In September 2017, I visited New Orleans, LA for the very first time. It was the SIBA (the Southern Indie Booksellers Alliance) Trade Show, and I had been awarded a scholarship to attend. It was my first major industry-wide event since moving back to the US from New Zealand, and I was excited to network, pick up ALL THE FREE BOOKS, and, of course, eat my way through NOLA because duh. While I definitely did all those things (I have a pic as proof, courtesy of Shelf Awareness!), what I ended up remembering the most was a single day spent with the “SIBA Concierge,” Michael Murphy.
Michael was a larger-than-life personality who had worked for decades in the publishing and bookselling industries. He had fallen in love with New Orleans, and the result was a series of guidebooks (Eat Dat New Orleans, Hear Dat New Orleans, Fear Dat New Orleans, Drink Dat New Orleans, All Dat New Orleans, etc.) and the position of SIBA Concierge during the trade show. He took my co-worker, Lizzy, and I all around New Orleans on the last day we were there, regaling us with tales of NOLA’s past, present, and sneak peeks into its future.
A month after returning home, when I still had his last email starred in my inbox so that I would remember to send a follow-up thank you email, I opened an industry newsletter one morning to find out Michael had died. This sweet, funny, energetic, knowledgeable man would never receive a thank you letter from me, and he would never again have the opportunity to lead wide-eyed newbies around New Orleans’s famed streets. I wrote a memorial essay, which SIBA posted on their blog: “A Day in New Orleans with Michael Murphy,” and I can’t help but reread it now, as I get ready to fly to New Orleans once again for an industry trade show.
The American Booksellers Association’s ABC Children’s Group is putting on their sixth Children’s Institute, the conference dedicated to children’s books-focused independent bookselling. It is my first time attending, and I have the pleasure and honor of sitting on a panel about newsletters. While I’m still excited to do all the networking, discover new books, and eat my way through NOLA, I’m also going to spend a moment or two remembering Michael Murphy and the love for New Orleans he shared with me.