it’s also pretty cool to note that Christopher Moore … was the emcee. (His latest is The Serpent of Venice, due out in 2014) Texas protested unfair and biased trivia practices twice (“Don’t make us put on our pink running shoes!”) and then won. Because we’re the champions.


Author Banquet with Armistead Maupin, Kathleen Kent, Christopher Moore and Craig Johnson

Riding high on our trivia win (and by now there was wine), I forgot to take many pictures during the banquet. But it was lovely. I had the salmon. Armistead Maupin (The Days of Anna Madrigal) made me tear up as he talked about what a difference independent booksellers have made in his career and thanked the room for recommending his stories to readers. Kathleen Kent (with whom we had the privilege of sharing a table) told us about The Outcasts, a fabulous, rough and tumble novel for anyone who loves Texas history. It’s set on the Gulf coast in 19th century and features a woman who escapes from a brothel to hunt for pirate’s treasure with her lover. (Right???) I can’t remember what Christopher Moore talked about because I was laughing too hard at everything he said. Of course it’s always a pleasure to see Craig Johnson (Spirit of Steamboat) and listen to his stories out of Wyoming.

And then after the banquet I immediately went to bed and did not stay up way, way too late in the lobby….. No, I’m sure I went straight to bed.



Author of Future Releases Breakfast

Once again, the coffee-to-mouth maneuvering prevented me from taking any pictures. But I can tell you that Kelly Corrigan (Glitter and Glue) made me laugh and choke up during her talk; Nickolas Butler (Shotgun Lovesongs) talked about his novel FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER and laid out the hardships and rewards of the writer’s life; and Drew Perry (Kids These Days) pretty much convinced me that I’ll never have kids (but that I’ll probably enjoy his novel).



Reading the West Book Awards Luncheon

During which a few things happened: Kristin Iversen convinced me to read her incredible memoir, Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats; BK Loren (Theft) made us feel all warm and fuzzy by calling out indie booksellers by name in a long thank you of their support; I fell in love with Kent Haruf (Benediction) all over again. Haruf, after being formally rejected by the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, moved his wife and infant daughter to a farmhouse in Iowa, took a job to make ends meet and showed up at the Iowa offices and said, “I’m here.” “Believe in yourself despite all evidence.” He received a standing ovation.

Saturday Sessions

All of the day Saturday was spent in bookseller education sessions. Along with Jill from Penguin and Valerie from Blue Willow Bookshop, I talked about twitter and instagram and assorted other social mediums on an afternoon panel. I also learned all the secrets of color from the authors of The Secret Language of Color, Arielle Eckstut and Joann Eckstut. (Red is the color for sex and anger. Blue is favorite color of the western world.)

Books and Brews

By far one of my favorite events of the show, this is pretty much author speed dating. Half a dozen or so authors rotate tables of booksellers, spending five minutes at each table pitching their new book. And there’s beer.

This is where I had the pleasure of meeting Willy Vlautin, who one of our booksellers here might consider her boyfriend and who another friend called “TOTAL DREAMBOATHEAD”. He’s also a fine musician, a terrific author and a really kind guy. His latest, The Free, is out next year. I have yet to read it, but Jonathan Evison (one of my favorite authors from last year’s M&P show) describes it as:

“Courageous, powerful, and mercifully refreshing, The Free is nothing less than an affirmation, that rare novel about lost souls which dares to be hopeful int he face of despair. Vlautin’s hard knock characters will break your heart with their humanity and grace.”

Cheryl Strayed says: “Willy Vlautin writes novels about people all alone in the wind. His prose is direct and complex in its simplicity, and his stories are sturdy and bighearted and full of lives so shattered they shimmer.”


Saturday Night at Bookbar

With the show officially over, a group of us headed to local Denver indie Bookbar. Opened four months ago, Bookbar combines what you must clearly recognize by now are two of my (and quite a few other booksellers’) favorite things: books and a bar. Check out the front counter, which owner Nicole made herself by hand. Also check out the absolutely adorable menu options. We all left with at least one book in hand. My pick was The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner.

And then after Bookbar I went back to the hotel and went straight to bed. I definitely did not stay up late talking about bookstores on the west coast and short story collections (everyone, please read Bobcat) and The Last Days of California. Nope. Right. To. Bed. I had a plane to catch the next morning, after all.


So Why Do We Do All This?

Why do we congregate in a distant city at a busy time of year? Because it’s fun and excellent to meet authors and eat crab stuffed hors d’oeuvres and drink glasses of wine, yes. But also because I come back from these shows with a new energy to do more, do better, tweak and experiment and come up with new and exciting ways to share the books we all love with you.


The members of our vibrant community of booksellers never fail to impress and inspire each other with our ingenuity, our nimble spirit, and our readiness to try anything. We enjoy an open exchange of ideas so that our stores may all strengthen and thrive. There are no secrets among booksellers. Aside from what we discuss in that hotel lounge. Some of those secrets we’ll take to the grave…..or just to the next trade show.





Updated October 18, 2013
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