#SIBA12: Booklovers at the Beach

SIBA 2012:  Booklovers at the Beach

Southern independent booksellers on the beach. What could be better?

Being a big fan of all three, I jumped at the chance to attend my first trade show—the 2012 get-together of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance in Naples, Florida.

If I had to pick a single word to characterize the weekend of the show, it would be warmth. You might think I’m talking about Naples’s subtropical heat and humidity (and you would be partly right), but my stronger recollection is of the warm enthusiasm of the other bibliophiles in attendance.

The crowd included book publishers, booksellers, reviewers, editors, and fellow authors and readers. Some were newcomers like me; others were old hands. I had the sense that we all shared a love of books, language, creativity, and a strong sense of place.

Among the highlights for me (I’m a little biased here) were the Saturday and Sunday beach walks. With two new beach books on the show roster, organizer Wanda Jewell had arranged for “walking book talks” with authors Carl Hobbs (The Beach Book) and yours truly (How to Read a Florida Gulf Coast Beach). Each tour began in a shadowy mangrove swamp and ended on a breezy sand beach. (Coincidentally, my book includes an aerial photo of the SIBA convention location, including the very boardwalk and beach we traveled.)

A central theme of any beach book is change (“no one ever steps on the same beach twice”), and Clam Pass Beach obligingly proved the point for us that weekend. On Saturday the view featured brooding storm clouds and rhythmic beach cusps. On Sunday a few clouds still hovered, but the tide and surf had wiped away all cusps. The overnight rise and fall of the Gulf of Mexico had instead left the gift of a rich wrack line (drift line) full of seeds, shells, and grasses to explore. We also visited a sea turtle’s nest and chatted with the local turtle patrol.

Other SIBA highlights included many opportunities to

  • Meet the friendly people behind some favorite titles (the display table of Rocky Publications and Tim Ohr looked just like my bookshelf at home)
  • Connect with independent booksellers, who so vitally link authors and readers (thanks to #siba12, I’ll be participating in next year’s “Ding” Darling lecture series on Sanibel Island—can’t wait!)
  • Discover new publications (I’m currently reading Air by William Bryant Logan and looking forward to forthcoming Florida goodies from National Geographic Maps)
  • Be inspired by creative marketing (the University Press of Florida was giving away little boxes of cereal—can you figure out why?)
  • Start drafting my holiday shopping list (there will be a definite book-vibe going on this season)
  • Spend a few days in the company of like-minded community (I’m just sorry I missed Sunday’s flash mob)


After all that, could there be a downside? Well, just a couple—sort of. With so many intriguing titles on display, I came away with a severe case of book envy. My ever-growing wish list now includes many more pounds of new books.

Field and travel guides are a particular hazard. My current bugaboo is The Living Gulf Coast by Charles Sobczak, who welcomed visitors to the Indigo Press table. This book is a lush, irresistible invitation to roam Southwest Florida’s natural places. Daily now I am tempted to trade the white glow of my iMac for some fresh Florida sunshine.


Such are the perils of SIBA.


Nevertheless, I heartily encourage other authors, new and seasoned, to visit with SIBA if you can.

… which leads me to I wonder, can I finish How to Read an East Florida Beach in time for a #siba14 Daytona Beach book walk?

I’d better get back to work.

Tonya Clayton is the author of How to Read a Florida Gulf Coast Beach: A Guide to Shadow Dunes, Ghost Forests, and Other Telltale Clues from an Ever-Changing Coast (Southern Gateways series, University of North Carolina Press, 2012). She thanks SIBA and UNC Press for providing the opportunity to participate in #siba12.

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