As I lick my wounds from a Super Bowl without the Bengals, I cannot imagine a better way to spend that week in my home in Cincinnati – seeing over a thousand bookselling professionals descend on the Queen City for Winter Institute 2024 (Wi2024)!

I’ll be sure to be a tourist in my own city in between all the fantastic programming ABA has planned for Wi2024. Whether I’m attending the Forever In Our Romance Era Reception overlooking the Fountain Square ice rink, or jumping on the free streetcar after Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Closing Keynote to grab dinner in Over The Rhine (the locals call it OTR, by the way), there’s plenty to see and do! 

But what do I need to know to make the most out of the week? Who can I meet up with while they are here? And how can I help booksellers send those galleys back home?

Before I indulge myself with a Skyline Chili 3-way (chili over pasta with a mountain of cheddar cheese), I'll download the Wi2024 App, favorite my top highlights for the week and build my itinerary.


Today’s the day to check in to my hotel. (Booksellers driving in like me can check the parking guides for their hotel or the garage by the Duke Energy Convention Center.) After checking in at one of the three ABA hotels, I can head over to the ABA Welcome and Registration Desk at the Duke Energy Convention Center between 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm, and pick up my badge and official Wi2024 Welcome Bag. The Welcome Bag is stuffed with vendor goodies plus a printed Institute Program + Schedule and ABA’s Cincinnati Resource Guide.

The Banks along the Ohio River in Cincinnati

The rest of the night is mine to take in some of my favorite Cincinnati sites, take a stroll on The Banks along the Ohio River, and see how many flying pig statues I can find along the way (my personal favorite is Phantom of The Slopera just inside the Aronoff Center).


It's Bookstore Tours and Welcome Reception Day day! Since I am fortunate to visit some of these fantastic bookstores regularly, I’ll wish those booksellers registered for a tour a great experience and check out other available programming. 

Day one’s dynamic workshops feature the return of some of our favorite Winter Institute presenters, including KJ & AJ Williams of RISEwithUS for their indispensable Anti-Racism in the Bookstore Workshop. Later on, I will join the IndieCommerce team to test-drive the innovative new IndieCommerce 2.0 platform.

In between these workshops, I’ll read the Land Acknowledgement so I can honor the history of this land and its peoples, and the Code of Conduct to make sure I remain in the good graces of everyone in attendance. 

Land Back NAICCO

I’d also like to get a sense of how the convention center and hotel spaces are set up so I know where to go for Affinity Groups in the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati and the Affinity Group Pop-Up Meetup in the Duke Energy Convention Center. These are closed spaces for booksellers and bookstore owners who identify as members of the BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+, Disability, and/or Neurodivergent communities to gather for connection, support, community, resources, and networking. (As always, while allies are greatly appreciated, those who do not identify personally as a member of these communities should not plan to visit that group’s room or meetup.)

At the Duke Energy Convention Center, I’ll plan on meeting Publishers By Appointment. If you did not schedule an appointment, walk-ins are possible! I’ve been to a couple Institutes, but I could always use a refresher, so I will check out Institute Orientation, walk through the First-Timers Checklist, and get acquainted with fellow attendees.

Welcome Reception at Wi15 in Baltimore, MD

As the clock strikes 6:00 pm, Wi2024 officially kicks off with the Welcome Reception in the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati. It is the Lunar New Year (I wonder what ABA has planned?!), so remember wearing black or white is bad luck! After I grab a cocktail and light bites to celebrate, I’ll head to the Book Swap Dinner at the Duke Energy Convention Center. Feel free to bring a title that you love (or picked up during the Bookstore Tours), wrap it, write a note, and drop it off at the table before enjoying your dinner. Be sure to pick out a book for yourself before you leave!


The first full day of programming begins at the Duke Energy Convention Center with the stellar Breakfast Keynote with James Rhee: Goodwill Found. Goodwill Measured. After James weaves together an illuminating tapestry of ideas, I’ll head to my assigned Bookseller-to-Bookseller Discussion Group room to debrief with colleagues. (Room numbers are printed on badges!)

Following a meaningful conversation with booksellers, I’ll hop into the Galley Room to scope out the exciting 2024 new releases! If a title runs out, don’t panic! Many publishers will also have QR codes to request physical or digital copies of the book, which can be sent to you directly. PartnerShip/FedEx will help ship everything home right from the Galley Room, so no need to lug an ever-growing TBR around the convention center!

The Education blocks this year are brimming with sessions, presenting me with a delightful challenge of decision-making. For example, Monday’s thoughtfully designed panel sessions include fundamental aspects of bookselling like, Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Bookselling But Were Afraid to Ask, and crucial industry conversations in The New Marketing and Media Strategy. I’ll make sure to review the schedule beforehand and make my decisions about which one I’ll attend, so if one room hits capacity, I’ve already picked out a backup. Thankfully, ABA will be recording sessions in video or audio formats so that I can revisit them on BookWeb or the education podcast, BookED

What better way to hear more about some of the titles offered in the Galley Room than attending Rep Picks Speed Dating Round One? Once again, I’ll check my name badge for which table to sit at as the publisher sales reps rotate from table to table, sharing all the deets about upcoming titles.

All these sessions and new titles are sure to make me hungry. As a vegetarian, I love that ABA is prioritizing sustainability in this way, as part of our Global Citizen commitment. Fortunately, our Lunch Keynote with William Ury: Possible: How We Survive (and Thrive) in an Age of Conflict is sure to satiate mind and body, and empower me to be a “Possibilist”: one who believes in the human potential to transform today’s toughest conflicts creatively and constructively.

Before I head off for the next block of education sessions and Rep Picks Speed Dating Round Two, I know I’ll need some "me" time. I’ll be sure to stop in the Quiet Room, which is available every day from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, if I don’t want to head back to my hotel room for a quick break. 

Later in the afternoon, I’ll drop in to the ABA Open House with our CEO, Allison Hill, to hear booksellers and bookstore owners to ask questions, share concerns or experiences, express their needs for support, or just stop by to say hello to members of the ABA team. 

As the day winds down, our friends at are hosting a Happy Hour at the cocktail bar, Igby’s, a few blocks away. They will have complimentary libations and exclusive treats! To keep the party going, I’ll end my evening swooning over upcoming titles and their authors at the Forever In Our Romance Era Reception at the Westin. Who says I can’t celebrate Valentine’s Day a few days early…?


Time to kick off the morning with the Breakfast Keynote with Michele Norris: Race. Your Thoughts. Six Words. Please Send before selecting another great session from the Education block. We’re also bringing in local professionals from outside the bookselling industry to present sessions, like the Mental Health First Aid session I’d love to attend.

Throughout the week, there are opportunities all day to Meet the Presses, where I can talk to small and mid-sized publishers and visit the Vendor Showcase to check out some bookstore vendors. I can also meet with and Batch, fit in my IndieCommerce One-on-One, and (of course) take another lap around the Galley Room.

Before and after a new batch of Rep Picks Speed Dating Rounds, I’ll attend the Indies Introduce Lunch presented by the Winter/Spring 2024 bookseller panelists and debut authors. I’ll be sure to catch the authors for book signings following the presentation or at one of the Author Receptions!

A not-to-miss keynote panel is the Featured Talk: Beyond the Binary. Four authors share their thoughts and experiences writing for a world that has moved beyond the traditional binary definitions of identity and belonging.

A not-to-miss keynote panel is the Featured Talk: Beyond the Binary. Four authors share their thoughts and experiences writing for a world that has moved beyond the traditional binary definitions of identity and belonging.

This year, many of our keynote speakers will step off of the Grand Ballroom stage to join us for follow ups during the education blocks. In the afternoon, former Winter Institute keynote speaker Kim Scott (Radical Candor and the forthcoming Radical Respect) will present a session on Developing Staff Leadership Skills. This education block also includes the session, Project Management for Booksellers, for essential business skills.

To wrap up the night, I cannot wait to meet with authors at the Evening Author Reception to get my books signed. When joining an author line, please take note of which authors request a mask upon greeting (there will be masks available!)

Author Reception at


How is it the last day already? Luckily it’s Valentine’s Day and how sweet it is to start it off with Breakfast with Publisher Rep Picks Presentations and hear about fantastic upcoming titles! As I head out from breakfast, I’ll just take one more look in the Galley Room, before heading to one of the education sessions, including Bonnie Wan (author of The Life Brief) who will guide us in clarifying the vision for your store.

Afterwards, I won’t need to leave the building for a quick pick-me-up as there is a built-in Coffee Break with plenty of caffeine available before I join the Community Forum. This reimagined Town Hall with the ABA Board will have the same opportunities for members to be heard and more opportunity for constructive discussions about our industry. (There’s still time to send questions in advance: email

ABA Board of Directors 2023

Once again, I’ve worked up an appetite, so off to the Lunchtime Author Reception. Here, I can enjoy lunch and meet an additional lineup of authors and illustrators who will be on hand to chat and sign their latest titles.

The last block of education sessions includes more outside professionals (and my fellow Cincinnatians) who will also present sessions on De-escalation Skills and Labor Trends in Retail.

Competition gets fierce this afternoon with the ever popular Heads or Tails Game with the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc)! You can purchase your blinkee pins ahead of time and pick them up from a Binc representative on-site at registration and the Vendor Showcase.

Doris Kearns Goodwin with Philomena Polefrone, ABA’s Advocacy Associate Manager

As my time at Wi2024 comes to an end, our Closing Keynote Doris Kearns Goodwin with my colleague Philomena Polefrone, ABA’s Advocacy Associate Manager, will send us off with a discussion of American history, leadership, and democracy in this critical election year. 

After I’ve said my goodbyes, I’ll start to pack up my car and return home to decide which galley to read first. But first, a quick pitstop – what’s one more Skyline Chili for the road…(there’s one in the CVG/KCVG Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International airport, too, don’t worry).

To Chili with Love,
Courtney Wallace, Marketing Manager & Independent Bookstore Day Program Director


P.S. Thank you to our lead sponsor Ingram and the generous authors and publisher sponsors of Wi2024.