ALA Conference Highlights

by renata

So, what did I do at ALA, besides swoon at David Levithan and go on an awesome ghost tour? It’s kind of a jumble! The conference was so overwhelming, and I also wanted to get in some NOLA tourism, so I definitely didn’t get to see or do half the stuff I wanted to do. (Like, I missed seeing Stephanie Perkins and getting an ARC [Advanced Readers Copy] of Lola and the Boy Next Door. And I saw Daniel Handler but missed getting an ARC of Why We Broke Up. And, saddest of all, John Green did not attend ALA after all, breaking the hearts of thousands of librarians.) But mustn’t dwell. Here’s what I did do and see:

  • Saw Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) give a presentation and Q&A. He seems like such a genuinely nice guy, and completely taken aback and flattered by the massive popularity of his books. He also spoke about why he keeps his day job on the website Poptropica, which I guess is an interactive game. He said he loves having a different medium through which to tell stories, and even though it’s stressful to have two jobs he thinks it’s worth it. Oh, he also said that he would like to have ten Wimpy Kid books and then stop.  My favorite part of his session was a young boy (who must have a librarian parent) asked him how he got the pages of his books to look like notebook paper. That’s totally the kind of thing I used to wonder about reading books–like how in the Babysitters Club books sometimes there would be handwritten letters. How did they do that? (The answer is: computers.)
  • Went to the YA coffee klatch event. It was cool, but honestly a little disappointing. The idea was librarians sit at a bunch of tables in a big ballroom and drink coffee, and every four minutes a new author comes to sit down and talk. It was just a big whirlwind, really, and I wished we could have had a few more minutes with each person, but I did get to meet Maureen Johnson (and see her wear a Burger King Twilight crown), Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why), and Carolyn Mackler (The Earth, My Butt, & Other Big Round Things).  Also some new authors. The one I’m most excited about is Leila Sales, who has a book coming out called Past Perfect, which is about teenage historical reenactors. It sounds awesome.
Maureen Johnson & her crown

Maureen Johnson, Queen of YA, doing her best Bella Swan impression

  • Went to signings and met Maureen Johnson, Jay Asher, and Carolyn Mackler again and got ARCs of Maureen’s book The Name of the Star and the one Jay & Carolyn co-wrote called The Future of Us.
  • Shared an elevator with David Levithan and, I’m almost certain, kept my cool about it.
  • Went to a workshop about transliteracy and had some librarians tell me that the digital divide is like a seashell and sometimes you have to teach people how to use the mouse before you can teach them how to use Microsoft Office.
  • Handed out my business cards six times, although once was to my friend Stacey and I wrote “sext me” on it, so that one probably doesn’t count as “networking.”
  • Shamelessly picked up tons of free stuff.
daniel handler

Daniel Handler, aka the elusive Lemony Snicket

  • Saw Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) read an excerpt of his new YA novel, Why We Broke Up, which features paintings by Maira Kalman (13 Words). (Although, like I previously whined, they ran out of ARCs and I didn’t get one! Boo-urns!) It sounds really funny, though. And his own little comments and asides were perfect and hilarious. I love him. Example (recreated from memory… was funnier when he actually said it): “Hollywood has optioned Why We Broke Up, which is a thing that Hollywood does sometimes where it pretends like it wants to make a movie out of your book but usually it doesn’t really. Anyway, one of the concerns that Hollywood has about this book is that it portrays teenagers drinking alcohol. They are afraid that if teenagers in real life see teenagers drinking alcohol in film, they too will want to drink alcohol. Here is what I say to that, and what you should say, when teenagers, as they so often do, come to you, as adults, for advice. I have had alcohol, and I have had my heartbroken. That is not a coincidence. If you drink alcohol, you will get your heart broken. It is far better to stay sober, and passionless, and alone. So teenagers, do not drink alcohol.”

I also met Jackson Pearce (author of Sisters Red and others) standing in line to get a book signed by Maureen Johnson. That weirded me out, like I assumed that all YA authors would automatically be in the same club and not have to wait in line to see each other. I had this interaction with her:

Me: Excuse me, is this the line for Maureen Johnson?
Jackson Pearce
: Yes.
Me (looking at her name badge):
Okay, thanks. And, um, are you Jackson Pearce, the author?
Jackson Pearce: Yes, there aren’t too many of us with this name.
Me (awkwardly)
: Oh, um, cool! I really like your books!
Jackson Pearce
: Thank you!
Me (still awkward and confused)
: Um, are you having a signing sometime?
Jackson Pearce:
Oh, I had one yesterday, and we already ran out of copies of Sweetly (her upcoming book).
Me:
Oh, too bad! Um, nice to meet you?

And then I kind of awkwardly was going to shake her hand but we were both holding books and I kind of shrugged and then got in line to see Maureen Johnson. Oh well, what can you do?

sweetly

Later I got this free lollipop to commemorate Jackson Pearce's new book. Pretty sweet. GET IT?

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend and I’m so glad I went! I just wish I could have cloned myself so I could have gone to all the workshops and all the signings and all the paranormal tours! Being in the same place with 20,000 librarians is a trip. There is a definite “librarian look” and “librarian personality” and we were all just sort of dressed sensibly, yet quirkily, and all very polite. And many, many of us were constantly on our smartphones, livetweeting our conversations about the power of social media and #hash-tagging them.

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