"One must still have chaos in oneself...

...to be able to give birth to a dancing star."

-Friedrich Neitzsche

amelia island

This week, I am holed up in a charming motel near the beach in northern Florida. Before images of idyllic sandscapes and round-the-clock mojitos float to your mind, let me add that the power has gone out three times tonight because of a wild thunderstorm that I have to assume is located directly above our hotel, and that I've been spending all day from 8:30am until 5:30pm holed up in a cozy conference room - not frolicking on the sand. (Note: don't let the picture fool you. I took ten minutes on my lunch break to stick my toes in the water - it was glorious, though.)  

I'm here to learn about the science, business, and art of bookselling. This conference/workshop/amalgam of all things had been incredibly eye-opening, and I can't wait to hit the ground running when I get back to Detroit.

But what can you learn, in only six days? And how will this help you lead a brand new life? I hear you screaming those questions at me, through this virtual wall. To summarize: we have discussed the identity formation, community assessments, and financial projections necessary for moving forward. We'll touch on design and inventory curation as well as investment strategies, marketing benchmarks, and best practices. We've only had two full days, and I feel like a wizened old soul who has been at this for nigh-on forty years (just kidding, I feel mostly bewildered but also jazzed).  

I am taking oceans of notes, using a brilliant sticky-pad system, and even taking pictures of my notes as an aded protection.  For some of the lessons, I'm letting the information wash over me, and break through me, and hopefully I'll have absorbed enough of the brilliance to take it home with me. But I'm looking forward to taking something else home with me, which is a new community of emerging booksellers from all over the country.

Men and women from all over (Philadelphia, Austin, Chattanooga, Chicago, Minnesota, Lagos (Lagos!), DC, Durham...) are here, learning together. It's incredible hearing their ideas, and their priorities, and their visions. Some are so clear and crystallized that I can see myself walking into their stores tomorrow.  

Every night I come back to my room, dizzy and energized by the designs that have bubbled to the surface over sangrias with my colleagues (we do end our days with sangria - that much I'll admit).  And there are mountains of spreadsheets ahead of me I'll dream of SWOT analyses for the foreseeable future, but I cannot wait.

I know this was a long post, but don't worry - I'll treat you to some fun book reviews in the near future.

Thanks for hanging in there, kid.