• Jessica Stephenson

BIG News is Here!

I have done much eluding to some exciting news over the past month, and it’s about darn time I let you in on this secret that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around personally, because it is just so BIG.

As a member store of the American Booksellers Association, I applied for and was awarded a scholarship to attend my very first Winter Institute, which is a yearly four day conference for booksellers from around the world! This year, Winter Institute 15 will be taking place in Baltimore, Maryland from Tuesday, January 21st through Friday, January 24th.

My scholarship will cover the cost of the conference, a five night stay (Monday-Friday) at the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards, right in the heart of Baltimore’s Arts & Entertainment District, a handful of meals that are part of conference presentations, and $400 worth of travel expense reimbursements after the conference closes.

I have already booked my flights, and I have also made arrangements to stay an extra night in my hotel room so I can rest and recover from the conference Saturday and have a day to explore the city before hopping on my flight home. This is very important to me, as someone who suffers from chronic pain and can only handle so much activity. Most of my conference days will have me on the go for around 12 hours bouncing from presentation to presentation, starting as early as 7:45 am and going as late as 7 pm, or even midnight if you count evening receptions!

This scholarship has granted me an opportunity that I would not be able to afford otherwise, and I am so excited to bring home new skills and a wealth of knowledge that I can put to work right here in our own backyard! I will be attending keynote speeches from authors such as Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Jason Reynolds, Rebecca Solnit, Jennifer Finney Boylan, and Parul Sehgal. I will attend presentations on such relevant and useful topics as used books, kids’ book sales, work-life balance for store owners and managers, pre-order campaigns, creating profitable events, and time management for small stores. I will be able to mix & mingle with numerous bestselling authors such as Chuck Palahniuk, Jessica Anthony, Colum McCann, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Layla F. Saad, Garth Stein, Robin Wasserman, LINDY WEST, and so many more.

For this trip, although a handful of breakfast and lunch meals will be provided as part of the programming, I still have a whole lot of meals to provide on my own, which can add up pretty fast while traveling. I’ve narrowed it down to around ten meals, since I don’t regularly eat breakfast and I tend to get by just fine eating a late lunch and a late dinner each day. I also have to cover my extra night stay at $119 plus tax. That said, if anyone is feeling generous and would like to donate some funds to help out with those expenses, I would greatly appreciate it and will accept them here: paypal.me/inpotentia

The shop will still be open normal hours the week of my trip (Tue-Sat noon-8 pm), so let’s give a big thanks to my partner in life, Mike Farmer, and my extraordinary shop volunteer Jennifer Flaig who will be making a team effort to keep this ship afloat in my stead!

I can’t tell you how utterly thrilled I am to have this experience, and then bring home the skills I have learned so that I may implement them in our community! We all benefit from this, and I am so grateful to everyone who has believed in me and continues to support me as I grow as a bookseller and community organizer. <3

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